No Nonsense Guide to Incorporating Incentive Strategies Into Your Next Healthcare Sales Meeting

By: Taya Paige
Crowd listening to an event speaker at a healthcare sales meeting

Few industries have more hoops to jump through for incentives and meetings than healthcare. While the restrictions on giving healthcare providers virtually anything of value are vast, they aren’t well understood. This fear of breaking regulations often prevents meeting planners in this industry and others from maximizing the impact of their meetings.

Here’s the good news: those restrictions don’t apply when you’re incentivizing your sales team to sell, not the healthcare professional to buy. While this may seem obvious, when you think back to your goals of a Pharma Sales Meeting—to train and educate your sales team to better sell your products—this becomes a huge opportunity.

You’re Already Using Incentives—You Might Just Be Calling It Something Else

As an event planner, you might be asking yourself, “Why should I be care about that? Sales isn’t even my responsibility!”

What if there was something you could do that would not only boost engagement at your meeting, but also prove to your team that you have the organization's interests at the heart of your efforts? (Which might even garner you some recognition and clout with your executives.)

Odds are you already have a few incentives in place with your meetings, you may just be calling them something else. You might have giveaways to entice sales reps to attend or contests that ask them to demonstrate their knowledge of a product or service.

Imagine for a moment what could happen to your meeting ROI if you take those incentives (contests and giveaways) and turn them into a bigger program that motivates your team to sell even more of the new product you’re educating them about. What better way to get them to pay attention to what they’re learning!

That little thing that motivates or encourages someone to do something? That’s a sales incentive.

Benefits of a Sales Incentive

If you can fit a little more planning into these incentives during your meeting prep, your efforts can help to generate results, such as: 

Brand Advocacy

You can create emotional connections with your direct sales team, channel partners, and service-teams that ultimately changes their behavior (AKA, sell your NEW product, not the one they’re most comfortable with!).

Increased Sales

Incentives help create a cohesive experience that directly ties your education and learning to a product or service. This makes your sales reps even more motivated to sell for you.

Measurable Event Success

By incorporating sales incentives into your meeting, you can generate tangible measurements that will make it easy for you to show your executive team exactly what worked and what could be changed for the next meeting. When you can show the value your meetings bring to the organization, your executives will be more than happy to fund your future events.

You’re probably thinking, “Why haven’t I tried of this before?” And the most likely reason is because you weren’t asked to—historically, sales incentives live with the sales team. But that doesn’t mean you can’t bring the idea to your next meeting.

How to Get Buy-In for Your Pharma Meeting Sales Incentive

If your sales team’s job is to increase sales, yours, as the event planner, is to motivate them and provide them with the tools to do so. But in order to successfully implement incentives, you’ll need to have support from your leadership team. Here's how to get it:

Identify Key Stakeholders

Who are the people you need approval from to run this incentive program? Stakeholders can live in many areas including human resources, finance, sales, compliance, legal, marketing and more. You may even have an incentive compensation team. We recommend bringing your ideas to the sales group at the director level. However, 

Let Stakeholders Know What’s In It for Them

Start with what you know about your meeting:

  • You already know that your meeting will help educate and inform your audience.
  • You know that including a sales incentive will continue to motivate your attendees to use their newfound knowledge to sell more of your products.
  • You also know that using your meeting as a launch point for the sales incentive will mean greater ROI for you and a consistent message for your brand.
  • Getting your team aligned can be tricky, so what better time to roll it out then when they’re all in the same room?

Which of those things do you think your sales team cares most about? Hint: the sales. Lead with that, while also explaining the huge impact a strategic sales incentive can have for your event. According to the Incentive Research Foundation, “Properly constructed incentive programs can increase performance by as much as 44%.”

