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It’s always amused me that one of the most popular and prevalent sales contest formats is actually broken. The moment someone gets knocked out, they go back to the status quo and are no longer motivated by the game.

David J. Phillip/AP

Every March, sales leaders across the globe turn their attention to March Madness sales contests.

Thousands of companies run some form of sales performance incentive fund (SPIF) in March focused around getting their sales reps to push harder to close out the quarter. The large majority of these games have some sort of bracket where individuals compete and are "knocked out" as they move closer towards the finals.

But isn't the goal of any sales contest to keep as much of your team engaged for as long as possible? Isn't that the best way to see an ROI?

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It's always amused me that one of the most popular and prevalent sales contest formats is actually broken. The moment someone gets knocked out, they go back to the status quo and are no longer motivated by the game.

We've developed a new format of March Madness sales contest that doesn't have these problems. Here's my advice for running a March Madness incentive, regardless of company size:

Leverage teams: Getting reps to push and rely on each other is essential and will always yield a larger ROI vs. individual competition. Even when an individual falls behind, they're responsible to their teammates.

Create multiple ways to earn points: If you only let reps earn points for results metrics like closing deals or hitting quota, your same top performers will always have a higher total. To motivate the middle 50 per cent, incorporate activity metrics like making more phone calls, building pipeline or holding meetings with customers.

Keep reps 'in the game' vs. eliminating them: If you knock reps or teams out of the bracket, every week you're losing a large portion of your team's attention. Let reps build their own virtual teams of each other (www.fantasysalesteam.com/video) so they stay engaged throughout the duration.

Ensure the scoreboard is visible: Make sure everyone can see the results and that they're updated frequently or in real time. Best practice is to put them up on TV screens around your office or call center.

Encourage smack talk: Make sure your players have a forum to smack talk, brag and congratulate each other.

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Prizes don't have to break the bank: Sometimes the simplest and least expensive prizes can be the most effective; getting to pie your manager in the face, a reserved parking spot for the month, even a trophy. You don't have to break the bank.

Have multiple ways to win: Ensure there are several ways to "win" the contest so even if your team falls behind, there are ways to stay in contention.

Get non-Sales employees invested in sales success: Allow non-sales employees like managers, finance, operations and marketing to get involved. Getting them invested in sales success breeds a better culture and higher results.

Hold a proper kick off: Get everyone excited from the get-go! Hold a kick off to get employees jazzed about the game and prizes.

Measure, measure, measure: Remember that in the end, this isn't about fun or even engagement – it's about driving results. Measure everything and make adjustments to improve – you don't have to stop running incentives on March 30 if they're driving ROI.

Adam Hollander is the founder and CEO of FantasySalesTeam, a company that enables sales teams to run more engaging and higher performing sales contests.

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