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Welcome 2013!

Contests to motivate your outbound lead generation teamIt’s the start of a new year, and what better way to kick it off and get your outbound lead generation team motivated than with an arsenal of fresh contest ideas. Outbound lead generation can be a grind, but contests can be a creative way of motivating outbound lead generation reps and creating a fun and competitive environment.

There are many different ways to setup a contest for the outbound lead generation team, but the key is to create contests that incentivize the right behaviors. You also need to be careful not to reward the wrong behaviors.

For example, if you run a contest for most calls in a day you will probably get people fudging the stats. There are tons of contest ideas out there that you can find just by searching online. The key is to keep it fun and competitive. Here are few ideas:

  • The whole team gets a prize if everyone generates above a certain number of leads
  • The rep with the most qualified leads gets a prize
  • The rep with the most conversations gets a prize
  • The rep with most improved number of appointments/qualified leads (week over week, month over month) gets a prize
  • Reps are individually recognized for personal achievement when they reach a personal best for appointments or qualified leads
  • Reps are divided into teams and the team with the most qualified leads wins a prize
  • Reps are awarded fake money for achievement in conversations, appointments, and qualified leads, and are later allowed to gamble it off for prizes at a “Monte Carlo Night”

Just as important as the contest is the prize, and like contest ideas, there are tons of different ways to reward the winners. It doesn’t always have to be money, and you should keep in mind if you run contest frequently enough the costs can start to add up. It’s a good idea to allocate a portion of your annual budget specifically for spiffs and contest prizes. Here are few suggestions for prizes:

  • Cash
  • Gift card to a nice restaurant or local coffee shop
  • Amex/Visa gift card
  • Extra day off to use whenever
  • A trophy or plaque
  • Paid vacation at a hotel for a long weekend
  • Team dinner
  • Permission to leave early on Friday

The Biggest Motivator

Never underestimate the power of recognition. Regardless of the contest you run or the prize you give to the winners, make sure that you present the award in public in front of the winner’s peers and superiors so they get the recognition they deserve.

If you have any other good contest ideas that I didn’t mention in this list, please share them in the comments.

Have a great 2013!!!

Ori Yankelev is a Sales and Marketing Associate for OpenView Venture Partners, working with the firm’s portfolio on developing great business development and inside sales teams.

  • Swayne Hill

    Ori, looks like a pretty complete list. Every team has a slightly different feel, so what works for some will backfire for others. I’d only add you should be careful to not create something that’s demotivating. For example, throwing out a bonus based on a number that’s not achievable (even with a big stretch). I’ve made that mistake.

    Public acknowledgement from above (in front of peers) is quite motivating no matter what the situation – and it costs nothing. I use that regularly.


    • orisfa

      Swayne, thanks for the comment. A little recognition goes a long way. Happy new year!


  • SalesPortal

    Recognition for personal achievement is very important. Every member of your sales team contributes, not just the guys who reel in the “big fishes.” You want every team member to real valued.

    • orisfa

      Thanks for the comment.

  • John Ross

    I love this! My company is super tiny, but we usually end up with pizza parties on Friday afternoons if the week has been really good. It’s tough to measure things right now, since we just switched from calling on NetProspex leads to calling on leads from Hoovers and LeadFerret, so everyone is having to learn two whole new systems for pulling down information, but now is probably the BEST time to impliment motivators, right? LOL.

    • orisfa

      Hi John, i’m glad you’re enjoying some of my posts. It’s never to early to think about creative ways to motivate your team, and recognize team members for their achievements. Best of luck!

  • Aaron Ross

    At, I always tended to make contests very short (hours or a day long) and focused it around training them on a new skill, rather than on generating sales results such as a leads/opptys goal.

    For example, we would hold a two-hour calling session to see who could get the most “call connects” in that time, which was defined as talking with someone at a company and getting at least one piece of useful information. Or perhaps we’d design a contest around who could learn a new skill, or email skill, or…you get the idea. It was always done with some fun in mind, with “co-opetition”, never i-win-you-lose-competitively.

    If you study human behavior, it turns out that the more you reward and compensate people for anything (kids for grades, adults for work), the less they enjoy the activities involved. They become subconsciously trained that the work involved isn’t worth doing on its own. You become dependent on the rewards, or contests. So – if you use contests to motivate your people, at some point you will NEED contests to motivate people, because their inherent / intrinsic / internal interest in working will be lowered.

    In the long-term, you can’t motivate or inspire people – you can only help create an environment in which they can motivate or inspire themselves.

    Contests are nice “icing on the cake”, but – like sugar – to be used sparely in addition to, not to replace, the important things like recognition (excellent point above), respect, coaching, enjoyment, training, honesty, etc.

    Another idea instead of a contest would be to ask each individual on the team about what’s most frustrating to them each day, and what would make their job more enjoyable. Perhaps you could run a contest as to who can come up with the best ideas on making the team and job more interesting :)

    • orisfa

      Aaron, thanks for the thoughtful comment. Some excellent insights as always :). I will definitely be implement your suggestion for the 2hr call session in one of my upcoming portfolio company initiatives.

      Thanks again.

  • Erik Charles

    SPIF(F)s and contests are great, as long as they don’t overbalance the actual incentive plan. I have seen too many companies get addicted to them, and the core compensation plan ceases to have any real impact on behavior.

    Sales team members will start each period waiting to see what the contest of the day/week/month is before they begin their efforts. The worst case is when they pocket deals / calls / activity records for the end of the period, because they KNOW that you will toss out a nice prize to pump up the action in the final days. Beware predicability, and assume that they will game the system.

    Going back to the positive – employees like recognition, and in one survey 69% of employees said they would work harder if they were better recognized. Contests can be a great way to provide that recognition as well.

    • orisfa

      Erik, thanks for sharing some insights from the incentive compensation world. But in that sense have you found that recognition work like compensation? If you give everyone recognition does that then become status-quo? Will the positive effects pass if you recognize everyone on the team for their achievements, or are they more enduring than simple prizes?

      Does the team at Xactly run spiffs?


    • orisfa

      Also, our Director of Research and Analytic Tien Anh Nguyen wrote a number of blog posts on the topic of compensation strategy at expansion stage technology companies, it would be great to get your thought’s on some of those ideas: