Sir Richard Attenborough has been quoted saying “We are the only species to have put a halt to natural selection, of its own free will, as it were.”
He goes on to add, “We’re very clever and extremely resourceful – and we will find ways of preserving ourselves, of that I’m sure. But whether our lives will be as rich as they are now is another question.”
Does the same apply to businesses?
One of the first budgets to be cut back when the recession started was sales incentives. Businesses focused on ensuring staff had a job and the bad press caused by sales incentive schemes at our banking and financial institutions made everyone wary of such initiatives. But have we limited the growth potential of organisations now that the economy is on the rise by cutting back on sales incentives?
Have we made the younger generation of sales staff less tolerant of hard work because they’ve spent most of their initial working life relying on the bank of mum and dad to supplement their income and the recession as a ‘go to’ excuse for poor sales figures?
Have we halted innovation and enthusiasm, as those who had innovative ideas that needed investment were fobbed off and ignored?
Perhaps we have simply recognised the need to focus on providing for today, thereby ensuring we keep the wheels of the economy turning, and keep a majority employed.
The problem is real
It may at times seem like investing in sales incentives is a ‘high profile and unnecessary expense’ but the potential business benefits associated with these schemes can more than justify their set up and running costs.
Equally important is the fact that these programmes can deliver more than just increased sales. They can create opportunities such as:
- Increasing revenue
- Improving processes
- Lowering costs
- Retaining talent
- Driving the right behaviours (such as customer service , innovation and enthusiasm)
Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that the current situation has grown quietly, imperceptibly, over time. However, businesses are starting to realise that if they are going to come out of the recession on the front foot then it’s time to do something about it.
But the situation is still precarious. A piecemeal sales initiative may actually do more harm than good. To be successful a sales incentive programme needs to be meaningful, and that means:
- Linking incentive scheme, sales and business objectives together
- Finding rewards that motivate and offer choice
- Constantly communicating the scheme and providing feedback to employees
- Managing the scheme and using the available analytics to improve the programme
It’s time to seize the opportunity
Sir David goes on to comment on the population of China recognising that the one child policy is essential to ensure basic needs are met for all. But will a ‘there’s only so much business to go around’ attitude make businesses innovative, providing choice for customers opportunity for employees?
Who will step forward first? The effectiveness of sales incentives (when done correctly) is proven, so when will we see the re-birth of a new advent and confidence restored in a ‘spend money to make money’ attitude? Or will we carry on as we are?
John is responsible for the motivation division of p&mm ltd and a Director on the board of the IPM. Specialising in developing, implementing and directing many large scale staff motivation, recognition and employee communications programmes.