The Psychology of Rewarding VIPs

Who are the real VIPs in your organization? The answer is simple: Your highest performing salespeople and those loyal customers who consistently buy your products. It makes sense to reward these contributors, but typical gifts aren't enough. To find what really works, you need to use VIP psychology. Take the advice featured here from two experts.

Rewarding Sales VIPs:
Dr. Steven Hunt, a trained psychologist and VP of customer research at Success Factors, says that when rewarding top reps, it's important to make a distinction. "Your top salespeople sell up to 400% more product than anyone else, and they can make or break a quarter," says Hunt. "Think of it in sports terms: LeBron James isn't just a little bit better than other basketball players, he's a whole lot better."

Hunt advises dividing salespeople into three groups before forming reward systems:

Group 1 consists of those salespeople to whom monetary rewards are the main motivators, though Hunt says that money isn't the only motivating factor. "Reward them by removing distractions that slow their output," Hunt says. For example, offer to have an assistant help them with paperwork, and allow them to team with other high performers.

Group 2 reps care deeply about customer success. "You've got to watch it with Group 2," Hunt says, "because they're so customer oriented, they may decide to follow an account by leaving your company." He suggests keeping them happy by rewarding them with more leeway in developing and maintaining customer relationships and breaking up existing sales structures to allow them more customer involvement and more autonomy.

Group 3 consists of salespeople who are product motivated. Reward this group by asking for their opinions and input on products and services, advises Hunt. You can provide them with additional high-level product information to help them sell.

Incentive Product Ideas for Top Reps:
Group 1 – Consider high tech incentives that make this group's life easier such as electronic planners or miniature video projectors that can be used to amplify sales demos.

Group 2 – Offer this group items branded with company logos that they can pass on to their best customers such as pen sets and desk accessories.

Group 3 – Product-related incentives, such as miniature product mockups or USB drives loaded with product info that they can pass on to customers, work for this group.

The Psychology of Rewarding VIPs

Rewarding Customer VIPs:
Julie Cottineau, founder and CEO of BrandTwist, says when it comes to the psychology of rewarding your most loyal customers, you need to use rewards that will make them want to come back to you again and again. "Today's customers are interested in more than just discount points," she says. "We're dealing with millennials now. To reward them, you need to shift the focus away from transactional rewards that can be easily duplicated by your competitors and move to a reward relationship that offers both access and recognition."

One way to do this is to use social media to encourage top customers to tell the story of their relationship with you and your brand. That step alone is enough to promote good interactions with your most loyal customers. "You can deepen these relationships by offering special access rewards such as VIP treatment at a top restaurant or admission to an anticipated event," Cottineau says. "A big part of the customer reward process is acknowledgment. Rewards should tell the customer, 'I hear you, I appreciate you and I thank you.'"

Cottineau cites the following reward programs as examples:

  • Urban Outfitters' loyal customers received reward points when they utilized an Urban Outfitters app to upload photos of their use of the store's merchandise. This program synced with users' social media networks, and customers were able to exchange points for unique rewards such as designing their own Urban Outfitters' outfit or holding their own fashion show at a local Urban Outfitters' store.

  • Foggy Bottom Grocery (FoBoGro) rewarded loyal customers by allowing them to invent their own sandwich and put it on the FoBoGro menu for a week. Cottineau notes that this program reached millennials by using Twitter as a key social media channel.

  • A Nike campaign encouraged customers to complete "Missions" such as running, skateboarding or attending a dance class. They then shared their event photos on Facebook to earn points for each completed Mission. Points could be exchanged for access to sporting events or for Nike merchandise. Cottineau says the program did a good job of integrating the product into the customer loyalty experience.

Incentive Product Ideas for Loyal Customers:

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