Create a Sales Incentive Program for Your Contact Center in 3 Easy Steps
Illustration by Gina Park

“Trinkets and trash!” That was the description a contact center agent used to describe their company’s sales incentive program. This company had recently mandated that every customer service agent had to upsell and cross-sell products. As a result, managers were throwing small prizes at anyone who attempted a sale.

It was a Band-Aid approach. It also backfired since agents need proper sales training, enhanced product knowledge and a well-devised incentive program to succeed at sales. I have explored sales training ideas in past articles, so this time, let’s look at how to develop a quick but effective sales incentive program for your agents.

STEP 1: Determine Your Sales Targets

Whatever gets rewarded, gets done. So choose your sales targets wisely, and beware of unintended consequences.

Here is an example of what happens if you choose the wrong sales target: Company A chose to reward unit sales under the belief that “a sale is a sale.” As a result, agents learned to sell the easiest, cheapest, least profitable item. That drove up unit sales, but did not produce the desired net revenue numbers.

Company B chose to reward overall revenue goals. As a result, agents learned to sell higher value items that drove profitability.

One last warning about unintended consequences: Strike a balance between rewarding sales and maintaining great customer service. Sales should always be conducted ethically, with a goal toward helping your customer get the best performance and value. If agents feel they need to “force” sales—even if it is not in the best interests of the customer—they may resort to high-pressure tactics that alienate your customer base.

STEP 2: Design a Reward and Recognition Program for Your Agents

Once you have decided upon the right goals, decide how you want to motivate your contact center agents.

One obvious option is financial compensation. Can you offer sales commissions? Can you adjust your agent pay scale based upon sales performance? For many centers, the answer is “no.” Human resources or union rules may make compensation changes difficult or impossible to implement. So, how can you reward the right behaviors using low- or no-cost motivators?

Here are 15 low-cost—or no-cost—ideas for contact center agent sales incentives.

  1. Offer time off as a prize. One contact center offers agents the chance to leave one hour early each month if they hit their sales goals. Your workforce management team might not like that being used as a prize. However, that is just 60 minutes off a month for each person who generates X amount of revenue for your company.
  2. Give preferred shift bids. One of the clients I have trained on sales skills offers preferred shift bids for their top performers. The more an agent sells, the more control they have over their next month’s shift. This drives results since being in control of your shift is a powerful motivator.
  3. Invite them to attend a trade show or do a “ride-along” with a field sales person. This provides contact center agents with exposure to face-to-face sales. It also allows them to build connections with your sales and marketing departments. It can be a real motivator for agents who want to eventually transition to those teams.
  4. Offer a tour of your local factory or retail store location. Often contact center agents never see where their company’s products are made or sold. Offering this opportunity can also boost their belief in the product and help them to explain the benefits to their customers.
  5. Reward them with a preferred parking spot. Each month, give your top salesperson a parking spot close to the office door. This can be a great perk if you have a large parking lot. It is also an example of a low-cost, or no-cost, perk that is highly valued.
  6. Provide fresh food for millennials. Millennials may not be motivated by traditional contact center rewards like pizza days. However, they are attracted to fresh, healthy foods. Look at meals with lighter items such as salads, grilled chicken and fresh fruit as a prize for your weekly top sales performers.
  7. Treat them to a night at the movies. Most people love movies. Offering pairs of movie tickets can be a great prize for every agent that exceeds their sales goals. Or consider a night at the movies together for the team leader and his or her agents, if they can agree on an acceptable movie to watch. Ensure that the film is available with both described video services for the blind and visually impaired; and captioning for the deaf and hard of hearing to comply with applicable access laws.
  8. Give them gift cards. Gift cards for free coffee, snacks, movies or music can be big incentives. You can use them as small ($5-$10) tokens of appreciation or larger ($50-$100) rewards for performance.
  9. Provide company-branded merchandise or surplus company products. Company-branded baseball caps, jackets, mugs, etc., can be an agent incentive. Better yet, your marketing department may have surplus items they can transfer to your contact center for free. They may also have access to discounted or surplus company products that can be given as incentive items.
  10. Hire an external rewards vendor. If the idea of tracking sales and disbursing rewards seems daunting, there are outside companies to take care of that for you. Many of them will interface with your sales database, track top-performing agents and provide a online catalog of prizes that are delivered right to your agents. That saves you time and effort. It also provides agents with access to a wider variety of prize merchandise. Many of these programs offer “points” programs so agents can accumulate points based upon their sales results. Agents can then cash them in for immediately smaller prizes, or save them toward a bigger annual prize.
  11. Provide public recognition. Tangible rewards like movie tickets are very different from recognition. Examples of recognition include praising an agent in front of their peers, giving them a sales certificate they can show off at their desk or putting their photo on a wall of fame in your contact center. The good news is that most forms of recognition are free. They just take effort and sincere appreciation.
  12. Enable peer-to-peer recognition. Sometimes the biggest motivator is knowing that your peers respect you. So provide blank “Thank you” cards at your desk. Let agents write one out and send it to a peer who helped them in sales.
  13. Do a grand prize draw. Rather than offer small prizes to each agent, pool that money into one big prize per week or month. Then give agents one ballot for every $X dollars in sales. The more an agent sells, the more ballots they get and the better their chances of winning the big prize.
  14. Show the benefit of “transferable skills.” Sales is all about communication. Show agents how becoming better at selling your company’s products will make them better at selling themselves in their careers.
  15. Ask Agents for their ideas for rewards and recognition. Some of the best ideas come from the front lines. One group I worked with thought getting complimentary admission to the local auto show was a great perk. They could volunteer at the company’s booth there for two hours and then spend the rest of the time exploring the show.

STEP 3: Track Your Results and Adjust Your Incentive Program

One of the biggest mistakes is to “set it and forget it.” That may work for home appliances, but it doesn’t work for incentive programs. Instead, track your department’s sales results. See what is working and what needs to be changed.

Pay careful attention to your customer satisfaction surveys. Notice if the increased emphasis on sales is affecting how customers view your company. If agents are properly trained in sales, customer satisfaction will increase because customers feel their needs are being met. On the other hand, if agents are being too pushy because of overly aggressive incentives, cSat scores will drop. Be sure to adjust your rewards program to motivate the correct behaviors.

Summing It All Up

In summary, determine your sales goals, choose the right incentives that move your team, and then track and adjust the program to spur the right behaviors. Use these ideas to motivate your agents to top performance!