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How to Run an Effective Sales Contest

Executed consistently, a sales contest is one of the most powerful tools you can use to increase your sales force’s performance. It works best when used as part of a larger strategy that includes planning and careful selection.

What Is a Sales Contest?

A sales contest (sometimes called incentive compensation) is any kind of program that rewards top performers with prizes or awards given on an ongoing basis — typically monthly or quarterly over an entire year.

The prize might be awarded in cash, merchandise, gift certificates, trips, trophies, gadgets, etc.— whatever you think would appeal most to your reps and/or help them improve their performance. You may have heard such contests referred to as “pay-for-performance” programs because they are based on measurable results achieved by individual representatives. Because it ties pay directly to goals specified by management, this type of plan does indeed fall into the category known as “pay for performance” plans familiar from executive pay packages: bonuses for meeting profit targets; stock option grants in lieu of salary increases; restricted stock instead of full options; deferred recognition awards instead of straight cash payments; etc.

In all these cases there must be clearly defined expectations about what constitutes success not only at the company level but also among individual employees who share responsibility for achieving corporate objectives through their own efforts during each period measured.

The essential point here is that the rewards in a sales contest are only given to those who succeed. If you have been using such contests for some time, you will know that offering recognition and reward to the top performers has a positive impact on everyone below them as well — in other words:

when people see others being rewarded for doing a good job they work harder themselves in an effort to do better.

Here’s our guide on how to run an effective sales contest

  • Define your goal. What do you want out of the contest? Do you just want more leads? More revenue? Better quality leads and prospects? Whatever it is, make sure everyone knows what it is from day one.

  • Set clear goals for each participant. This will help keep everyone focused on the prize at hand (and not just their own success).

  • Make winners public. Let people know who won so that others can see who’s winning and learn from them.

  • Don’t use quotas as criteria. If someone meets quota in week one but then misses quota in weeks two through four, they still get credit for hitting quota once even though they didn’t hit it consistently over time.

  • Consider using multiple metrics. It’s important to have a single metric that determines whether someone wins or loses, but there may be other factors involved as well — like the number of calls made or meetings set up — that add value without necessarily being part of the judging criteria itself.

  • Use prizes carefully. Prizes are powerful motivators, but only when used correctly; otherwise they’ll backfire by making people feel like losers instead of winners!

  • Keep scorecards simple, with no more than three categories per person (e.g., the new business generated this month vs total new business generated this year).

  • Create “levels” for prizes based on performance level rather than dollar amount earned/sales volume achieved (e.g., platinum/gold/silver levels depending upon achievement level).

  • Be transparent about all aspects of the contest: rules, scoring system(s), etc…

  • Have fun! Sales contests aren’t always serious affairs; sometimes injecting some humour into things helps break up monotony during long stretches between big events while also building camaraderie among participants

  • Make sure incentives align with company values & culture: Incentives should reinforce desired behaviours throughout the organization

  • Measure progress accurately: You need accurate data points before you can determine which incentive programs work best

  • Communicate frequently: People need regular updates so they understand where things stand

  • Get buy-in from leadership: Everyone needs support from above

  • Get feedback along the way: Ask questions such as “What worked?” And “What didn’t work?”

  • Stay flexible & adaptable

  • Give credit where credit is due

  • Keep track of trends

  • Celebrate successes


With Elevate, you can plan, design & manage both commission plans as well as quota-based plans with the utmost ease.

Elevate aspires to bring transparency in sales compensation. Sales reps can view all details regarding their commissions’ payout, quota attainment & revenue goals. Leaders can track the performance of every team member, manage product-based & territory-based revenue targets.

Automate Sales commissions, focus on productivity!

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