Make the Ask & Lock It In

You presented your case and demonstrated the value incentives can bring to your event and your organization’s bottom line. Just because this typically falls on the shoulders of sales ops doesn’t mean you can’t be the one who initiates an incentive. Instead of waiting for them to pull a program together, you can bring fresh and innovative ideas to the table and use the face-to-face meetings you are planning as an opportunity to launch a new sales incentive.

What to Keep in Mind When Planning an Incentive Program

After getting the blessing from your stakeholders, the sales incentive needs to be designed. Keep these incentive best practices in mind and you’ll set yourself up for success:

1. Be Specific About Your Goal

Clearly defined objectives are imperative for the success of your incentive program. Don't begin anything without a clear definition of success. What do you want to see? Do you want increased sales for one particularly profitable product, or increased revenue dollars overall? The more focused your goal is, how it’s achieved and what happens when it’s achieved, the easier it will be for a sales rep to understand and succeed.

2. Determine the Type of Incentive

What are the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for the incentive? Where will you be making the incentive announcement? What is the timeframe of the contest? Clearly understanding the answers to these questions will help determine what kind of reward is best. The popular pick these days? Incentive travel. Countless organizations put incentive travel to use to successfully encourage sales growth. A recent research study revealed that 67% of sales representatives are most motivated by an incentive trip over cash and prizes, yet most companies use cash as the primary compensation for contests. The takeaway: Pharma compensation professionals should consider using incentive travel or non-cash rewards to drive motivation. As planners, you can help to educate and influence these decisions.

3. Clear Communication

A communication plan is sometimes overlooked when designing a program, but it is just as important as anything else. Even if your incentive goals are crystal clear, your incentive program will likely fall flat if no one knows about it. All types of communication materials should be used, such as emails, posters, apps, public recognition and social platforms. Communications play a role in keeping participants engaged and the program top-of-mind. The best part? You’re already tying it into an event! The PERFECT place to spread the word and get the message out about the new sales incentive. Get them excited! Think about setting the stage with your incentive before your training so they have even greater motivation to ask good questions and absorb your training.

4. Ignite the Competitive Spirit

Generally speaking, sales teams are very competitive—and for good reason. Sales is an aggressive business, and they’re always gunning for the commission from that big win. Tap into that competitive spirit by publicly publishing results, whether it’s on the organizations intranet, in an email or posted on the office leaderboard. Or, if you’d prefer to keep personal goals obscured, use a percent-to-goal statistic to give your sales team some well-deserved recognition.

5. Celebrate Success

Peer recognition is a powerful thing. It helps to drive productivity. People want to get recognized for their contributions. They want their work to have meaning. And when you slack on recognition, it’s essentially the same as ignoring their effort to achieve the goal you set forth. Announce wins and overall goal achievement throughout your company. Recognize winners in a significant way. Remember, you’re not just rewarding sales reps for successfully changing behavior, but also inspiring them to reach higher the next year through an ambitious, yet attainable, goal.

Still Not Sure You’re Ready to Bring a Sales Incentive to Your Next Meeting?

More companies would probably be operating incentives to drive business results if they weren’t so darn difficult to get up and running. And that goes double for the healthcare industry. Ideal results require an outside partner with a deep well of knowledge in incentive structure, technology, awards, communications and measurement.

If increasing revenue with sales incentives is still just out of reach for you, get help from the pros. With 50+ years in the incentives and recognition industry, and 25+ years in the Pharma/MedTech industry dealing with those pervasive regulations, we know just what it takes to help you move the needle. Let’s chat.

Taya Paige
Taya Paige

Taya Paige brings over 25 years of hospitality industry experience to ITA Group, including leadership positions in sales, marketing and operations in destination management, meetings and incentives and as an entrepreneur. She is known for her impact and roots within the pharmaceutical/healthcare meetings industry, and is a contributing author of the CMP-HC certification, which represents current and best practices in the industry. She has also been appointed to MPI’s new Medical Meeting Professionals Advisory Council. Her vision of success fuses with ITA Group’s vast experience in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries, and offers incredible new insights from decades in the field.