Over the last year and a half at FantasySalesTeam, we’ve helped companies run hundreds of sales contests. A few weeks ago, Joe Goss, one of our client success managers and our resident Excel guru, took it upon himself to examine data generated from 164 games among our 100-plus clients, mostly inside sales teams. The sales teams were as small as four reps and as large as 2,800 reps. What he found about motivation is worth sharing.
Lesson #1: Run your sales contest for one to two months.
Having spent my entire career in sales and sales management, I’ve participated in and run my fair share of sales contests. Some run for a week, others for a year. So what’s the average length for a sales contest?
According to our findings, the average game length was 44 days, while the median was 31, showing that most of our clients are running sales contests for one to two months at a time. We advise customers to reset periodically by stopping one game and then starting a new one with new metrics, goals, awards, etc. This gives players who may have fallen behind a chance to start fresh. Also, this cadence allows sales managers change metrics and point values to align with their most current and pressing goals and metrics.
Lesson #2: Balance activity metrics with results metrics.
We tell every FantasySalesTeam customer to balance games between activity/behavior metrics (e.g., calls, meetings, pipeline) and results metrics (e.g., revenue or percentage of quota). This helps level the playing field to ensure that traditional top performers aren’t winning every time. In our analysis, we found a fairly good balance, with 61 percent of the metrics being activity based versus 39 percent results based.
The majority of our customers run inside sales teams, which are highly metrics driven. We found that many of our customers (15 percent) are measuring phone activity at almost twice the rate of other activity not related to the phone (8 percent), such as meetings or proposals. More importantly, pipeline is the top activity metric being measured (31 percent) and aligns well with our advice that pipeline metrics are the most important to focus on in a sales contest.
A number of our clients also incorporate bonus-point metrics into their games to increase the motivation factor. We pulled out some we liked best:
- Best Team Picture
- Random Acts of Kindness
- Sales on a Saturday
And our favorite…
- Number of Songs Sung to Customers
Lesson #3: Reward reps with experiences (not cash or prizes).
Based on general feedback that we’ve received from reps over the last two years – and we’ve talked to a lot of them – we recommend customers focus on giving experiences rather than physical prizes. Experiences tend to be less expensive, and more importantly, reps tend to remember them a lot more than they do a new TV or camera.
When we broke down the 393 different prizes (grouping together items such as cash or gift cards), we found that 53 percent could be classified as experiences, while 47 percent were physical items. (By the way, 73 percent of the physical items were cash, allowing winners to choose their own reward).
Here are some other motivation best practices for sales teams to consider.
- Leverage team competition. Team-based games and incentives get players (reps) pushing and relying on each other and are far more effective than individual-based contests.
- Create multiple ways to win. When you have only one way to win the incentive, inevitably players fall behind or out of contention. Create multiple paths to win and succeed to keep the team engaged longer.
- Update results frequently. The more often you update the results from your contest, the more engaged your reps will be. Better yet, tie the contest directly to your customer relationship management or call-center management system so the results update automatically!
- Make results highly visible. Ensure that the contest results and updates are front and center. Send out regular notifications, and display leaderboards throughout the office, ideally on TV screens.
- Hold a proper kickoff. Don’t just launch the contest through an email blast. Get everyone together in a room or through a call/Web meeting and showcase the structure, prizes, etc. Make sure there’s real excitement on day one.
- Get managers engaged. If managers are paying attention to the contest results, they will make sure their reps are paying attention. Find ways to engage the managers and ensure they are invested in the reps’ success.
- Measure, measure, measure. The point of a sales contest or incentive is not just to have fun or increase engagement but to drive improved results and activity. Make sure you know how you’re going to measure success so you can prove the return on investment and have the ability to do it again!