15 Non-Financial Sales Incentives to Motivate Your Sales Team

Sujan Patel is the founder of Mailshake, a sales engagement software used by 38,000 sales and marketing professionals. He has over 15 years of marketing experience and has led the digital marketing strategy for companies like Salesforce, Mint, Intuit and many other Fortune 500 caliber companies.
  • June 12, 2019

Sales is a money-driven industry. There’s no getting around the fact that commission and bonuses are almost everything to your average sales rep.

Yet other benefits and work perks are more important than we often assume when it comes to incentivizing staff.

In fact, 80% of Americans would choose a job with benefits over an identical job with 30% more salary but no benefits.

So how can you harness non-financial incentives to motivate your sales team?

How should you balance financial and non-financial incentives for best results? This is where sales incentive programs can be extremely useful.

Sales Incentive Programs

Sales incentive programs generally combine financial and non-financial incentives into a package designed to optimally motivate your team. They reward salespeople for hitting and exceeding their goals, offering something in addition to the standard compensation for outstanding performance.

Sales incentive programs usually include a combination of:

  • Personal SPIFs
  • Team SPIFs
  • Personal non-financial incentives
  • Team non-financial incentives

While monetary sales incentives are undoubtedly going to be very important to your sales team, non-monetary sales incentives can be just as motivating – sometimes even moreso.

Say your top performing salesperson gets a $500 bonus one week for exceeding their targets. Sure, they’ll be happy – but they’ll likely also forget about it pretty quickly.

Now what if, instead of that $500, they got that skydiving trip they’d always wanted to go on.

Every time they re-watch the video of their skydive or think about the experience, they’re going to subconsciously associate it with the person who made it possible. This helps build loyalty and reinforces the feeling that they are valued by their boss.

Sound good? Let’s take a closer look at non-financial rewards.

These types of incentives can generally be split into two categories:

Generally speaking, the best way to motivate your team is to really get to know them. This will make it easier to decide which non-financial benefits to make available to your team – and how to reward them individually.

For instance, you might drive up productivity from one sales rep by promising them amazing seats at the big Yankees game if they hit their target. Another team member might be more motivated by a ticket to a Broadway show.

That said, there are some unifying benefits – hardly anyone is going to turn down extra vacation time, for example.

Non-financial incentives can generally be split into two categories:

Tangible benefits are perks that can clearly be seen, felt, and described. Although these are non-financial incentives, they may still cost the organization money.

Intangible benefits are more abstract and tend to involve leadership strategy designed to motivate your sales team.

Sales leaders with the best motivational results will use a smart combination of both tangible and intangible benefits to get the most out of their teams.

Generally speaking, the best way to motivate your team is to really get to know them. This will make it easier to decide which non-financial benefits to make available to your team – and how to reward them individually.

For instance, you might drive up productivity from one sales rep by promising them amazing seats at the big Yankees game if they hit their target. Another team member might be more motivated by a ticket to a Broadway show.

However, there are some unifying benefits – hardly anyone is going to turn down extra vacation time, for example.

With all that in mind, here are some of the most popular and effective non-financial sales incentives to consider:

8 Tangible Non-Financial Benefits to Motivate Your Sales Team

When considering which non-financial benefits to present to your sales team, it’s usually the tangible benefits that spring to mind. This is simply because they are what we traditionally think of as benefits, and they remain useful motivational tools.

Here are eight of the best:

1. Vacation Time

Listen up: 96% of all workers say travel incentives are important to them. What’s more, almost three-quarters claim they felt increased loyalty due to travel-based incentives.

Despite this, American companies notoriously offer significantly fewer paid vacation days than those in other countries.

Employees in Brazil, for example, get an average 30 days vacation time per year, while US citizens working in the private sector are granted an average of just ten days of paid vacation after one year of working for a business. And that’s just those who actually get paid vacation days – only 76% of private industry workers do.

Businesses can use this to their advantage by offering workers more of these coveted vacation days – whether to attract top talent or to improve performance.

2. Awards

Awards can be an incredibly cost-effective way to motivate your sales team, but the tricky thing here is legitimizing your awards system. It’s imperative that your sales reps actually want to win.

