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Sales execs have muscled through two years of distraction and disruption. Channel execs fight for mindshare, while multiple suppliers pull channels in every direction. And most importantly, CEOs are challenging HR and Sales VPs to retain rainmakers during The Great Resignation.

Our incentive experts have huddled together to convert current research and trends into an actionable to-do list to drive sales and motivate producers.

1. Reset strategy

Many politicians say, “Don’t let a crisis go to waste.” While that is distasteful to us regular folks, the Covid pause has broken the handcuffs of past precedence. Don’t repeat the same things. Executives should seize this window of opportunity to reconsider their incentive strategies. Brainstorm with your leadership team. What are the new goals? What has changed in the business? Audience award preferences? Team knowledge and engagement levels?

TO DO: Refresh promotional offers

2. Motivate new behaviors

After companies reevaluate their overall strategy, many realize new selling techniques are required to sell new products to new markets. The next normal selling will likely require added learnings or certifications. Enablement is always a hot topic, especially in channel partner organizations. With reps struggling to map the steps to a complex sale, behavior incentives are increasing in popularity.

TO DO: Add behavioral incentives

3. Recognize (or else resignation)

Bright CEOs understand The Great Resignation is the biggest threat to their business. It threatens their sales, customer service, expertise, excellence, and just about everything. Now is the time to double efforts on employee recognition, invest more in culture, strengthen personal relationships, increase training and professional development opportunities, and add more fun into the workday.

TO DO: Say “thank you” with recognition rewards

4. Get more money

According to a new study from the IRF (Incentive Research Foundation), Industry Outlook for 2022: Merchandise, Gift Cards, and Event Gifting, U.S. and European companies plan to increase budgets dramatically across the board. They may have tightened their pocketbooks during Covid shutdowns, but execs realize the economy is rebounding (and perhaps the risks of The Great Resignation). Inflation is raising the costs of awards and fulfillment, and extra incentives are being used to refocus reps on targeted products.

TO DO: Tell the CFO to get more money

5. Enlist agency expertise

Another finding in the IRF Industry Outlook for 2022 is that U.S. and European companies expressed their intention to increase the use of third-party partners (which Brightspot liked reading and is seeing occur with more inbound requests). Good incentive companies will provide industry research, current trends, best practices, and expert consulting. They know what’s working and what’s become outdated. They can share what similar organizations are doing to succeed. And with their efficiencies in tracking and award fulfillment, incentive companies will actually save you money in the end.

TO DO: Call a good incentive company

6. Supply chain woes

Woe is me! We are weary of Covid, and we’re going to scream if we hear another word about supply chain delays. New cars are in short supply due to little-bitty microchips, so set accurate expectations if the grand prize is a 2-year Tesla lease. Electronics, furniture, and kitchen gadgets might be sitting in the Pacific Ocean waiting for Long Beach harbor to have truck drivers to haul your cherished prizes. “Immediacy” in award fulfillment is a fundamental principle. Avoid promoting backordered merchandise.

TO DO: Ensure prize availability

7. Personalize, but curate

During the pandemic, an odd paradox has emerged. We’ve been simultaneously more out of control and in control. At a macro, external level, employees have endured two years of government forced shutdowns, and offices told them to stay home. Other rules commanded: get a vaccine, wear a mask, don’t go to a restaurant, and walk one direction in the grocery store. At the micro, internal level in our homes, we had more control. Wear shorts or yoga pants. Flexible working hours. No calls from 2-4. Squeeze in a 30-minute run. Do laundry on Friday instead of Saturday.

So, for 2022, these mindsets will carry over to incentive programs. Now, participants want to personalize their award experience with more options and choices. However, too many choices are overwhelming. In a post-Covid world, humans are more easily overwhelmed than before. Fewer decisions to think about, debate, and take up mental real estate are appreciated. So, do your incentive participants a favor by curating the very best award options to keep choice limited.

TO DO: Curate and then give choice

8. Cash out less

During Covid, many companies could not celebrate their President Club Trip due to travel shutdowns. The boardroom debate was – reschedule or cancel? While some trip cancellations were replaced with merchandise prize packages, most companies paid a cash substitution. In merchandise incentive programs, backorders forced some cash substitutions too.

Well-meaning sales execs said, “Our people are hurting; they could use the cash.” Alternatively, HR execs, organizational consultants, and human behavior psychologists understand the importance of “separability” – meaning non-cash rewards deliver greater psychological benefits because they don’t get mixed with compensation. Cash invariably turns the extra reward into expected compensation. Cash creates entitlement — you can give it, but you cannot take it away.

For 2022, Brightspot recommends:

  • Good – cash out less. Covid pivots are understandable. Try substituting merchandise or gift cards. Please don’t make it a habit, or the mob outside your door will demand it every time.
  • Better – cash out for less. This one is a common mistake. Far too many companies substitute at 100% of the prize value. Brightspot recommends discounting. For example, an incentive trip valued at $10,000 per couple could be reduced by 30%-50% for the meeting planning costs, communications, administration, on-site support team, and most of all, the premium costs of group functions with entertainment, audiovisual, and higher hotel costs. Plus, a prize strategy is to avoid monetizing the recognition gesture.
  • Best – cash out never. Incentive wisdom (and legal T&Cs) say “no cash substitutions allowed.” It truly is the best practice.

TO DO: Avoid cash substitutions

9. Refresh communications

Work from home during the pandemic increased the bombardments of email and online ads. Cutting through the clutter with your incentive communications is more challenging than ever. Put forth extra effort into the creative collateral and electronic communications. Refresh graphic designs, websites, and email templates. And, attention spans keep shrinking, so say your message faster and more focused. Don’t get lost among the sea of junk in the inbox.

TO DO: Be fresh, fast, focused

10. Simplify

The IRF published a fascinating study on What Top-Performing Companies Do Differently with Sales Incentives, and surprisingly, simplifying programs was a significant trait among the best of the best. Two universal success drivers were simple rules and simple communication. Channels are inherently challenging to motivate due to the competition of other spiffs. Overly-complex offers with lengthy explanations will quickly deter reps from following the path of a sale to a reward. With added disruption and information overload, it’s more important than ever to be simple and straightforward.

TO DO: KISS your sales team (keep it super simple)

11. Invest in software

Accenture’s study on overspending in channel incentives shows that internally managed programs will often overspend by 5-10% due to three causes: (a) complexity, (b) decentralization, and (c) data errors. Using a robust sales incentive software platform will often pay for itself by eliminating the overspend caused by those three pain points and dramatically improve the lives of those managing incentive programs. If a program has over 100 participants or an award budget greater than $25,000, Brightspot recommends searching for an incentive technology solution.

TO DO: Start with a solid foundation

Want even more?

Join us for a 45-minute, fast-paced webinar on Wednesday, January 26, 2:00-2:45 CT. Hear more details of trends and takeaways – and ask the experts your question during the live Q&A session. Free consulting! If you find you missed the webinar, no worries! Click the link below to view the recorded video.

WEBINAR VIDEO: 2022 To-Dos For Sales Incentives, Contests, & Rewards

Mike May

Author Mike May

Mike is a wearer of many hats. President of Brightspot, author of 12.5 Steps to a Perfect Incentive Program, past Chairman of the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF), and recognized as one of the Top 25 Most Influential People in the Incentive Industry. His expertise includes bucket-list incentive trips, motivational incentive program design, matching event goals with the perfect destination & hotel, cost savings strategies, global channel reward programs, and targeted communications. Mike maintains his certifications in many specialties including Certified Meeting Professional (CMP), Certified Incentive Travel Professional (CITP), and Incentive Professional (IP).

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