Lord of the Rewards!

Yes, it might seem big-headed to claim dominion of the B2B incentive and rewards world… especially when I’m still a relative beginner. However, I did appear in Lord of the Rings as King of the Elves, so that’s got to count for something!

Now I’m working in the world of business behaviour change through incentives and rewards, and have reflected on how my past in entertainment relates to my present in rewards and incentives.

The connection may not seem obvious at first, but it’s actually a logical progression. Your main focus as an actor is to create behavioural change in the character in front of you, for a specific objective, within a given set of circumstances. However, this would be meaningless if you weren’t also creating a memorable experience for the audience. This is the glue, the engagement.

One of the biggest lessons I learned at drama school was the concept of playing an Action to achieve an Objective. My character (Mark) wants the other character (Katie) to marry me… in other words, that’s my Objective. The Actions are what I do to achieve the Objective. I might flatter her, charm, humour, threaten or even beg (highly likely in my case!). All those verbs are Actions. To create drama, she will put up roadblocks to my Action, creating an Obstacle. The stronger the Objective, the stronger the Action, the stronger the Obstacle.

The other key is Empathy. As an actor, you learn the importance of walking in the shoes of another person… literally! To create a believable character, you can’t start by judging them. You need to look at the world through their eyes, through the filter of their experiences, to really understand their wants and needs, or their Motivation.

It’s easy to forget in the world of business, sales targets, KPIs, budgets, and new products, that it’s still all about people, who they are and what they want.

So, how do I apply my acting experience to the world of business sales and help clients gain a competitive advantage through incentives and rewards?

Let’s look at the cut-throat world of air conditioning.

A small group of manufacturers are competing for the love of a sales channel of resellers and installers. The first step is to establish my client’s objective. It should be easy, right? Buy more units, increase market share. Obvious, but it’s the same goal as my competitors and not very engaging for my audience. But… what if we shift the thinking so selling more units becomes a result of an engaging objective?

By using empathy and asking the right questions, it turns out that many installers are concerned that none of the suppliers seem interested in cultivating long-term partnerships. They’re worried they’re seen as numbers, not people. So, we change the objective from “Sell More Stuff” to “Build Stronger, Longer Relationships”.

Just like acting, we then look at the “How”. How do we achieve the objective? This is done with strategy. Maybe we start with an incentive trip – there’s no better way to build relationships. But maybe, unlike our competitors, we don’t keep doing a trip every year. By using a rewards platform, we engage our customers on a day-to-day basis. We keep it responsive and dynamic, offering business solutions, training opportunities, and support, all paid for by points earned by doing business with us.

The other key to maintaining an engaging program is the ability to listen. You may think as you sit in a darkened theatre watching a play, that watching (and listening) to the actors perform is what you do. In reality, the actors are listening to YOU as much as you are to them. Every audience is different. They react in different ways and project different energy. Performing Shakespeare to a school audience is very different to a mid-week matinee! If the actors aren’t listening and making constant adjustments, the show becomes stale and the audience disconnects.

Maintaining an engaging incentive or rewards program demands the same of us. We have to listen, research, ask questions, analyse the data and make the right adjustments to ensure our audience stays connected and delivers the behaviour change clients look for.

212F Sales Director, Mark Ferguson going into battle for his clients! (Note extended ears for keen listening).

Lastly, any reward experience should feel elevated every day. In the same way going to see a show is an event we look forward to and remember (sometimes forever), a reward for doing business with you should be a delight. Deliver great experiences every time and you’ll see the engagement grow. Plus, a more engaging program inevitably leads to the behaviour you want to see… more sales, greater market share, and migration to higher-margin products.

So, even though I don’t come to work to slay Orcs every day, I do get to help great people do amazing things while achieving top results for our clients. Cue applause…”I’d like to thank my mother and the Academy…”

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