Selling Microsoft

Playing to Win: Using Sales Contests to Hit Your Goals

Goals and ideas for growing sales organically -- and adding some fun to the process.

Sales contests are important ingredients in exceeding your revenue targets, building high-performing sales teams and even creating the right organizational culture-one that's both sales-driven and fun.

Different types of contests can help you achieve different goals. Some should be held annually to address sales objectives, company business strategies and potential seasonal fluctuations. Others can be scheduled as needed to help launch new products or services, promote new releases or upgrades or tie into larger Microsoft campaigns. Still others are short-term incentive games designed to motivate sales personnel to accomplish specific objectives by a specific deadline.

Following are some typical goals and ideas for contests that may help achieve them:

  • Increasing sales volume. Consider adding a cash bounty for each additional new seat or license sold beyond a certain target. Set a quarter-to-date objective above your sales goal; that way, everyone on the team can win.
  • Improving customer service. Periodically survey your entire customer base. If satisfaction reaches a certain goal (for instance, when 95 percent of your clients say they're "highly satisfied"), and if your company is profitable, everyone gets a cash bonus.
  • Acquiring new clients. To boost the number of new clients you add each quarter, consider creating a "bounty bonus" plan. For example, salespeople earn a bounty bonus -- either in cash or in points that can be redeemed for rewards-for each new client or each competitive replacement of a specific vendor's customer. In addition, you could offer bounty bonuses for salespeople who exceed their quarterly or annual quotas for new accounts. You might even post "wanted" posters -- with the bounties prominently displayed-to help keep salespeople focused on contest objectives.
  • Overcoming seasonal slumps. If your sales typically slow down over the summer, try launching a sales prospecting activity contest in March, April and May. For example, award sales team members points for each new face-to-face call or sales demonstration that they make during those months, with accumulated points eventually eligible for prizes. Such an effort can go a long way toward increasing the number of opportunities in the pipeline from June through August.

Following are some issues to keep in mind as you plan sales contests:

  • Determine what you want the contest to accomplish. Will it add incremental new business levels or simply shift future orders to a nearer term?
  • Set the ground rules. Are all sales executives on an equal basis for the contest? Can everyone win-or just certain team members?
  • Make the contest length the same as the sales cycle. A 30-day sales contest won't be effective because, of course, all prospects are already in the pipeline, ready to close.
  • Set specific goals that can be measured weekly or monthly. Create a visible tracking tool to show the results.
  • Incorporate an exciting theme. If your top prize is a dream vacation, post pictures of the destination and build your annual sales slogan or motto around the goal of winning that trip.
  • Consider making rewards gifts, rather than cash. Salespeople may want you to "show them the money," but, in truth, cash bonuses are typically wasted and soon forgotten. Instead, try awarding something tangible, whether it's a laser pointer, a gift certificate to a local store or an expenses-paid weekend getaway.
  • Boost team members' motivation by getting their families involved. For long-term games involving significant gifts or major trips, send rules and teaser gifts to salespeople's homes after announcing the contest at work. Send congratulatory letters to winners' homes as well.
  • Never run contests to the last day of the month or sales period. Halting them five days before the end allows time for making your month's objectives. If all goes well, you'll exceed your targets -- with nearly a week to spare.

About the Author

Ken Thoreson is managing director of the Acumen Management Group Ltd., a North American consulting organization focused on improving sales management functions within growing and transitional organizations. You can reach him at ken@acumenmgmt.com.

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