What’s the difference between bad sales contest and corporate rat race ? Nothing. It’s a matter of a sales management.

Too many contests return too little on investment because they lack purpose, planning, and profitability. Contestants chase the cheese on instinct in confusion and consternation.

Rainmakers don’t share the cheese.

Sales managers want to encourage competition. But, if their sales contest only rewards the top finishers, it appeals to those contestants certain of winning. If you want to maximize the performance of the top performers, start sales competition. You don’t have to do much more than put the prize at the finish line.

Your top gun knows what needs doing – and will not do much more. In a rat race, once the winner has the cheese, there is no need to go on. Moreover, the rainmaker does not share. The only legacy of a rat race is a winner with a little more cholesterol.

It takes more than moving the cheese. Sales contests can help you avoid corporate rat race.Corporate rat race

If you want a return on your investment in sales incentives, you must communicate your sales contest so clearly that employees see, feel, and taste it. You want it to be fun and engaging. And, you need to make a winner out of the contest itself, and that takes sales management control.

  • Purpose

A productive sales contest aims “to increase a statistic or improve the result of tasks.” The purpose may increase sales revenue by increasing leads, converting leads, closing sales, increasing bundled sales, reducing inventory, and so on. Departmental success in any of these areas brings return on investment – if the purpose is clear.

  • Metrics

Planning must determine the key performance indicators. It is no time to introduce new metrics, so publish your measurement rules clearly. Choose only one or two metrics, but make the tracking data clear, transparent, and shareable.

  • Prize

Sales contests are not a part of the compensation package (usually). There is no profit in confusing cash awards as entitlements earned or denied. Travel or merchandise awards can relate to themes and avoid the compensation-commission confusion and corporate rat race. Awards that brand the performer, team, or division can be as cheap as a certificate or plaque and still have a maximum effect – if the contest is well structured and communicated. But, the best prize approach may came from your survey of employee wishes and feedback to determine what their perceived value.

  • Communication

To visualize purpose, processes, and performance, use emails, posters, spreadsheets, bulletins, newsletters, and more. Create a leaderboard available to all participants and non-participants throughout the business. Self-interest will drive contestants to improve outcomes.

  • Who is the public?

Broaden performance pressure by sharing the buzz with internal influencers – customer service, shipping/receiving, and marketing/development. They have a vested – if not personal – interest in the success. Other internal influencers include the clerical and administrative staffs that support the sales section. They have a related personal interest even if there is no personal payoff.

External influencers include spouses, partners, children, and friends. To the extent that leadership can, you want to share the prize literature and leaderboard progress with them.

  • What do you say?

The message needs sharing repeatedly and imaginatively. Communications should cover the contest target, metrics, timing, and awards. Solid and thorough, it contributes to the sense of fair play and transparency.

You need to get beyond paper. Signs, posters, and flyers play a real role, but you need to explore use of emails, cross-corporate mailings, e-bulletins, and social media. Exploit visual and video media with messages from sales leadership, CEO, and stakeholders.

Return on Investment

According to a Marketing Innovators® white paper, “Firms spend more than a trillion dollars annually on sales-force expenditures—more than they spend on any other promotional tactic.” And, while a significant number of companies are beginning to value and measure the return on investment of sales contests, there is not enough research to model experience. However, return on investment (say, 10%) seems the logical place to start contest planning, the budgeting goal around which to assemble the plan and its process. Without your sales management, your sales competition finds its own level as a counter-productive corporate rat race.

Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane & bplanet/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net