Top 10 Sales Incentive Ideas for 2021

<8 minutes read

Andrew Baldis

Content Contributor
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Are you looking for ways to incentivize your sales team in order to increase production? Instead of simply buying gift cards to the Olive Garden (no offense, Darden Restaurants!), consider some of these ideas. They are timely and appropriate for trends that grew due to living in isolation in 2020!

1. Wellness Products

A woman using an exercise bike2020 was, for many of us, the most insane year of our lives. As we come out of it, I think everybody is trying to take a little bit better care of their health, whether it be mental, physical, emotional, or all of the above. There's a renewed interest in the things that make us look and feel better.

Depending on the company, I envision this category with examples such as: "the top salesman this quarter wins a Peloton with a year's subscription." Peloton is pricey but there are many other brand options that offer super similar products for less (BowFlex, Echelon, Myx, or Mirror if you want to be trendy without the bike).



Peloton Alternatives

2. Trips, But Make it Cool

Young woman standing in front of a waterfallTravel opportunities have always been incorporated as sales incentives, and for good reason. While they're traditional, the possibilities are endless as far as the places you can take it. I believe certain travel destinations get more of a response than others. COVID notwithstanding.

In recent years, some travel destinations have emerged as trendier than others and may get a great response. Iceland (pictured) has quickly gone to the top of a lot of millennial's travel lists in recent years, as well as off-the-beaten-path locales like New Zealand, Switzerland, Seoul, Tokyo, and Cancun.

Iceland travel package to see the northern lights - trips start around $700 and go from there.

NZ travel package - $1500/person

South Korea tours - $800/person

You don't have to be international, either. Exciting and exotic domestic locations like Alaska and Hawaii are great incentives, as well.

3. Food Subscription

Prepared meal box - like HelloFresh. Tying back into wellness a little bit, the COVID era saw a drastic increase in the popularity of meal subscription box services such as HelloFresh and BlueApron. The appeal of these services is that they take all of the hassle of meal preparation away with pre-portioned ingredients and base recipes that allow you to modify them as you see fit. Most of these aren't mystery boxes, either - you generally get to select each meal so you never have to eat food you don't want unless you don't like, like, most food.

I know I sure would feel incentivized to hit my sales targets if I was told it would mean I would get to do significantly less grocery shopping. Services like this have allowed people to take back some of the time and energy they went into recipe planning and food purchasing, and I think a years' subscription could be a great motivator for sales staff.


Blue Apron

Sunbasket (less well known but very highly ranked)

4. For the Sneakerheads

Nike shoes

It probably sounds as ridiculous to you as it does to me, but there is a truly massive community out there around sneakers. There's a Sneaker Con and everything.

If a lot of these sales staffs are some of the younger, millennial, athletic-wear types, then something like this could be right up their alley. My thinking is either a luxury, highly-prized sneaker products like these Jordans that cost over $150.

Or custom Nikes. You could go anywhere with these - salesman's choice or even getting the company's brand colors on the shoe, depending.

5. Celebrity Experience

A person in front of a camera Perhaps another well-worn idea, but one that in a post-COVID world has expanded itself due to the range of high-profile individuals who have made themselves available online for brief paid experiences. I came across the website AllAmericanSpeakers and they have a vast array of celebrity guests available, from Adam Devine to Jessica Alba to Ashton Kutcher to Will Smith to Lebron James and Tom Brady.

Possibilities, again, are kind of endless. Booking fees are going to vary but most individuals offer both virtual and in-person opportunities so there is a lot of flexibility here.

Ja Rule's Icon Live service would facilitate this as well.

6. Trendy Wearables

Two people in athletic wear Wearables are a mainstay in the world of sales incentives, but often they tend to be relatively cheaply-made T-shirts with graphics on them or a polo with a brand patch stitched in, which honestly can feel more like a work uniform than anything. However, there are tons of options for wearable branded clothing that can be practical, fashionable, or both.

One of the best possibilities in this realm is in the area of athletic wear/lounge wear. Funny enough, the two terms tend to be interchangeable. Minimal, breathable, stylish, and high-quality sports shirts, jackets, leggings, etc. is appealing, and it's super easy to throw your brand logo onto it in a tasteful way. 4imprint and LogoSoftwear are just two examples, but there are tons of sites out there that do this.

7. Prize Box/Mystery Box

Items from the Black Box collection - toiletries including beard wash and cologne. This one is a little bit esoteric, but that's kind of the beauty of it. In the last few years companies like Lootcrate, Menlo, BarkBox, and Bespoke Post have lead the way into this new industry. There's a loot/mystery box for just about everything you could think of - books, movies, vinyl records, dog stuff, beef jerky, video games, Broadway merchandise, wellness products, apparel/streetwear, shaving products, wine, tech, anything really.

