Here’s what we don’t recommend: allowing the words “sales contests” to spring an old-fashioned image into your mind. It’s not that this word/image association – words: sales contests, image: manager pointing to a white board to show results of a contest that nobody really understood in the first place – doesn’t make sense; employee contests have been around for a long, long time. In fact, while conducting research for this post, I came across an article called “Sales Contests: A New Look at an Old Management Tool” – written in 1988. I suppose the purpose of this piece is to call a Round II on that article, 25 years later. It’s just that sales contests really have come a long way and that warrants another “new look.”
The Old(er) Management Tool
First, let’s make sure we’re all clear on this “image” I mentioned – if you’ve worked in sales, you should know the one. It could consist of any of the steps involved in a good old-fashioned sales contest. I’ll break them down chronologically:
- Manager comes up with idea for contest with sole purpose of closing sales.
- Manager calls meeting with finance and operations team to discuss idea and determine methods for implementation, especially in terms of how contest will be organized and results tracked.
- Bursting with excitement (or at least pretending to be, in hopes that it will spread), manager announces contest to all employees at team meeting.
- Employees respond with, first and foremost, confusion. They’re not really sure how contest will work.
- Contest begins.
- Manager pulls together standings manually and posts results on white board or in spreadsheet. Leadership exhibits white board or spreadsheet at next team meeting…if they remember.
- Contest ends.
- Manager audits results and shares with staff – or – manager forgets and nobody ever hears about contest again.
The New Look
And now, for how far we’ve come. Following are the kinds of contests which we see LevelEleven clients implement regularly and from which we see them create results. (For more on these results, read “Sales Gamification: What’s the ROI?”)
- Manager comes up with idea for contest that does more than close sales – it focuses on key behaviors he or she wants to motivate, such as increasing calls, encouraging face-to-face meetings, taking products to market or updating records to obtain accurate data.
- Manager designs contest right inside of Salesforce.com in minutes – literally. While doing so, manager can use pre-populated suggestions to develop contest around certain behaviors or create custom-made competition. Behaviors chosen can hold different weights, based on importance (i.e., phone meetings earn 1 point; face-to-face meetings earn 5 points).
- Contest gets announced via email and Chatter. Manager can still share announcement at next team meeting and doesn’t need to pretend to be bursting with excitement – the trash talk that will soon follow on Chatter will invoke sincere motivation on its own.
- Contest launches.
- Computer compiles standings.
- Standings are displayed in real-time on Leaderboard that salespeople can access at any time. But they probably won’t need to, because standings surround them, in places like: mini leaderboard on homepage, daily email and Chatter. Managers also can display results on big screen monitor. All of this drives employees’ competitive side, encouraging engagement in competition.
- Contest closes.
- Manager receives automated emails with reminders to finalize contest and then easily audits results and announces winners from there.
The Trendy Kind of Sales Contest
Anyone willing to see employee contests for their newer, more technological capabilities sets their organization up for potentially higher productivity, lower turnover and more engaged, focused employees. So right now, all professionals should be looking at the words “sales contests” and thinking trendy. And just to be clear, I’m talking about the “trendy” that means current, not short-lived – because we know that sales contests will be around for a long, long time to come. Who knows? Maybe 25 years from today, someone will be calling a Round III on this whole topic.