Creative Sales Competition Ideas to Spark Big Wins

Need to motivate your sales team members? A creative contest is a tried and true way to stoke their fires with some healthy competition — not to mention the awesome prizes. Too many organizations, however, offer the same type of challenge with the same incentives year after year. If you truly want to get results, it is time to shake it up. Keep your team from falling into a rut with the same old contest when you try one of our favorite outside-the-box sales competition ideas.

Salesperson of the Month

Okay, so it may not the most creative idea you’ve ever heard, but an ongoing monthly contest will get the job done. Offer a coveted prize for the team member with the best sales numbers every month. It could be a special parking spot, a gift certificate, a cash incentive, a day off or any combination of those prizes. Switch up the rewards every month to keep this classic sales competition fun and fresh.

Team-Wide Goals

Rather than an individual contest in which your team members are competing against each other, this contest encourages staff to work together to bolster their performance. The implementation is where you can get creative; otherwise, you will just need a big goal that the staff will need to work together to meet, a prize that everyone will enjoy and a visual way of tracking progress throughout the course of the contest. Spice it up with team-building events like pep rallies each week so that participants will maintain their momentum.

Flash Friday is a great example of a collaborative team sales competition. Near the end of the month, sales may slow as team members hold onto deals to get a jumpstart on the next month’s quotas. Announce a flash contest on Monday with a team goal that will allow everyone to take a half day on Friday. Everyone loves a free afternoon, so you will find that your team will really work together to push their numbers over the edge. The combination of spontaneity and a tight timeframe combine to make this contest a motivational success.

In another collaborative competition, pair high performers with team members who need a bit of help. Emphasize the importance of meeting the goal together by sharing ideas and brainstorming as a partnership. By the end of the week, the pair with the most sales receives the prize — and the new kids on the block will boost their skills and confidence from their built-in mentors.

Yankee Swap

This holiday-themed contest is a good way to combat the December sales slowdown. The rules are simple: Set a sales threshold and stock the office with a predetermined number of wrapped gifts. Every time a team member makes a sale over that threshold, they get to choose a gift. The catch? The next person to beat their numbers can decide to pick a new gift or steal a gift that has already been opened. This keeps team members motivated even after they have already hit their mark. This contest hits two psychological sweet spots that determine individual motivation: freedom of choice and variable rewards (if we do not know what the prize will be, we are more likely to want it).

Jar of Cash

This one-day sales contest is designed to improve metrics toward a specific goal. Set a dollar amount for each metric, such as $1 for every in-person client contact scheduled and $5 for every closed deal. When someone achieves one of those goals, add the designated amount to the jar and put the jar on their desk. Whoever has the jar on their desk at 5 p.m. gets to keep the money, which creates a flurry of activity toward the end of the day to bolster your numbers. This contest works best for a small sales team that works on site.

Fishing for Leads

This contest involves delving into a long list of prospects that have not been contacted in some time. Divide the list up among your sales team and offer a prize for the person who can get the most conversions from members of the list in a specified time period. If you love a theme and you think your team would “bite,” choose a fishing-themed prize like a day on a charter boat or a seafood dinner at the best restaurant in town. This competition is good to motivate a multi-level team since it starts everyone on a level playing field regardless of their sales history.

This is also a great contest to try when your team has been in a slump. In one variation, you could challenge the team to return to longtime clients to up-sell products and services. Another month, assign every team member one or two “big fish” — clients that you have been after for some time without success. Offer a special prize to anyone who can reel in one of these MVPs.

Fantasy Sales

This type of competition was touted in a 2015 issue of the Harvard Business Review for its creation of transparency in the workplace; ability to drive healthy competition while promoting a team approach to sales; and the feedback, recognition and energy that bolstered the employees’ motivation. The strategy is simple: Set up a sales team database using the same structure as a fantasy football league. Start by choosing between two and four metrics to track benchmarks and goals. Not only will your sales team be motivated by prizes, they will love being able to track progress in real time. You can choose to run the contest for a specific time period, like a month, or set up an entire season complete with playoffs and a championship. This approach works best in an office staffed by sports fans who are likely already familiar with this type of competition.

