Incenting Success: Best-in-Class Sales Management, a new research report from the Aberdeen Group and the Incentive Research Foundation, finds that more best-in-class companies—those that comprise the top 20 percent of the 246 businesses included in the study—are looking beyond relying solely on cash incentives to motivate their sales forces.

These top firms are 31 percent more likely to see non-cash incentives such as gift cards, travel, and merchandise as critical to sales performance management, and more than three-quarters of them motivate performance with public recognition, as compared to 62 percent of average companies (the middle 50 percent) and 55 percent of the bottom 30 percent of companies, according to the report.

Non-cash compensation also is becoming a bigger share of the total compensation mix for best-in-class companies, though financial incentives for sales reps are still the most important factor. Sixty-three percent of best-in-class companies consider non-cash incentives to be a vital component of their sales performance management, compared to an industry average of 45 percent.