This February I inherited a team of serious talent here in our NY office. I had 8 recruiters, 2 recruiting coordinators and was hiring 5 more in the next two months to scale aggressively. We had big revenue goals to hit, but the office had been without a manager for a few months — so I had to be cognizant of morale, tenured reps that were struggling to find success, and still set expectations as “the new girl” that I only play on winning teams.
We manage our recruiting teams like sales teams (KPI’s, metrics, pipeline, quotas) and I had to quickly figure out how to motivate and incentivize a group of people that 1) I barely knew, 2) hadn’t been crushing quota, and 3) were all very different.
I quickly remembered how one of my first managers in my career used to motivate our team. At Yelp, making 100 calls a day can be monotonous. But my manager found ways to incentivize the right type of behavior and keep us excited about small wins (that led to bigger ones). I remember one afternoon, he announced that for the next 3 hours, we were going to track appointments set as a team. If we hit 50 appointments, as a team of 10, we would go to $.25 wing night and $3 PBRs at a popular bar in the Mission in SF, Doctor Teeth and the Electric Mayhem.
And for the next 3 hours, it was mayhem. We hit 50, and although my manager probably spent a total of $5 per person that night, we felt like kings. Our calendars were also PACKED for the next week with pitch appointments.
SPIFFs are more than just contests. Many articles online talk about the lost history of the acronym — but to me, it means one thing: a quick competition to incentivize reps and accelerate a type of behavior around activity, productivity, efficiency, or revenue. However, speaking with other sales managers and leaders I realized I’m not alone in managing reps (and more importantly millennials) who aren’t always motivated by the $200 gift card you put in front of them.
I’ve learned that my team is motivated by other things. The prizes that cost me nothing as a Managing Director are the ones that motivate them the most. Things that are free? Seriously? It’s not the $100 gift card to wherever you want that wins, it’s leaving an hour and a half early on a Friday, or coming in late after we have a big networking event the night before. We focused on new prospect meetings one week, and the prize for the most was naming the large conference room in our new office. People went NUTS. Cross-team competitions promote camaraderie and team bonding. I bought my entire team concierge bells that they ring when they set appointments. Sure, it’s not the same as hitting the gong after you close something. But that little “DING” lets the whole office know you just did something right.
In our San Francisco HQ last year, we wanted to teach recruiters to leverage their extensive networks from college. By Friday, whoever was able to reach out to their local alumni chapter on Linkedin, become an officer and get involved won tickets to the Jay-Z and Beyonce concert at AT&T Park. We’ve done dinners with our CEO, tickets to sporting events, SWAG hand-outs (t-shirts, hats, and jackets that your marketing team used for another event can be big prizes). The same manager that bought us wings and cheap beer also used to have a bag of prizes from the Dollar Store to choose from when you closed a deal. People loved the stickers and ring-pops they could choose from. He also used to take people with most call times mid-afternoon into a conference room to play Catch Phrase for 20 minutes.
Contests shouldn’t promote a cut-throat environment; they should encourage teamwork, collaboration, and problem-solving. Winning should be a matter of pride– to demonstrate success or expertise in an area, not a black hole of $100 gift cards. These characteristics and results better define the attitude of the modern sales representative as well as the way culture and teams are structured today.
If you’re looking for ideas, here’s an article that talks about a few ideas to get you started, and another that looks at the end result of why certain SPIFFs worked (or didn’t). Also, check out Bowery Capital’s Podcast with Stu Wall from SignPost on Sales Floor Incentives.
What do you do that works for your team? What are your favorite SPIFFs of all time?