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  • Writer's pictureKevin Snow

Coffee is for Closers! Five Tips to Running an Effective Sales Contest

Glenngary Glen Ross is hands down the most quoted movie on any sales floor. Who hasn't yelled out "Coffee's for closers!" during a calling blitz?

But my favorite quote is "..the good news is - you're fired. The bad news is - you've got, all of you've got just one week to regain your jobs starting with tonight. Starting with tonight's sit. Oh? Have I got your attention now? Good. 'Cause we're adding a little something to this month's sales contest. As you all know, first prize is a Cadillac Eldorado. Anyone wanna see second prize? Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you're fired." That is, without a doubt, the grand pooba of all sales contests. Perform and you get to keep your job, fail and your are fired.

But what has a bigger impact on your team's success, sales skills or motivation? There are arguments for both, but when it comes down to it, motivation has a far greater influence on the success of a sales person than core sales skills.

The problem is, keeping your sales team engaged and motivated is much more difficult than teaching a sales person what to say to a specific objection or how to write a effective proposal. Sales contests have been used buy sales managers for decades as a tool to inspire their teams to close more business, some contests being more successful than others.

When you are planning your next contest, there are two questions you need to consider during the planning phase:

1. Do I want to drive individual competition or team morale?

2. Which specific behaviors do I want to influence with the contest?

Once you have those questions answered you can start designing the theme, rules and rewards of the contest. Here are 5 tips to help you design the most valuable contests for your sales team.

1. Every contest should have a different and singular focus.

Contests need to focus on a specific behavior or outcome that you are wanting to achieve. Trying to engineer more than one behavior through a single contest will ultimately dilute the long term effects and make the contest overly complicated.

Look at your companies goals and current struggles that your sales team is having. Is your company launching a new product? Are you penetrating a new vertical market? Or does your team need to focus on filling the early stages of their pipeline? Based on where your company needs to be or where your team can improve, identify the focus of your contest. It is okay if the focus is revenue driven, just don't let revenue be the focus every contest.

2. Involve your sales people in the planning process.

Letting your sales team design a future contest provides you three quick wins. First off, because they designed the contest, they have already bought into the event. Secondly, you know that the reward is something that they want which drives motivation and competition. And finally, you will have strengthened your relationships with your team because they will feel empowered and appreciated by you at the same time.

When you turn over the reins to your team you still need to give them guidelines. When I have done this I always told them that they couldn't pick revenue as the focus. They needed to identify another metric or result and explain why they chose it. Give them a budget to work with for prizes and make sure they have a plan for how to track results.

3. Make it a big deal

There is a reason that you are running a contest. You want to see a specific lift in productivity or sales. So your contest needs to be visible. This includes everything from how you introduce the contest to keeping it front and center during the contest and engaging company leadership to drive results.

Contests should always be introduced face to face, whether that is a a weekly sales meeting or a conference call. Give them all the information you can, how the rewards work, the timeline, and how results will be tracked. This step is normally not done by most companies in a very effective way. But if done correctly it can make a huge difference in the success of the contest.

Your sales team should see info on the contest everywhere they go. Current standings should be posted everywhere sales people congregate. Post them at the coffee maker, all over the sales floor, in the conference room, on your door, create a dashboard on your CRM, post updated results on the social channels you use, include an update in your sales meetings. Have your CEO send an email half way through the contest recognizing the current leaders, or if the CEO office is in a visible location, have a leaderboard on display right outside his office. Knowing that the CEO and other senior leaders are watching the contest and are interested in the outcome can up the motivation and results from your contest.

4. Create contests that your top rep doesn't win all the time

Does the same rep win most of your contests? Change your format so that it isn't an all or nothing format. Create tiers of prizes based on different levels of success. Once sales people see that everyone has a chance to win, your middle of the pack sales people will become more engaged and motivated to compete.

5. Deliver what you promise

In 2002 a waitress from Panama City, Florida won a sales contest and was understandably furious when she was awarded a toy Yoda instead of the Toyota she was expecting. She sued her employers and won.

Failing to deliver to your sales people what you promise in any setting will cause them to lose trust in you. Before you launch any contest make sure you understand what you may need to cough up if your reps all step up their game. Can you afford to give all your reps a 65 inch Ultra HD flat screen TV?

Once the contest is completed, make sure the winners get their rewards quickly. You want to take advantage of the excitement of the contest to set the stage for your next contest. If they are still waiting for their prizes from the last contest, they won't be very eager to participate in the next one.

Contests are a fun way to drive production and build team cohesion, but you need to continue to be on your game for them or they will lose their effectiveness. The more seriously you take the contest, the more seriously your reps wiill take them.


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