Logo Okinawa
Logo Okinawa

Beyond sales incentives

Expert Opinion
Beyond sales incentives

Didier Scaillet, CEO of SITE, says a sea change is coming in the world of incentives, and you should be prepared for it.


It’s been bubbling under for quite some time, but we’re now seeing clearer evidence of it being more than a flash in the pan.

It’s popped up in our research over the past couple of years, and it’s all over our recently launched Bangkok Manifesto, SITE’s document that interrogates the nature, purpose and direction of incentive travel.

I’m talking about ‘incentives beyond sales’: that is, the deployment of incentive travel experiences in a workplace environment outside of the traditional sales applications.

Incentive travel originated as the solution to the most fundamental of sales problems: how do you sell more stuff?

Playing in the sandbox of human psychology, companies realised that a motivated sales team would indeed sell more stuff. They then came to understand that offering a travel experience as a reward for selling more stuff was effective. The last piece of the jigsaw was the realisation that the travel reward could be funded from the additional profits.

It’s a pretty easy sell for the Director of Sales – if we offer a travel reward, the team will sell more stuff and it won’t cost us anything other than a small percentage of the additional profits that wouldn’t have been generated without the programme. Even the tightest, driest, most risk averse Financial Controller will buy that one.

But then, of course, savvy users of incentive travel realised that, apart for an improved bottom line, a ton of other things happened as a result of the trip. These were unintended consequences, but exceedingly good ones.

Connecting with Top Brass

For example, sales executives connected with senior leadership. While golfing or taking a cooking class or participating together in a tour of a local attraction, sales executives got to spend quality time with leadership and relationships of openness, confidence and trust were established during the three days away that could have taken three years to build in the workplace.

Suddenly soft, humanised power was unleashed around the organisation and company culture was strengthened, reinforced, made tangible. It stopped raining and the sky was filled with warm sunshine.

Virtuous cycles replaced vicious cycles, tenderness replaced toxicity, dread and drudgery in the workplace became sweetness and light.

We all sat down with the free pizza and coke, joined hands and sang ‘Kumbaya’ as the CEO in faded jeans and well-worn flip flops strummed his guitar…

Clearly not. This is not how it works at all, nor should it be. However, the wind direction has definitely changed. Instead of looking ONLY at the bottom line – still the number one reason for organising an incentive programme according to the Incentive Travel Industry Index 2018 – companies have definitely started to pay attention to the unintended consequences, the soft power impact of the trip, the relationship quotient. It’s in the Bangkok Manifesto too.

Tina Gaccetta, VP Marketing & Incentives at LegalShield says: “Great workplaces create wonderful incentive travel programmes and great incentive travel programmes create great workplaces”. She doesn’t believe that a company with a poor culture can solve that with an incentive travel programme: “When the workplace culture is right to start with and folks feel appreciated and valued then there’s a kind of alchemy that allows the incentive travel reward to become the golden moment that it can be.”

If companies continue to use travel experiences as a means to build workplace culture then the incentive travel industry is destined to grow very strongly.

The use of incentives in a sales context will, by nature, be limited to certain verticals – just look how extensive they are in automotive, insurance, direct sales. However, if we deploy travel experiences to address issues around soft
power like company culture then the sky’s the limit for our growth.

Stuart Wood is a news reporter across the Mash Media editorial portfolio. He writes for CMW alongside sister publications Conference News, Exhibition News, Access All Areas and Exhibition World.