How Contests Can Motivate

September 30, 2020

By David Wadsworth — Former SDR @ demandDrive

As a sales leader, your success rides on sales productivity.

Getting the most from your sales staff — the most energy, drive, enthusiasm, and creativity — is both an art and a science.

At demandDrive, we have the perfect laboratory to research sales productivity. Our Sales Development Reps are committed to success and exude a competitive spirit. We work in teams, so it’s both fun and effective to run incentive-based programs/contests that resonate with our employees. We take pride in trying new ideas, collecting data, and analyzing outcomes.

We want to find incentives that employees find motivating, and through quite a bit of trial and error, we’ve found success in a few different contests and events. We also know that these contests — or incentives, for that matter — aren’t a “one size fits all” kind of thing.

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Every employee is unique, and each is motivated by their own set of expectations and goals. One of our Team Leads, Tad Bustin, believes in the importance of keeping an objective sense:

“We know every employee is different, and we believe it’s important to keep an objective sense by seeing what the numbers say. By keeping data on worker productivity and activity count, we’re able to see what can be tweaked to improve future contests.” — Tad Bustin

We often run contests and events that are “far-reaching,” or have more of a mass appeal. One of the more successful examples of this was demandDrive BINGO.

Simple concept — you pull a BINGO ball after hitting a certain activity metric: passing a lead, making 30 dials, talking with 5 people live on the phone, etc…If it’s on your board, you mark it. If it’s not, tough luck! Work hard to get the chance to pull another ball. The first team to make BINGO wins.

demandDrive saw a 13.4% increase in General Activities and a 28% increase in Quality Conversations (QCs) during the first round of Bingo compared to the prior week’s activities.

Companies measure success through different factors. Some want to see the quantity of their activities go up. Some care about the quality of those activities. Passed leads could be worth more to one company, with qualitative information being more valuable to another. We don’t like to give a set number of activities to get a set goal. Numbers are different for every company and every SDRs individual capabilities.

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Pretty much everything in Sales Development revolves around a funnel. If the top is filled with more leads/activity, the bottom should yield higher results. Contests like BINGO help fill the top of the funnel with the necessary activity metrics (calls, emails, social touches) to yield more bottom of the funnel results (quality conversations, leads). By seeing our total activity increase during the BINGO competition we also saw our total quality conversations and leads increase.

This was the tip of the iceberg for us.

The second round of BINGO was when we learned our lesson. Never duplicate your contests. Even if you feel like you’ve created the perfect contest, perfect set of rules, and the best possible outcome, you can’t rinse and repeat — it will never show the same results as the first time around. You always want to fluctuate your ideas and introduce new incentives to keep people engaged.

The second round of BINGO resulted in an 8% increase in General Activities and an 18.25% increase in QCs compared to the previous week.

While it was still a positive increase, the drive to get BINGO wasn’t as high as it was when we ran the contest previously. Change up the prizes and the contest rules to further engage your employees.

“People become dull to things after they see it multiple times. We can’t run a contest every day or else people become desensitized to the process. Rather than running them every day, we know they must be done sparingly to boost productivity.” — Tad Bustin

Another event we’ve used in the past to motivate employees to go above and beyond is the House Cup. We tied in physical outdoor activities on top of our typical call metrics, which got everyone out of the office and incorporated healthy habits. We ran a company-wide Tug of War, Water Balloon Toss and Bobbing for Apples competition. The kicker was this contest lasted two weeks compared to our typical one-week events.

We saw a 6.71% increase in GA and 4.8% increase in QCs.

Recall that dD BINGO saw a 13.4% increase in GA, and a whopping 28% increase in QCs. We found contests can’t go on too long or else people will lose interest. Moral of the story? Keep contests short.


We’ve constantly been researching new ways to motivate employees to go above and beyond their goal. We learned the importance of adding bonus incentives during our Chutes and Ladders contest. We all know Chutes and Ladders — you spin to see how many spaces you move on the board, and the first player to get to the top wins. Every qualified lead earned employees a spin, and therefore a chance to move further on the board. First to the top won a big prize.

With each lead being a chance to get you closer to the top, employees were actively engaged throughout the whole contest. Anyone could win at any time, so it was motivating to work hard from start to finish. To keep engagement even higher, smaller contests to earn bonus spins were conducted. The best pipeline of the day was a popular one, and going over a specific number of quality conversations was a big motivator. Employees knew that every activity they made got them closer to a spin, and therefore closer to the big prize.

“It’s important to remember every employee is different, and every company project is different. To get everyone engaged, you must hold everyone to different standards. Treat people differently since every project and work ethic is different. If you give someone too hard of a goal, they’ll cave in.” — Tad Bustin

So, four quick takeaways on Motivation, Contests, and SDR Engagement:

1) Respect individuality and give everyone, no matter their quota or project, an opportunity to participate and win.

2) Keep it fresh. Don’t run familiar contests too close together. Mix it up.

3) Keep contests short and sweet.

4) When you need to run a longer contest, provide interim steps and activities to stimulate engagement along the way.

Hope you found this helpful! Have any good contest ideas of your own? We’d love to hear them!

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The demandDrive Archive has blogs from 2011 - 2018, written by various former contributors.

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