2 December 2019

Solving the thorny issue of incentives

If you’ve successfully taken care of the hygiene factors in our previous blog, it shouldn’t be necessary to offer incentives to anyone for recruiting a customer as a reference or advocate. But, in the real world, it’s a question that often gets asked. Like, should we offer incentives and, if so, to who and how much?

First let’s talk about incentivising customers. The most important point to make is that if you’re targeting client people at the right executive level―and that’s as close to CXO as possible―they really won’t be interested in baubles.

Instead, they’re intensely interested in networking opportunities where they can meet likeminded individuals and make new peer-matching contacts. They want inspirational dialogue to help them focus on what they’re seeking to achieve. They’re scouting for solutions that address their biggest challenges. They need new ideas to help keep their companies ahead of the chasing pack.

The customer communication programmes described in the previous blog do that – and in so doing form the most powerful customer incentive. They should be strongly linked to the customer reference programme. As we mentioned, tee-shirts and cheap tickets don’t cut the mustard with CXOs.

Turning our attention to salespeople’s incentives, we have a lot of sympathy with those who say: “It should be part of their day job; so why pay them extra for it?” So, those companies that offer flat rate schemes (like giving $1,000 for any customer reference) in 80% of cases are rewarding salespeople for doing what they should be doing anyway. Worse, they’re lacking strategy. Why stack customer references sky-high when they all feature the same product or service or are in the same region or sector? A market-driven company needs to be much more selective. After all, you only need access to two or three references to support an individual bid.

However, sales incentives have their place when it comes to strategic initiatives like product launches, global positioning and industry-specific campaigns. To meet such precise needs, we pioneered the idea of the first-past-the-post (FPTP) competition.

Aimed at closely defined targets, FPTP offers substantial rewards to salespeople who bring forward customer references that meet specific criteria. What makes FPTP different is that only three salespeople win—the first three whose customers approve and sign off the case study. That gives them a vested interest in moving the whole process forward from beginning to the very end. In our experience such things as top-branded tech products (especially newly launched) fit the “substantial rewards” category.

Critics say that FPTP is divisive as not all the salesforce are automatically eligible. That rather misses the point. Egalitarianism has nothing to do with it. FPTP is about using the frontline of the salesforce in a particularly powerful way to advance the strategic marketing objectives of the company. Furthermore, limiting the number of big prize-winners to just three is less costly than a flat rate everyone-wins scheme. 

Talk to us and try it. You’ll be surprised. It works.

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