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7 Tips to Create a Great Sales Contest

*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 contests and coming up with new ways to drive results is not necessarily so clear. So, we've listed 7 easy-to-follow tips that will help you create great sales contests. *

Lead from the front

The most difficult part of a sales contest is simply getting started. Don't let indecisiveness, laziness or 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.

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 can 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.

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 pae themselves throughout the month, simply create an interesting short-term contest designed to boost activity on your key target. By running a shorter competition, it 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.

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.

Keep the momentum going

Most sales competitions start out 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, try to 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. Another way is to keep the competitions short so that there's not a 'slack period' in between the activity. We mentioned some of the benefits of running short sales contests already above but keep in mind that it means a higher likelihood of core performers being more involved because they level the playing field and take some of the edge 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 tales 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.

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 acknowledgement from C-suite executives to your salespeople can drive 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.

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 to not 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. For most sales reps, they just want to know the duration of the contest, what's required to win and where they stand so that 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 mobile app.

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 our wrong. Often times 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 and it's most likely going to Ricky the Rockstar over there who always wins. 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 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.

The bottom line is that people will work harder to win a prize that they actually care about. So, be sure to chat with your reps, 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 prove that the size of the prize is not nearly as important as simply having a prize to chase after. So, don't let a small budget limit you from running great sales contests!

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