Building your sales incentive - 12 successful formats

Craig Thomas

Building your sales incentive - 12 successful formats

19th July 2017

Choosing a successful structure is one of the fundamental principles of incentive design. Once you have defined the audience, objectives and timeframe, then it's time to consider the structure of your sales incentive.


There's a myriad of ways you can subtly change the structure of an incentive to take into account your specific target audience and the performance you are looking to drive. There's no one size fits all solution. The most suitable sales incentive structure will vary from company to company.


Keep your objectives in mind and focus on what it is you want the programme to achieve. It's important to ensure the primary focus of your sales incentive is sales.


If you're looking for some ideas to get started, here's an overview of 12 of the most popular and successful sales incentive formats.


12 ways to structure a sales incentive

  1. The Club Approach
    Often called 'President Clubs', these clubs enable members to become role models for lower performing peers who in turn aspire to become part of the club themselves. The club approach is an excellent method of retaining top sales talent.
  2. Points Programmes
    Participants earn points for performance against set targets. They can then spend their points on a choice of rewards. Rewards can range from low-value items which can be claimed after reaching one target, to aspirational rewards which will hold engagement over time.
  3. Self-Targeting
    Participants commit to a performance improvement target with an agreed reward once this is reached. Can often include tiers.
  4. League Tables
    A good way to generate competition by showing comparative performance against colleagues. Care is needed to avoid a structure which only motivates the top performers.
  5. Tiered Targets and Escalators  
    A set of tiered targets with the size of the reward escalating for each target reached. The payout results at each tier should be significantly greater than the preceding tier1 to sustain motivation in higher performers.
  6. Most Improved
    A target which focuses on percentage improvement. A good way of incentivising the middle performers in any team.
  7. Sweepstakes, Lotteries and Games
    Designed to reward small achievements by giving the opportunity to 'have a go' or 'play the game' every time the task is achieved. Good for creating a buzz on the sales floor, usually for short periods.
    Five ideas for games which can make successful sales incentives
  8. All or Nothing
    Simply hit the target to trigger the reward. If the target isn't met, nothing happens. Often announced as a company target, where it is difficult to set team or individual targets.
  9. Nomination Programmes
    Often used to include and recognise non-sales people as part of an incentive. Support team members are nominated by their colleagues as top performers and rewarded accordingly. These awards are often linked to a company's key values.
  10. Boosters
    Tactical options used within a sales incentive to maximise the uptake and ensure participants stay engaged. Options include fast starts, fast finishes and multipliers.
  11. Tactical Incentives
    It is not always workable to make every programme an annual or long-term event. Tactical incentives can be used to meet short-term objectives.
  12. SPIF Days
    Tactical, targeted activity that is usually game-based and held on the sales floor. SPIF days can be very effective in driving specific product sales or sales activity - e.g. a new product push or appointment setting.
    Take a look at this example of a successful SPIF day


Selecting the right structure for you

These structures all focus on driving measurable sales. If you also want to tackle more subjective issues, such as changing behaviours, standards or values, this requires a more holistic approach. Rather than trying to combine these changes with improving sales, you should tackle these elements specifically and provide clear and separate rewards. This ensures the key objectives of your sales incentive do not become diluted. Take a look at our fundamental principles for success to find out more about how to plan your sales incentive.


Each of the sales incentive structures we've discussed has its own merits. So it's important to think about which will work best for your company and which will engage and motivate your employees the most. Be sure to take longevity and adaptability into consideration as well and you'll have the makings of a successful sales incentive.



Active create and manage sales incentives designed to help companies drive sales performance. Our online incentive platform provides an easy way to build your sales initiatives. To find out more about how this can work for you please drop us a line.


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1Source: The Vision Link Advisory Group, 'Selecting the Right Performance Measures for Your Incentive Plan'

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