Sunquest: you have to find the right fit

In planning any incentive program, it is important that corporate objectives and the needs of the group be assessed and understood in order to provide the right fit.What will motivate?Before developing an effective incentive program for the Calgary home building company,...

In planning any incentive program, it is important that corporate objectives and the needs of the group be assessed and understood in order to provide the right fit.

What will motivate?

Before developing an effective incentive program for the Calgary home building company, one of the first things to be determined is what is going to motivate this sales group – will it be cash, merchandise or travel?

It has been proven that cash rewards frequently end up paying for things such as groceries or new tires for the car. Merchandise, unless it is something highly unusual, may be given away to family or friends.

And at the end of the day, the employee is still in need of a break, while the reward has long since been forgotten.

In a recent study, the Philadelphia-based Wharton School of Business rated travel as the most effective motivator and reward.

In the case of the Calgary group, which has made an extraordinary sales effort in tough economic times, why not offer them a ‘beyond the ordinary’ trip, an opportunity to recharge their batteries and come back ready to shoot for even higher sales.

The content and format of the trip must be carefully custom-designed to fit the profile of the group.

Since the participants are spread out in branches across Alberta, the program should be structured so that it fosters camaraderie and encourages the exchange of ideas between individuals who may not have many chances to meet each other personally.

As this is an entrepreneurially minded group of young, driven, energetic salespeople, the choice of destination should reflect their vitality.

Range of activities

And it should offer a range of activities that are in keeping with their lifestyle.

Time away from the office means time away from sales income, so this is not the group to send on a two-week odyssey. An exciting, intense trip of four to seven days’ duration may prove to be more rewarding.

Since the group is evenly split between men and women, it is important that activities be planned that have mutual appeal.

If there are only three people in the group who like to golf, do not expect the other 27 to be enthusiastic about a day-long tournament. Make golf an option, and offer alternatives.

Spouses and guests should be made to feel an integral part of the group’s activity.


Many companies, recognizing the positive contribution that spouses make to business development, are introducing experiential learning sessions for all group members, instead.

Whereas in the past, spouses on a trip to New Orleans might have been sent shopping, today they might be encouraged to participate with the rest of the group in, for example, a Creole cooking course.

These sessions provide fun and entertaining ways to develop new skills and build stronger team relationships.

The reward program should be targetted to those salespeople who attain or surpass their budgets depending on the company’s objectives.

Ideally, the qualification program should be set up and running during the company’s prime selling season.


The announcement of the program should be done with fanfare to generate enthusiasm and ignite the competitive spirit.

The trip should take place about eight weeks after the qualifying period.

If all appropriate criteria have been thoroughly analyzed, the destination carefully selected and the program details meticulously planned, it is a good bet the trip will fulfill a dream and instill the sales team with the desire to be a part of it.

Our recommendation for the Calgary group is a program to Scottsdale, Ariz. Taking into account that the group has been working around the clock and must first gather in Calgary from points around Alberta, a long journey is not the answer.

Not only does Scottsdale have a warm climate and is easily accessible from Calgary, it combines luxury with the excitement of desert adventure.

Excellent base

The Scottsdale Princess, a five-star resort, would provide an excellent base for the group. Golf, swimming, tennis, horseback riding and hot-air ballooning are among the hotel’s many activities.

There are extensive possibilities for adventurous activities that can be incorporated into the incentive travel program – a flight to the Grand Canyon for a hike along the canyon rim, a special screening at an imax theatre, or a trip by Jeep to the red hills of Sedona.

A theme dinner could be held in a ghost town where the guests can try their luck at panning for gold.

And as a gala finale, a formal black-tie dinner could be set out in the open desert, with cacti and a brilliant sunset as the backdrop – the perfect snapshot of an unforgettable trip.

Terry Sloan is vice-president of Toronto-based Sunquest Incentive Travel.