Sales Contests for Maximum Results

Sales Contests for Maximum Results

Do you ever run sales contests to reward and motivate your sales team? Contests have been around in sales organizations for years, haven’t they?

The standard contest runs something like this. They work and they don’t work, at least the way most organizations run them.

Management will choose a contest period, usually a month, a week or a weekend.
Management will set targets based on the objectives of the organization.
Management will choose the rewards.
Management will post sales results where all the sales staff can see them.
Management will run contest when sales are weakening.
Management is promoting ‘healthy competition’ within the sales team.
Let’s examine these elements and the possible consequences of them, shall we? Remember, it’s not about whether these elements are right or wrong but rather whether they work or they don’t work to get you and your organization paid in the long run and contribute to operating a sales floor at mastery.

Management will choose a contest period.

When the date and the duration of the contest is announced in advance, there may actually be a drop in business prior to the contest starting as some salespeople actively hold back sales in hopes of having that business qualify for the contest. Therefore, it would be beneficial to hold off on the announcement until the last minute if you run traditional contests. This is not possible, of course, if the contest is tied to an advertised sales event.

The end of the contest will also almost always guarantee a drop in sales as well, often to a level that is below average production because salespeople have been aggressive in beating the bushes to bring in that extra business.

Management will set targets based on the objectives of the organization.

I do not see any problems here unless salespeople are encouraged to push particular products or services without regard to the prospect’s needs and objectives. The customers come first. When the customers’ need are met, the organization’s need to get paid will certainly be met by happy, loyal and referring customers.

Management will choose the rewards.

Merchandize prizes and experiences, (dinners, trips, etc.) prizes do work with many but can actually de-motivate some people who do not want or need the prize. Cash works for others.

Management will post sales results where all the sales staff can see them.

This may be convenient for management perhaps and may be considered a motivator by many managers, but it is potential poison on the sales floor. For everyone who is in any position except first place in the contest, this can have the same psychological effect as management criticizing a salesperson in front of another employee.

Management will run contests when sales are weakening.

This happens seasonally in many businesses. Since management often puts on contests in response to seasonal downturns, many salespeople will withhold business in anticipation, much like when a contest is announce with too much lead time.

Management is promoting ‘healthy competition’ within the sales team. Every sales team has its range of performers. As a result, the outcome of many contests is known before it even begins. I have witnessed an actual fist fight take place on a sales floor based on contest competition. I have also seen salespeople actively work to sabotage another salesperson’s business during contests. Somehow this does not seem healthy to me.

Now let’s consider an alternate strategy, the ‘Sales Contest at Mastery’ strategy.

Management will choose a contest period.

Unveil the start date at a special meeting or with a memo as close to the contest as possible. Keep the end date secret. Decide on it. Write it down and seal it up so it can be revealed to all at the end of the contest. This keeps the sales staff in a constant state of performing rather than running on cruise control at various times during a long contest. Try to keep major contests away from advertised sales events.

Management will set targets based on the objectives of the organization.

Contests can certainly be used to stimulate sales but they can also be used to stimulate the actual performance of members of the team on a sustained basis. This concept will become clearer in a moment.

Management will choose the ‘rewards’.

Where merchandize prizes or ‘experience’ prizes are offered, consider awarding the option for the salesperson to choose a cash equivalent, if possible, since the cash option might be more attractive to some team members.

Do not post results where all the sales staff can see them.

In addition to the reason stated above, the reason will be clear in a moment.

Run contests when sales opportunities are the greatest.

Get your team fired up when there are lots of ducks flying by. Everyone will eat better and have more fun in the process.

Here is the ‘Real Key’ to the contest. Avoid the ‘healthy competition’ among members of the sales team. Rather than challenging your sales staff to compete against one another, creating winners and losers among your people, build a contest where individuals are challenged to compete against their own benchmark and measured historical performance.

For example, reward staff members who increase their performance by 10, 20 or 25 percent above their norms. Spread the prizes around rather than declaring one or two winners and a number of losers. This will eliminate any attempts at sabotage on the sales floor.

Perhaps you could create a ‘win as a team or lose as a team’ event where the entire sales team works to a common goal. I have seen awesome results with this strategy.

Have negative consequences for salespeople who generate negative customer feedback. This will keep poor sales tactics off your sales floor.

Keep individual results private, at least during the contest, in order to avoid ego and self esteem issues.

These types of contests encourage individuals to develop sustainable selling techniques and continuous career growth. That has to be a good thing which will be around long after the sales contest is a distant memory. Try a contest based on these principles. I think you will find the results very rewarding.

By John Vaughan

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