One way to do this is to run the same awards scheme every month to ensure it gains credibility. This adds a competitive element too – salespeople are by nature competitive and won’t sit back and watch the same person sweep the deck every month.

Consider rewarding the person with the highest win rate, the one who brought in the most revenue, or the one who went the extra mile for a client – or all of the above.

If your budget allows for it, include a prize with the award for an added incentive. This could be a gift card, events tickets, or an experience day. Make sure you outline what the prize is going to be at the beginning of the month so the team knows what they’re striving for.

If there’s no budget for prizes, recognition can be enough on its own. Amplify the news of each month’s winner throughout the company, focusing specifically on senior management. Keep visible records of who won each month in the office – this will keep the awards front of mind.

3. Remote Working Days

Remote working days are a common – and effective – way to reward salespeople.

Consider offering your highest performer of each month a couple of remote working days when they don’t have any face-to-face client meetings. If your setup allows for it, they could even work from a vacation destination on these days (maybe even adding them onto a vacation or a long weekend spent somewhere relaxing).

You’ll up their vacation time without actually losing any team productivity as, on average, employees are 13% more productive when working from home.

4. Recognition from Senior Management

You work with your team day in, day out. And while your praise is essential to your salespeople’s success, it only goes so far.

This is why it’s important to rope in other members of senior management when your team needs additional motivation.

We’ve all seen that flush of pride when a young team member is praised by a director or CEO. Make it your personal mission to make that happen more.

Demonstrating that the most senior members of staff care about the sales team will boost productivity, and it should also boost morale. Who doesn’t want a proud high-five or glowing email from their director?

Action this by sending your sales figures to all senior managers and directors, and encourage them to acknowledge the top performers and rising stars, whether face-to-face, by email, or – best of all – in company meetings.

This approach can be used in conjunction with your monthly awards for even better results.

5. Team Social Events

When it’s the team that you want to reward, rather than a specific individual, there’s no better way than getting everyone together to let their hair down.

Social events are essential for team bonding and building camaraderie. This could be an office party, a swanky dinner, or simply some money left behind the bar at your neighborhood hangout.

That said, it’s important to think about what every member of the team enjoys doing in their spare time, so that no one is left feeling alienated. If most of your team aren’t big drinkers, limit the number of social events you host in a bar setting. If any team members struggle with mobility or physical health issues, make sure events are planned with them in mind.

Set a target for each month – make it super visible in the office – and let the team know what they’ll be treated to for surpassing it. Or even better, let them take it in turns to plan a fun games night, or an afternoon hiking, or an expensive dinner. They deserve it!

6. Leadership Opportunities

There are few better ways to incentivize staff than to offer them opportunities to climb the career ladder. More money, more responsibility, more status – what’s not to like?

Using leadership opportunities as rewards can be tricky, timing-wise, but it’s not impossible. If there aren’t open leadership opportunities within your department when you need them, get creative.

Hand over one or two of your own responsibilities to high performers on the team. This might involve giving them a section of your sales meetings to run, or asking them to train new members of the team.

Just make it clear you’re giving them extra responsibility because you’re impressed with the job they’re doing – and be prepared to give them a pay bump.

Failing to meet either of these two rules may make it seem as if you’re asking them to do more work for the same salary. Far from seeming like a reward for good work, this could have the opposite impact to what you intended. Positioning this type of reward right is everything.

Make sure you emphasize that by taking on more leadership responsibility now, they’re adding to their resume and being primed for the moment a true leadership role opens up. Get them to buy into your vision of their potential as a leader for best results.

7. More Flexibility

Offer your top performers flexibility not afforded to other members of the team. This demonstrates you trust them, while also making their lives a little easier.

For example, you could give them the option to have a remote working day each week – to work nine hours one day and six the next – or the ability to leave an hour early on a Friday, as long as their week’s work is done.

Offering flexibility shows you trust them to do a great job and that you’re willing to reward that trust with greater autonomy. This can be especially impactful for team members with long rush-hour commutes or extended weekend travel plans in mind.

