What’s the Difference Between Sales Incentives and Bribes?

For some people, the phrase “sales incentives” has an unpleasant ring to it. They imagine incentive rewards as sneaky ways to get unsuspecting salespeople to do what you want—behavioral bribes, essentially. But in a properly-run sales incentive program, those rewards can mean so much more than simply baiting salespeople into achieving sales goals. If implemented properly, sales incentives can contribute not only to increased sales, but to your salespeoples’ personal growth.

To really understand the difference between sales incentives and bribes, we need to consider the two types of motivation that can affect salespeople: extrinsic and intrinsic motivation.

  • Extrinsic motivation is the phrase we use to refer to outside obligations, expectations, and rewards. This can mean things like money, prizes, and even the fear of a negative outcome if we don’t do what’s asked of us. When most people think of sales incentive programs, they’re imagining extrinsic motivation.
  • Intrinsic motivation, on the other hand, refers to the kinds of things that motivate us from within. You might be intrinsically motivated by achieving personal goals, taking pride in your work, or just doing things that make you happy. When you do anything for fun or a hobby, that’s intrinsic motivation at work.

If you’re worried that your sales incentive program is starting to feel a little too much like bribery, consider the kinds of motivation you’re rewarding your salespeople for. Focusing your incentive strategy on intrinsic motivators rather than extrinsic will make your salespeople feel more personally valued and invested in—not just as a sales generator.

If you’re still concerned that your incentive strategy could come off as too extrinsically-driven, take a look at the slideshare below. We’ve compiled some of the most common mistakes we see in sales incentive programs, as well as effective strategies for avoiding them.