Sales Contests Do’s and Don’ts: How to Create an Awesome Competition to Encourage Your Sales Team

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When managed well, sales contests are a great tool to motivate your sales team, boost productivity and improve employee satisfaction. Done poorly, sales contests can be alienating, generate negativity and ultimately fail to generate desired results. Here we’ll share the biggest do’s and don’ts of managing sales contests, so you can create great sales contests for your team.Sales Contests Do's and Don'ts

1 – Align Metrics with Business Objectives

When designing your sales contest think about your organization’s overarching strategies. The main reason that sales contests don’t yield the desired results is misaligned metrics. A good sales contest should have between 2 and 4 high-level objectives that coincide with the organization’s executive strategy.

An example of this might be the following: With the high-level objectives of 1. developing a professional network and 2. leads nurturing, run a sales contest on pipeline building and include both active leads as well as contacts for sales nurturing.

2 – Get Creative with Incentives

It’s not all about the cash. In fact, findings show that monetary incentives alone are poor motivators over the long run. Rather they are most effective when they have a positive impact on engagement and team spirit.

Take the time to survey your sales team and find out which incentives are more attractive and why. Be creative and think about days off, vacations or even fun group activities that the whole team can enjoy.

3 – Run Team Contests

Ditch the “every man for himself” ideology. Sales is no longer an individual’s game. Organizations are beginning to see more and more the benefits of collaboration and they are changing sales incentives accordingly. Studies have demonstrated that, when organized in teams, individuals tend to perform at a higher level in sales contests. A study by the Incentive Research Foundation found that individual incentives increase performance by an average of 22% percent, while team incentives can increase performance by as much as 44%.

Create group competitions for a boost in friendly rivalry and team spirit. Or directly have your team compete against itself. Set up a contest where your team competes against their performance from a previous year or comparable selling period.

4 – Advertise and Broadcast Progress

Make sure you advertise your contest so that everyone is aware and informed of the dates and details. Begin internal communications well in advance so reps have the contest in view ahead of time.

During the contest communication is vital. Research shows that sales tend to spike at the beginning and end of a contest period while dipping in the middle. Measuring and broadcasting live contest metrics can help keep sales teams engaged more consistently over the full competition period.

A tool like leaderboards software can be invaluable to effectively communicate objectives and strategies, measure and display employee progress in real-time, and give immediate recognition based on results.

sales contest don'ts


1 – Don’t Create Conflicting Incentives

Don’t get carried away. Make sure first that contests never overlap. Competing incentives will keep you from getting the results you want.  Focus on one goal at a time and make sure that the sales team keeps interested and focused for the best results.

It is also important to make sure that the focus on promoting a particular behavior through a sales contest does not conflict with daily activities and organizational goals. This will reduce normal productivity and get in the way of advancing other goals for the team.

2 – Don’t Over-complicate

Sales contests should be simple, communicable, and have a clear strategy. Establish clear rules and choose the contest time frame wisely. Make sure your team will actually benefit from a concerted effort toward a particular goal at the time you set your contest.

Periods that are particularly busy, or that often require salespeople to turn their attention to activities that are not part of the sales contest are not conducive to productive contest results.

3 – Don’t Only Reward Top Performers

Management loves top performers but to think they’re the only ones that matter in a competition is a mistake. Those who are consistently top closers are actually less likely to up the ante when a sales contest is in progress.

Give the rest of the crew a chance to earn recognition by measuring both activity metrics (calls made, emails sent) and objective metrics (new client meetings set, deals won). Focus on effort and growth as opposed to just end results.Sales Contests Do's and Don'ts

 4 – Don’t Overlook Underachievers

Underachievers should be the primary target to motivate with sales contests. Overlooking them is a giant don’t on our list. It’s estimated that only about 40% of the performance boost during a sales contest comes from the efforts of the top 20% sales reps. That leaves a lot still on the table. 

A contest that is engaging, team-oriented and that offers valued incentives will be most likely to motivate the entirety of your team and generate the best results.

Think collaboration beyond competition and take advantage of healthy sales competition to build trust and team spirit among your people. Ready to begin?