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Guest Blog: Using Sales Contests to Lift Customer Experience

This week we feature an article by Natasha Postolovski who shares the idea of using sales contests to help motivate and promote a higher level of customer experience at your organization. – Shep Hyken

Customer experience is the most important factor in the success of a retail business. In fact, in highly competitive industries where brand loyalty is fleeting, companies cannot afford to deliver anything less than a perfect customer experience, or customers may take their business elsewhere.

The aim to provide perfect customer experiences must be present not just at the organizational level, but at the level of every sales associate. I believe that fun and friendly contests are one of the fastest and most effective ways to motivate high performance among sales associates.

Contests are time-limited challenges that bring sales associates into alignment with your organization’s goals. Here are just some of the things you may choose to focus on:

  • NPS (Net Promoter Scores)
  • Sales revenue
  • Upsells
  • Promotions
  • High-margin products
  • New product lines
  • Loyalty and rewards programs
  • Team vs. Team
  • Store vs. Store
  • Product knowledge

Contests can last for as little as an hour, such as when a regional manager visits a store location, or as long as one month. In general, sales contests result in an atmosphere of fun and friendly competition. Sales associates love to be challenged, and they love to be challenged in new ways. Aside from boosting performance during the contest, I’ve found that participating in a shared challenge brings sales associates closer together and helps them work more effectively as a team.

If you believe a sales contest could help motivate a higher level of customer experience at your organization, here’s how you can get started.

  1. Choose your sales contest focus

Focus your sales contest on behaviors that will help create perfect customer experiences. This can be direct, via competing around Net Promoter Scores, or indirect, via competing around sales revenue. For employees to maximize revenue per customer they must build trust with the customer, and this means providing the perfect customer experience.

It’s worth noting that the benefits of sales contests don’t end when the contest does. The true purpose of every sales contest is to build beneficial habits that will last long after the contest is complete.

  1. Choose your participants

    Whether your contests occur at the level of sales associates, teams, stores, or entire regions will depend on the size of your business and your organizational goals. I often find that contestants are more motivated when grouped together according to their baseline performance. For example, smaller stores may be pitted against stores of a similar size, with large high-performing stores pitted against each other. This ensures everyone is enthusiastic about the competition and that winning does not seem out of reach for lower performers.
  2. Choose your rewards

    To be most effective your sales contest should include prizes. I’ve found that giving sales associates a choice of smaller prizes can often be more motivating than a “one size fits all” larger prize. If you plan to hold multiple competitions over a longer period of time, consider giving your associates the ability to save up their winnings for a more significant prize of their choosing. In general, I’ve found that cash prizes tend to be the least effective, as they can encourage a transactional mentality. Wherever possible, try to offer physical prizes like gift cards, electronics, and movie tickets.
  3. Choose your timeframe and rules

It’s best to be extremely clear up-front about the terms of your sales contest. This will ensure that all participants have realistic and accurate expectations about how the contest will run.

  • When does the contest start and end? Be mindful of time zones if your stores are widely distributed.
  • When will winners be announced?
  • Which prizes are on offer, and how can sales associates win them?
  • How will prizes be distributed to winners?
  1. Inform your staff

    It’s time to get your sales associates prepared and excited for your sales contest. In addition to telling them about the competition face-to-face, you may want to post something on a staff noticeboard, or online if your organization uses a workplace engagement platform or intranet. By placing the rules and relevant information in a public place you’ll minimize time spent answering questions and clearing up confusion.
  2. Make progress visible

    It’s important that at any time during your sales contest your sales associates can check their progress. After all, you’ll get much better performance from a sales associate who knows they’re in second place and close to clinching first, compared to a sales associate who doesn’t know where they stand in the rankings. You can use the staff noticeboard for this, or an intranet page.
  3. Celebrate contest winners

    It’s time to announce the results and celebrate the winners. Sales associates are motivated by rewards, but recognition is just as important. Make sure to gather everyone together and publicly recognize and congratulate high performers for their efforts.

Sales contests are tools you can use to align staff around store or company goals. They’re fun and effective, and I have seen them lead to sales revenue increases as high as 5%. Most importantly, they help to build lasting habits that will improve customer experience long after the contest is over.

Natasha Postolovski is Content Manager at Arcade, a rewards, recognition and communication platform for retail sales associates and their managers.

For more articles from Shep Hyken and his guest contributors go to

Read Shep’s latest Forbes Articles: Half Of U.S. Employees Are Actively Searching For A New Job


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