Sales Managers: Looking for a New Sales Contest Idea? Try This!

by Joe Sesso on July 21, 2020

If you’re a Sales Manager or Director and you’re looking for an idea to break the monotony of the same sales contests every month, I’ve got something that is sure to make things fun for your sales team and profitable for your company. I’m going to show you how to host the ultimate sales contest that will energize your sales team and give your company something to build a tradition around. If you do this right, it will be a contest that your team will look forward to every year!

When I first became a Sales Director at Homes.com in 2016, I noticed that the weekly and monthly sales contests were fun but indistinguishable from each other. There were only minor differences between them and, other than the cash prizes given to the winners, they were pretty much one and the same. I wanted to host a sales contest to boost sales and excitement during our slower season and I needed inspiration to come up with an idea that could take this contest to another level. I found my inspiration in a European soccer tournament.

In Europe, each country has its own professional soccer league. Since there is no salary cap, the same few teams usually compete for the league title every year, because they have the money to pay for the best players. The smaller teams don’t stand a chance. However, in addition to the regular season, each league also hosts a single elimination tournament during the course of the season. So even if a great team has a bad game, they can be eliminated. While most teams cannot compete for the grueling league title, they can compete and win a single eliminate contest. This gave me an idea.

In many ways, sales teams are similar to sports teams. There are always the elite members that finish at the top of the leader board every year and are so good that they intimidate many of the other sales team members. While many sales reps doubt they can defeat the superstars over the course of a year, they do feel that they CAN beat them in any given month. This is what you want to build your ultimate sales contest around!

I chose our slowest sales month for the contest because, in addition to motivating the team during this period, I also wanted to make it easy for the company to track where the uptick in sales was coming from. To build a tradition around this contest we had to take everything to another level. We came up with a catchy name that was easy to remember. In addition to generous cash prizes, I also went to our awards vendor and chose beautiful trophies that stood out from anything else we had previously given away. I wanted the winners to be so proud of their trophies that they would display them prominently year round for all to see. This would advertise the competition and build excitement for next year’s contest! I also bought a larger trophy of the same design for the office with blank nameplates that we could engrave the winner’s name on each year and display in our trophy case for all to see. I also made sure to promote the event and post frequent updates of the leader board throughout the month. In the end, it was a lot of fun and the team really enjoyed it. But did it increase sales?

The result: We saw a 20% increase in sales from the previous year. Not only did we increase sales, but we also increased morale. Because of the success we had with the contest, the company decided to scale it to all of our sales divisions, and we are now in the fifth year of this month-long, once per year competition. It is something that the sales team looks forward to every year.

Any organization can create a similar contest that becomes an annual tradition. Here are Five Steps to Building Your Own Ultimate Sales Contest using some of the 4 P’s of Marketing (plus a couple of new P’s).

1. Your contest is the Product. It all starts with a name: Come up with a catchy and clever name that your team will remember and look forward to for years to come.
2. Promotion: Build up the anticipation with teaser emails such as asking your team what they would do with the money if they won first place. The build up and promotion is extremely important in getting the message to stick with your team. Promotion needs to be done before, during and after the contest is over for maximum impact.
3. Get Upper Management Involved (More Promotion): How often does your leadership team get personally involved in a sales contest? If you can get the President to send a message to the team before the contest, it will go a long way. Your team will see that the leadership team is taking an interest in this event, and they won’t want to disappoint them!
4. Prizes: You’re asking your sales team to take their production to another level for this contest. The reward must be worth the struggle. It doesn’t have to be necessarily more money. Salespeople love recognition as well. The prizes must be unique and different.
5. Celebrate the Results (Prestige): This is THE sales contest of the year! Have the awards ceremony in front of the team and have the President (or other executive) present the trophies to the winners.This can also be a great way to celebrate team success. If your team collectively beats last year’s sales numbers, it’s a great opportunity to celebrate the success of the contest itself. Maybe take the team to lunch or have it catered into the office (depending on your budget and the size of the team).

Update to this article: During the COVID-19 Pandemic, I took the principles of this article a step further and did twice weekly highlight shows from some of our best performers of the week, as well as a “sports talk radio” format to discuss the best performances. The result was a company-wide year-over-year increase of 27% in sales! If you do this right, you’re sales teams will absolutely love it and look forward to it every year!

Image of Joe Sesso Joe Sesso is an Award Winning & Best Selling Author

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