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How to Run Effective Sales Contests

Sales contests provide an extra boost in productivity for your business and, when done right, can be incredibly motivating for your team.

The reason why they work so well are threefold:

  1. Sales contests help set focus on a particular goal – rather than chasing 101 things, sales contests are targeted around one particular area, helping to focus your team’s priorities during a highly productive time-frame.
  2. Sales reps are typically hugely competitive – individual and team competitions are a great way to tickle the competitive belly of sales reps. Nothing makes a salesperson smile like seeing their name travel up a scoreboard.
  3. Sales contests engage the team - and here’s where they differ from sales compensation plans. Sales competitions take sales reps out of their usual routine, instantly giving them a fresh new target.

 Let’s look at this point a little further…

The Difference Between Compensation Plans and Sales Contests

If you’ve been managing a sales team for a while, you’re probably well aware of what a comp-plan is and what it does for your team. It’s the agreement you have with your reps that pushes them to want to close more and more deals.

It’s a well-known motivator that has been around the sales industry for decades because, well, it just works!

sales contest

Compensation plans are great for getting your team to hit the goals you desire. The only thing compensation plans don’t do very well is motivating your team to follow the right behaviours. Best practice behaviours like data quality, nurturing leads or getting better at forecast accuracy are not really seen as unlockers of comp-plans. A good sales leader knows you need all these steps to close more and bigger deals but sales reps typically see them as time-wasters. Steps they’re asked to take but that don’t have immediate beneficial impact on the job at hand – closing that huge deal.

And it’s here where sales contest really come into their own. Running quick, targeted and fun competitions can help steer your team into the direction you so want them to take. Have you been nagging them to make more dials per day? Run a contest rewarding the most prolific caller. Have you launched a new product you want to sell hard but your reps are not yet comfortable with the pitch? Run a contest rewarding the person who first manages to sell more than 10 in a week. You get the idea…

Yes, sales competitions can be miraculous when you’re trying to get your team to do more of something. BUT, for this productivity spike to really take place, you need to make sure you’re running healthy competitions that entice, and not demoralise, your entire team.

To guarantee you’re on the right track, we’ve put together these 7 steps. Design your next competition around them and you’ll be reaping the benefits of a motivated, happy, dynamic team in no time. 

1. Define your goal:

We’ve seen so many businesses make a total mess out of their sales competitions simply because they tried to boil the ocean on week one. What’s the rush? Sales contests only work when you set eyes on one goalpost at a time. With laser sharp precision, too.

Before you start picking out prizes and personalising coffee mugs, make a clear outline of what you want this contest to achieve. Do you want to increase the size of your deals? Are you worried about the volume of your pipeline? Is it velocity you want to increase? The outcome will massively influence the challenges you set your team so make sure it is absolutely clear what you want these to be.

 

2. Align it around the right team:

This step will be different depending on the size and composition of your business but, for a sales contest to survive, it has to be fair for everyone. There’s no point running a competition pitting Inside Sales against Enterprise because their daily activities and targets are completely different. Nobody will be able to level up fairly, the points won’t add up and everyone will end up feeling hard done by. Make each game a logistic breeze by keeping it localised to one team executing similar tasks.

 

3. Start easy:

Especially if this is the first competition you’ve run with your team. Make sure you make the game rules simple and accessible to your players, so they always know how to keep scoring. As with any gamified activity, start off really easy and build complexity only when the player is ready for it. Debate running a test competition first to get your team into the swing of things.

 

4. Keep it short:

Choose the time-frame of your sales contest very wisely. It has to be long enough to drive the desired behavioural change you want but not so long that your reps lose interest in the game. Monthly competitions typically work very well.

 

5. Communicate often:

Keep your team engaged with the competition with regular communication, be it onsite in the office or virtually through email or internal coms. A weekly score update, a friendly reminder to push on the pedal or some banter around who’s winning and who’s lagging behind will help keep the game alive.

Don’t hesitate to use this time to help your reps out with tips on levelling up or reminders on how to score.

 

6. Executive backing:

The only way to get your team to really buy into a sales contest is by having clear backing from the management and exec team. Consider kicking off each competition with a brief meeting or presentation from one of the managers, distilling what’s expected of them and informing the team just how important this contest is for the entire business. Yes, it’s meant to be a bit of fun but it also needs to be taken seriously.

 

sales contests

7. Reward accordingly:

If you want this to work, you have got to put your money where your mouth is. People enter contests to win something – a medal, a bottle of champagne, a pat on the back – no matter how big or small.

If your team is backing this initiative by giving you their time and effort, you have got to give them something in return.

As opposed to comp-plans, a cash prize for a sales contest is actually a very uninspiring prize. There’s no real value to it, it gets easily lost in paying bills and doesn’t give the winner that same sense of achievement.

What we’ve found to work really well is the old ‘little and often’ practice. For example, one of our customers has a big box of little gifts in the middle of the office. At the end of every week, the person with the highest score gets called up to collect a surprise gift. Now, these are often nothing fancier than a box of Celebrations but the peer recognition they feel is extraordinary. A public pat on the back from your CEO gives more tingles than an extra £100 in your bank account.

Running a sales contest is easy. Running an effective sales contest that delivers the outcomes you really want takes a little more forethought. Start small, build on progress and reward your team every time they hit an important milestone.

 

How to Run Effective Sales Competitions

For even more inspiration on running effective competitions for your team, download our free 39 Sales Contest Ideas eBook. It’s packed with practical guidelines, fun examples of competitions run by our customers and 22 inexpensive prizes that really motivate a team. 

 

ACCESS THE eBOOK 

Keen to learn more? Why not try our article: Creating Effective Sales Competitions That Accelerate Sales Performance

And if you're looking for more content to help you increase sales effectiveness, you could also try this quick read.

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