What’s Your Recognition Program Rhythm?


When direct selling companies are just starting out, there are countless issues that must be faced, decisions to be made and challenges to overcome. However, during all of this planning, don’t forget the overwhelming importance of recognition for your distributor network. If this is not well thought out and executed from day one, it will only get more complicated and difficult later.

Why are recognition programs so important? Aren’t commissions and the freedom of running one’s own business enough to motivate your independent sales force? Certainly these factors are reasons that a distributor got into the business in the first place, but these alone will not keep them engaged and motivated over the long term. Appreciation is a fundamental human need and one that needs to be reinforced—often. However, a Gallup poll in 2018 found that only 1 in 3 U.S. workers strongly agreed that they had received recognition or praise for doing good work in the previous seven days. Gallup recommends that recognition should be given at least weekly—and as close to the achievement as possible to reinforce company values. Recognizing people for their good work sends an extremely powerful message to not only the recipient but to their team, other distributors and even customers.

Direct selling companies need recognition programs quite possibly more than any other industry, given their independent sales force are commission-based in remote locations running their own businesses. That is why they need to have a myriad of recognition programs for the many types of behaviors they want to incentivize and the many types of consultants they engage.

Some of the programs that should be included are:

  • Career Level/Rank Recognition
  • Sales Awards
  • Longevity Programs
  • Short-Term Promotion Incentives
  • Ad-Hoc Recognition

Each of these programs reinforces different company goals, and each requires a different type of thinking to implement successfully.

“Recognizing people for their good work sends an extremely powerful message to not only the recipient but to their team, other distributors and even customers.”

Career Level /Rank Recognition

A career level program shows a consultant how they will move forward with the company if they are successful. You’ll want to create a well designed Career Level or Rank program that communicates the company’s direction, provides opportunities for personal and professional growth and establishes measurable goals and objectives. Your business success depends on how you cultivate your distributor network into productive, passionate, quality-oriented consultants.

Some ideas to consider include:

  • Founders Clubs & Charter Member Clubs are an exceptional way to begin recognizing your initial distributor network. These clubs create a critical connection, a feeling of camaraderie and a sense of “we can do it” that is especially important as the organization solidifies its foundation.
  • As an organization grows, companies need to keep an eye on their programs and institute expanded achievement/career levels for additional recognition. Even at the earliest stages, think far out and include levels your distributor network can strive for in years to come.
  • Much like a company’s logo and product selection, as the years go by, your recognition programs need to be refreshed with more modern style and feel. You wouldn’t let the products your company sells became dated, so don’t do it with your recognition programs.

Sales Awards

Sales award recognition seems fairly straightforward on the face of it. However, companies need to consider at what level they will begin recognizing sales achievements, whether they consider only annual sales or lifetime sales, or sales just over a particular promotional period, and how many levels will be recognized. It is better to have recognition at many sales levels so that a consultant’s next sales milestone is not a huge step, but instead an achievable one.

Longevity Programs

People need to know they are valued over the long term, not just in “what have you done for me lately” ways. Some successful ways to reinforce that you value your distributor network’s commitment over the long haul are years of service recognition, lifetime sales, and mentor/trainer recognition.

“Your business success depends on how you cultivate your distributor network into productive, passionate, quality-oriented consultants.”

Short-Term Promotion Incentives

This is a way to pump up sales when they might normally be low. Promotions can help deal with seasonal lulls or other predictable downturns in the annual sales cycle. They also provide a way for your distribution network to receive quick feedback-recognition for their sales and other business efforts. Instead of having to wait for the annual convention, or until they rise to the next career rank, they are awarded almost immediately for a job well done.

Ad-Hoc Recognition

In addition to more formal recognition programs, ad-hoc recognition is a great way to “catch people doing good things” and recognizing them for it. This kind of recognition is best done by one’s direct upline supervisor as on-the-spot as possible. Sales managers should come up with something unique that resonates with their downline. Perhaps it is the “cactus award” for a sales team based in Arizona, and whoever wins this award is given a tiny cactus plant in a pot with the name of the award and date on it. Whatever the award is, it should be something that recognizes good work right away, that motivates the person to do even more, and solidifies the team. If the award can be presented in front of the whole downline team—all the better.

As you create your recognition programs, make sure to keep in mind your company culture and the demographics of the distributors you are recognizing. What works for a health products company may be quite different from what works for companies that sell beauty or financial products.

Achieving business success requires commitment and persistence on many fronts. Don’t let recognition get left behind.