Three Steps to Creating an Effective Entry-Level Sales Contest

About Brian Norman

Director, Inside Sales - Philadelphia 76ers

“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.”

Think about a sales contest you have conducted (or participated in) that was missing something. Perhaps it did not have a specific purpose, was unorganized, anticlimactic, or even ineffective?  Rather than using a generic model, create a personalized strategy that will help your team accomplish its goals. 

Step 1: Set Specific Objectives

The first step in designing an effective sales contest is to determine the ultimate objective.  Goals for entry-level sales staffs can vary; therefore it’s imperative to set specific objectives for your sales contest.  Write down, in detail, what you hope to accomplish and how you will measure your success.

Questions that need to be answered include:

“An effective sales contest, done the right way, can produce big results for your team.

The preparation leading up to it, the execution throughout and the post contest assessment are all vital in maximizing the results from your contest. In order to get the desired outcome when building the sales contest, it’s important that it’s designed to help accomplish a specific agenda, create a fun and competitive environment, engage your employees and drive big revenue.”wizards_alt_logo_hand 

Are you basing the contest solely on revenue production?

  • Are you trying to increase departmental revenue by 10%, 25%, 50%?
  • Is there a specific team revenue goal you’d like to reach?
  • Historically, what was produced during this period of the sales cycle?

Are you focused strictly on moving inventory – regardless of revenue?

  • Is there specific inventory you’re focused on selling (club seats, VIP seating, etc.)?

Are you also focusing on increased call volume, on-site appointments, or other “hustle” metrics?

  • If so, do all of these metrics directly contribute to your ultimate goal?
  • Are these metrics readily accessible throughout the day to encourage/drive individuals?

Step 2: Design the Program

Establish each of these for every sales contest.

Team, Individual, or Both?

Recognize when it’s most effective to use a team-based contest versus an individual-based contest. 

  • A team contest will help drive departmental unity.  In theory, every member of your team will work together to accomplish the goal to receive some type of incentive.  In reality, be aware of free-loaders who don’t contribute and seek the same incentive as the rest of their team.  To address this, set personal “minimum qualifiers” to motivate everyone on the team to participate.
  • Is your sales group full of competitive, result-driven employees?  If so, an individual-based contest may be the best route for your team.   Create and facilitate a program that will bring out the competitive nature of your sales team as they compete against one another.
  • Sales contests can also tie in both team and individual aspects that will build team unity while rewarding top performers.  Focus on dynamics that will motivate the team as a whole, while also pushing individual performance within the contest.  An overall team incentive can be supplemented by smaller prizes throughout the contest to key performers. 

Theme

In order to keep your team engaged throughout your sales contest, it’s crucial to design your sales contest around an exciting and entertaining theme.  Whether you use current events (Olympic Games, March Madness, Draft Lottery), movies (Fight Club) or board games (Monopoly, Scrabble) to model the contest, it should be creative, fun, and most of all, engaging!

Time frame

The length of the sales contest is one of the most important pieces of the design.  If your contest is too short, it may not give your sales team the proper time to accomplish the set objectives.  If your contest is too long, your objective will lack urgency and it can grow stale.  Refer to previous sales/hustle metrics to determine the appropriate timeframe to accomplish your objectives.

Incentives

What will truly motivate your team to increase their performance?  Simply ask them!  By

“After running plenty of sales contests that produced different results, the underlying factor that motivates everyone is free and simple: recognition.

For example, the 2013 Final Four was in Atlanta so we capitalized with a sales contest. The winning member received two tickets to the tournament, assorted gift cards, in addition to a trophy and picture that we sent to the NBA league office and our executive team. After the hundreds of dollars we spent on the prizes, the winner was most proud of the email we sent to the league and the executive team with his picture!”hawks_50t

asking your sales team what incentives they desire most, you’re accomplishing two things:

First, and most obvious, you’re able to put together a list of incentives they desire.  Send out an email asking your team to present you with three items (under your set budget) that they would love to have.  Whether its cash, gift cards, concert tickets, autographed memorabilia, or other prizes, you’re sure to get authentic feedback.  (Best answer to date: C.R.E.A.M: Cash rules everything around me!)

Secondly, and just as important, you’re empowering your employees with the task of helping design their very own sales contest.  This leads to increased buy-in and appreciation from your team.  Further, you are presented with ideas you never would have thought of yourself.

Step 3: Review, Recap, Revise

What could have been done better?

  • Was the contest too long? Too short?
  • Was your sales team engaged? What could you have added to make it more engaging?
  • Did the original rules work throughout, or did you have to adjust them at some point? Why?
  • Did the incentives actually motivate your sales team, or were they simply a nice reward?
  • How close did you come to accomplishing your goals? Were the goals too easy? Too hard?

Analyzing Metrics

Simply put, did the contest accomplish your set objectives?  Compare your team’s performance during the contest against previous data to measure the true impact.  Record your results as they compare to historical metrics and save for future referral.

Finally, measure your team’s output over the weeks and months following your contest to gain additional insight into the contest’s level of effectiveness.

  • How much revenue was produced compared to last month?
  • How much revenue was produced compared to the same time in the selling cycle last year?
  • What percentage of sales was from the targeted inventory?
  • How does outbound call volume compare to the average call volume for the last week? Month?
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