How to Run a Sales Contest
“Competition is key to developing players. The only practice environment in which you truly develop a player is a competitive arena.”– Anson Dorrance
Anson Dorrance may be the best coach you’ve never heard of. As the head coach of the University of North Carolina (UNC) women’s soccer team, he has claimed 21 of 41 NCAA women’s soccer titles. No other program has more than three. Famed UNC basketball coach Dean Smith once declared, “This is a women’s soccer school. We’re just trying to keep up with them.” When I worked on Mia Hamm’s book, Go for the Goal, I got to hear about one of the keys to the team’s success – the “competitive cauldron.”
Dorrance’s early teams didn’t practice like they played. Blessed with legendary athletes like Kristine Lilly, Mia Hamm, and Carla Overbeck, they would destroy the competition during their games. Then at practice, they would hold back. No bruising tackles. No shoulder checks. They wanted to be good teammates more than they wanted to win on the practice pitch. Dorrance needed a way to raise the level of daily competition without undermining team cohesion. His solution was the “competitive cauldron.”
His assistant coaches started ranking the players from best to worst in every drill. Dorrance then posted the results outside his office door, which the players had to walk past on their way to practice. Practice intensity skyrocketed. No one wanted to come in last. To preserve morale, the daily competitions didn’t impact playing time and each day was a new day. So what if you ranked last on Tuesday when Wednesday you could place first?
Water boils at 212 degrees. The heat source must be constant. Daily competitions helped spark a remarkable run of championships at UNC. So, if you’re looking to bring more heat to your business in 2024, how about a little competition? I recently caught up with Mega Agent Kristan Cole who has perfected the sales competition for real estate teams.
Kristan runs quarterly competitions across her huge network of expansion teams. She aims everyone at the sales metric of the moment – listings taken, contracts written, etc. The prizes for first and second place are legit, running into four figures. The challenge with most team contests is the winner seems like a foregone conclusion. There is almost always a standout salesperson who can quickly run away with the contest.
Everyone else competes for a third-place tie. This is where Cole’s “competitive cauldron” is. If you maintain the “standard,” say four contracts written a month, then you automatically tie for third place. Genius. This is how she keeps everyone engaged. Each agent who ties for third gets up to a $500 bonus on their next closing. Also genius. No cash outlay, just a lower team margin on the next closing. It’s not a “participation trophy,” they had to hold the team standard to qualify.
Finally, Kristan hypes up each new contest at team meetings by getting everyone to share what they will do with their winnings from the previous contest. It’s a system for continuous competition. And it’s dialed in for team profitability.
You can’t motivate unmotivated people. But if your people are competitive by nature, you can tap into that. Competition matters.
One question to ponder in your thinking time: How can I get maximum effort from my salespeople?