Sales Madness

Another great option for sports fans is a March Madness-style competition. This can help you heat up your sales numbers as you enter spring. Build a bracket that features your sales staff members in head-to-head competition. Each week, whoever gets the most sales in each pairing will move on to the next round. You can have one big prize at the end for the ultimate winner, or add smaller prizes at each level for those skilled enough to advance.

Raffle Tickets

With this type of sales competition, award each team member one raffle ticket each time they meet a specific benchmark, such as closing a sale or reaching a predetermined quota. At the end of the month, raffle off one big prize or a series of small prizes. The more raffle tickets one wins, the better their chances. This combines the motivating elements of competition with the element of surprise that makes it even more fun.

Trade Show Challenge

If your team often attends trade shows together, turn this into an opportunity to bolster sales by announcing a contest that spans the length of the conference. This competition can also tie in with the raffle tickets mentioned above.

Sales Bingo

This contest is a good way to get everyone up to speed quickly if you hire a few sales reps at once. Fill a bingo card with different objectives you want them to complete in their first month on the job, such as cold calling a client, getting their first sale, or meeting a specific sales threshold. The first team member to complete the whole card wins.

Creative Pitch Contest

This short-term contest is a fun, engaging idea for a team retreat. Have individuals or pairs come up with a creative pitch and present it to the entire group. Everyone will vote on the best strategy, and that team will receive a prize. If you want to encourage your sales staff to start thinking outside the box, try spending a few hours brainstorming together. This exercise can drive valuable conversation about what works when it comes to marketing your products and services.

Tips to Make it Work

When creating your sales competition, start by asking yourself these key questions recommend by Insight Squared:

  • Do I want to focus on increasing individual performance or team-building?
  • Are there certain sales team behaviors or tactics I want to increase with this contest?
  • What are the rules of the contest? Spelling these out in an understandable way is critical.
  • What is the theme of the contest? Choose a tone and structure that make sense for your team.

Think about brainstorming with the entire team or a few representatives to find out what they want out of a contest. For example, some team members would be embarrassed by public recognition, so a competition in which that occurs can actually be demotivating for those individuals.

Make it Fair for Everyone

Because every sales contest should be used to promote a specific behavior, the goal for every competition should be different. In addition to revenue goals, think about measuring objectives like customer satisfaction rates, number of cold calls and quality of data metrics. This strategy not only improves performance in many different ways, it ensures that your top performer will not win every single month. Switching up the reward keeps the contests from getting stale. For large sales teams, consider creating tiers of competition based on sales numbers to give everyone a fair shot.

Get Everyone On Board

Make sure all members of the management team are on board with the specifics of the sales competition before rolling it out to the staff. Clearly communicate the objectives, goals and rewards for the contest, along with other pertinent information, in a single email. Do not forget to include the start and end date of the contest, the name and theme of the contest if applicable, whether it is a team or individual contest, the metrics for winning and how the goals will be tracked.

Stay Organized

The best sales competitions are structured in a way that promotes collaboration and teamwork along with healthy competition. Stay organized by keeping the terms of the contest simple and transparent, posted in a place that is accessible to everyone. A kick-off meeting is a great place to get team buy-in for the idea and answer everyone’s questions. Changing the goals every month also keeps it fresh. For example, you can reward the largest individual sale rather than the largest cumulative sales.

Visual Intrigue

An eye-catching way to visualize progress is also an important motivator. This can be as detailed as a software-based dashboard or as simple as a large whiteboard where everyone reports their sales in a specific color each day. Involving your sales team in the process of choosing the type of competition or the prizes awarded will create an investment in the ultimate results, increasing commitment and enthusiasm. It should go without saying, but delivering the incentives promised in a timely manner is a critical element of any sales program. If you name a prize for a contest, make sure you have the means to provide it. It is okay if you do not have the budget for big monetary prizes. Consider making the reward a special privilege, like the ability to choose lunch for the Monday meeting.

Determine the Prizes

If you do have the money to work with, personal bonuses can be a powerful motivator. Allow each team member to name his or her own sales goal and desired reward. You will often find that they set a much tougher challenge for themselves than you would have, and they will be given the opportunity to work toward a goal they have chosen themselves. On the other hand, some experts recommend offering physical prizes rather than cash rewards, since they provide a lasting memory of the success.

As a small business, you may be hesitant to invest your limited funds in a sales competition. If you need more capital to bolster your day-to-day business operations, consider the help of a reputable online small business lender.


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