9 Ideas for Employee Recognition and Rewards to Motivate Your Team

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Sales is a grind. When things are going well, it’s easy for your sales representatives to stay motivated. But when there are rough patches, all of that motivation can disappear quickly. It falls to sales managers to keep their teams’ motivation high throughout all the ups and downs.

Commission checks and sales contests are two classic methods of motivating a sales team. But managers shouldn’t depend on these alone. Humans are motivated by a wide range of incentives, and only a few of which are monetary.

To build high morale all year long, try these methods of employee recognition and rewards to motivate your team:

1. Use a leaderboard for posting sales representatives’ performance.

Your high school guidance counselor might have been right. Peer pressure exists, but as a sales manager you can use it in a positive way. Even if your department isn’t in the middle of a sales contest, display everyone’s current performance. People who are lagging behind will be motivated to improve.

High performers, on the other hand, will informally compete against one another for bragging rights. Sales representatives are ambitious by nature, and by publicizing everyone’s performance you can capitalize on their competitive spirits.

2. Acknowledge team members’ achievements.

Recognition for a job well done is a basic human need: we all want to feel appreciated. Keep that in mind, and don’t just reserve your praise for major achievements. Even small achievements are worthy of acknowledgment.

When you praise your sales representatives, be specific in your compliments. Although generic praise such as “great job!” works, more specific comments show your team members that you value them as individuals. And make sure to tell them “thank you,” demonstrating that their contribution is appreciated.

For major milestones, provide public recognition to increase the magnitude of the acknowledgement and encourage others. Compliment the sales representative in front of other team members for maximum effect.

Typed letters and handwritten thank you notes are a particularly effective way to acknowledge good work. E-mails get lost in the shuffle, but an employee will treasure a physical letter or note.

3. Recognize personal bests.

For sales representatives who aren’t among your highest performers, sales contests may not be as motivating if they feel they can’t compete with the top performers. To provide these members of the team encouragement to do better, provide specific acknowledgement when they exceed their personal bests. This encourages everyone, from high performers to everyone else, to keep on improving.

4. Give low-cost or no-cost rewards.

Not every reward has to cost a lot of money. Here are some ideas for rewards that won’t make much of a dent in the budget:

  • Prime parking spaces
  • Permission to leave early on Friday
  • A pass for a free day off
  • Movie tickets
  • A gift basket
  • Donuts or other food items
  • Gourmet coffee for the coffee machine
  • Transportation expenses for a week

5. Create a team trophy or another symbol for high performers.

When it comes to acknowledging achievement, symbolism matters. Get a trophy and rotate it around every few weeks to team members who do a particularly good job. Don’t just reserve the trophy for top sales performers. Give the trophy to anyone who goes above and beyond the call of duty. Make awarding the trophy a regular part of your weekly meetings.

Another way to implement a similar rewards system is to name members of the team employees of the month. Place their pictures and a brief blurb in your newsletter. You can even create a wall of fame for past honorees.

6. Provide rewards suitable to team members’ interests and personalities.

One-size-fits-all rewards are not always the most effective. Your sales representatives vary as individuals, and you should be getting to know their personal interests and quirks. Keeping in mind these preferences, you can personalize the rewards. A wine aficionado will respond to a different gift as compared to a football fanatic.

You may find that some employees respond better to public acknowledgment, while some prefer other rewards. Mix up your tactics, and keep records of what works for each individual team member.

7. Reward the entire team for meeting a collective goal.

Rewards don’t have to be individual. You can provide an incentive to the entire team for meeting a collective goal. In fact, these types of rewards can be particularly effective because they encourage team members to work together. When everyone’s fate is tied up together, high performers will be motivated to provide mentorship to lower performing sales representatives. Try telling your team that you’ll give everyone a reward if every member of the team meets the sales quota for a particular quarter, and see what happens.

Here are some collective rewards you can implement:

  • A masseuse coming into the office
  • Catered lunch
  • Cake and other desserts
  • Everyone gets to leave early
  • Everyone engages in a fun activity for one afternoon

8. Offer mentorship and career development opportunities as motivators.

The best sales representatives are hungry to advance in their careers. So instead of spending money on a special reward, try offering special career development opportunities such as a personal meeting with the VP or another high-ranking executive. Your most ambitious representatives will relish this opportunity to learn.

9. Facilitate social events to mark commemorate collective achievements.

Not only do social events make a great reward, but they’re also useful for building team camaraderie. Strategically schedule social events after high-stress periods in order to reward your employees for their hard work. Events like the annual holiday party and a summer barbecue are a few examples that you could implement on your team

There are many ways to motivate a sales team, only some of which involve writing a check. To push your team to new heights, try implementing these ideas for employee recognition and rewards. Your sales representatives may surprise you with what they achieve with a little extra incentive.

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Marketing Manager @ CloserIQ. Previously Recruiter @ ManpowerGroup & Freelance Social Media Strategist. University of Wisconsin Journalism & Strategic Communication Grad.