Cars have always played a role in sales motivation, but lately we've been hearing more reports of aggressive CEOs using their own cars as tools for revving up their salespeople. Consider Rick Rose, the president of Dataflex Corp., a $90-million computer sales and service company in Edison, N.J. Not long ago, he was asked by one of his top reps how much she had to sell to get a car just like his. "I said, 'I'll tell you what,' " Rose recalls, " 'if you can sell $600,000 worth of equipment six months in a row,' -- and I'm thinking to myself, Now that's one impossible task -- 'I'll give you the keys to my car.' " It took the rep some time, but sure enough, she made the quota. "So I gave her the keys to my car," says Rose, "but as she was walking out, I said, 'If you take my car, I'm just going to have to get another one, so why don't you just go out and buy the one you want.' " She did, getting a "smaller, sports version" of Rose's car: a Mercedes 560SL.
Then there's the case of Kenneth Estridge, who founded the Joy of Movement, a chain of dance and fitness centers. He made a similar challenge to one of his salespeople. When she hit her numbers, she took a Jaguar as her reward. Soon thereafter, Estridge took her -- as his bride. Subsequently, the pair separated, and the clubs closed. No one ever said luxury cars were terrific long-term incentives.