Why Traditional Sales Competitions Are Flawed

Adam Hollander

By Simon Owens

Ask the average person what he knows about sales competitions and he’ll likely quote a famous scene from the movie Glengarry Glen Ross. In it, an insolent and abusive Alec Baldwin addresses a demoralized sales team and lists the prizes in the company’s upcoming sales competition. “As you all know, the first prize is a Cadillac Eldorado,” he says. “Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you’re fired.”

For the rest of the film the characters struggle to convert business leads into sales, but they’ve already resigned themselves to the reality that Ricky Roma, Al Pacino’s character, is a shoe-in for the Cadillac. And while the movie casts the sales profession in a particularly depressing light, one that doesn’t necessarily reflect reality, it does get one thing right: sales competitions do little to motivate salesmen who know they have no real contention for the top prize.

Adam Hollander recognized this flaw back when he managed his own sales teams. “Every sales team has a set of top performers,” he said in a phone interview. “It doesn’t matter if you have five people on your team or 5,000, every sales team has a top 20 percent that unsurprisingly wins most sales contests. They’re at the top of the leaderboard. They’re the ones who are taking home the prizes. And as a sales manager, you have to take a step back and ask yourself whether your top reps are really the ones that need the extra push? Most managers would say, ‘No, my top reps are self propelled. They’re motivated anyway. They’re always going to crush it whether I give them a prize or not.’”

Instead, Hollander argued, managers are concerned with motivating the middle 50 percent of sales teams. “They’re not motivated by contests,” he said. “In fact, it’s the opposite: they get frustrated and demotivated because almost from the get-go they say to themselves, ‘That’s great, we all would like to take home that prize, but somebody in that top 20 percent will get it.’ That’s because everyone knows who they are and sees them winning over and over again.”

That’s how Hollander ended up founding Fantasy Sales Team, a sales gamification platform. You’ve likely heard of how gamification apps have been leveraged for everything from weight loss to boosting consumer engagement. A Salesforce survey found that 71 percent of companies using gamification with their sales teams “said that they are seeing anywhere from 11% to 50% increases in measured sales performance.” At the same time, according to Gallup, disengaged workers cost American companies up to $350 billion a year in revenue — a problem that gamification seeks to solve.

[LIKE THIS ARTICLE SO FAR? THEN YOU’LL WANT TO FOLLOW US ON TWITTER TO GET THE LATEST CRM AND SALES INSIGHTS]

Ironically, Hollander didn’t even realize at first that his company specialized in gamification; he didn’t even hear of the term until after his team had already secured at least 50 clients. But even though he didn’t know the appropriate buzzword, he had figured out the metrics and structures that would actually motivate a sales team:

Don’t just focus on revenue

At first glance, it may seem like a sales competition should be about generating more sales, but in reality you should focus on motivating your employees to complete the concrete actions that actually lead to sales. And what are these actions? Phone calls lead to sales. Client meetings lead to sales. Product demos lead to sales. So if you motivate your employees to perform more of these actions, they’ll start producing more sales. “Every rep, regardless if they’re a top performer or not, has control over their day-to-day activities and how hard they’re going to push,” said Hollander. “And if you allow folks to compete on that basis, then it helps to level the playing field and mitigates the problem that if you just focus on one type of results (revenue) then you’ll just motivate top performers.”

Because all these actions are logged in the CRM, then it becomes incredibly easy to track all of them and ascribe points to different kinds of activity. “So you can say we’re going to give you one point for every 10 calls you make and when you close a deal we’ll give you three points.” And you can also run several contests at once; one may be based on the most revenue brought in while the other is judged by the number of phone calls. That way, if an employee begins falling behind on one metric then he doesn’t lose motivation to keep competing.

Visualize your data

One great offering of gamification tools like Fantasy Sales Team is that they allow you to project your metrics onto virtually any screen, whether it’s a large television on your wall or individuals’ smartphones. Hollander said you should not only display multiple leaderboards tied to a variety of metrics, but you should also create visual and audio cues to acknowledge successes. “We allow reps to make BAM!s, which are video celebrations when accomplishments are made,” he explained. “They can be virtual gongs, fireworks, champagne bottles popping, and then all of a sudden all the TVs will shift to an animated video saying, ‘Josh just closed a big deal!’ and everyone can clap for them.”

Test out different prizes

Many sales managers probably assume that the biggest motivator for their teams would be a large monetary prize. But this isn’t necessarily the case. “We’ve seen lots of companies use more intrinsic rewards,” said Hollander. “Like dinner with your sales manager, a day of paid time off, or reserved parking for a month. We even had a company that said the winner of their game got to get up on spage and pie their CEO in the face. They said that was the most fun prize they ever had, and it motivated the reps more than any other prize they had put into place.”

Get the entire staff involved

Fantasy Sales Team, taking a page from fantasy sports games, also allows employees outside the sales team to put together sales “dream teams” and compete on that level. “So everybody from the CEO to the receptionist builds their own virtual roster just like you do in fantasy football,” said Hollander. “So just like if I choose Tom Brady for my team and he scores a touchdown and I get seven points in fantasy football, if I choose David in sales as my first baseman in my fantasy team, if he makes a ton of calls and closes a ton of deals, I’m earning points based on his performance. And that model is why this really works; it creates an environment where everybody depends on the success of everybody around them.”

***

It’s all too easy for sales to become a lonely profession, one where every man and woman feels they’re on their own. And because of this you’ll see enthusiasm and motivation wane when someone’s having a bad sales month or a few bad breaks. It’s only when you make your sales team feel like they’re part of a family, one that’s only as strong as its weakest link, that you can make all your employees, not just the top performers, feel as if they have a sense of purpose. Despite its name, gamification isn’t just fun and games, it’s the thread that ties your employees — your family away from home — together.

Are you ready to take your business to the next level with cutting-edge CRM technology? Go here to learn more.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.