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Sales Eye - You may already be a winner! (June 21st, 2004)



You may already be a winner!

21st June 2004 


Ah, the ubiquitous sales contest. Every company has them and every sales rep knows them well. If done correctly, there's no better way to motivate your sales reps to achieve some tangible short or medium-term goal.


That's right - YOU could win any number of these great prizes:

•Toaster Oven

•Two-week romantic vacation to Cyprus

•Top of the line SONY DVD Player

And of course, a lifetime supply of Rice-a-Roni - The San Francisco Treat!


Ah, the ubiquitous sales contest. Every company has them and every sales rep knows them well. If done correctly, there's no better way to motivate your sales reps to achieve some tangible short or medium-term goal. Done wrong, and you'll just end up pissing everyone off, and losing the confidence and motivation of your sales team.


Are sales people bored with your incentive programs? If so, here are some key issues to consider when organizing a sales contest:


Why run a sales contest?

Salespeople are competitive; they like to challenge themselves and others. Most of all they like to win! A well-organized contest can raise performance standards, boost morale in the office and just make the job more fun.


What is the main objective of your contest?

The main goal of a sales contest is to increase performance in a specific area. You might want to build your customer base, improve customer satisfaction or increase the number of calls your call center makes. Sales contests are also great venues to introduce new products or services or promote stock clearance. Regardless, start with what 'action' you want to see improved and build your contest from there. Make sure that some extra effort is required to win - if not, it's a waste of time.



Prizes generally fall into four categories: money, merchandise, travel or special recognition. Many companies use a combination offering, for instance, a trip plus cash reward to the grand winner, or a plaque (trophy) together with that free toaster oven. Most agree that money alone is not the top motivator, although surveys show that over 50 percent of companies use money rewards exclusively. Merchandise can serve as a more permanent measure of achievement.


How many prizes?

Prizes where everyone can win something will maintain the entire team's attention during the duration of the contest. If you only have one grand prize, people might stop working after Sylwia signs one huge order for half a million zlotys! We recommend you have several prizes (first, second, third - like the Olympics), but also have a little something for everyone who improves. If you have ten people on your sales team and only one person wins, the remaining nine feel like losers.


Team contest

You might want to divide your sales staff into teams that compete against each other for the grand prize. This helps develop team spirit and also boost morale. Many companies tie this in with some sort of sports theme. The World Cup or the Olympics make great themes, as prizes and promotions follow easily. You can also give nice consolation prizes to the second-place team, so that all participants get something.


Full staff contest

Very similar to the team contest is the full staff contest, where the entire staff can win if they reach their goal. In this regard, the team is competing towards a goal and everyone encourages each other to perform in order to win the group prize. In our company, we enlist the support of our suppliers who will add prizes or cash for selling more of their product. Our group contest looks something like this: if we can double last year's turnover of 'Jerzees products' from May to July, the entire sales team will win a weekend trip to Vienna.


Contest duration and frequency

In most cases, a contest should not be shorter than a month, and not longer than three months. If it is too long, they will get bored and lose interest. Two sales contests a year is reasonable, but if you have them too often, they are no longer special, and sales reps may come to expect them as a regular part of their job and compensation package.


Results and promotion

Promote the contest on a weekly basis. You need to show results in order to increase enthusiasm and keep sales reps working toward their goal. If reps know they are close to reaching the next level, they will try that much harder and stay that much later in the office. Contest results should be part of your weekly sales meeting and should also be posted in the office for everyone to see. Sales reps love being at the top of a list, and they equally hate being at the bottom. It is also OK to let other departments know what is happening, so they can encourage reps to perform and congratulate them on their successes.



Keep It Simple Stupid! Sales contests should be easy to understand. They should also be fair; creating a contest where the person with the highest sales wins usually is not a good idea. Most of the newer and weaker reps never get off the starting line because they know that reps with the best 'client list' will always win. Instead, base the contest on percentage improvement or percent over budget - that way reps with a lower sales budget can win even if they have lower sales than the superstar who has been with the company for years.


Finally, remember that sales contests should be designed to boost short-term performance. They should be fun, motivating and should help build morale in the office. Of course if that doesn't work, you can always borrow the sales contest from one of our favorite sales movies, "Glengarry Glen Ross," (1992) starring Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Kevin Spacey, Ed Harris, and Alec Baldwin as Blake, the kick-ass sales manager.


Blake: "We're adding a little something to this month's sales contest.


As you all know, first prize is a Cadillac Eldorado.


Anybody want to see second prize?"


[Holds up prize]


"Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you're fired."



From Warsaw Business Journal by John Lynch, Matt Lynch -"The Sales Brothers"