shutterstock_95496226Confession: I used to frequent dance clubs fairly regularly in my early 20s. The atmosphere and music energized me. I loved hitting the dance floor and even had a signature move. (It’s true. Ask my friends.)

These days, the only club I frequent is at an airport. While they both serve alcohol, they’re very different experiences. I mostly go “clubbing” when I travel overseas because my gold frequent flier status grants me access to partner airline lounges.

Last week, while traveling through Europe, a bouncer—I mean, attendant—denied me access to one of these airline clubs. I was mortified. It must have been an error because I had exceeded the required qualifying miles in 2015. I made it fair and square, right? Wrong.

Bewilderment and stress washed over me as I clicked the digital loyalty card in my mobile app. The card showed that I was downgraded to silver status for 2016. I was $600 short of the minimum spending required to achieve gold status. I learned that this needed to be met in combination with the miles requirement.

Maybe it’s shame on me for failing to understand the fine print or track my progress during the year, though I think that it’s also shame on the airline for missing a chance to increase my spending. The only communication that I received during the year was a standard monthly email statement, a message that failed to break through my cluttered personal inbox.

This airline sends me text alerts regarding delays and cancellations; couldn’t those extend to notifications around my elite qualification status?  Had I known that I was “falling behind” on maintaining gold status, I would have changed my behavior and flown with this airline a few more times by year’s end. This would have generated more revenue for the airline and enabled me to maintain my status. That’s a win-win. 

This premise of personalizing outreach also holds many win-win opportunities for firms looking to better engage their sales reps (and customers). Most sales rep engagement programs, in particular, are similar to the email statements that I described above: They’re generic in design and delivered at times scheduled by the company, which aren’t necessarily the times most meaningful to the individual.

While this applies across all industries, the stakes are higher for industries with intermediary channels where variable incentives carry an outsized influence (and sometimes the only influence) on selling behaviors.

One recent example from an insurance carrier shows how putting this idea into practice drives impact. During a two-month contest, we selected two equal groups of agents. The first (test) group received personalized weekly update emails charting progress. Each communication contained agent-specific information about the revenue remaining before achieving the next prize tier, the value of that prize, and the time remaining in the contest. The second group served as a control and didn’t receive emails.

The results were convincing: The average agent in the test group sold 30% more than that of the control group during the time period after communications were sent. Also, the only agents who earned elevated prize tiers resided in the test group. This organization is now expanding this personalized approach to other agent incentive programs based on this success.

We’ve known for a long time that all sales reps don’t share the same communication and motivation preferences, but, as mentioned above, most programs are standardized.

Personalization, if not already the present, is absolutely the future as it relates to sales rep engagement and can extend well beyond dashboards and incentives. Any effective program should have these three features at a minimum:

  1. The right message that’s action-oriented, through
  2. The right channel that’s preferred by the sales rep, at
  3. The right time, to maximize impact

Where does your organization fall regarding its sophistication in personalizing its outreach to the distribution (sales) channel? As always, I’m curious to hear.

And as for my experience being denied access to the airport lounge, I still managed to get into the club after all. My colleague (who still has active gold status) added me as his “plus one” after I was denied.


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Topics: incentives, sales compensation, Peter Manoogian, Loyalty Programs, Frequent Flyer, engagement, personalization