Sales contests are a popular way to increase motivation and productivity among employees, but do they actually work? This blog post looks at the pros and cons of sales contests to help you decide if they’re right for your business.

I remember when I was working in sales, my company would hold these big contests every quarter. The prize was usually a trip or some kind of bonus. Everyone would get super pumped up for it and we would all go above and beyond to try to win.

Looking back, I’m not sure if those contests really did anything to improve our performance long-term. Sure, we’d see a spike in sales during the contest period, but afterward, things would always go back to normal. And sometimes the stress of trying to win could even lead to burnout among employees.

What is a Sales Contest?

A sales contest is an event where salespeople compete against each other to see who can sell the most products or services. The contest may last for a certain period, or it may be based on a certain number of sales. The winner of the contest may receive a prize, such as a cash bonus, a paid vacation, or a new car.

How to Run an Effective Sales Contest

In three decades of running sales teams, I’ve picked up some valuable lessons about successful sales competitions. Here are my top six takeaways.

1. Keep It Simple.

Your sales team should have no problem understanding how your contests work. When it’s difficult to understand how you can win — or who is currently in the lead — their enthusiasm for participating in your promotions will wane.

A simple way to encourage your salespeople to make more sales is to hold a simple competition. You could reward your top-performing sales reps by giving them a prize, or you could simply give rewards to the top five performers. By keeping it simple, you can ensure that everyone understands the rules of the competition and stays motivated.

As an additional bonus, they may be able to point out any flaws in the contest rules that you might have overlooked.

By only running one campaign at once, you can focus your team members on the task at hand.

2. It Should Be Fun.

Competitions can be a fun way for your sales team to get to know each other better. It also helps with bonding and makes the experience memorable.

My team used to love it when I gave away my services as a prize for whoever sold the most. I would do anything the winner wanted, from washing their car to cleaning their apartment. This showed my team that I was dedicated to their successes and had a great sense of humor.

If you want to show your team members how dedicated you are to helping them succeed, consider hosting a fun competition. You could base it around an inside joke that everyone in the office enjoys, and the winner could receive a gift card to a restaurant that everyone loves.

3. Plan Your Contest with the Sales Team.

Ask your sales team what prizes they want. I once hosted an all-hands meeting with my team where I asked them, “Do you need a team incentive?”

The answer was almost always “yes”. I would explain the rules of the competition, then ask, “What prize or prizes would you like?”

This tactic has three main benefits:

  • Your sales team will be more invested.
  • The reward is what you know they want.
  • Your salespeople will like the idea that you handed over the reins.

4. Provide Updates.

Give your salespeople frequent updates on where they stand in your competition. Depending on how quickly each sales cycle moves, you may want to give an update every day or every week.

5. Keep Your Word.

In 2002, a Toyota winner was upset when she was given a toy Yoda instead of the car that was promised.

She sued her employer and won.

Before you offer any prizes, calculate how much you’ll be on the hook if your sales team blows it out of the park. You don’t want to promise something you can’t deliver on.

6. Distribute Prizes ASAP.

I once awarded my sales team their prize winnings a full nine months after they had earned them. As you can imagine, they were not pleased.

The most important part of running a contest is making sure you distribute the rewards as quickly as possible. This will encourage your team members to participate in more competitions in the future.

What is the Purpose of Sales Contests?

Sales contests are a great way to incentivize behavior that you want to see more of from your sales team. By offering prizes for things like the most number of new sales, the most upsells, or the most cross-sells, you can encourage your team to focus on activities that will help grow your business.

Managers can set up their own custom goals for sales reps, whether that goal is setting up demos, making a sale, or anything else.

Prizes are important to any competition, so make sure you have set aside a portion of your marketing budget for this.

When deciding what prize to offer, you should take into account the compensation of your sales reps, the difficulty of the task you’re asking them to do, the added work they’ll have to do, and how long the contest will last.

Keep the contest light and fun. Your sales reps are already dealing with a lot of negativity and pressure.

Sales contests are a great way to motivate your team and promote healthy competition. Regardless of the size of your sales team, you can implement a contest that will get your representatives excited and improve performance.

By offering prizes for the top performers, you can create excitement and encourage friendly competition among your team. Not only will this improve morale, but it can also lead to increased sales numbers.

