Sales contests are a common sales management tool used to drive specific results. The best contests have simple rules and a singular objective, and they should take under an hour to draft and map out. Sales managers should think of these contests like a variety pack: one sales team should experience contests with all different goals, lengths, and prizes.

When you sit down to brainstorm sales contest ideas, start by asking yourself these 3 questions:

  • Do I want to drive individual competition or team morale?

  • Which specific behaviors do I want to influence with the contest?

  • What is the tone, the theme, and the rules of the contest?

We’ve compiled the 10 most helpful tips for planning the most valuable contests for YOUR sales team:

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1) Every contest should have a different goal

Sales contests shouldn’t always have the same goal – they are perfect opportunities to influence specific behaviors. Think about your company’s current goals. Are you trying to penetrate a specific market? Or sell a new product? Let’s say that your company released a new piece of software in late November, and the executive team set a Q1 goal to sell 5 subscriptions of that software. Use this insight to design a sales contest for Q1 centered on selling the most of that software.

It’s OK to make revenue a goal for one contest, but it can’t be the goal for every one. Other examples of great contest goals are cold calls, data quality (pick a specific metric or metrics), and lead source. Make sure the objectives you choose align with your company’s objectives.

2) Switch up the length of each contest

As soon as contests start feeling routine to your reps, they will lose interest. Christmas is coming up this week – will a lot of your outbound reps be on vacation? Encourage them to maintain their A-game right up until they leave. Announce a new contest at the end of today: whoever has the most Connects by noon tomorrow gets $50. If they are motivated to win, they’ll spend some time tonight building a lead queue. Perhaps some of them will get to work at 7am tomorrow to start calling the UK. The business value? High productivity during the slow holidays. Short contests take advantage of reps’ innate sense of urgency and help keep them totally focused. Changing up the length of each contest will keep reps on their toes and influence specific behavior.

3) Change the prizes for every contest

(Are you seeing a theme here?) Switch up your prizes to keep your reps engaged. What is a sales rep going to do with 10 plaques? 10 iTunes gift cards? 10 of anything? Repetitive prizes lose meaning and your reps won’t stay focused.

Another way to change up the prizes is by implementing both individual and team contests. Individual prizes could be cash, gift cards, vacations, or even a headset spray-painted gold. Team prizes are great bonding opportunities: sports game tickets, race car driving lessons, a gift certificate to a team dinner.

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4) Create contests that your top rep doesn’t win all the time

Does the same rep win most of your contests? If so, give him or her a bonus and come up with new sales contest ideas to motivate the other reps on your team.

5) Don’t always use sports as a theme

It gets old pretty quickly, and frankly… it’s a lazy choice. What is a common language that your whole sales team speaks? The themes should be something everyone can relate to so it inspires competition.

6) Create a specific start and end date

If your contest is supposed to endure for all of Q1, don’t introduce it mid-January. The rules of each contest, including time period, should be strict. This helps with tracking results and also gives the contest credibility.

7) Get your heavy hitters to play along

Most sales teams have one or a few veteran reps that have been on the team the longest. When you hold contests for your outbound prospecting team, have your top Inside Sales Reps (ISRs) play along with the goals to help light a fire under the outbound team. For example, if the contest is centered on who can record the most calls in one week, have your top ISR record his own calls and make a lot of noise about it as if he was a part of the contest. Younger reps will look up to his example and will be motivated to compete hard in the contest.

8) Measure the contest and have results available in real time

Sales contests should include metrics that your reps know and can track using the CRM. Measure these results and make them available to all reps at all times. Announce the current rankings during team meetings to keep your reps excited. If you’re holding an individual contest having to do with revenue or booking numbers, check out our Free Sales Leaderboard App on the Salesforce AppExchange, which displays the real-time performance of your top 5 reps. Here at InsightSquared, we show this leaderboard on big-screen televisions mounted in several places in our office.

9) Test your contest strategy

As with any coaching experiment, test your strategy. Let’s take the example of the contest for most Connects by noon tomorrow from #2: at 5pm tomorrow, take a look at the call report. If each rep makes around 30 calls before noon on a normal day and they make 30 calls tomorrow, then they clearly didn’t respond well to the contest. Always ask them for feedback – why they responded well to a contest or why they didn’t.

10) Don’t get lazy about running sales contests

Hold contests as much as you can, but don’t become nonchalant about them. I can’t stress enough the importance of following through with your contests from beginning to end. Set a strict beginning and end, center each contest on a clear and specific goal, vary contests, talk about them a lot, test them afterward and share results, and ask for feedback. The more seriously you take these contests, the more seriously your reps will.


What helpful sales contest ideas do you have? What contest goals or themes have worked best for your team? We’d love to hear your thoughts below!

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