Amazon makes incorporating different types of mystery boxes into the same promotional campaign easier by collecting them all in one main mystery box marketplace, where you can see just how endless the possibilities are.

8. Unforgettable Experiences

A young person kayaking on a sunny day Similar to trips, but perhaps easier logistically. Again, incentives like these are not necessarily new, but the power is in how they are executed. Millennials are known to be highly experience-oriented and will, in general, prioritize experiences and a memory over physical goods. Forbes covers this extensively.

Hiking and extreme sports typically rank highly with millennials. White water rafting, paragliding, skydiving, ziplining, etc. Brewery tours/pub crawls are sure to drum up some interest as well. Other trips can vary greatly depending on geography.

In the Northeast? Maybe a trip to the Appalachian Mountain Club's Highland Center for a day/long weekend for some hiking.

Southeast? Send them to Campbells Resort near Seattle.

Getaway is a great, nationally-applicable getaway cabin service that could fill this role in a variety of locations.

Specific excursions localized to a salesman's geographic area demonstrates care and attention to detail,  and gives sales staff incentives that provide new experiences.

9. Tech

A MacBook computer, Apple Mouse, and AirPods on a marble desk top. This one almost feels too easy, but it honestly is just the world that we're living in these days, isn't it? Technology is moving faster than any of us can keep up and there's bound to be something that everybody wants. This is another field that's so vast that once you start specializing the ideas just start flowing. How about this wall canvas that displays digital art or family portraits? Kind of has a luxury feel.

Some fun tech like a Playstation 5 (especially with the ongoing supply issues) or Oculus Rift/VR type of incentive would probably be received well, too, depending on the sales team.

Per John Ruhlin, watch out for iPads, iPhones, headphones, that kind of thing. Salespeople are used to these and they won't stand out.

10. Development

The MasterClass logo. Lots of jobs offer sales development training as an incentive. Reading that didn't make much sense to me. Maybe I'm not the sales type, but I can't imagine feeling too rewarded if I worked super hard to win something that taught me how to be even better at working hard. However, I would work super hard if it meant Gordon Ramsay could teach me how to cook, or if I could learn about business management from Bob Iger. David Lynch has a class on creativity. You can learn photography from Annie Leibovitz. These are all offered through Masterclass, and a full list of courses is available at Masterclass.

Some of the courses do lend themselves towards sales training, if that's anybody's jam. Chris Voss's class on negotiation is ranked as one of the most popular and loved on the site. This incentive incorporates a pseudo celebrity encounter, an unforgettable experience, and an opportunity to grow and develop in any direction that is of interest. A year's membership is about $180, so this is a relatively low-cost opportunity to provide something unique for your sales staff.

Additionally, Skillshare offers similar classes/workshops, though often without the celebrity angle. There is a much wider selection of courses, however.

Honorable Mentions

  • Blueboard - A service that allows staff to build up to rewards that they can choose - lots of experiences and cool things to choose from. Nothing you couldn't do with your own reward system and some good ideas, but it's streamlined.

  • Event tickets - Depending on geography and nationwide pandemic, local events are going to be in high demand. Normally this is a pretty basic gift but worldwide conditions could make this a little extra special for the time being.

  • Time off/PTO - Another basic idea, but it really is hard to beat a day off of work. It's not a revolutionary idea but there's a reason that it's such a no-brainer.

  • Streaming Services - Top sales staff get a years' worth of Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and HBO MAX for free. Something along those lines. Could incorporate music like Spotify, Tidal, Apple Music.

  • We'll Pay for Your [Expense Here] - Building off the previous idea, frame a cash bonus around an expense that you are taking off of their hands. "We'll pay your phone bill for a year," "free gas for a year." Dare I say..."Mortgage for a year?" Something along those lines.

  • Night Out for the Team - Depending on the sales team and the dynamic, they may enjoy a company-sponsored night out or a Happy Hour. Nothing new, but if your sales staff enjoys each other sometimes it's enough to just get them all together and cover the bill. Main man John Ruhlin says food and drinks isn't good, but I think it's different if it's a social communal experience for the team to participate in together.

  • COVID Consideration - Knock on wood, if things get bad again, branded face masks and hand sanitizers are easy for brand awareness. But let's hope not.

  • I found a lot of more general or mass-producible "swag" type of items on this list here.