How To Audit Your Sales Contests

To set your sales team up for success this fiscal year, you know it’s important to get them motivated early on.

Sales contests are, of course, an effective way to stimulate activities and behaviors — but only if you’re using them the right way.

Every sales organization is unique, and there’s no single contest structure that will be successful for everyone (but you can find a few contest ideas here and here). Because of that, determining your sales team’s ideal contest structure requires an audit of what has worked and what hasn’t worked in the past.

How To Audit Your Sales Contests:

Divide and Conquer

To get started, review the contests you held last year (you’ll want to keep a notepad nearby). Many sales performance tools will have logged this data for you automatically. Inspect the leaderboard for each one, and take notes on the characteristics of each contest.

Divide them into contests that worked and contests that didn’t work.

Characteristics of contests that worked:

  • Successfully motivated an activity (i.e. the activity spiked during the contest)
  • Participation from everyone (even middle and low-performers)
  • Reps got excited about it
  • Reps learned from it

Characteristics of contests that didn’t work:

  • No spike in desired activity or behavior
  • Little participation from sales team
  • Little or no excitement
  • Little or no competition (one person was way ahead of the rest)

Take Note

What was different about the contests that worked and the contests that didn’t? Did you see more participation during a certain time of year, or when you divided reps into teams? Take notes on all of this.

Some more things to consider:

  • Was it a real competition? Or was one person way ahead of the rest?
  • Was the criteria too difficult? Or too easy?
  • How long did the contest run for?
  • Were there teams? How were they split up?
  • Was there any adjusting of scores?
  • Which team members actively participated? Are the same people winning each time?
  • Was it measured by percent-to-goal or a hard number?

Don’t be afraid to look all the way back at January and February of last year. After all, business is often cyclical. If you’re feeling adventurous (and have the data), don’t hesitate to look back at previous years, as well.

Once you’ve collected that data and made notes, look for the trends. What characteristics did your successful contests have in common? And vice versa, which characteristics did your unsuccessful contests have in common? This will help you identify the contest properties that are most effective for your team.

As an added bonus, reviewing your contest data will also show you what your team is capable of, and can assist you in forecasting your sales goal and setting key performance indicators.

Ask Around

When you feel comfortable with the trends you’ve identified for successful sales contests, get a second opinion (and third, and fourth).

Ask your sales operations leader what they think worked for contests, and if they agree with the characteristics and trends you picked out. If you don’t have someone in sales ops, find someone on your team with a deep understanding of your sales operations and analytics.

Also discuss the contest audit with those in positions both above and below you. Bring them to your chief revenue officer or CEO. Then explore the sales contests with your regional managers or heads of sales teams.

Maybe even talk to a middle performer — someone who didn’t win all the time, but definitely tried and did pretty well. Find out what they feel worked and didn’t work for contests.

Prep for Success

After reviewing your historical data and analyzing it with members of your sales organization, it’s time for you to make a plan.

Consider your main struggle from the previous year. Determine what key behaviors you want to motivate this year, and assess what kind of incentives you have to work with.  

Build contests with the properties that work best for your sales team, and schedule them out on a calendar so that they align with your business goals this year. But don’t hesitate to revisit or re-evaluate throughout the year (and feel free to add in smaller contests and spiffs in between the ones you already have planned).

Always keep your contests exciting and fresh. Conducting a sales contest audit will help.

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