How to Motivate With Sales Contests
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
can play a major role in consistently reinforcing a positive, productive
Why Sales Contests Work
What Sales Contests Work Best?
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.
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
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:
- A TSR must have a certain amount of self-sticking
notes to make a guess. (log each persons "pulls")
- Associate 25 to 40 percent of the notes with
smaller awards such as time off, extra breaks, cash, extra "pulls" and
- Write numbers on the back of the 25 to 40 percent
of the notes and keep a master list of what awards those numbers represent.
- Use large posters and do not always cover them
"right side up" (turn sideways or upside-down prior to covering with
self-sticking notes). This contest usually lasts anywhere from seven days to two
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
Here's how to run this sales contest:
- Decide on two or three months for this contest
and announce a start date and an "Auction" date.
- Predetermined calling goals and associated cash
values are then announced to the TSRs.
- As TSRs reach calling goals, simulated currency
is awarded on a daily or weekly basis.
- Bonus "cash" can be awarded for
additional goals, such as perfect attendance and exceeding performance levels.
- On "Auction Day" employees use
accumulated "cash" to bid on prizes (company logo items, movie passes,
dinner certificates, small appliances, etc.).
Following are some Action Auction tips:
- Run other short-term contests during the two or
three month timeframe, awarding additional cash for the "Auction."
- Prior to contest kickoff, present a list of all
prizes or display them for TSRs to view.
- The head manager should act as auctioneer on
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:
All TSRs and management have a casual dress day
and wear something green.
For predetermined goals (each sale, appointment,
lead, etc.), a TSR gets a green shamrock. (Purchase or cut from green
Bonus shamrocks are awarded for any orders with "holiday-related
criteria." This includes addresses/names/phone numbers that include Pat,
Patrick, St., gold, 3/17, green, Irish or clover.
At the end of the shift, all shamrocks are placed
in a hat for a drawing.
Three winners each receive a "Pot of
Gold" (small black pot with $17.00 worth of quarters, dimes, nickels,
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:
Break your TSRs into "teams of
Reaching predetermined calling goals (sales,
appointments, leads, etc.) equals "fuel," which moves the team's craft
into position to land on the moon.
Bonus "fuel" is awarded for any orders
with "anniversary-related criteria." This includes
addresses/names/phone numbers that include Neil, walk, moon, 7/20, 1969, space
"Malfunctions" caused by orders filled
out incorrectly filled out orders or incomplete phone presentations will
"delay" safe landing. Additional sales, appointments and leads are
needed to land.
The first (any) team of astronauts to land safely
wins and receives award(s). Astronauts providing the most "fuel" for
each team make "moon walk" and receive an additional prize.
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
Have TSRs wear the appropriate colors of the
Time wise, divide the shift into halves, with
break time representing half time.
As TSRs reach predetermined calling goals, they
produce offensive yardage toward "touchdowns" worth seven points each.
Two penalties (orders filled out incorrectly,
incomplete presentations, etc.) on either team rewards the opposing team a
"field goal" (three points).
The highest-scoring team at shift's end is the
winner and is awarded pizza the following week.
"MVP" (most offensive yardages on
either team) is awarded a trophy.
This type of contest is most effective when affiliated with very important games
(season openers, playoff games, Super Bowl, World Series, All Star) and is very
popular in medium to larger telemarketing operations.
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.
A '50s/'60s Day is announced, with an appropriate
- For reaching any predetermined calling goals, a
TSR earns "60" points and a chance to answer a trivia question from
the '50s/'60s. A correct answer earns "50" additional points.
- At break time, management or a chosen panel
rewards the best '50s/'60s outfit 110 points (50+60).
- At shift's end, the three TSRs with the most
accumulated points receive prizes.
- A tip to enhance this contest is to have a local radio station dedicate two
songs from that era to your office specifically at break time. Have everyone
listen and try to identify the song title and artist on each record. Any correct
answers receive 50 additional points. Appropriate office props will also add to
the success of this by helping create the authentic atmosphere.
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.
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:
A toy figurine of "A California Raisin"
to be placed daily or weekly at the station of the TSR who exceeds all other in
"raisin" his or her performance from the previous day or week.
Large cardboard stars to be placed daily or
weekly at the station of anyone having a "star-studded" performance
during that time.
Ketchup bottles to be placed at the stations of
any TSRs who need to play "catch-up" to reach certain performance
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.