Let’s begin by discussing WHY businesses create contests for their sales teams. The traditional logic held that people who excel in sales are highly competitive and respond to opportunities to best their co-workers. The addition of a valued “prize” merely harnessed their natural tendencies and focused them on increasing sales at times of typical sales downturns.
All of the above was probably true and is still true for many sales people today. However, the advent of tech and other industries which may rely on sales strategies other than those traditionally used to sell tractors or clothing has altered the environment. The use of sales contests are being reassessed in the new climate.
Sales jobs are usually more difficult to fill than other types of jobs. The prospect of relying all or largely on commission rather than a guaranteed paycheck is daunting for some people. Although sales people may be among the highest earners at a company, the constant pressure may also drive potentially good sales people to less demanding opportunities. Some companies have alleged that the younger job seekers, in particular, are shying away from the stresses of sales.
How does this affect the traditional sales contest? Today’s successful contest are relying more on teams which require cooperation and collaboration, rather than pitting one individual against another. This has the added effects of providing training and coaching to newer or weaker members and building relationships within the team.
When designing a sales contest, be sure you structure it to deliver the desired outcome and minimize unintended consequences. A contest which rewards monthly sales may cause some agents to push sales into the upcoming month when current month sales are below other agents.
There are a host of companies now providing online sales games which you may wish to investigate. These games are geared to using your employee’s love of gaming to incentivize performance.
It is also important to determine what constitutes an incentive for your people – and there are likely to be a range of desirable prizes. Before you invest in $100 gift certificates for dinners, ascertain whether or not that really constitutes a motivation. Some people will be far more enticed by a late start on Monday morning or other time off than anything you could buy them.
Focus your sales team on transactions which are the most profitable rather than the largest by awarding the team with the most gross profit at the end of the contest. By rewarding total dollar sales you will encourage players to seek the largest sales (possibly with discounts) rather than the most beneficial sales.
Use posted charts and graphs to chart each team’s progress, thereby providing incentive for other sales people/teams and a pat on the head to the leaders. This will also encourage competitive spirit to drive the teams.
Consider structuring incentives to reward the entire group if quotas are met or exceeded (e.g. the entire sales force may take Friday afternoon off). This helps engender cooperation.
Random prizes may also prove useful if your sales tend to rise and fall at certain times of the month. In this type of contest you use a preset group of prizes and randomly announce a competition. For instance, on Wednesday afternoon at 4:45 you announce that John Doe or Sales Team 4 are the leaders for the day and allow them to select an envelope (or box or bag or…) which contains a prize.
Some companies have found that “earned” prizes better fit their model. You can, for instance, give “coupons” or similar to employees who achieve specific goals or exhibit positive behaviors. For instance, giving a coupon to an employee who uses her lunch hour to provide training to a new sales person; or the employee who has the most sales for the day. At the end of the prescribed time (a week, a month, a quarter) the employee with the most coupons gets a prize. Similarly, employees could be given a voucher or coupon to give to another employee who is particularly helpful or outstanding at their job. The one with the most vouchers wins. This encourages interface between staff members and builds relationships.
Like many companies, my car dealership asks my opinion of their service every time I take my car in. I hope that those service people are rewarded for high marks. You can do likewise, but you’ll get more responses if your customers rate their experience before they leave your premises. There is, after all, little your employee can do to insist they take that online survey.
We have all become aware of the trend towards “fun” workplaces. You’ve undoubtedly read about scooter races, beer kegs, bouncy balls in place of desk chairs and stuffed animals at meetings. There is evidence, certainly, that at many of these companies, employees work long hours and handle large workloads. The value of happy employees can hardly be overstated – they work harder, longer and stay in their jobs. You do not need to go beyond your comfort zone and offer alcohol or jettison your chairs, but offering some activities which encourage staff to work in groups, share information and get to know one another could benefit your company. Those changes could be the contest prizes. You set a quota and promise a change if it is met. You could encourage employee interactions by ordering in food the first Monday of every month and have the entire group share lunch. You could arrange for different food trucks in your parking lot on alternate Fridays and set up some chairs outdoors. If your employees work on laptops, you could acquire some recliners. You could institute a “bring your child or dog to work” day. There are endless permutations of “fun”. You just need to talk to your employees and find out what will motivate them.