8 Apr 2021 | by Ami Dorkings

It’s difficult to pinpoint the most vital cog in the machine of any business, but there’s no denying that your sales staff play a vital role in making your business a success. They seek out new opportunities, they develop new relationships, they’re often the first point of contact for your customers. Crucially, they keep the cash flowing. In that way they support every other area of your organisation, so ensuring they remain engaged, active and committed to your company pays. 


How are salespeople traditionally rewarded? 

In most businesses, even if the reward and recognition strategies for other departments are lacking, sales staff will work in line with some form of incentive programme. An astonishing 90% of top-performing companies have incentives in place for their sales staff. As sales roles are so closely tied to reaching specific targets, devising appropriate points for reward can seem simpler than elsewhere in your business. But we must look beyond standard schemes to see real results.  


Such incentive programmes – which might offer money, experiences or even work perks – work best for only your best salespeople. They are the most likely to win and, often, the whole team knows it. As a result, the top 20% of your workforce might become more motivated for a time, but little effect will be seen across the rest of the team. So, what techniques can we use to get more of your sales staff engaged? 


Personalise employee reward for the best result 

Though commissions are good motivators, and many incentives are traditionally tied to a cash value, only 10% of surveyed sales employees value money or material wealth as a strong indicator of success. Versatility, then, is key. Though your team are united by their work in sales, we must consider each team member as an individual. When we do that, it’s easy to understand why no one reward or act of recognition will have the same pull for every salesperson.  


Harvard Business Review suggests that, instead, we must think about any sales team “like a portfolio of investments that require different levels and kinds of attention. Lavish incentive trips may work brilliantly for your top performers, but personalising your offering, or providing options for all staff, will ensure you motivate more than those at the top, who are already delivering strong results. 


After all, reward and recognition can work for everyone and, properly executed, it has a huge impact on business results too. In research conducted by the Forum for People Performance Management and Measurement, after just 45 days with a new R&R plan, sales in a focus group doubled and ROI increased by 10%. The real question is, how do you guarantee results for the majority of your workforce? 


Motivate the middle performers

Your top salespeople are probably the people you’ll know best, and they're likely to have won various incentives or rewards before. But, as your top sellers, they’re probably also achieving your goals already. Generally, an 80/ 20 rule applies – the top 20% of your salesforce account for roughly 80% of your sales. The key takeaway? Those people are already motivated. They’re already engaged, they’re committed to your company and they’ll push themselves to keep that standard up. 


According to author and performance improvement strategist, Jack Spartz, “the greatest untapped value in business is grounded in moving your middle performers. These ‘middle performers’ make up around 60-70% of your sales team, so motivating them to meet your goals will raise performance, and therefore sales, more significantly than any other strategy. 


Driving improvement only from the top – a common result of traditional incentive schemes – simply doesn’t generate long term results. When setting your goals therefore, it’s important to ask who you want to motivate. Do you want to increase sales across the board? Then motivating the middle will prove the most effective strategy. To do that, you need to think about reward and recognition more creatively.  


We know that no one prize will suit everyone, so think about how you could introduce more choice. Ask too, how could you move away from monetary incentives? Move towards a recognition approach. Up to 50% of salespeople prefer being presented with an award to any other type of reward or recognition, suggesting that bigger isn’t always better. Get to know your team and you’ll learn what might work for that all important ‘unmotivated middle’. Luckily for you, we have some great tips here.


We’ve been delivering effective reward and recognition schemes for years, so if you’re unsure how to motivate your employees or just don’t know which rewards might work for your team, get in touch today at to find out how our reward and recognition team can help you boost sales. Or to find out a little ore about the future of reward and recognition, check out our in depth report on The changing face of reward. Insights, stats and top tips galore!

Ami Dorkings

By Ami Dorkings

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