Blog archive

Building a Culture of High Performance: Sales Games

At this time of the year, sales management must look at pipeline levels and goals for the fourth quarter and determine if there is the necessary level of activity to ensure targets will be exceeded.

Organizations certainly need to focus on the short-term, 30-day sales cycle and the end of the year. But they also need to have a longer-term perspective. As an executive, you must also focus on creating an atmosphere of fun, high performance and teamwork.

In this blog, I wanted to share a few ideas from my books on sales management: Leading High-Performance Sales Teams and Creating Sales Compensation Plans for High Performance. In both books, I share ideas for sales contests/games, as well as how to properly roll them out and manage them. In many cases I have seen great sales-contest ideas poorly executed. It is critical you think through what your objectives are and what you want the results to be, and then clearly write down the objectives, rules and incentives.

The first rule is to remember that cash is not what you want to use during sales games -- that is what your commission plan is designed to achieve. The second rule is that creating fun in your sales culture is the main outcome. Sure, you may wish to add "net new clients" or sell certain products/services and increase sales, but it is sales leadership's objective to make the sales contest a fun experience. If it isn't fun, it isn't selling.

You might enjoy this video on "Building a High-Performance Culture."

Different types of contests will help you achieve different goals. Some contests 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 your customers' larger campaigns. Still others can consist of short-term incentive games designed to motivate sales personnel to accomplish specific objectives by a specific deadline.

A Contest Sampler
Following are a few typical goals, along with ideas for contests that may help achieve them:

  • Increasing sales volume. Consider adding a cash bounty for each additional new seat, new customer or revenue sold beyond a certain target value. 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. Keep a visible scorecard of your goals and results so that everyone maintains a constant awareness of your objectives.

  • Acquiring new clients. To boost the number of new clients you add each quarter, consider creating a "bounty bonus" plan. For example, salespeople could 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 or net new revenues. You might even create and post "Most 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 prospecting activity contest in March, April and May. For instance, award sales team members points for each new face-to-face call or sales demonstrations 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.

Competition Considerations
Following are some issues to consider and questions to answer as you plan sales contests:

  • Determine what you want the contest to accomplish.
  • Set the ground rules. Are all sales executives on an equal basis for the contest?  Be sure to put the rules in writing, making provisions for those and other situations that could arise.
  • Make the contest length the same as the sales cycle.
  • Set specific goals that can be measured weekly or monthly.
  • Incorporate an exciting theme.
  • Consider making rewards gifts, rather than cash.
  • Boost team members' motivation by getting their families involved.
  • Never run contests to the last day of the month or sales period.

Posted by Ken Thoreson on August 19, 2013 at 11:02 AM


  • Microsoft Adds Privileged Identity Management Delegation to Azure Lighthouse

    The commercial release of Privileged Identity Management (PIM)-enabled Azure Lighthouse delegations is now available, Microsoft on Monday announced.

  • Microsoft Commercially Releases Entra Workload Identities

    Microsoft announced on Monday that its Entra Workload Identities service is now available as a commercial product offering, having reached the "general availability" stage.

  • The 2022 Microsoft Product Roadmap

    Microsoft has a lot in the docket for 2022, including new products like SQL Server 2022, Exchange Subscription Edition and Visual Studio 2022 for Mac.

  • OpenSSF Adopts Microsoft Open Source Software Security Guidelines

    The Open Source Security Foundation (OpenSSF) announced on Wednesday that it has adopted the Secure Supply Chain Consumption Framework (S2C2F) for ensuring the secure use of open source software (OSS) by developers.