Incentivizing Greatness – Fire Up Reps and Obliterate Quota With These Creative Office Contests

Sales Incentives and Competitions

Healthy competition is always going to be key to a sales team’s success, but sometimes it’s fun to throw a little gasoline on the fire in order to meet and surpass those hard-to-reach sales quotas. Whether your office refers to them as incentives, spiffs, contests or something else, the goals are the same: Drive sales through the roof and make work a little more fun.

That subject was on the minds of quite a few members of our Sales Hacker Community on LinkedIn (which you should join if you haven’t already) recently, and the conversation that ensued included enough competition-inducing challenges to power your sales team for years to come. It’s just a sampling of some of the spontaneous and super valuable conversations about all aspects of sales we see on a daily basis. Striking the match this time was Kyle Norton of Vision Critical, who asked:

“I’m planning sales incentives for the next few quarters and would love to hear what have been some of the most effective spiffs that leaders have run (big and small)?”

Sales Competition Ideas Best Responses

Brian Birkett: I love using time off, specifically half days, as incentive spiffs. I’ve also done trips, electronics, and gift cards.

Jason Seeba: Cash and/or a celebration for hitting a team goal. Baseball games, pedicures (yes, this happened), paintball/happy hour (in either order), etc.

Ryan Hiscox: Big cash or travel prizes are awesome. But there is nothing that can replace a great team spiff. For example, a team outing at the Blue Jays Home Opener + dinner and the first 10 to accomplish x will get a seat at the game. This way a lot of people get to go and it builds the team environment in the process.

Kyle Norton: I am building a double elimination bracket tournament right now in which reps will go head-to-head each week for 6 weeks. I am also going to experiment with a team incentive based on www.stickk.com and an article I read in HBR. It’s unorthodox because it leverages negative reinforcement but worth trying I think. Two teams will each have a pool of event money and each week that someone misses their target, they have to give some of their money to the other team’s fund.

Richard Harris: Since most SDRs tend to be early in their career, they have not had a chance to attend some of the best industry shows that exist. When possible I suggest making spiffs that take reps to Saastr, Unleash, Dreamforce, etc.

All of these shows are in fact for lead gen purposes so it’s a great way to reward hard work with something industry-related and fun.

Another spiff I have seen is the winner gets to go to a local sales training session. Find one near you. Work out a deal with a trainer if they will do it. It’s a win-win, they get better, and hopefully you get some payoff too.

Chris Snell: One SPIFF that my team really resonated with was a really posh dinner with some members from the executive team (or as close to). The reps had to hit 125% of whatever the quota was for the month, and whoever hit it got to attend. The key is that you can’t go with them. You need to give them time to rub elbows with the executive team on their own. The reps on my team saw it as a chance to further their career by getting advice from the VIPs of the company, and the management team had a great time because they got to spend some time with our top performers.

Bailey Martindale: We did a spiff over Christmas that was pretty cool. It was a points system with a white elephant approach. Once we hit the first tier of points we picked one of the gifts. The next person to hit the tier could steal the previous gift or pick a new one. The gifts ranged from gag to great. We had a Captain America shield, Thor hammers, Nerf guns, Amazon gift card, bluetooth headset, bluetooth speaker, and a very slick large nice computer monitor. It was very competitive and a lot of fun.

How to Run Them Effectively

Blake J. Harber: 1. Keep it simple. You will more than likely get reps that get upset or feel ripped-off because they didn’t win if calculating the results are too complicated. 2. I like rewarding with trophies that can stick around the office (monitors, laptops, headsets, trophies, etc.). This is a constant reminder for other reps to work hard and is a great recruiting method as candidates walk through the office and see the huge monitors, etc.

Phill Keene: Keep the contest short. The shorter the better. If you are running a contest over a quarter or month the time frame is too long unless there is a heavy focus daily. We have done hour long contests, daily contests, weekly contests. (We use LevelEleven to control it).

I love to run contests post training to put into action the skills that were just taught.

Not all the contests can be individual competitions, mix it up. Make the entire team work together to get something done. Stack rank the teams and divide them in two or three. Team vs. Manager (have them try to set more meetings than you).

Richard Harris: One more thing to consider is gender. I’ve met with several women SDRs and while they are down with all kinds of things a consistent “sports” theme of paintball, golf outing, etc. can eventually wear thin. Be conscious of your audience.

Oh, and I’ve taken a group (men and women) to get mani-pedis. The guys scoff at the idea and then end up loving the foot massage. Throw in wine/cheese, etc, and it’s fun, different and unique.

James Pember: I think Richard’s point was really solid, and something we’re absolutely seeing in the marketplace. Being sensitive and aware of gender differences is a must.

In addition, focus further “up the funnel” in terms of metrics to ensure that you’re driving up spirit, activity levels, and enthusiasm.


If you missed out on the original conversation in the LinkedIn SalesHacker Community but have some contest ideas or tips on how to run them better, let us know in the comment section. Ever had a contest crash and burn? It happens. We’d like hear about that as well.


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    • While there are some very creative ideas, especially the white elephant idea. I’m sorry to be a buzz kill, because I’m not a fan of sales contests, spiffs, incentives, carrots, nor sticks. Sales contests end up being one form or the other, and, if you really think about it, what incentives do your top performers need to stay internally driven? Answer, None, since they are internally driven.

      My experience, not that contests and incentives don’t work in the short term, is that they don’t build a culture of long term drive and are only glitzy as long as they are more enticing than the last spiff. Try sending your team to Cancun with all expenses paid and then next year send them to California with only the hotel paid. Get my drift? Unless you long to go to California you may not be very motivated. That was a real example and that particular company lost many sales pros as a direct result due to the carrot being too small and being insulted by the meager offering for their “hard” work. Not only did they lose team members, but they wasted tens of thousands on a trip they were obligated to have in an attempt to rein in spending on exotic vacation prizes.

      The second layer of complexity that these types of incentives suggest is that the leadership team doesn’t understand what really motivates their team on an individual basis or may understand but not know what to do with the information. Each individual within a community comes with their own personalized set of challenges, gifts, strengths, weakness, and personal drivers. I recently had a client complain to me that his company had run a massive contest that was incredibly expensive; however, it didn’t move the needle one bit. After a little homework and high quality assessments, we discovered that the team that was to compete had very little economic motivation unlike the manager that came up with it who was nearly solely motivated by cash. In hindsight, this group would have been far more motivated if the company invested a very small fraction of their conditional bribes in contributions to a charity of the winner’s choice.

      Happy Selling,

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