The Ultimate March Madness Sales Contest

The Ultimate March Madness Sales ContestWhen Dan Ceravolo ran a March Madness-themed sales contest during his first year as the director of business development and partnerships at Ringlead, his teams saw a 70 percent increase in scheduled demos from the weeks prior.

The sales leader says his secret to sales motivation is in coupling it with a real world-event that already has a lot of buzz around it. (Read The Wall Street Journal article on how he did it at NetTel Partners here)

“I think people are generally excited about March Madness to begin with, and the type of people who are in sales are usually competitive and into sports,” Dan said.

For the next couple of weeks, everyone will be paying attention to the NCAA college basketball tournament. So why not embrace it in your office? Here’s how to build the ultimate March Madness sales contest for your team.

The Ultimate March Madness Sales Contest

1. The Bracket

Depending on the size of your sales team, you may want to include other members of your organization (for small teams) or use multiple brackets (for large teams).

Dan runs a small team of business development reps, so he includes account executives, customer service reps, himself and a few others.

“I incorporate everybody I possibly can in the competition,” Dan told us.

Of course, you can successfully run a bracket with only 8 people. But keep in mind that the more people you include, the more one-on-one matchups you’ll have (which ultimately increases not only the duration, but the scale and scope of your competition).

If your team is small, consider including members from teams, like:  

  • Marketing
  • Business Development
  • Sales Development
  • Account Executive
  • Account Management
  • Sales Engineering
  • Sales Support
  • Sales Training
  • Customer Success
  • Relationship Management
  • Sales Leadership

Then once you determine your competitors, take time to seed them carefully according to past performance. Dan seeded his team based on their performance over the past three months.

You want every team member to have a chance. Match them up with others at similar performance levels so no single middle performer loses immediately to a top performer and then doesn’t participate in the competition.

Dan also set up the first rounds so that people were competing against their peers (so BDRs went up against BDRs and AEs went up against AEs) to pick up momentum in the beginning.

2. The Point System

Your scoring system will depend on what sales activity you want to motivate. The goal of Dan’s tournament was to drive as many demos as possible, so reps were awarded points based on the number of demos they scheduled.

Because his sales contest involved multiple teams, he had to get creative on a fair way to award points. His BDRs traditionally schedule demos for the AEs, who are more focused on closing deals. The customer success team is focused on cross-sells, upsells and renewals

Here’s how his point system worked:

  • Inbound Demo: 1 Point
  • Outbound Demo: 2 Points
  • Cross-Sell Demo: 3 Points
  • Closed Won (New Customer): 3 Points

“I didn’t want the BDRs to just be able to run away with it, because their main job is to book demos,” Dan said.

Create a point system that both promotes the main activity you want to motivate and levels the playing field for all competitors.

3. The Matchups

The duration of each round will depend on how large your bracket is and how long you want this sales contest to last. If you start with 16 competitors, and you want the contest to stay on pace with the NCAA March Madness tournament (about 3 weeks), then each round should last about 3-4 days.

To keep people excited throughout the contest, make sure to be vocal about it. Bring up the days left, rankings, etc. in your morning stand-ups or weekly team meetings. Or you can take Dan’s approach, which includes sending out emails throughout the contest with commentary about what’s happened (like a sports write-up).

In addition, keep the contest alive during the day. When someone wins a round, announce it to the whole office or let the winner ring the gong or stand up for a slow clap. Encourage friendly trash talk.

Be sure to provide visibility for reps by displaying the contest standings on any sales leaderboards you have, too.

Dan even plays the actual March Madness basketball games on monitors around the office to keep excitement levels high. “People are already interested in it anyway. They’re going to be checking it on their computer. So we just embrace it,” he said. “And quite honestly, most of the reps are so pumped about the sales contest that they get frustrated with themselves when they stand and watch the end of a game (instead of focus on scheduling demos).”

4. The Prize

This is where you can get really creative. The main prize for Dan’s team in the past was a company basketball jersey with the winner’s last name. This allows reps to proudly display the jersey within the office.

Other prizes in Dan’s contest included an Apple Watch and $350 gift card.

You could also consider a basketball signed by your executive team or tickets to a local sporting event (or check out 102 inexpensive prize ideas here).

But don’t put too much stress around figuring out what the prize should be; reps will be motivated from the competition and recognition that come with it. (More on that here.)

“You have to motivate people differently, and everyone is motivated by different things,” Dan said. “So the more you can combine all of those together, the more you can get out of everybody.”

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