8. Event Tickets

Finally, get your hands on the hottest sports or music tickets available, and then empower your sales team to win them through their achievements.

As noted earlier, it’s important to consider the interests and hobbies of your individual team members when deciding which tickets to go for. To make this work, you’ll need to really get to really know your sales reps. Ask them which upcoming events they’d love to attend, or add a bit of fun to the proceedings by asking them to vote from a shortlist of options.

Unveil which tickets you’ve secured at the beginning of each month, define exactly how your team can win them, and let the competition commence.

7 Intangible Non-financial Benefits to Motivate Your Sales Team

Scanning the list of intangible benefits below, you may think: “I had no idea these actions would incentivize my team!”

The good news is that all of the below actions contribute – both directly and indirectly – to motivating your sales team.

You’ve probably already achieved a number of them – and knowing the motivational effect they can have should motivate you to check off the rest!

1. Communicate and Get Buy-in for Your Vision

Every organization has a vision. But what sets great companies apart is how they include their sales team in that vision. Your salespeople drive the new business and revenue that enable your vision to become reality. Ideally, your vision will also become theirs so you can work toward the same objectives.

Nike is a great example of a company that does this well. Their vision statement, “To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world,” shows that they’re actually selling a lifestyle, not clothing and shoes.

Whether you’re shopping at a Nike store or on their website, see an ad on TV, or encounter people wearing their clothing, their vision is apparent. It guides everything from their branding strategy to the people and influencers they work with to turn everyone into the athlete they want to be.

You can put this same concept to work for your company. You can’t achieve your vision if you don’t share it. Make your company culture part of the sales process, and ensure it reflects your brand. Sales leaders should build the sales process around the company’s vision to help salespeople see that they’re working toward more than a quota.

2. Make Good Hiring Decisions

The quality of your employees will have an impact on company morale and sales team performance. When sales reps are surrounded by top performers, the standards remain high, the environment stays positive, and each person is invisibly pushed to do their best.

In addition, turnover can eventually force out your best performers. When you’re short on sales reps, others may feel pressured to make up the difference. Not only will your revenue suffer in the process, but visibly struggling to hire good people can send the wrong signal to your current salespeople.

In a case study from Braveheart Sales, one company found that adopting better hiring practices resulted in 122% higher average revenue per rep. And, by the new hires’ fifth month, they were generating 219% more average revenue than those hired in the prior two years.

Fixing turnover issues can be motivating on its own. It lets your seasoned sales reps know you take finding the best candidates seriously, which can also make your team feel more valued since you chose them to be a part of it.

3. Build Trust With Your Team

Trust is the strongest foundation of motivation. When your salespeople trust your guidance, they’re more likely to act on it. However, if they feel you don’t have their best interests at heart, it will be hard for them to feel motivated and inspired by their work. And trust is a lot harder to earn than it is to lose.

As a sales leader, you must be able to trust your team and vice versa. While trust is usually strengthened over time, there are a few things you can do immediately to start fostering mutual trust.

One way to build trust with employees is simply to let them know that you value a trust-based partnership and ask how you can make it happen. Most people respond to this level of transparency and will be happy to share their thoughts. It also shows that you’re interested in working with them, not just acting as their boss.

4. Know Your Team’s Personal and Professional Goals

It’s hard to motivate a team if you don’t know what drives them, and those underlying factors can vary between each person. Invest some time into getting to know each salesperson’s personal motivations and goals, as well as what they want to accomplish in their professional lives.

From there, you can help them set clear paths to those goals. If you’re struggling to open up the conversation, don’t be afraid to be more direct. Ask them outright what motivates them, how they keep themselves focused on their own goals, and how you can help them build confidence and momentum.

Even if you think you know how they’ll respond, don’t assume you know the answer. Your team members may end up surprising you, which helps you get to know them even better. Some reps will feel pressured to answer on the spot, so tell them to take some time to self-reflect and follow up with them about the answers. When you give them time to think, you’ll get more honest, thoughtful answers, rather than just the first thing that pops into their head.

5. Share Success Stories

It’s easy for sales teams to feel like they’re just turning the wheel. Reps usually know where they stand in terms of sales quotas and pipeline deals, but they should also see how their efforts are contributing to the company as a whole.

