May 7, 2014

Why Sales Contests Need Gamification

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Tags: Gamification

Sales contests are a fundamental tool for managers who want to increase productivity, and may be one of the most common applications of gamification. Unfortunately, these contests often suffer from many of the pitfalls of poor gamification, namely weak feedback mechanisms, over-reliance on repetitive rewards, and a lack of optimal challenge for every user.

So while sales contests are excellent methods for motivating sales teams to be more productive, or to adopt new technology, they’re often short-lived or less effective than hoped for. However, new gamification platforms are giving sales managers more options for creating effective contests than ever before. But better resources don’t automatically translate into better results.

Here are a few best practices for making your next sales contest more engaging:

Make it Collaborative

Even in the hyper competitive realm of sales, competition isn’t a magic bullet, especially for those contestants who find themselves at the bottom of the leaderboard. Sales contests often fail to motivate the majority of the sales team because a few closers dominate the top of the leaderboard and rake in all the prizes — prizes which were meant to incentive the rest of the team, too. Also, these top performers aren’t the target of the sales contest – more than likely they’re intrinsically driven to consistently perform to the best of their ability without sales contests. It’s the performers just under this top tier that such contests should aim to motivate.

The solution lies in making sales contests collaborative, or creating teams rather than letting everyone compete individually. Successful gamification often utilizes collaborative or social elements because users enjoy solving problems and meeting goals together. This tactic doesn’t just expand the sales contests into a team building exercise. It also eliminates the chilling effect of having select team members win over and over again.


One of gamification’s key benefits is its ability to distribute instant feedback to your users, or in this case your sales team. Whether that feedback showcases the amount of cold calls the team has made that day or which group has the most complete sales funnel is up to you. Either way, providing updates on specific behaviors – preferably a single behavior per contest – will help turn a disjointed group of reps into a unified sales machine.

Timeliness also refers to the length of the sales competition. Effective games almost always feature time limits that incite action. To make this undertaking effective, you must judge the length of time over which performance is measured. Contests that run for an entire quarter often feature larger rewards, but don’t always create sustained productivity growth.

In addition to being competitive, good sales people usually have an innate sense of urgency. Build on this natural drive by having your contest run a couple of weeks to a month at the longest. Anything longer is usually too slow to produce the type of urgency that results in real change.


Sales people are great at adapting their behavior to accomplish goals; it’s how they develop relationships with such an eclectic group of prospects. Since they adapt so quickly, your sales contests need to adapt as well. To avoid fatiguing users by asking them to complete the same actions over and over, you’ll need to rotate various parts of the contest.

This could mean changing the members on each team between contests, switching the behavior that’s being measured, or adjusting the prize structure. For instance, instead of always giving a reward for the most sales closed, try rewarding the teams that had the least amount of negative responses.

This strategy applies to all gamification projects, not just sales contests. If the game elements stay static, the novelty wears off and users start to get bored.

Use the Right Technology

Choosing the right gamification platform can mean the difference between seeing a positive ROI from your sales contest, and having your reps burn out or lose motivation. Vendors such as LevelEleven, FantasySalesTeam, and Ambition all provide platforms that supply managers with the tools they need to design an effective sales competition.

Have you used gamification to enhance contests at your company? Share your insight in the comments.

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