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5 Reasons Single-Metric Sales Contests Fail

Single-metric sales contests are the old vanguard of incentivizing sales teams. A former Sales Manager is here to break down why that's changing and the ill-effects that call blitzes, leaderboards, and so forth can have on your Salesforce.

This post is by Ambition Sr. Account Executive, Noah Cudzilo.

When I was an inside sales manager at a previous company, we received an email announcing the commencement of an exciting, new "sales contest." Like any sales person, I immediately opened the email, pumped at the thought of my team dominating another sales contest. Scanning the email, I noticed there weren’t a lot of details to this particular contest. Matter of fact, it was all about one metric: outbound phone calls.

Since new customers or profit weren’t factors in the outcome, I assumed that the grand prize would be a free appetizer at Chilis. But to my dismay, I saw it was $500 cash. Firsthand sales management experience quickly instills the value of outbound phone calls to the sales cycle, but ask anyone who's been in my shoes: Focusing your sales force’s attention solely on calls (or any individual metric) is detrimental to long term efforts.

Sure enough, one of my reps beat out the 100+ other reps for that cash prize and won this sales contest. But rather than chest bump in the end zone and reap the benefits, my entire team felt the blowback for months afterwards. Here are the 5 reasons why:

1. Company goals are overshadowed.

Universal fact: Sales people like money and paths of least resistance. These are two of the reason most of us in sales were thrilled to finish our education and take a chance on making big money without going through the extra years of Med School.

If a sales person knows he or she can turbo through some calls, add leads, or perform any single action to win a contest and the attention of superiors, that person is going to do his or her best to make it happen.

In this scenario, my company had about 5-6 KPIs that reps were required to hit every day. Guess which ones were extremely neglected?

You might as well have made the other KPIs coloring books and origami, that's how little appeal completing other KPIs suddenly had to my Reps. Those KPIs didn’t lead to collecting $500 cash and some high-fives from the V.P., and as a manager, I quickly found myself struggling to motivate my team to perform 80 percent of their daily job duties without reaching into my own pocket.

2. The team takes one for the individual. 

The phone call competition also brought out the greedy ‘Me-Me-Me’ mindset that we, as sales team leaders, fight to overcome every day. When you invest your time and energy almost entirely towards a single metric, the other important parts of your job inevitably fall by the way-side.

Suddenly, our team was falling short in every other category and making mistakes like crazy. Our CRM wasn’t updated accurately and efforts unprofessionally overlapped. Leads weren’t properly qualified and we wasted time and energy. On top of that, quotes weren’t properly calculated or recorded and we underbid ourselves. Long-lasting mistakes, all for a short term gain.

3. Sets a bad example for new hires. 

I had one new hire I was training to become the next well-rounded sales stud. Once he saw the fame and soon-to-be fortune of becoming our team's sales content winner, he dropped all efforts to correctly ramp-up in favor of busting out the maximum number of phone calls.

Not only that, his other skills took additional months to develop because he spent his early efforts going for the short term prize. Most importantly, there was evidence that demonstrated outbound call volume was not necessarily our most important metric, or the one in which our top performers were excelling.

4. No sustainability. 

If sales reps are judged by one activity metric only, they will eventually suffer from extreme burnout. They’re not assembly line workers -- Sales reps need stimulation and a diverse, evolving set of tasks to ensure they're constantly growing as professionals.

Sure, long hours and hard work are crucial to forming legends, but work ethic and commitment are only part of the equation to sales success. Want to watch your sales reps really soar? Give them a handful of skills to develop, training and support, and then the autonomy to put their skills to use.

5. Sales cycle discrimination.

The sales cycle is typically split into a few different roles: Sales Development, Closers, Customer Service, or some variation of these positions, depending on your structure.

When you make sales competitions revolve around one metric, you often exclude entire sections of your sales force. Not only did you fail to properly incentivize them, you also implicitly undercut their sense of recognition, value and utility within your organization.

Even more damagingly, single-metric competitions take away the sense of unity a sales force needs to successfully land and keep a customer.

Incentivize Activity and Success

After talking to dozens of experienced and enthusiastic sales managers, I’ve come to realize there is still is a (rather strong) presence of single metric ‘sales’ competitions, measuring anything from phone calls to total profit to closed deals. At first mention, it sounds like a great idea. After all, these are the individual metrics that make sales organizations successful. 

Sales Contest Ideas

Look at this way though: The best beer isn't necessarily the one with the most hops. NBA players don't make the All-Star team by having the most shot attempts. Why should your sales people be defined by just one ingredient of their craft?

The most highly respected sellers or sales writers (Aaron Ross, writer of Predictable Revenue) in the world have come to terms that the sales cycle is best broken up between multiple positions.  People can sniff out telemarketers going down a list from a mile away.

In turn, there are no longer just “salesmen." Emerging technologies have transformed the sales process, creating the informed buyer and the targeted, refined sales process required for winning over these prospects. Single metric competitions and Excel spreadsheet uploads were once the best thing since five-day Blockbuster rentals. Fast forward a decade, and they’re all irrelevant.

Supercharge Sales Contests with Ambition

Ambition is a sales management platform that syncs business teams, data sources, and performance metrics on one system.

Sales leaders use Ambition to enhance sales performance insights and build sales reports, scorecards, contests, and TVs that supercharge focus, effort and accountability.  

Ambition is endorsed by Harvard Business Review and AA-ISP (the Global Inside Sales Organization). Hear more from business leaders who use Ambition in their organization.

Watch Testimonials:

  1. FiveStars: Adam Wall. Sr. Manager of Sales Operations . 
  2. Filemaker: Brad Freitag. Vice-President of Worldwide Sales.
  3. Outreach: Mark Kosoglow. Vice-President of Sales.
  4. Cell Marque: Lauren Hopson. Director of Sales & Marketing.
  5. Access America Transport: Ted Alling. Chief Executive Officer.

Watch Product Walkthroughs:

  1. ChowNow. Led by Vice-President of Sales, Drew Woodcock.
  2. Outreach. Led by Sales Development Manager, Alex Lynn.
  3. AMX Logistics. Led by Executive Vice-President ,Jared Moore.

Read Case Studies:

  1. Clayton HomesHBR finds triple-digit growth in 3 sales efficiency metrics. 
  2. Coyote Logistics: Monthly revenue per broker grew $525 in 6 months.
  3. Peek: Monthly sales activity volume grew 142% in 6 months.
  4. Vorsight: Monthly sales conversations grew 300% in 6 months.

Contact us to learn how Ambition can impact your sales organization today.

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Sales Leaders, HR Professionals, and C-Level Executives use Ambition to recognize, motivate, and develop employees into more engaged and productive versions of themselves. Funded by Google, used by the Fortune 500, endorsed by the Harvard Business Review.

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