I have said it before; sales incentive programs that reward only “A” players can do more harm than good. They run the risk of overpaying for performance you are already getting and, worse, they can actually be demotivating to middle performers—the bulk of your sales team—who see high goals as unattainable and irrelevant to what they are working on.
The Harvard Business Review supports this point of view. In Motivating Salespeople: What Really Works, authors Thomas Steenburgh and Michael Ahearne suggest that sales incentive planners who want to grow would be wise to include everyone—top performers, average salespeople and underperforming “laggards” within the design of a contest’s earnings structure. The writers restate what should be germane to sales contest planners; that the various levels of performers within your sales team are motivated by different goals and reward offerings, and that companies who want to get the most out of the full range of their sales professionals would be wise to take these differences into account. Companies who do so “realize better results and a higher return on sales expenditures.”
This opens up a world of possibility for sales ops teams looking to grow the entire sales force. Using recognition and rewards platforms, sales contest sponsors can easily set and reset goals; adjust objectives that are multi-tiered and encourage “performance mobility” across the sales team. Relevant and attainable incremental steps encourage performance-related growth in everyone; be they average performers, laggards or top players. It’s the best way to move the needle from one end of the sales spectrum to the other and the smartest way to generate growth for the entire company.