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A global pharmaceutical firm wanted to change the experience of their rewards for their top-performing North American sales force. They wanted to move away from luxury travel destinations and toward learning and educational experiences. The sales reps were sure to object to the beloved prizes being replaced by a new format (loss aversion) so a plan was developed to end the old program immediately and wait a year to announce the new program.

However, leadership inadvertently shared the news of the new format with the sales force during the announcement that the old format was going away. 


Suspicion, chaos and loss aversion were instantly prominent among the field sales force. A plan needed to be developed and executed immediately in order to maintain motivation and limit defection of the sales force, especially top performers. 


A team of 30 top-performing (and well-respected) sales reps, district managers and senior executives gathered for an all-day brainstorm to fill in the blanks created by the premature announcement of the new program. 


The brainstorm team developed a set of potential ways to revamp the recognition trips; then, an additional 50 reps were engaged in 45-minute interviews to get their feedback on the potential solutions. The interviews were conducted with both respected leaders and vocal naysayers.

The questions included rating 10 recognition trip destinations and two three different models, requiring a pre-read, and soliciting advice for how to roll out the new format.


At the end of the 45-minute interview, nearly every interviewee (naysayers included) believed the new model would work. By engaging them first in a critical review (choosing) and then in a recommendation to how to roll out the new model, the interviews acted as a means to move them from apprehension to advocacy. (Endowment effect)

While loss aversion was still an issue, it was deeply mitigated by the interviews as the responses spread virally (social proof) prior to the official announcements.


The company is successfully moving to the new model with a sales force in tact and focused on the future.