“Sales Contests” = DISASTER


At some point this year (maybe now) a “CRISIS” will set in where everyone is in a state of panic because “sales” aren’t on track to meet forecast…in other words “SALES SUCK”. So, there’s a series of things that take place during this unraveling period such as, sales blames marketing because the support materials/messaging sucks, marketing blames sales because they don’t execute the message, the company blames the VP of Sales, the VP of Sales blames his/her direct reports, and it goes on and on till someone brings up the great idea “LET’S HAVE A SALES CONTEST, THAT’S THE ANSWER TO OUR ISSUE”!!!

Now, I probably have 1/2 of my readers leave this post because I’m crapping on something they cherish…the “cutesy” sales contest. But don’t leave, I’m not bashing the “Sales Contest”….I’m bashing the “Timing” and “Purpose” for which it’s used for. As sales professionals we’re in the business of “Changing Behavior” and sometimes that strategy is pointed directly back at us. It’s analogous to “Pavlov’s Dog” theory (I’m not saying our sales professionals are animals…), where a stimulus is provided in order to obtain a certain behavior and these same principles are used on human beings. Why this strategy doesn’t really work on human beings is because our “Loyalty” to ANYTHING doesn’t last unless there’s a LONG TERM INVESTMENT. You see when “Sales Contests” or commonly referred to as “Spiffs” are implemented the objective is to change behavior quickly…..and unfortunately temporarily. “TEMPORARILY”…is the problem here. The “sales process” in some industries is long so in many instances staying the course and working your beginning of the year sales plan will probably be the solution….however there’s always a sense of urgency to change gears because of a temporary setback. “Sales Contests” are in most cases used to patch up a “Root” issue which quite frankly after the sales contest is over typically rear its ugly head again.

Ok, let’s level set…..

“Sales Contests” are wonderful when utilized effectively and most importantly strategically. Often times the two verbs “Effectively” & “Strategically” are substituted for “DESPERATION” and I’m saying this is NOT the best way to utilize your resources and the R.O.I. from this thinking is minimal and not sustaining. EVERY decision you make in business should have both short and especially long term strategic thinking, those who have sustaining (“Sustaining” is the key word here) plans in place WIN….those who don’t LOSE. I have listed below some things to think about before implementing a “Sales Contest” or “Spiff” initiative:

Prior to building your “Sales Plan” for the year, did you include “Sales Contests” as a part of your incentive program? Or, is this interpreted as the “Sales Bonus”? These questions verify if indeed “Sales Contests” were a part of the plan….as opposed to a “DESPERATION” solution.

Evaluate “Why” you’re implementing a “Sales Contest” and what type of result(s) is expected. I would argue if its short range thinking….it’s a poor use of financial resources.

Are you masking poor competencies? Sometimes “Sales Contests” are put in place to hide “Sales Competencies”/”Performance”….sometimes it’s not contests…it’s the abilities of your sales leadership and sales personnel.

How will a “Sales Contest” differ from a “Salary” or “Bonus Plan”? Not being a “Scrooge” but I always pushed back on having “Sales Contests” if the overall compensation was great.

Lastly, ask yourself “WOULD YOU HAVE RECEIVED THE SAME RESULT WITHOUT THE SALES CONTEST”? If the answer is YES….then you have a BIG PROBLEM…let alone you just wasted money!

Again, nothing wrong with “Sales Contests” as long as they’re a part of the overall strategic planning……when they’re used to patch an open sore….the sore will NEVER heal!


“Sales Contests” = DISASTER




Andre’ Harrell

AH2 & Beyond Consulting


1 Comment

Terrible 2014 Sales Year and "BAGGING IT IN"....don't! · August 19, 2016 at 3:14 pm

[…] give you an understanding on how I feel about end of year “Pavlov’s Dog Contests”: and like many of the reps at the time I thought it would be a good idea to all of sudden become […]

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