Eyes on the Prize

Tips for keeping sales incentive earners motivated

By John Schofield

For the 36,000 independent beauty consultants who sell Mary Kay Cosmetics in Canada, it’s regarded as the ultimate reward for sales success: the pink Cadillac.

However, few companies—not even Mary Kay—rely exclusively on annual or blockbuster incentives and nothing else, says Mengze Shi, an associate professor at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management whose research is focused on incentive programs. He likens the use of an annual sales reward alone to a final exam for students. “If the only thing that matters is the final exam,” he observes, “then people are going to slack off—so you have to have quizzes and tests and other assignments.”

For sales incentives, that translates into smaller monthly and quarterly rewards, says Shi. Creating sales teams can also help because stronger performers may inspire those who are lagging. In addition, some companies implement profit-sharing programs to give sales reps a vested and continuing interest in boosting the bottom line.

Talk it Up
One of the most critical factors in fuelling peak performance is communication, says Shi. Sales directors and incentive program managers should keep earners regularly informed about their progress towards the target and provide coaching if necessary. But he cautions against publicly posting a running tally of each team’s member’s sales if the competition is not close. “The people far ahead think they can go play golf,” he says, “while those who are far behind think, ‘I have no chance.’”

Bit by Bit
At Mississauga-based Mary Kay Canada, each independent beauty consultant works with her independent sales director to decide on an annual sales goal, and those who meet their monthly and quarterly milestones earn rewards, such as gemstone jewellery or handbags, says Marijana Klapcic, a spokesperson for Mary Kay Canada.

The company has developed a comprehensive communications program to support and motivate its independent beauty consultants, she adds. It includes personalized video messages from key corporate leaders, targeted emails, newsletters, Facebook groups, an independent sales force website, special mailings, training classes, a quarterly magazine and one-on-one phone calls. “Like with any successful relationship,” she notes, “open and honest communication is the key to success.”

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