What This Business Owner Did to Get His Team Out of a Sales Rut

What This Business Owner Did to Get His Team Out of a Sales Rut
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This story appears in the May 2015 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Brian Brady was doing everything he could to motivate the 30 salespeople he employs at his six Wireless Zone franchises in Virginia. Every few months he’d run sales contests and put up prizes like cruise vacations, iPads and gift cards. But no matter how lavish the rewards or how much excitement he tried to generate, the contests failed to result in significant extra sales. 

“You always have your overachievers, then your middle-of-the-road sales guys, then the bottom tier,” Brady says. “The contests always had the same results, with the top salespeople winning. I had to start handicapping people, and the people at the top felt they were being punished for being good. The people at the lower end never paid attention to the contests because they felt like they’d never win.”

Searching for a solution, Brady found FantasySalesTeam, an online platform that helps businesses run fantasy-sports-inspired sales contests. Each employee chooses a team and trades or updates the roster of salespeople each week. The format gives lower-producing salespeople a chance at the top prize and motivates employees to push each other and cheer each other on. After running his fantasy-football competition late last year, Brady saw sales increase 176 percent.

We talked to him about how some friendly competition got Wireless Zone out of a sales rut. 

What was the impact of the competition?

Things were drastically different right away. FantasySalesTeam is a fairly expensive platform, and it took some convincing for me to buy into it. They said I would see improvement from day one, which is what everyone says. But I honestly did.

How so?

The No. 1 thing is that we have this sales goal assigned to us by Verizon, and we were struggling with it. I didn’t think we’d make it by the end of the year. But we crushed that goal in a month. It completely turned our sales process upside down.

How does the contest work?

We assigned different people to different positions. Our top salespeople were the quarterbacks, the next tier was running backs and wide receivers, people at the bottom were kickers and so on. Each employee drafted a team who scored points by selling products and meeting certain metrics. It allowed even new people the ability to win. 

Because the salespeople were tracking each other, they kind of rode each other and would say things like, “I’ve got you as my quarterback, but you haven’t sold any tablets. Come on, man!” It created these internal competitions. And if someone noticed other people were dropping him from their rosters, it would motivate him to pick up the pace. 

Who won?

The guy who won the top prize was a middle-of-the-road salesman, but he really kept track of the stats and changed his roster every week. He won a trip to Las Vegas. The top salesperson overall won the MVP award, an iPad Air. 

Wouldn’t it be easier to give cash bonuses?

As long as I’ve been in retail, I’ve noticed that it’s easier to motivate people with things other than money. As soon as you put extra cash in someone’s paycheck, it seems to lose its luster. It goes into their checking account, and they never really see it. But if you give them a gift card or American Express points or a trip, it’s something they wouldn’t buy otherwise, and they respond. It doesn’t make sense, but when I was in sales I responded to those things, too.

Has the contest had any lasting impact?

For the most part things have gone back to normal, except that we learned how to sell a complicated product: the Verizon Edge plan. The sales team didn’t want to learn about it initially because it was difficult to sell and explain. So during the contest I put a lot of extra points on it, and for five or six weeks they were really pushing it. Now selling it is second nature. 

Do you plan to do another FantasySalesTeam contest?

Definitely, but next time we’re going to be baseball players.

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