Contests Motivation

How to Build Friendly Sales Competitions

Scott Leese

Salespeople are inherently competitive.  It’s in their DNA. Many were athletes in high school, college, and some at the professional level. They know what it means to be a good teammate and to compete.

They play by the rules. They understand the team comes first. They know how to get up after getting knocked down. They compete and fight until the very end. They can be competitive and stay within the spirit of friendly competition.  It’s why they decided to pursue one of the most  fiercely competitive professions there is, sales. 

You want people like this on your team.  

What are the best types of friendly competition?

There are different forms of competition with specific  goals in mind.  They are friendly,  competitive, they may be fun, but they all serve a purpose.  Some may be focused on readiness and preparation, refining our messaging, others about teamwork and striving to reach higher goals. In the end, it’s about improving and getting better everyday.  

Let’s cover three types of competition with these specific goals in mind.   

Fast and Furious       

The first competition is “Fast and Furious”, an adrenaline pumping competition serving as an indication of readiness and preparation. The manager starts off the day with “I’ve got two tickets to the Rage Against the Machine reunion tour burning a hole in my pocket, looking to give away to the first person who sets a demo or a meeting by 11am today.”

The goal and instructions are simple, time-based and imminent. Perfect to exercise fast twitch muscles and get the neurons firing away. It’s before the game, at the starting line. It’s the athlete inside. Sales people like it because it’s fast, the prize is for the taking and has immediate gratification. It’s now, it’s an experience, and it’s attainable.          

Fast and Furious” develops and refines the adaptive skills and the ongoing conditioning needed in sales. You cannot predict when the customer will be calling in or when you have them on the line. No time to sharpen the pencils, tweak your scripts, “it’s go time.” You can customize and create your own competitive versions of these competitions, and you should. Variety is the spice of life, so apply it here as well.

This is not all fun and games. It’s an effective tool to assess the readiness and preparation of the team. How prepared, precise and organized were they out of the gate? Did they fumble, shuffle through, get off the line slow?  Were they exact, efficient and successful?  Like a track athlete coming out of the blocks, or the defensive lineman getting off on the snap of the ball, it’s about reaction time and preparation. So when do we review our readiness?   

Immediately following is the best time for group feedback. What was most effective? What worked, what didn’t?  All great learning lessons captured in a very short period of time. As much as this may be about results, and getting the first demo, “Fast and Furious” is more an indication of preparation, and how ready they are to play.  The end goal is about making adjustments and improvements like you do after every game. Perfectionism is a disease. It’s not about being perfect, but getting better every day. Progress, not perfection, is the goal here.

Best Value Proposition

Another competition is “BVP” or the best value proposition. This is where each salesperson writes out and submits anonymously their best value prop, and the best rebuttal to an objection they faced. The team listens to all, and then votes on the best. It’s a great way to learn from your peers, align and refine your messaging, and take in different perspectives. 

You can do it anytime, maybe monthly or quarterly to stay fresh. This is great for new hires and trainees in particular as they acclimate to their new selling environment. These work really well for virtual team meetings and happy hours. Listen to calls together as a group. Break them down as a group. Role play as a group. Don’t let distance hold you back from getting and giving feedback.

Destination Competition

Next, is a more formalized, longer form competition that also includes support team members within the sales organization. Let’s call it “Destination.”

1) Start by forming teams combining sales and support. No more than three people per team. Forming teams serves multiple purposes; creating new relationships, collaboration and cross functional teamwork. It’s a great way to appreciate and learn about other roles and responsibilities in the organization.

2) Keep it simple. Stay within the current day to day metrics, or the same “activity-based” metrics in play today. It’s not only about what you do, but doing it more effectively. To set goals, take your daily or weekly activity metrics and multiply by 1.20 representing the initial “stretch goal” with incremental increases of .025 thereafter per step, as the competition progresses to the final destination. Sales athletes understand it gets harder in the 4th quarter, as you get closer to the goal. You don’t reward for what’s expected, you reward for what’s on the other side of expectations.

3) Each step represents the flow leading to a sale; dials, conversions, appointments, demos, proposals, or whatever makes sense for your organization. Do not include actual sales results at this point (overly complicates). Total team sales serves as a tiebreaker, if it comes into play.  This competition is about teamwork, and driving the right behaviors with activity at the center. 

4) The competition has a starting point and a final  destination.  As each team meets/exceeds the assigned measurement goal for each step in the journey, starting with the first step, they move to the next level up. Teams that don’t achieve the goal, stay where they are and don’t move. The first team that reaches the final destination wins the prize, bragging rights and all the other good stuff that comes along with it.  Best to keep the contest duration to 60 days or less, as longer periods only run the risk of the  team losing focus and continuity.

5)  Important that it’s visual-based, with a “Map” displayed on the office walls. Teams create their own names, emoji, and team personas. You want everyone seeing how the teams are progressing on their journey. This is where you see the creativity and imagination of the teams. Don’t micromanage this process. Let them be creative, and silly if they feel like it.

6) The Good Twist. The prize connects to the final destination, extending to an outside place. An experience is always better than a cash reward. A shared experience is even more powerful. This allows teams to better visualize and connect the contest to a destination, a real place they plan to celebrate victory as a team (more on this below). Remember, your aim here is to create fun, competitive office chatter between teams who “can’t’ wait to go to x place.”  

The final destination is up to you. My favorite, Costa Rica [of course].

Destination Examples

The Mount Rainier Summit Challenge – where teams start off by following the standard “Disappointment Cleaver” route from “Paradise” base camp, to “Camp Muir”, to “Cathedral Gap”, to “Ingraham Flats” to the Summit”, traversing 5 steps before reaching 14,411 feet, the top of the mountain. 

The team prize– connecting with the Mount Rainier journey and experience. The first team to reach the Summit of the majestic mountain wins the prize. It could be a day off from work with lunch at the “Paradise Lodge,” and day hiking as a team through the beautiful mountain meadows. Maybe, a REI backpack for future hiking trips and adventures. And all within budgets of course.  

Not in the country? Let’s move the competition to the city:

The New York City Adventure– same route concept as the Mt Rainier Challenge, so will be brief. In this case, the route could be from the NY office location, down the elevator across the street to the subway, cruise across town or hitting Uptown, Midtown, Tribeca to the final destination. [New Yorkers please forgive my route logic!]

The team prize – The first team to arrive at the destination wins the prize. It could be the restaurant they always wanted to go to, or to a Broadway show. Connecting the journey with the prize and destination, a real place, creates more meaning, allows the team to enjoy the moments outside and develop stronger relationships. It also makes the competition fuller with lasting memories that don’t go away. They will remember the experience.  

The End Goals

Salespeople and teams become better every day by getting closer and more connected with teammates. The end result here drives the right type of behaviors and results. 

They are sales athletes who want to operate at peak performance and levels. Let’s support our teams by creating conducive environments that are fun, friendly and drive results.  

I can’t think of anything more important than tapping into the sales athlete, the competitive spirit within. Now more than ever, when most of the world is experiencing a forced function and working remotely and connecting virtually and in need of community and culture, enjoy, and have fun creating friendly sales competitions. 

Scott Leese