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5 Sales Contest Mistakes to Avoid

Sales targets less than they should be? Sales team motivation and channel partner engagement at an all-time low? Many organizations rely on effective sales contests to motivate their sales teams and increase their bottom line. However, sales incentive programs are only successful if they are executed properly. 

Effective sales incentive contests require significant time, execution, and planning. Sales managers have to lay a solid foundation in terms of introducing the sales contest and ensure strong follow-up along the way.

If done right, sales managers can see their sales shoot through the roof and renew passion among their sales team. If improperly executed or built on faulty assumptions, sales managers can be left with sagging sales and a demotivated sales team.

Here are five sales incentive contest mistakes you might be making right now:

Five sales contest mistakes to avoid.

Sales Contest Mistake #1:Sales Contest Idea One - 200.png
“My cash comp plan motivates my sales reps to perform at their highest level.”

The truth is, cash isn’t always the key motivator and we have lots of evidence to prove this. A study by BI WORLDWIDE found that merchandise and travel awards led to a 300% increase in sales over cash awards.

Sales Contest Idea Two - 200.pngSales Contest Idea #2:
“I get the best performance when all of my sales reps work toward the same contest goal.”

Nothing can be further from the truth. When given the chance to select their own sales goals, 98% of sales reps will select a goal and interestingly, 42% will aim for the highest sales goal offered.


Sales Contest Idea #3:Sales Contest Idea Three - 200.png
“Most of my lift comes from the top 20% of my sales force.”

We all love top performers, so much so that we often overestimate their actual impact. The truth is, most sales contest lift comes from the lower 80%, with only 35 – 40% of sales uplift coming from the top 20 sales reps. Unlock your biggest sales potential by targeting your middle and low performers.

Sales Contest Idea Four - 200.pngSales Contest Idea #4:
“The best time to run sales contests is during slow periods.”

This might sound like common sense, but actually, the opposite is true. Don’t neglect the busy sales periods. Sales uplift runs 5-10% higher during busy periods because the opportunity to sell is greater. When sales reps are putting in maximum effort, they increase their closing rate. Introduce an EXTRA incentive to close those opportunities, then they feel greater excitement and sell even more.

And finally, Sales Contest Idea #5:Sales Contest Idea Five - 200.png
“I know what motivates my sales team to reach their goals.”

If that were true, then most sales incentive contests would be highly successful. But they’re not. The reality is 75% fail to reach their goals.

So, maybe it’s time to take a closer look at what really inspires better performance and base your next sales contest on science, not speculation.


At BI WORLDWIDE Canada, we believe there is in fact science involved in building sales incentives. By understanding human behaviour and what really motivates us through behavioural economics studies, we have data evidence from over 1,000 client programs that prove what works and what doesn’t. There’s no guesswork about our sales incentive programs.

The contest structure you choose for your sales incentive program can have a significant impact on the results you're able to achieve. To help you out, we've compiled the most popular sales contest structures we've seen used over the past 18 months


Contact us to begin developing a sales incentive contest that fits your unique needs and motivates your sales team.

The best way to get started is to get in touch.

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