Put their work into perspective by sharing real client success stories. For example, if they closed a large deal a year ago, take a look back to see how much revenue that client has generated.

Or, you might follow up with some of your biggest clients and get their feedback about their experience so far. Work with marketing or customer service to investigate how your product or service has transformed the client’s business. Marketing can help collect information and compile it into a case study using real data.

As an added bonus, sales reps can use these case studies when selling to prospective clients. Using data from clients they sold in the past adds a layer of reality and personalization to the interaction.

Some companies will leave reviews on your Google My Business or social media accounts and mention employees by name. You can comb through these reviews and share some positive client experiences with your sales team to show that clients really do care about the quality of service they’re providing.

The salesperson’s main job is to sell, but what they’re selling is valuable to your clients. You might be helping clients grow their own bottom lines or solve a specific business problem. Whatever the case, the sales rep has played an important role in every client they’ve closed, so put this into perspective so they know they’re doing more than just driving revenue.

6. Let Team Members Choose Their Own Reward

Your team members have the best insight into what drives them, so it makes sense to let them choose their own reward for a job well done. Plus, it takes some of the pressure off you since you don’t have to come up with motivation strategies that will please everyone.

A fun way to do this is through gamification, which applies the typical elements of game play to organizational activities. For example, sales reps might score points for every opportunity they create or every deal they close.

Companies that have experimented with gamification say it’s highly effective in motivating team members. A case study from MotivAction details how one bank used gamification to improve their results when only a quarter of their financial advisors were meeting their sales goals. They used a sales reward platform to provide non-cash incentives based on performance, so each participant was in control of what they earned.

The program achieved 200% of its goal and 95% of the bank’s annual sales revenue in the first quarter alone.

This concept has both intrinsic and extrinsic qualities. On the extrinsic side, employees were working toward an arbitrary quota set by someone else with the promise of a reward or compensation at the end. But on the intrinsic side, employees were also empowered to choose their own reward. They could assume responsibility for setting their own goals beyond what the company required in order to get a specific prize.

Since everyone is motivated in different ways, it makes sense to give them control over their own payout.

7. Always Let Your Team Know Where They Stand

Most sales organizations use annual reviews to go through an employee’s performance, but that shouldn’t be their only touchpoint. Nearly 45% of HR professionals believe that annual reviews aren’t an accurate depiction of an employee’s performance.

Your sales team likely agrees. More than 96% of employees say they prefer to receive regular feedback and that annual reviews aren’t enough. Team members should always know where they stand and the progress they’re making so they can better direct their efforts.

Companies that go above and beyond the annual review see an 8.9% increase in profitability and a 14.9% reduction in employee turnover compared to companies that give no employee feedback. Employees want to know if they’re doing a good job, and expect management to provide ongoing feedback.

However, it’s not enough to focus on the positives. Everyone has something they can improve or work toward, and employees expect management to take the lead when providing feedback.

To start, you can help your team set daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly goals for their performance. If their sales are suffering, help them achieve small wins to keep them moving forward every day. This helps to take the pressure off them so they can feel positive and encouraged to do better, rather than feel like they’re spinning their wheels and will never be as great as the reps around them.

Also, you can share wins with the team and let them know how they’re making progress as a group. Ask each sales rep to write down everything positive that happens to them that day, then circle up later and have them share their experiences. For example, they might receive a compliment from a client, or maybe they finally got a response from someone they’ve been chasing for a month. This adds a tangible factor to the experience and proves that good things are happening, even when it feels like they’re getting nowhere.

Bottom Line: Money Isn’t Everything

Not everyone is motivated by money, and that’s a good thing. Companies can save money and still get great results when their salespeople are driven to succeed of their own accord. Intrinsic motivation is a powerful force because it encourages people to find the deeper meaning in their work.

Many external rewards can distract from the value of the work itself, which is why so many companies prioritize non-monetary rewards. Intrinsic rewards encourage employees to enjoy what they do and feel good about it in the process. And, naturally, the sales department gets a boost, too.

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