4 Ways Managers Mess Up Sales Contests Sales contests are supposed to provide motivation for employees to increase sales, customers and profits. But if done incorrectly, they can do more harm than good.

By Bob Marsh

This story originally appeared on Salesforce

Running contests with your team is a tried and true way to amp up sales and motivate your reps. However, sales contests are only as successful if they are executed properly. If you do it right, you can see your sales shoot through the roof and renew passion among your sales team. That said, merely setting up a contest and announcing it to the team isn't "doing it right."

Executing a contest isn't unlike bringing a customer through the pipeline. You have to lay a good foundation of introductions and then stay on top of it with strong follow up along the way. If you set up a meeting with a new lead and then back off, that deal is unlikely to turn out well. It's the same case with a sales contest. You have to stay involved throughout the process to ensure success.

Sales managers tend to fall into four all too common traps when planning and executing sales contests. Avoid making the following list of mistakes and you can take your sales motivation strategy to the next level:

1. Motivating too many behaviors. When you design a contest, it's easy to make a broad goal for sales reps, such as "close deals." While that is your ultimate goal, this sort of contest simply motivates too many different behaviors -- from finding leads to booking meetings to getting that signature and everything in between. Plus, oftentimes your comp plans are getting reps focused on closing.

Related: 3 Tips to Improve Sales Conversations for Faster Growth

Instead, start at your high-level goals (i.e. closing deals) and work backwards to identify the specific activities that will help you achieve those goals. Will getting in front of more prospects help your team close more? Then have a contest around face-to-face meetings. Is getting opportunities to a critical stage in your sales cycle that really pushes deals forward? Run a contest that gives points for opportunities moved to that stage.

Aim to promote one or two of these targeted behaviors per contest and you'll get the most out of your team.

2. Neglecting to use filters. If you run a contest that gives points for new leads, you always run the risk of someone possibly adding a lead that was never going anywhere, just for the sake of gaining points. Using filters -- or requirements that need to be met for a point to be earned -- can help you control some of that and promote the quality of the behaviors you're motivating.

For instance, if you're running that lead generation contest, consider adding the filters below. (Instead of just setting it up so that reps get one point per any new lead.)

  • A lead has to come from a pre-approved list of prospects
  • A lead has to get to the second step of your sales process (which should mean they're at least somewhat qualified)

It's usually enough to set one or two filters that need to be met before a behavior earns a point.

3. Forgetting to illustrate that leadership is paying attention. One surefire way to get reps focused on an activity is to show them that leadership is paying attention. Make sure to do that during sales contests. This can be as simple as a quick email from your CEO halfway through the contest congratulating the leaders and encouraging everyone else to up their game. It doesn't have to be a big statement, just a note to remind your reps that this contest really does matter.

Related: Are You Cut Out for a Sales Gig at a Startup?

4. Slacking on following through with contest prizes. So you set up a contest and announce a prize for the winner. Then the end of the contest rolls around, a winner is crowned and you promise to get the prize to that rep "in the next few weeks." Sound familiar? The problem is when you don't follow up with the prize right away, people wonder if it's ever coming. Then when the next contest comes around, their motivation to compete wavers.

Next time, try ordering the prize before the contest even begins. If your timeline or budget is tight, stick to prizes you don't need to purchase -- like bragging rights or extra vacation days. Lastly, make it a habit to email the team right after the contest comes to a close, congratulating the winner and telling them when the prize will be awarded.

Related: How to Set Sales Goals for Employees

Bob Marsh

CEO of LevelEleven

Bob Marsh is CEO of LevelEleven, a sales gamification and CRM solutions company. Bob has almost 20 years experience in sales management. 

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