On performance incentives

You cannot incentivize performance. You can only incentivize behavior.

– Simon Sinek

We cannot incentivize sales. Sales can’t do anything.

Sales result from the effort of sales people interacting with customers.

What we need to incentivize is the salesperson’s desire to learn about the offering – what it does, its value, who it’s for – and to learn the skills required to connect her offering to the customer who needs it.

Many companies simply offer a bonus to anyone who meets a sales goal. Year after year, the goal gets higher. The employee’s performance is supposed to improve without the learning of any additional skills. Of course, that’s not possible. Eventually, the salesperson will be unable to meet the goal without cheating or lying. Without realizing it, the company has incentivized maladaptive performance.

The next time you set an incentive, consider all the behaviors you will affect.

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