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Over the Top

Mountain climber Erik Weihenmayer reached the summit of Mt. Everest in May 2001, which is by no means an easy feat. The fact that Erik was blind made his accomplishment even more courageous and inspirational. Aventis Pharmaceuticals captured Erik's spirit with a creative incentive program designed to motivate their sales team to go Over the Top to surpass established goals for 2002. Erik was invited to the January 2002 Aventis National Sales Meeting to share his story and to help launch a first quarter sales campaign. Aventis Pharmaceuticals, dedicated to treating and preventing human disease through the discovery and development of innovative pharmaceutical products, produces prescription drugs for important therapeutic areas such as oncology, cardiology, diabetes and respiratory disorders, as well as human vaccines. Primary care sales associates are responsible for selling the Aventis product lines, such as Allegra, Lantus, and Amaryl, to primary care physicians across the U.S. The sales team includes men and women in their 20's and 30's; the majority are college educated. This demographic group enjoys active, adventurous, and independent lifestyles, making the Erik Weihenmayer story an exceptional motivational tool. To promote the program, sustain excitement and drive results, a creative communications campaign was designed and implemented, related to mountain climbing. Although the heart of the product rested on a web-based reward platform, the promotion and communication to motivate the sales team was devised to touch the senses in various media, from dimensional premium items, to stimulating visual graphics, to auditory voice mails. The program was detailed in a direct mail brochure outlining the program rules, awards, and motivational messages from Erik and Aventis. The brochure's design featured mountain ranges and climbing graphics. These images were used on all program communications and the Over the Top web site, aptly named Base Camp to reinforce the mountain climbing theme. At Base Camp, participants were able to track their own progress against other sales associates, browse through merchandise and travel offerings from a catalog of more than 3,300 rewards, and add items that they wanted to their personal wish list. This feature encouraged participants to reach monthly targets. When they earned points, an automatic e-mail notified them of their accomplishment. Participants also received an e-mail to advise them when they had accumulated enough points to earn a reward on their wish list. During the campaign, participants received encouraging messages via e-mail and two voice mail communications from Erik. Carefully selected incentives were also sent directly to the sales associates' homes to reinforce the program objectives. A mountain carabineer with a compass key ring communicated direction, a car visor sunglass clip holder communicated vision; and a sporty, belt loop watch communicated timeliness. Area managers were provided with blank postcards printed with the Over the Top theme to send notes of thanks and recognition to sales associates, fulfilling their goal of building relationships between sales associates and managers. The Over the Top program rewarded individual sales associates, area managers, and regional directors for surpassing quota and also encouraged teamwork between the groups. Sales associates who reached 105% or greater in Performance Index each month received 40,000 points. More points were awarded to the area managers and regional directors when the same goals were met, which drove them to push their individual sales teams. If the participants reached a 105% quota for all 6 months, they received 1,000,000 points. The six month program's rules were flexible with a cumulative quota bonus structure, so that those who had an under-performing month could recover, make up the discrepancy and potentially reach the 105% mark to the bonus reward. Additionally, the sales associate and area manager who achieved the highest percent or quota during all six months each earned an "Elegant Escape" three-day trip for two, anywhere in the U.S., including a $500 spending allowance.
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