A Smarter Way To Incentivize Your Sales Team

Sales reps’ lives were built around the office — the environment, the energy, and the excitement of end-of-quarter blitzes. 

Then everyone went remote, and over the last year sales leaders and enablement teams had to come up with new ways to incentivize their reps. 

And now, as B2B companies head into hybrid work schedules in the new normal, we need to once again rethink sales motivation.

Motivating From Home

Let’s take it back to March 2020. We all got the email: Pack up your things, grab a monitor, and set up shop at home for total remote working. 

For a sales team, the energy of a sales floor dissipates when it’s just you alone in your home office. 

“ZoomInfo has always had a very big culture of call contests, and that energy you feel when you’re walking through the office and people are calling and you’re hearing great phone calls — that’s lost when you’re alone in your living room,” says Sales Enablement Manager Lauren Penney. 

So how do you motivate people — and entire teams — in a remote work environment?

4 Ideas to Incentivize Your Sales Team

As a sales leader, your team knows you expect them to hit their quota. But in order to keep your reps engaged and motivated, you have to let them know what they can expect from you. A Gallup poll showed that 51% of U.S employees are not engaged in their work. Smart, strategic incentives that reward employees for achieving their goals is a great way to keep employees engaged and willing to rally behind each other to succeed. Check out these ideas:

1. Reward Big Deals with Big Prizes

When it comes to sales competitions and motivating your teams, random prizes and one-off contests won’t necessarily drive the results you’re looking for. You need to make sure the prize matches the action. 

In other words, a big deal won should warrant a nice, large prize. For instance, at ZoomInfo, the person at the top of the leaderboard at the end of a given month received a Peloton. 

“If I’m asking that person to come in every single day and grind, and if I’m asking them to exhibit that behavior all month, then I should have an incentive that aligns with the task,” says Penney.

This kind of incentive motivated individual reps to outperform their colleagues to get a grand prize that was well worth the effort they put in. 

2. Use a Sales Spiff for Short-Term Goals

Sometimes, you’ll need to incentivize in a way that doesn’t result in immediate revenue gain, but instead leads to an ideal outcome over time. 

Enter the sales spiff. 

Spiff stands for “sales performance incentive fund” — it’s basically a temporary bonus. A spiff is a great way to meet short-term sales goals, especially when there are long-term benefits. 

Consider this example: Your company notices that customers who opt for a free add-on feature are less likely to churn than those who don’t. You then tell your reps to start upselling this product, and whoever achieves the most deals with this feature gets a monetary prize. Even though the add-on doesn’t result in immediate monetary gain, the behavior is one that benefits your company in the long run. 

Spiffs are also great incentives to motivate individual reps, but within a shorter time frame and typically with smaller rewards. 

3. Unite the Team at a Demo Day

Try taking a team-based approach that unites the entire sales team to meet a collective goal. 

For instance, ZoomInfo frequently hosts demo days during which our SDR team attempts to schedule a certain amount of demos in one day. 

Demo days are often successful in hitting those targets because they force teams to collaborate to achieve an ambitious objective — and it’s effective whether people are physically in the office or physically apart. 

4. Drum up Team Spirit for a Good Cause

Uniting people around a cause can be a great way to promote teamwork and increase communal energy among teams.

ZoomInfo’s sales team participated in two call contests during quarantine: Call For the Cure and Call For Justice. The former raised money for medical research, and the latter sought funding for the Black Lives Matter movement. 

“Our CEO [Henry Schuck] and CRO [Chris Hays] put money on the line that would match a contribution,” Penney says. “So the harder the reps worked, the more that our executive team was able to donate to these really good causes. It’s a really good way to unite people.” 

How to Create a Smarter Sales Incentive Program 

Sales enablement and incentives don’t happen without a clear and defined strategy. Below are three of the key strategies that we employ here at ZoomInfo. 

1. Coordinate with Sales Ops on Metrics

Say your company awards a big prize at the end of the quarter, but you end up giving it to someone who doesn’t really deserve it because you had no way to actually measure performance metrics. This is where your sales ops team comes in.  

“If you want to pull these incentives off correctly, you need to have a really tight relationship with the sales ops team,” Penney explains. “Because if you’re trying to drive a specific behavior but you can’t accurately measure that behavior, then the contest is worthless.” 

2. Align the Prize with the Behavior 

You need to align the type of incentive with the behavior you’re trying to drive. You wouldn’t give away a Peloton for a couple of hours of work, and a $100 cash prize wouldn’t be sufficient for a month-long blitz. 

For example, suppose a sales director pushes a month-long goal that will reward reps for going past their quota. Members of the sales team must focus daily on this goal and work hard to achieve it, so the reward likewise needs to be significant, Penney explains. 

3. Recognition Matters More Than Prizes 

It’s important to note that sales incentives don’t require a massive budget. Rather, it’s more about fostering a sense of growth and challenging people to be the best they can every day. Prizes are nice, but by no means necessary to motivate a sales team. 

“I think the big thing that sales managers do a good job of is recognition,” Penney says, adding that recognizing newer reps’ achievements is especially important, even if these people aren’t hitting the big goals yet.

“If you’re new or you’re not at the top of the leaderboard consistently, people may not know your name,” she says.

Sales managers can highlight a great call by a new rep in the daily huddle or call out an effective email template a rookie made for cold outreach. Both tactics introduce new reps to the broader team. 

We’re Heading Back to the Office. Now What?

Strategies that have motivated sales reps in a remote world may not be quite as effective once we all get back to the office. Enablement teams and sales managers should re-evaluate their incentives plan. 

“This time last year, we were able to motivate individuals because they had just left the office, they had a sense of who their team was, and we could motivate them individually to succeed,” Penney says. “But now, as we get ready to go back to the office, from an enablement standpoint, we kind of have to shift that and we should be motivating team behavior.” 

To help make the transition easier, enablement teams should start to incentivize behavior that encourages people to work together. 

Work life may never be the same as it was before. But the importance of motivating good behavior and keeping employees engaged won’t change, even when the pandemic is finally behind us.