At this time of year sales management must be looking at pipeline levels and goals for the 4th quarter and determining if there is the necessary level of activity to ensure targets will be exceeded. Organizations  need to focus certainly on the short term-30 days sales cycle and end of 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 article 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, remember 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-surely you may wish to add “net new client’s” or sell certain products/services and increase sales-but it is sales leaderships objective to make the sales contest is a fun experience. “If it isn’t fun, it isn’t selling”.

Different types of contests will help you achieve different goals. Some 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.

Ken Thoreson “operationalizes” sales management systems and processes that pull revenue out of the doldrums into the fresh zone. During the past 14 years, our consulting, advisory, and platform services have illuminated, motivated, and rejuvenated the sales efforts for partners throughout North America. Ken’s latest book is: “Leading High Performance Sales Teams”.


About the author

Ken Thoreson

Ken Thoreson

Ken Thoreson “operationalizes” sales management systems and processes that pull revenue out of the…

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