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Create a Fun Sales Culture This Summer With Sales Contests
May 22, 2012
Sales Gravy

How can you make your sales culture fun? Here are some ideas to help generate activity to meet your financial targets as well as boost your sales teams’ energy over the summer! Also, check out this year’s Sales Hiring Trends report at

By Ken Thoreson

At this time of year sales management must be looking at pipeline levels and goals for July/August and determining if there is the necessary level of activity to ensure targets will be exceeded.

In this blog, I wanted to share a few basic ideas from my books on sales management: Leading High Performance Sales Teams and Creating Sales Compensation Plans for High Performance.  In both books I share ideas for sales contests/games as well as how to properly.  In many cases I have seen great ideas poorly executed, it is critical you  think through what your objectives are and what you want the results to be and then CLEARLY write down the objectives, rules and incentives. The first rule, remember cash is not what you want to use during sales games-that is what your commission plan is designed to achieve.  The second rule is that creating fun in your sales culture is the main outcome-surely you may wish to add “net new client’s” or sell certain products/services and increase sales-but it is sales leaderships objective to make the sales contest is a fun experience.

Different types of contests will help you achieve different goals. Some should be held annually to address sales objectives, company business strategies and potential seasonal fluctuations. Others can be scheduled as needed to help launch new products or services, promote new releases or upgrades or tie into your customers’ larger campaigns. Still others can consist of short-term incentive games designed to motivate sales personnel to accomplish specific objectives by a specific deadline.

A Contest Sampler

Following are a few typical goals, along with ideas for contests that may help achieve them:

  • Increasing sales volume. Consider adding a cash bounty for each additional new seat, new customer, or revenue sold beyond a certain target value. Set a quarter-to-date objective above your sales goal; that way, everyone on the team can win.
  • Improving customer service. Periodically survey your entire customer base. If satisfaction reaches a certain goal—for instance, when 95 percent of your clients say they’re “highly satisfied”—and if your company is profitable, everyone gets a cash bonus. Keep a visible scorecard of your goals and results so that everyone maintains a constant awareness of your objectives.
  • Acquiring new clients. To boost the number of new clients you add each quarter, consider creating a “bounty bonus” plan. For example, salespeople could earn a bounty bonus—either in cash or in points that can be redeemed for rewards—for each new client or each competitive replacement of a specific vendor’s customer. In addition, you could offer bounty bonuses for salespeople who exceed their quarterly or annual quotas for new accounts or net new revenues. You might even create and post “Most Wanted” posters with the bounties prominently displayed to help keep salespeople focused on contest objectives.
  • Overcoming seasonal slumps. If your sales typically slow down over the summer, try launching a prospecting activity contest in March, April and May. For instance, award sales team members points for each new face-to-face call or sales demonstrations that they make during those months, with accumulated points eventually eligible for prizes. Such an effort can go a long way toward increasing the number of opportunities in the pipeline from June through August.

Competition Considerations

Following are some issues to consider and questions to answer as you plan sales contests:

  • Determine what you want the contest to accomplish
  • Set the ground rules. Are all sales executives on an equal basis for the contest?  Be sure to put the rules in writing, making provisions for those and other situations that could arise.
  • Make the contest length the same as the sales cycle.
  • Set specific goals that can be measured weekly or monthly.
  • Incorporate an exciting theme.
  • Consider making rewards gifts, rather than cash.
  • Boost team members’ motivation by getting their families involved.
  • Never run contests to the last day of the month or sales period.

I would like to hear from the readers, comment below as to what contests have worked for you and why? Or what contests did not work and why?  What contests are you running this summer?

Make it productive summer!


Ken Thoreson

Ken Thoreson “operationalizes” sales management systems and processes that pull revenue out of the doldrums into the fresh zone. During the past 13 years, our consulting, advisory, and platform services have illuminated, motivated, and rejuvenated the sales efforts for partners throughout North America. Ken’s latest book is: “Leading High Performance Sales Teams”.

Ken provides Keynotes, consulting services and products designed to improve business performance. You may contact him at:

How to Avoid Answering a Tough Interview Question
August 1, 2011
Sales Gravy

By Debra Wheatman

While there are many differing views on how to respond to the question: “what’s your salary?”  – you should tactfully avoid answering whenever possible. As the saying goes: He who talks salary first, loses.

Of course, there is a fine line. Being evasive might cause some friction between you and the interviewer. However, if you put all your cards on the table, you will have no leverage. It would be better to understand what the position is paying first. This will help you determine whether you should continue to pursue the role or move on to greener pastures.

If you are speaking directly with a company, you can say something like, “I am sure we will be able to come to a fair agreement if the position represents a good fit for us both.” Alternatively, you can state that your required salary depends upon the duties and responsibilities of the role; you will be happy to provide full disclosure once you are further along in the process.

Unfortunately, you may not always be able to skirt the issue. One of the first questions a 3rd party recruiter or hiring manager may ask during an initial interview is “What is your current compensation?”  While this can seem downright invasive, it is an attempt to make sure you are in the right price range. The flip side? Ask what the position is budgeted for. There has to be a budget or else why would you be in an interview situation?

It may be tempting to say that it is premature to discuss money, but this tactic can backfire when dealing with recruiters in particular and hinder you from getting your foot in the door. Any worthwhile recruiter will tell you what they know about the allocated budget.  Keep in mind that most external recruiters are paid based on a percentage of your base salary, so it is to their advantage to have you earn compensation at the higher end of the spectrum.

If you wish to be vague, you can let him or her know that your salary falls within the range stated. If you are probed for specifics, depending upon the situation, you can answer this in a number of ways:

  1. If your salary is lower than the stated range, consider quoting the value of your total package.  For example, if you earn base plus bonus and also get insurance and mileage reimbursement along with a 401K match, lump that all into one and state that your total package equals X. The goal here is to make you look more attractive by bringing your compensation history to a higher level without being dishonest. Be prepared to provide actual W2s to back up the base compensation.
  2. If your salary history is higher than the range quoted, but you are still interested in the role, let the recruiter know that you are flexible on the base and you are negotiable for the right total package.  This will allow you to keep the door open for perks and benefits. If you are really valuable and the budget permits it, who knows – maybe they will step up to the plate and match your previous salary.
  3. If you are within the stated compensation range, but want to be sure to get a bump up in pay, be clear with the recruiter or hiring manager to let him or her know that you are targeting a salary increase and that you also currently get a variety of benefits and perks that are substantial.

Every situation is unique; your preparation will allow you to handle the situation gracefully. Take some time beforehand to sit down and make a list of your actual compensation. Consider the value of your entire package, including things like mileage reimbursement/company car, health insurance, stock options, and 401K match.

While you want to remain flexible and friendly, you do not want to devalue what you bring to a new role. Assuming you have worth as an industry expert in your chosen occupation, you should not accept a salary unless it is commensurate with your experience, skills, and ability to perform.

While you may consider a decrease for a start up that offers stock options, you should not fall prey to a company that thinks they can offer low salaries because of a sluggish economy.  In the long run, this practice will cause high turnover and dissatisfied workers. You may want to think twice if you feel you are being shortchanged. Stick to your guns and remember to share all of the assets you bring with you. is a career and workplace community offering a free inside look at jobs and companies with access to millions of job listings. Glassdoor enables employees, job seekers, employers and recruiters to simultaneously see – for the first time – unedited opinions about a company’s work environment along with details on salaries, company reviews, CEO approval ratings, job interview questions and reviews, and office photos as well as career advice.