The sales meeting was abuzz with the crackle of bonus money. ABL Electronics, a $7-million cable company in Hunt Valley, Md., had reported a great month, making ABL's 10 sales reps a little richer. More unusual: the salespeople shared the wealth with the company's buyer and production manager.

Why? The sales team had bestowed on the two coworkers its highest honor: "phantom sales rep of the month." In this version of a most-valuable-player award, all 52 employees are eligible. "It's pretty good when a production manager at a sales-driven company can win," notes sales director Bill Litsinger.

Five percent of gross sales exceeding ABL's monthly goal go into the sales-bonus pot, which is then split equally among the 10 salaried sales reps and the "phantom." Depending on the month's sales, the bonus ranges from $50 to $1,500 per person.

In the above case, the cowinners shared $900. That month, the two employees made it possible to ship one big order after another, says Litsinger. In previous months, the sales force has also singled out the receptionist (for record number of proposals sent out), as well as workers in order entry, manufacturing, and customer service.