Sales Competitions: The Prize is Less Important than You Think

New Call-to-actionOne of the common places a sales manager gets stuck is coming up with the right incentive to motivate their sales team. If you’re contemplating running  sales competitions, your head is likely spinning with stuff like:

  • What prize or incentive would really fire up my team?
  • What incentive will compel the team to change their behavior and focus on what I want to get out of this contest (e.g., more meetings, pitch a new product, use our sales CRM system)?
  • Can I really afford a prize that will motivate everyone?

While I’ve outlined a few prize and incentive ideas to consider below, I often discourage people from getting overly fixated on the prize. Don’t get me wrong; it’s important to have an interesting sales incentive, but it’s just one of several things that make a contest successful. We ran a contest recently that got the team to improve data quality on 1,400 accounts in in 10 days. Know what the prizes were? Starbucks $10 gift cards. The prize isn’t as critical as you think.


You want your salespeople selling, and they already have a lot of things to get done in a day. When you run a contest that’s too complicated, you won’t cut through the clutter. Unless you can justify the cost of a “shock-and-awe” prize, keep your contest focused on one or two behaviors that need to happen to earn entries or be counted in the contest. For example, every face-to-face client meeting gets an entry, most new sales opportunities found this month wins, or host a team party if we hit 110% of our sales goal this month.


A real-time leaderboard will motivate your team more than anything. (Aren’t sales people competitive by nature?) But don’t add more work for the sales team to tally up their entries. You need a leaderboard that’s easy to keep updated throughout the contest. The ideal setup is to use your sales CRM system, which you are already using to track meetings, opportunities, closed deals, etc. The contest is just putting more emphasis around certain activities. This also can create an excellent opportunity to improve adoption of your sales CRM system because information needs to be entered properly to be counted.


This might be the most important part. I was talking to a potential client the other day who said that from management on down, they are constantly talking about their sales contests and the leaderboard standings. It’s mentioned in emails, in team meetings, one-on-one conversations, etc. People get busy and distracted in the day-to-day realities of their work. Even if they have good intentions, are excited about the prize, and have a desire to win, it will move to the back of their mind unless you talk about it regularly.


Once you have those fundamental elements in place, you are lined up for a successful sales contest. NOW it’s time to focus on the prize! Following are some sales contest goals along with corresponding prize ideas.



More face-to-face meetings this month.

Salesperson with the most meetings gets a $150 gift certificate to a local restaurant of their choice.

Drive sales quota achievement within a given month.

Every salesperson who is at 50% of quota by the 15th of the month gets a free lunch. If the team reaches 110% of quota for the full month, have a team party (go to a pro sports event, team golf outing, etc.).

Individual salesperson who sells the most projects this week with a specific product included.

Double commission for each closed deal with that product included. Salesperson who closes the highest quantity gets $150 gift certificate on

Data clean up in your sales CRM system. One point for every account that gets updated with the right information.

Sales region or team with the most points wins. Everyone on the winning team gets a $10 Starbucks gift card.

Follow up on leads collected at a recent conference. Every time you connect with a lead you get an entry.

Instead of only awarding the top performer, give everyone a chance to win. Run a random draw across all entries. Best setup is a high quantity of small prizes, and one big prize. For example, 100 gift cards valued at $5 each, plus one person will win $250.

Get email addresses from clients.

The salesperson who collects the most emails will get $1.00/email collected. Second gets $0.75/email collected. Third place gets $0.50/email collected.

There are many creative prize ideas out there, but those are a few that have performed extremely well. But don’t forget about the fundamentals – they are the most important part to a winning sales contest.

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