My first foray into professional sales was when I was 17 when I was hired to sell shirts outside Fenway. While that job was its challenge, the monotonous nature of daily, repetitive, and unsuccessful phone calls was not.

As a sales manager, part of your job is to keep your team feeling positive and motivated. You also want to make sure they have the tools they need to overcome the inevitable rejection.

Sales teams everywhere are finding creative ways to make their workplace more fun. From blasting loud music to using nerf guns, these tactics are becoming more and more popular.

As a sales coach at Kinnek, I’ve found that these contest ideas have been incredibly successful at getting my team motivated.

Spark Engagement and Motivation

Everyone loves a competition.

By incentivizing your team with a sales competition, you can encourage your reps to strive for a goal or specific metrics. This can drive the behaviors and activities you want to see more of.

They’ll want to show off their prize, so a small, well-timed reward can be extremely effective in driving short-term results.

Sometimes, a gift card to Amazon or Starbucks is just what the doctor ordered. But other times, it’s fun to think outside the box and come up with a unique prize for a contest.

But who has time to remember what all these small details are?

We do!

And we did.

When planning your next sales contest, consider some of these great (and inexpensive) sales incentives! With 33 ideas to choose from, you’re sure to find the perfect fit for your team.

  1. Choose a Zoom background for a week.
  2. Pizza and beer.
  3. Care package with the winner’s favorite snacks.
  4. Choose a Slack profile picture and status for a week.
  5. Stop work an hour early for a week.
  6. Flowers.
  7. Plants.
  8. Fun office supplies.
  9. Name your next contest after the contest winner.
  10. Public shout-out on LinkedIn from the CEO.
  11. Happy hour with the CEO.
  12. Free hour per day for a week to do something related to their career development.
  13. Recognition in a company-wide email from the CEO.
  14. Handwritten thank-you note from the CEO.
  15. Token from the winner’s university that they can display at the office.
  16. Lottery tickets.
  17. Picture of the winner featured on the company blog for a week.
  18. Recognition on all company social media channels.
  19. Team members record a video congratulating the winner and then post it on social media.
  20. Sponsor for a conference.
  21. Bring a friend to a conference.
  22. Homemade fun sign in a picture frame.
  23. Day off before or after a holiday weekend.
  24. Sing praises about the winner at the next team meeting.
  25. An office-wide list that says “Why We Think [Winner] Is a Rockstar” and have everyone contribute.
  26. The number of points won equals the amount of PTO hours.
  27. Additional 30-minute break each day for a week.
  28. Give the contest winner a fun nickname and make everyone call him or her that name for a week.
  29. The winner gets to pass off one project to another team member.
  30. One-on-one mentoring session with the CEO.
  31. Be quoted in a big PR article.
  32. Gift card for any fun home office accessory.
  33. Custom bobblehead.


Sustainable, Long-Term Growth

The ultimate goal of a sales organization is to drive sustainable, long-term results. While a short-term incentive or contest can be fun, it’s more important to put in place processes that will drive your team to success in the long run.

The best sales teams have a combination of:

  • Effective, results-driven behaviors
  • Strategically crafted processes
  • Well-placed incentives

The three elements above are a critical part of your performance management system.

How Do You Create a Sales Contest?

There are a few things to keep in mind when creating a sales contest.

First, you need to decide what the prize will be. This could be something like a gift card, an extra day off, or a bonus.

Second, you need to set some parameters for the contest. This could include things like how long it will run, who is eligible to participate, and what types of sales will count towards the contest.

Finally, you need to promote the contest and make sure that everyone who is participating is aware of the rules. The best way to do this is to create a simple flyer or email that can be distributed to all of the participants.

Do Sales Contests Work?

Sales contests can work if they are designed properly and offer the right type of incentive for employees. The contest should be based on specific goals that the company wants to achieve, and it should be clear how employees can win the contest. The prize should be something that will motivate employees to sell more.


So, what’s the verdict? Are sales contests a good idea or not? Ultimately, it depends on your business and your employees. If you feel like your team could benefit from some extra motivation, then a sales contest might be worth considering. Just make sure to set clear goals and expectations, and don’t put too much pressure on your employees.

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Justin McGill
About Author: Justin McGill
This post was generated for LeadFuze and attributed to Justin McGill, the Founder of LeadFuze.