sales incentive program
Jul 19, 2023

The best sales incentives for better programs

Sales incentives can be a powerful way to motivate and reward your team for achieving their goals. Not only can incentives help increase morale and productivity, but they can also drive sales and revenue growth for your business. In fact, studies have shown that companies with effective sales incentive programs achieve significantly higher sales growth than those without. In fact:

Rewards-based incentive programs
can outperform other programs by 30%.¹

At Blackhawk Network (BHN), we’re all about compelling rewards. That’s why we continually add new ways to support your customer, employee or sales incentive program goals—and help you create more successful programs.

Before reading the rest of this blog, you can learn more about our rewards and incentives here.

What are sales incentives?

Sales incentives are rewards and perks used to motivate sales employees to work harder or to achieve goals. Want an actual definition? According to The Free Dictionary, sales incentives are “remuneration (rewards) offered to a salesperson for exceeding some predetermined sales goal.”

In other words, sales incentives are a form of positive reinforcement, and they’ve been around more than 100 years.

In the 1920s, companies needed salespeople to get customers to buy all the cars, appliances and other products they began manufacturing on a massive scale. To motivate and create healthy competition between the salespeople, these companies began rewarding them with bonuses.

The pros and cons of sales incentives

The benefits of monetary sales incentives are clear—motivation, increased job satisfaction, teamwork, employee loyalty and more.

But there are disadvantages, too. Employees may feel pressured to achieve unrealistic goals, for example. They may even resort to unethical behavior to meet targets and gain the rewards. In addition, incentives may create a sense of entitlement; employees may feel it’s their right to receive a reward without really earning it.

A properly run sales incentives program can minimize those disadvantages. It’s important to show your employees appreciation in non-monetary ways, too, and make sure they know you value them.

Below are many of the types of sales incentives and sales incentive ideas that you should consider for your program.

Popular types of sales incentives

Sales commissions or bonuses

Commissions and bonuses are both popular forms of incentives. Traditionally, salespeople earn commission-based pay–an amount of money for meeting their quota or for making a sale. Bonuses are typically reserved for non-sales employees or for sales reps as an incentive on top of their base salary.

Profit sharing

Profit sharing is an incentive plan that provide direct or indirect payments to employees that depend on the company's profitability. This incentive is often in addition to employees' regular salary and bonuses.

Stock options

Where profit sharing distributes company profits to employees, stock options distribute company shares, giving these employees an actual ownership stake in the company.

Gift cards

Compared to cash incentives, gift cards provide special experiences as incentives. Where cash often gets spent on practical things like rent, food or gas, gift cards give employees the opportunity to treat themselves to something special. How popular are gift cards? According to Murphy Research:

84% of employees would rather receive
gift cards over any other type of reward.²

Besides store-branded gift cards, there are multi-brand cards and Mastercard® and Visa® prepaid cards. At BHN, we also have a line of exclusive cards that might work best for you and your employees.

Employee recognition

As mentioned earlier, non-monetary incentives are important, also. This could be as simple as publicly acknowledging employees for who they are and what they do. This could also include written praise, remembering birthdays and work anniversaries and noting the completion of a project.

Employee recognition is one of the most important factors in driving workplace engagement, productivity and employee retention.


Getting a promotion is the goal of almost every employee. Not only will that usually mean an increase in salary, but it may also mean moving into a better office, having more responsibility and working more closely with company leaders. For those motivated by career goals, promotions may be a very effective incentive.

Employee perks

Employee perks are non-wage offerings given to employees that extend beyond salaries and benefits (like health insurance, dental, vision, etc.) They're often called fringe benefits.

While typical perks include gym memberships, a car allowance and free office snacks, today’s increasingly remote workforce may receive a budget for home office improvements. The possibilities are endless, as are the benefits.

Professional development

Some salespeople can be highly motivated by professional development. The opportunity to attend classes or trade shows, or events like trainings or workshops can be seen as very valuable. Access to mentorships can also be a motivating reward for those employees who are meeting their goals and hoping to accelerate their success.

Extra paid time off

One of the best non-monetary rewards you can use as an incentive is additional paid time off. Sales is hard work, and every hard-won deal means growth for your organization. Reward that hard work with some extra R&R.

How to implement sales incentives

Define objectives and KPIs

Start your sales incentive program by defining your goals. What are your objectives and what KPIs (key performance indicators) will you be using to gauge employee success? Both of those will help determine what kind of incentives to use and how they’ll be doled out.

It’s also important to align your sales incentives program with your company’s identity and business. Not only is this important culturally, but this could save you money. For example, if you’re in the travel business, you can offer travel rewards of higher value for less money.

Determine budget and process

Once the goals are determined, look at your budget and process for awarding incentives. Sometimes, companies go into an incentives program without budgeting and the incentive pay-out negates any gains in revenue.

Communicate details to salespersons

Communication is key to employees feeling valued. You can start with asking your sales team up front what kind of incentives they want. Then, once a program is established, make sure they understand all the details. Confusion is a killer of sales incentives programs.

Solicit employee feedback

During and after the program, continue communicating with employees. Do they like the program? Were the incentives appropriate or motivating? Were the goals too difficult (or too easy) to achieve? What would they like to see in the next program?

Monitor results and make adjustments

The only way to know whether your sales incentives program is working is to have measurable proof. And with that proof, you can make adjustments and improve the next program.

Some of the metrics you can track include:

  • Participation rate
  • Redemption rate
  • Sales bumps
  • Quota attainment
  • Employee feedback


Talk to BHN

We have the expertise and experience to help you set up any kind of sales incentives program you like. Already have a program? We can help you optimize it.

And, of course, we have the variety of compelling rewards—prepaid cards and gift cards, physical and virtual. You can start here.

Or, if you prefer, click here or call 866.219.7533 to talk to BHN.

1. The Next Generation Promotion Study, Aberdeen Group, 2018

2. Blackhawk Network Partner Verticals Report, Murphy Research, 2018

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