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Using contests to boost sales enablement

When you want above and beyond results from your sales team, you need to offer above and beyond compensation. One way to do that is by having contests. Contests are a great way to engage your sales team and provide the extra push for extra performance. Whether you’re in B2C or B2B, contests can be very effective because we are all consumers at heart, and we can all relate to the idea of winning something. Here’s how you can use contests to boost your sales enablement.

Define your objectives
First things first—as with all initiatives in marketing (and in life too), you’ll need to define your objectives before you do anything else. The purpose of a contest is to change behavior to achieve a desired result, in this case, to change the sales team’s behavior by getting them to do more of a certain behavior and/or less of another behavior. Why do you want to have a contest? What strategic objective do you hope to achieve through the contest? What metrics will you use to measure the contest’s success or failure?

Build the contest into your long term strategy
Ideally, a contest should help in the short term and in the long term. A poorly structured contest can increase sales in the short term, but cause them to fall in the long term, as reps simply move sales they knew they were going to get in the future to happen during the contest. Also, unlike selling perfume at the mall, the B2B sales process typically takes a long time.

Rather than making a contest about closing deals and essentially duplicating your commission program, make your contest about steps in the deal-closing process. For example, making a contest for getting in-person meetings with customers and prospects will set you up for more sales in the long term as your reps build relationships with customers and start them on the buying process.

Structure your contest to boost engagement
We all like winning, but some of us hate losing more than we like winning. Your top sales performers are likely very competitive and with competitive people, the fear of losing is often much stronger than the desire to win. They may approach the contest with an “if-I-don’t-play-I-can’t-lose” mindset, which doesn’t help you because if they aren’t engaged in the contest, then their behavior won’t change.

On the other side, your underperformers will often feel that they have no chance of winning against the big guys who are already dominating the sales department and also not engage with the contest.

This leaves two options: 1, rely on your middling sales reps to engage in the contest and hope your sales team is large enough that the folks in the middle of the spectrum can move the needle for you, or 2, structure the contest in a way that people at every level feel they can compete.

Look to boxing as an example for engaging your sales team. While the heavyweight championship gets most of the attention and glory, boxing has many different weight categories for fighters to compete in, including welterweight, bantamweight, and featherweight. Consider dividing your contest into tiers like boxing does, grouping salespeople together by performance, experience, or any other differentiator. This will make for a more fair contest and one that will engage all of your sales team.

Give the prize(s) out ASAP
Whatever the prize you promised, make sure to give it to the winner(s) as soon as possible and in as public a way as possible. People need to see that the prizes are real and attainable and that you are serious about the contest. This is especially important in the early stages of a longer contest (e.g. a month-long contest with weekly prizes). If possible, order the prize before the contest even begins, so you have it ready to give away as soon as you have a winner.

Measure the contest results
Assess the results of the contest. All marketing initiatives should lead to one thing: more business. If the contest moves the bottom line, it was a success. If not, go back to the drawing board and try again. Perhaps your objectives should be clearer or different.
Keep these tips in mind next time you need to boost sales or want to host a contest!

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