How many times have you been to a meeting and the subject was ‘We’re behind in sales versus plan this quarter. Let’s brainstorm actions we can take to drive short term sales?” I have been to many meetings like this across multiple companies and sales leaders.
One action item that always seems to make it to the list, is “run a contest or spiff”. For some reason, upper management loves spiffs. Perhaps it’s because they’re easy to explain and something tangible. When asked “What are you doing SVP sales to get back on plan right now?”, they can respond with “An exciting sales contest starting tomorrow, sir”.
In general I am not a Spiff or Contest fan because I don’t feel that in the majority of cases, they drive a true and measurable lift in sales productivity. They are often a band-aid, when what’s needed is a thorough root cause analysis and more complex solutions.
I have seen time and time again, that the employees who win the prizes are the same ones who are already your top performers. These are the ones who would have met or exceeded quota without a contest.
On the flip side, when lower performers win there is often a reason, not tied to sales productivity, especially if the prizes are very lucrative. This could mean sandbagging sales, enteering sales before they’re fully baked and pulling in sales early- from the next quarter. I’ve seen every scenario occur.
I do support running a very short term spiff or contest from time to time. One that lasts an hour, a day or a few days, can help improve employee morale and add fun to the working environment. If your employees are happier, they’ll likely stay longer and continue to hone their sales skills for your company.
One last thought on spiffs/contests is.. they need to be easy to measure. And, management needs to provide timely updates on who’s in the running during the spiff and announce the winner of the spiff within 24-48 hours of the spiff ending. If the Spiff results come out weeks after the Spiff ends, this could negatively impact morale, versus provide a needed lift.
Here are some additional articles on sales contests you may find helpful:
- 10 Frequently Asked Questions About Sales Contest Themes
- 7 Steps To Sales Contest Design (Free eBook)
- 50 Sales Contest Themes Free PDF
- 12 Sales contest Ideas For Your Sales Team
- Get up and Go – Sales Contest Ideas
- The Right Way To Run A Sales Contest
Wrapping Up… A short term sales spiff or contest can be a way to keep your employees motivated and improve employee morale. However, long term spiffs lasting months or quarters, costing significant dollars.. do not often drive a measurable lift in sales productivity. Instead, they take leadership staff away from looking at the root causes of the sales problems and implementing long term, impactful solutions.