Sales contests are an essential part of any sales manager's toolkit due to their ability to drive fun, cohesion, and performance increases on desired targets. In fact, managers have been running sales contests in some form or another since about as far back as sales teams have been around. However, running effective sales competitions and coming up with new ways to drive results is not as easy as simply turning on a a standard winner-takes-all competition.
Salespeople are competitive by nature, so it’s no wonder that contests are an effective way to motivate them to improve their performance. However, not all sales contests are created equal, and running the same competition over and over again is frustrating and demotivating for many salespeople.
With that said, this article will showcase how you can utilize sales competitions to boost sales. Plus, as a bonus, we’ll give away our top tips for creating a great sales contest.
5 Ways to Create Performance Increasing Sales Competitions
Variety, meaningful rewards, and visualizing progress are all important aspects of creating competitions that engage your employees and result in performance increases.
So, here are five simple tips for better sales competitions:
1. Make it a Lottery
One of the great things about lottery competitions is that everyone gets a chance to succeed. The more tickets you have, which you earn by accomplishing some goal like meetings booked,, the higher the probability of winning, so good performance is still rewarded. However, those that are not generally top performers still have the incentive to participate and continue to push forward, no matter how far behind they may be from the leader..
Adding some randomness to your sales competitions changes it up. It ensures that the same few people aren’t always winning the top prize–which leads to higher employee engagement, less frustration, and a friendlier competitive environment.
2. Use Personal Milestones
Basing some of your contests on personal milestones helps to equal the playing field. Each individual rep might reach different milestones at different times, so altering contests to reflect this ensures everyone has an opportunity to win–even when they are not the top sales rep.
For example, anyone that reaches X amount of sales in a month or X number of cold calls in a week. This is one of the best ways to keep your newest reps engaged, even when they are going head-to-head with some of your top performers.
3. Give Meaningful Rewards
To further increase your team’s performance, try adding prizes for the winner(s). It’s important to ask people what they want to see in a rewards shop. Otherwise, it will be completely meaningless to them.
For example, if Leslie doesn’t drink wine and the prize for winning the contest is a bottle of wine, she will likely have no motivation to perform. Even worse, she might sandbag her sales to save for a competition she actually wants to win, grinding your pipeline to a halt.
So, customize rewards based on your individual employees, and remember that it’s about more than just money. Oftentimes, more experience-based rewards — such as getting to leave early on a Friday or lunch with the boss — are way more meaningful.
One of our personal favorites at SalesScreen is doling out push-ups to another co-worker during our Friday meeting.
4. Create a Sense of Urgency
For a successful organization, it is important to have both short and long-term goals. However, when it comes to office contests, it is more motivating to set tangible, short-term goals that add towards those larger goals. And with millennials coming up in the workforce–they will account for around 75% of the global workforce by 2025–instant and ongoing feedback is key. Thus, running frequent competitions is useful for improving sales performance as well as providing a form of feedback for your millennial (and all other) employees.
Time-based competitions are also an excellent way to build a sense of urgency and push your reps to perform to their fullest potential. Try out daily, weekly, and monthly sales competitions to see what fits best for your organization and your target metrics.
One easy example to use is to reward one point for each qualifying activity (emails, phone calls, CRM entries, etc.) completed in a single week.
5. Show Progress
A 2015 study by the Harvard Business Review revealed that the best-performing sales teams had two major things in common — one of which was ”holding their team members to a higher level of accountability.”
Part of holding reps accountable for their results is visualizing progress in real-time via screens throughout the office. This establishes a level of transparency amongst employees, where everyone is responsible for their own performance and aware of their colleagues’ performance.
According to a 2019 study, “managers are 11% more likely to have a clear idea of how their company is performing than regular employees”. So, improving transparency for employees is a great opportunity to increase engagement and productivity. When employees “understand how their impact drives the success of the business overall,” they “are much more likely to know how to optimize that impact.”
Similarly, people should know where they stand so that they can adjust their behavior accordingly before it comes time for quarterly bonuses. If someone is lagging behind, they will get an extra boost when they see who is ahead of them and strive to move up in the ranks. Similarly, if someone is in the lead, they will want to fight to keep the winning position. Competitive spirit, ignited.
7 Tips to Creating a Great Sales Competition
Before you plan your next sales competition to boost productivity, here are some of our top tips for creating a successful contest:
1. Lead from the front
The most difficult part of a sales competition is simply getting started. Don't let indecisiveness, laziness, or a lack of motivation keep you from getting at it. Sales managers are the leaders and motivators of their sales reps. It's critical that you step up, lead from the front, and run regular sales contests that keep your reps engaged and driving performance on the metrics that matter most.
With modern gamification platforms, it's now easier than ever before to run real-time sales contests focused on driving the behaviors that are most important to your bottom line. Whether it's meetings, offers, sales, phone calls, or other sales activities, simply pick what you want to focus on and create a competition idea around that behavior. Then, measure the results to see what impact competitions are really having on your salespeople. Did the competition drive the behavior you thought it would? What did the individual sales reps think about it? What could be improved next time?
By taking charge and running regular sales competitions, you will increase cohesion, engagement, and focus within your sales teams. Salespeople are competitive by nature and driven by the desire to win and be recognized. Make sure you're taking the proper steps to keep them motivated, engaged, aware of their targets, and driving results on clear objectives.
2. Keep sales contests short and simple
There are many ways to run sales contests but based on research and customer feedback, we've found that shorter competitions work best because they keep a clear focus and easily sustain momentum. Let's face it... people are easily distracted and quickly lose interest. While long sales contests can be great for some things like quarterly goals, monthly targets, and other big-reward items, they generally tend to lose momentum among core performers as leaders establish dominance in the competition. If you want to run longer competitions, try running shorter competitions in tandem to have larger monthly goals fortified with smaller wins.
