How to Motivate With Sales Contests

By Dave Worman, "Dr. Motivation"

One of the most difficult yet most critical roles for you as a manager is to create and maintain a stimulating environment for your telemarketing and sales professionals. Although people must ultimately motivate themselves, it is management's responsibility to create the positive conditions that encourage employees to achieve company goals. Your real challenge is finding creative ways to meet the ever-changing motives of your people. Sales contests can play a major role in consistently reinforcing a positive, productive atmosphere.

Why Sales Contests Work
Everyone has a competitive nature and competition between employees or groups of employees is an excellent tool to help generate highly productive activity in your telemarketing environment. Sales contests will provoke the competitive spirit in your TSRs and add enjoyment to the process as well. Psychological studies on motivational factors that produce job satisfaction among employees consistently show that achievement and recognition rated first and second, respectively. Sales Ccntests will help "feed the need" that all TSRs have to succeed and be recognized for their achievements. In addition, sales contests that involve action create a more visible opportunity for people to succeed in front of their peers. This attention will add fuel to the motivational fire of your TSRs.

What Sales Contests Work Best?
While there is no simple answer to this, two keys to successful sales contests are creativity and variation. When your "creative juices" flow, remember, "simple is better." Sales contest creativity is not limited to highly sophisticated ideas and lofty budgets. Excessive complexity will make contests far too cumbersome for both your TSRs and management, and ultimately diminishes the impact you want.

Believing that large budgets are necessary for successful sales contests is a very common fault among management and one of the main reasons contests are not used nearly enough. An example of a simple, inexpensive TSR sales contest is The Money Hat. 

Purchase a Styrofoam derby (local party goods store) and a tabletop call bell. Tape dollar bills on the hat using "Monopoly" money or other simulated currency. Management then predetermines calling goals that are announced to the people and numerous bell ringing times that are left undisclosed. When the shift begins, the first TSR to make a sale, appointment, lead, etc. gets the "prestige" of wearing "the money hat". The hat then constantly shifts heads as predetermined call goals are met by different TSRs. Management rings the bell at each of the undisclosed, preset times and whoever has "the money hat" on when the bell rings wins cash. Fifteen rings a shift could be worth $1.00 each or five rings at $3.00 each or even three rings at $5.00 each. Associate fewer rings with higher rewards and scale it accordingly. The Money Hat is simple and inexpensive, but enormously popular and highly effective.

Another good example is the Who, What or Where Poster Board. Purchase a poster of a celebrity, famous place or an object, and cover it with straight lines of very small Post-it Notes (or other brand of self-sticking notepaper). Then put the poster board up in the most visible part of your center. As TSRs reach your predetermined goals, they can go up and pull off a note to reveal a small portion of the poster. This will continue each day until someone thinks he or she can identify "who, what or where" the poster is. If the TSR is correct, a prize of your determination and the poster are awarded to that TSR. If incorrect, the contest continues until the poster is successfully identified.

Here are some tips to enhance the Who, What or Where Poster Board contest:

Variation in sales contests is necessary to help keep up with TSRs changing motivation "spans." One suggestion is to affiliate sales contests with themes, such as holidays, anniversaries, sports and culture. This will help reach the many interest levels of all your TSRs. Also, vary the length of your contests, with some lasting only a day and others for longer periods. Remember, the longer the sales contest is, the harder it becomes to maintain the motivation related to it. However, one long-term contest that works well annually is TSR Action Auction. Here's how to run this sales contest:

One successful example of using a holiday theme is the Pot of Gold sales contest based on or around St. Patrick's Day (March 17). Here are some ideas for this sales contest:

Other holidays that are most popular for similar sales contests are Halloween, Valentine's Day and Independence Day.

Using famous anniversary dates for sales contests can be fun as well. One used annually that has been a favorite is Journey to the Moon, in celebration of the famous moonwalk by Neil Armstrong in 1969. Here's how it works:
In this area, you can use primarily the same concepts and apply them to different sports, such as baseball, basketball, football and golf. For instance, to play football, announce The Game two weeks prior, using your home team (NFL or college) and the upcoming opposing team. Once the schedule is made out, divide TSRs into two teams, advising them in advance of their team. These are the rules
The 1950s and '60s seem to be particularly popular eras in our history, and whenever affiliated with a contest, they successfully stimulate people. The following contest example has always paid "high motivational dividends" and escalated performance levels.

Post-Contest Letdown
One of management's biggest concerns regarding contests is post-contest letdown. The fear that performance levels of your employees will diminish after a contest is a genuine concern. During contest periods, it is natural for performance levels to escalate beyond normal, because stimulation is high. Be careful in post-contest times not to heavily equate performance levels with those that took place during a contest. 

Again, during most sales contests, your TSRs may reach levels beyond what is considered not only adequate, but also very good. One way of preventing post-contest blues is to implement a plan for your office to earn the next contest. Following a contest, announce that those high-performance levels that resulted during the contest must be equaled over the next day, week or month in order to earn the next contest. This will result in drive and determination to maintain those performance levels and additional self-gratification when the subsequent contest is earned.

Prize Ideas
The competitive nature in people will normally surface just as quickly to win a candy bar as it will to win more elaborate prizes. Depending on the subject of your contest, vary your prizes accordingly. The winner of Journey to the Moon receives dinner for two at the Blue Moon Saloon or cassette tapes of oldies are awarded on the '50s/'60s Day. Be as creative as possible with your prizes. Although some of the more standard prizes, such as movie passes, dinner certificates and cash, will always work, a variety of different prizes is essential to maintain TSR stimulation. Time off with pay, casual dress days and company logo items are extremely popular, as are executive recognition and attendance to outside seminars.
Other examples of simple stimulants include the following:

The boundaries of prize creativity are truly endless.

When creating your sales contests, make sure the calling goals you establish are challenging, but not unattainable. The "need to succeed" is alive in all of us. Your TSRs need to feel they can reach the goals. If they perceive the goals to be unrealistic, it will diminish the success of the contest. Be prepared, as well, to make contest "modifications" in case of unforeseen circumstances.

Also, make sure that some sales contests are geared to reward a winner or winning team, while others are set up to reward each person or team that reaches the predetermined calling goals. This variation is important for consistent success in motivation through contests.

Ralph Waldo Emerson is quoted as saying, "Nothing great was ever accomplished without enthusiasm." Use contests to create an "epidemic of enthusiasm" in your center. It will become contagious and, as it spreads, turnover will go down and performance will go up.

Learn More About This Topic, Including Complete Descriptions of More Contests, and More in Dave's Books

Dave has written two entire books dedicated to motivation, through sales contests, and without money, and we have published another as well. Click here for more info.