Microsoft Dynamics 365 Blog

In most typical sales contests, “everybody is excited on day one,” Adam Hollander says. “And then as reps realize they have fallen too far behind or are out of contention, they stop trying; they stop paying attention, disengage, and give up.” The effort’s overall success is destined to fail almost from the start. Hollander has seen this model time and time again in both his years founding and developing FantasySalesTeam and his early career in large sales organizations. And he has created the solution. By following Hollander’s sage advice, sales leaders at SCI saw an 88 percent increase in closed deals and a 28 percent increase in CRM usage over a 60-day period. 

Watch Adam Hollander Explain What’s Broken With Sales Gamification

Falling behind from day one

To illustrate two of the main ways that sales contests fail, Hollander recalls one poorly structured effort in which his manager announced “the world’s best sales contest.” At the end of the stick was a very large carrot: $20,000. “Everyone got pretty jazzed,” Hollander says. “But then he outlined a series of virtually unattainable items that you needed to accomplish in order to take home this $20,000 prize.” The benchmarks were aggressive even on their own; to win, a salesperson had to accomplish all of them, which was startlingly unlikely. “Minutes after walking out of the room,” Hollander says, “half of the sales team had already given up.” Soon even the best salespeople began to fall behind and quit trying.

By the end of the contest, very few people were still motivated by the reward—just “the traditional top performers that probably were going to push that hard anyway.” Hollander identified two significant flaws in this manager’s attempt. This contest motivated only a small and incorrect portion of the sales force—the people who didn’t actually need external motivation, rather than the middle 50 percent who needed to increase their performance and have the potential to generate the most revenue—and it only kept those few motivated for a very short time.

What’s wrong with the old playbook?

Once Hollander began noticing the gulf between the goal of sales contests and the reality of the way they play out, he started to think of solutions. He developed FantasySalesTeam—which Microsoft recently acquired—to tackle those two big issues and also address a third.

The elephant in the room is that sales contests are usually a nightmare to manage. “It’s actually pretty difficult to update spreadsheets and emails every day with how many calls everybody has made, how many opportunities they’ve created, and how many meetings they have held,” Hollander says. And because most contests are tracked manually, management takes the path of least resistance, focusing on results and revenue rather than on activity and behavior. Of course, this fuels the other two primary problems “because the folks booking the most revenue are the top performers.”

Learn How to Fix Your Broken Sales Contests

The game changer

After seeing the success of fantasy football, Adam was inspired to create FantasySalesTeam as a way to motivate more of a team for a longer period. He developed an approach that enables sales executives and managers to draft sales reps and drive sales growth through team competitions. In the years since launching the solution, Hollander has seen hundreds of companies increase productivity, drive revenue, and improve CRM adoption through team-based competition using digital engagement. In his webcast, Change the Game, he outlines 10 rules for building a world-class sales incentive. His solid, tactical advice may also change the culture of the sales organization—for the better.

Hollander emphasizes the importance of teams in a well-structured contest (Rule #2) for a couple of reasons. “When you get everybody pushing and relying on each other and invested in the success of those around them, then not only are you going to drive more revenue, but you’re going to change the culture. All of a sudden people are having more fun with their day at work.”

It’s not all fun in these games, either (though they are definitely designed to be fun). A team-based approach breeds collaboration and peer support. “In our case studies, we’ve had some top performers say they’re reaching out to people they wouldn’t normally engage with, trying to coach them on how to be more successful because they are on their team for the week,” says Hollander. “It gives even the top performers an incentive to start coaching and working with some of the middle and lower performers.”

It’s true that outmoded sales contests may still have some value. Companies that use them may still grow, and the efforts may still drive some revenue. But as Hollander sees it, it is impossible for them to drive as much value “as they could have if you managed to motivate a large portion of your team for a longer duration.” It’s a matter of lost opportunity. And the results of an optimized sales contest—of seizing that opportunity—speak for themselves.

SCI’s impressive transformation is just one example of the change that is possible. All it takes is a new, insightful approach to the old incentives game, and the good news is that any company can improve right now. Start preparing all your sales reps to crush their quotas—and keep crushing them—with the rules Hollander outlines in his webcast.

Motivate the middle 50% of your sales reps—watch Adam Hollander’s webcast now

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