Try to run weekly, daily, or even hourly contests so that the goal stays within sight and it's clear to see who is driving activity on the goal. Rather than having people pace themselves throughout the month, simply create an interesting short-term contest designed to boost activity on your key target. Running a shorter competition increases the likelihood that someone other than your regular top performers will win. This, in turn, will boost morale and confidence for the folks who may not usually win a traditional sales contest.
3. Have a clear short-term objective
It's very important to know exactly what behavior you are trying to motivate when running a sales contest. For example, if the number of actual cold-call conversations is slacking, then run a simple contest to see who can keep conversations running for over a minute. By focusing on a single, clear objective, you make it easy for your salespeople to focus on that activity. Whether you want to focus on sales, offers, meetings, or other activities, be specific with what you'd like to achieve and design the contest around that goal.
People work best when they know exactly what their specific task is and how their progress is being measured on that task. Sales competitions are a great way to help your salespeople focus. Use this focus to drive incremental improvements on short-term goals. As with anything else in business, you can't just set the finish line out of sight and out of reach... you need stepping stones to get there. By creating the proper steps along the journey, you can help your salespeople unlock incredible potential. They'll also appreciate that it's easy to understand how to win.
4. Keep the momentum going
Most sales competitions start great with lots of activity and then sort of die off until just before the competition ends when everyone starts doubling their efforts again in an attempt to win a prize. Instead, keep that initial momentum going by keeping the contest at the front of your sales reps' minds. There are a few ways to achieve this.
One is to offer great prizes that they won't forget about. Big prizes are a great way to keep up the momentum, even in longer sales contests. This engagement is even higher when you let your reps pick their prizes themselves. Another way is to keep the competitions short so that there's not a 'slack period' in between the activity. Keep in mind that there’s a higher likelihood of core performers being more involved because they level the playing field and take some of the edges away from top performers, who usually win the longer contests.
The most important way to keep the momentum going, however, is to get buy-in from the C-suite. When leadership takes part in and is motivated by sales contests, that motivation tends to trickle downhill in a big way. Every sales rep is driven by two primary things: money and recognition. They want to know that the leadership is seeing and recognizing their efforts.
5. Get leadership involved
Having the leadership involved means that you truly have buy-in from management and that you also have a captive audience. Remember, it's not just the salespeople who can benefit from sales contests; there can be a trickle effect of motivation into your marketing teams and even into design and development. Let's face it, when sales are up, everyone is motivated. One of the best ways to keep sales up is to keep the leadership actively involved in the competition. Now, they don't have to run or administer any part of the competition. In fact, in some companies, that may even slow things down. However, simple acknowledgment from C-suite executives to your salespeople can drive a huge impact on your contests.
Another simple way to keep leadership involved is to simply have them come in and watch the monitors if you are using a real-time gamification platform so that they can see the results live. This is sure to spark conversation and encouragement from them to your reps. You may even get the leadership so fired up about sales contests that they allow you to use a bit more budget for prizes, which will, in turn, drive better results.
6. Show results in real-time
The days of running sales contests where you send out daily updates with some boring spreadsheet in a summary email are over. Seriously, nobody pays attention to that stuff, and it's not motivating. If you want to really keep people engaged and interested in the sales contest, you need to show results in real time. With modern CRM systems and cloud-based software, there is no reason not to run real-time sales contests.
When everyone can see and understand in real-time exactly where they stand, either as an individual or as a team, it drives an incredible boost in the effectiveness of sales contests. Most sales reps just want to know the duration of the contest, what's required to win, and where they stand so they can do whatever it takes to win the prize. Make this easy for them by displaying the sales contest results in real-time on TV screens, web dashboards, and even on a mobile app.
7. Provide meaningful rewards
Many sales managers believe that you have to offer big incredible rewards like a trip to Hawaii or playoff tickets to run a sales contest... however, this is flat-out wrong. Oftentimes, sales contests are run only on a monthly or quarterly basis because managers feel like they have to give huge rewards to the winners. The problem with that mentality is that it reduces the number of sales contests that are being run, and it also reduces participation from core performers because they know there is only one trip to Hawaii or one flat-screen TV. It's most likely going to Ricky the Rockstar over there who always wins and weeks or even months of downtime between competitions. Don't do this!!!
Figure out what truly motivates your salespeople and structure your prizes accordingly. If nobody in your office cares about video games, don't put up a Playstation as the prize. If nobody golfs, a sweet new TaylorMade driver probably isn't a good fit (you can send that to me). Find out what your people truly value by sitting down and having conversations with them. You can even hold a short meeting to get some ideas or use an online idea-sharing site if you don't already have one.
Be sure to chat with your reps, and figure out what they like. Small prizes are also a great idea because you can run more competitions more often with small prizes. In fact, studies show that the size of the prize is less important than simply having a prize to chase after. So, make sure to run great sales contests on a manageable budget.
The Bottom Line
Fun, teamwork, and increased productivity toward goals are what make sales competitions an indispensable tool for every sales manager. However, it is not always obvious how to organise successful sales competitions and think of novel strategies to drive outcomes. But if you’re still struggling to come up with consistent ideas for sales competition that actually work, utilizing a powerful sales gamification tool is a great way to help keep things fresh!
We know the power of competition and all of its benefits — from boosting morale to increasing productivity. All you need to do to gain these benefits is to ensure that you put in the effort to provide a healthy, competitive work environment. We hope that the tips and tricks that we’ve shared in this piece will help you boost the performance of your sales team over the long run.