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Sales competitions must be on of the most commonly used tools within a sales organisation to motivate and engage the team – and for a very good reason. Tapping into competitive spirit, driving focus and alignment around a goal via a competition works. That’s why we keep running them, week after week, month after month, quarter after quarter.

Here’s the thing though: most organisations use competitions in the wrong way. And I can say that confidently, given I meet upwards of 50 VP Sales or Sales Directors every quarter.

99 out of a 100 sales competitions look exactly the same. 10 points for a Booked Meeting, 20 points for a Created Opportunity and 30 points for a Closed Deal. Even if your organisation doesn’t use those activities – you get the idea. You take your core activities (often your funnel) and give people points for progressing through those activities.

There are 2 reasons why these are ineffective competitions:

  1. You won’t change any behaviour. You may incentivise people to book a few more meetings, but you won’t get to the core of why people aren’t booking meetings anyway. This means whilst you may see a temporary spike, you won’t get any long lasting improvement of core metrics/KPIs.
  2. Your top performers will love the competition, your average and low performers will hate it. Average and middle performers know they aren’t going to close enough deals to finish up the top – you know it, and they know it. This leads them to give up and often leads to a dip in activity levels given they become demotivated by their limited chances of performing well.

Thankfully, the solution is simple! All you must do to engage the majority of your team is measure ACTIONS, NOT OUTCOMES. In other words, measure and reward people for performing the actions or behaviours that will lead to success, instead of simply measuring people for outcomes.

At first, this may seem like a tricky exercise to come up with great actions or behaviours to measure.

Here are some ideas just to get your creative juices flowing.

  • Let’s say you have a problem getting your team to cold call. Instead of telling them they need to call 50 cold numbers a day, reward them for taking steps to making the task easier. Maybe they should get points for preparing cold calling lists, then doing some research on each number to make the calling less daunting?
  • Let’s say you need to increase customer satisfaction within a call centre. Instead of telling your team that they must work to improve their Customer Satisfaction scores, reward them for doing customer-centric behaviours such as asking for feedback from a customer after a call, wishing the customer a great day after a call, asking the customer if “there is anything more I can help you with today?”.
  • Let’s say your sales cycle is too long. Most teams will simply start measuring the sales cycle and reporting on it. “Bob, your average cycle is 12 weeks today, we need to get it down to 8”. This doesn’t help Bob in anyway. Instead, measure and reward the micro-behaviours and actions that will help Bob. Reward Bob for setting a clear timeline and agenda with his customer. Give him bonus points if the customer agrees on the 8-week timeline.

You get the idea – take outcomes, take KPIs and take goals – and break them down into the micro-behaviours that your staff can actually do every day.

This makes it EASIER for your team to focus on the right things, it rewards the MAJORITY of your team because everyone can perform those actions, and amazingly – it will actually help you achieve your outcomes because ACTIONS lead to OUTCOMES in the end anyway.


It may sound simple…. but it works. We’ve seen it time and time again. Hundreds of the world’s biggest enterprises (Coca Cola, Hyundai, L’Oreal, Metro, Office Depot etc) have completed transformed the way they measure, reward and motivate their organisations based on this philosophy and the Sparta platform. And it is generating real, measurable business results.


Written by

James Pember
CEO Sparta, gamification & performance management technology for the world's biggest and most-loved enterprise brands.Passionate about performance. Passionate about helping companies drive change. Love the intersection of behaviour, business, psychology and technology. One-time marathon finisher (probably won't try again).