Danica Patrick is the most successful woman in the history of American open-wheel racing—she is the only woman to win a race in the IndyCar Series and holds the highest finish (third place) by a woman at the Indianapolis 500. She recently won the pole position at the prestigious Daytona 500 NASCAR race.Daytona-speedway

Her NASCAR career has been mixed, marred by the controversy that comes with many crashes, some of them severe. So why does she continue to risk life and limb? It's clearly not for financial gains, since she's covered on that front between her racing career and a line of successful endorsements that have fueled her growing celebrity. The answer is that she loves the competition, and craves the recognition of being the best. Behavioral scientists have proven that we all have these traits - particularly sales people.

So how can you apply this to your incentive compensation management plans?

Our data on over 5 million sales people says monetary compensation is key, but should be mixed with a strategic incentives program focused on the skills and activities of each individual sales person.

This approach helps you to avoid the common pitfalls of incentive compensation programs that reward and recognize the same people over an over with the traditional contests and spiffs. Reward the skills and activities your reps should be demonstrating to be successful, thereby leveling the playing field.

Substitute some of the traditional cash-based incentive programs for loyalty programs by enabling sales people to turn virtual rewards (points and badges for completing relevant tasks) into goods - iPads, cameras, vacation days, even dinners with company execs!

In our upcoming webinar, Mark Coleman of Compensation Analytics joins me to explore these new techniques in more detail. Mark has over 20 years of experience in compensation program design and administration and is rightly seen as a pioneer in the incentive compensation space. Sign up here for the webinar.

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