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How you can use incentives to get a top performing sales team

Welcome to quarter four. Whatever your line of business, this is the business time of year. Summer holidays are long forgotten and the time left to convert turn your sales pipeline into new business for this financial year is running out.

In nearly every business I know, the last quarter of the year is crunch time: you can turn a good year into a great year; you can rescue a poor one and you can lay the foundations to get a flying start for the year ahead.

Every sales team will have its targets and bonuses but I think the run in to the end of the year should be treated as a campaign in its own right. That means putting in place extra measures to get sales and marketing buzzing. Incentives and reward for your sales team, sales advisers and other customer facing staff can play a critical part in this so here are four measures which I have found help turn pressure into results:

  • Focus on variety: A good end of year incentive programme will blend instant reward from managers and peer-to-peer reward alongside the more structured elements of the sales incentives you have in place. Your aim should be to surprise and delight your people for the results they achieve. Vouchers, gift cards and experiences play a critical role here as they have a greater impact than cash and tend to be used for a specific purchase or shared with friends and family. This has a hugely motivational impact on your sales people.


  • Inspire the team: This is a time of year when you can’t just rely on your top performers to deliver the results. In fact, the thing that is most likely to hold you back is your weaker performers. If you put your people into teams and use team incentives you can ensure their peers support them to improve their performance. Don’t make the mistake of thinking your best individuals will do your job for you on their own.


  • Pick a theme: Endless messages around end of year targets may be important to the business but can lead to mission fatigue from your salesforce before the campaign even starts in earnest. Picking a theme for the end of year campaign is a great way of delivering momentum into your sales efforts at a pressured time of year. It also allows you to align the incentives you pick to the theme.


  • Inject some fun: Building on the idea of a theme for end of year reward I have seen some brilliantly creative ways of injecting fun into end of year sales. Things like team nights out, themed dress down days and themed food can be reward for good performance which create a buzz in the team and underpin the sales focus as you head towards the end of year.


Of course, the last and perhaps most important element in the end of year incentive mix is you as a manager. This a time when you need to wear your pressure lightly, work with the team and make sure that every week you have an environment where your people can succeed. Taking time out to think about how you will do this is perhaps the most important investment you can make.

Colin Hodgson is sales director for incentives and motivation products at Edenred UK -