7 Steps to a Successful SDR Cold Calling Sales Contest (Case Study)

Imagine you run a sales team of 50 people and 30 of them are NOT enthusiastic and fully committed to their work and workplace.

How would this impact a department specifically focused on driving revenue?

YIKES. Pretty scary.

The bad news? Studies have found that only 34% of workers in the US are engaged. Now here’s the good news: Every 5-point improvement in employee engagement boosts revenue by 3%.

As salespeople, we constantly think about how we engage prospects and customers. But most revenue leaders don’t think about engaging their team as often as they should.

If you are a modern sales leader, you must constantly stop and ask yourself, “How do I engage my team? What areas could be improved? Which reps are the most engaged? And how can I leverage them to help with the rest of the team?”

In a fast-paced environment where things like onboarding, headcount plans, comp, demo practice, deal strategy, and lots of other revenue-generating activities are top of mind and rapidly changing, it can be easy to lose sight of what matters most to people.

A recent poll from Sales Hacker found that contests are the #3 most motivating way to boost performance next to transparency in numbers, and recognition (which both could be tied in with contests!).

But as you’ve probably seen, not all sales contests work. If they’re done wrong, they can actually demotivate your team.

At EAT Club, we host a new sales contest every month or quarter, based on what areas we are focused on improving.

Some sales contest ideas that work:

  • Everyone hits an identified individual weekly goal (activity or performance-based)
  • Meetings with target accounts
  • Drop it like it’s HOT – cookie and hot sauce drops for prospecting
  • Sales presentations and role plays

We do individual competitions and team competitions. Generally, the prize is an Amazon gift card or whatever motivates that individual the most.

Sales contest prize ideas:

  • WFH days
  • Bonuses
  • Taking a rep to get her nails done

When it comes to sales contest prizes, think in terms of flexibility, money, and experiences. Different people value different things, so rewards of all types can be effective.

SDR Cold Calling Sales Contest

We recently completed one of our biggest competitions — an SDR Cold Calling contest. Here’s how we did it and how you can create one of your own.

High-Level Overview

Team LA competed against the Bay area, and the finalists flew up to our HQ in Redwood City to face off for the grand prize — a $1,000 bonus.

We invited other departments to help judge, support the event, and provide feedback from a non-sales point of view.

Key Lessons Learned

Competitions and rewards, when designed right, have a huge impact on culture (and ultimately, performance).

Our teams spent weeks practicing with each other, refining their cold-calling approach, and mentally preparing for a high profile competition. Their skills definitely improved.

RELATED: 90-Second Pre Call Planning: A Simple Process for Cold Calling Success

Other departments were extremely excited to participate, and some folks mentioned they had “no idea” the type of conversations Sales has with our prospects.

It brought cross-functional teams together ✅

It helped them improve at something they do every day ✅

It was FUN ✅

That’s a win in my book.

But how do you run this type of competition? How do you get these types of wins for your team? Let’s take a look.

How We Ran our SDR Cold Calling Contest

1. Identify the goal

What skill or area are you trying to improve? Base your contest on that.

RELATED: How to Get Better at Sales (Essential Guide and 4-Step Checklist)

Like most SDR teams, we have call blocks every day. It goes without saying that, generally speaking, this is the most dreaded part of sales.

Answer this question: How many of your SDRs practice refining their approach as often as necessary?

If you answered, “Every single one,” I would be extremely impressed (and you need to give me a call asap). Otherwise, this contest is for you!

2. Set your sales contest criteria

Both of our markets, LA and the SF Bay Area, did local competitions among their teams and selected 2 winners each. SDRs were judged on the following criteria and ranked 1–5 (5 being the best).

  • Comfort & confidence (Do they sound natural and personable?)
  • Knowledge of competitors and value of EAT Club (Can they clearly articulate EAT Club’s points of differentiation in a succinct way?)
  • Overcome objections (Extra points for including stories.)
  • Warm call (Did they effectively build rapport?)
  • Close

3. Provide potential scenarios to enable SDRs to practice

We gave 4 common situations that our SDRs target, and we provided them with the

  • Company name
  • Industry
  • Contact stakeholder group
  • And other trigger events that may require an SDR to approach the call differently

Then we gave them a few weeks to practice.

4. Round 1 of the sales contest

Everyone in our office was invited to participate and help judge, using the 5 criteria listed above. We made printouts for people to score and take notes.

Rather than making actual calls, I assigned certain individuals to play the prospect so we could control the call and provide the same objections to everyone.

At the end of the contest, we tallied everyone’s score, provided feedback to each individual, and announced the winners.

5. Round 2 of the sales contest

We made a big announcement at one of our company-wide sales meetings that the winners of the LA competition would be flying up to the Bay Area to face off with them.

The grand prize? $1000 per winner (We had 2 winners, one for each of our 2 different types of sales.)

6. Cultural Integration

The night before the finals, we took the finalists out to dinner. We then invited people from Product, Marketing, Design, Planning, and HR, and even executives joined the finals.

7. Finals: keeping the contest fair

Rather than opening up judging to the masses, we selected a few individuals to judge so we could prevent bias and keep the competition as fair as possible.

We allowed people in the audience to provide feedback immediately following the competition and announced the winners on Slack.

Final Words

Sales is competitive, but posting monthly and quarterly stack rankings isn’t enough to motivate the team. Small competitions when communicated and designed right, have a large impact on the energy and overall culture of your team.

A cold calling competition is about more than just boosting sales. It can have a long-lasting impact on your SDRs and the way they approach cold calls from now on.

RELATED: Why Everybody Hates Cold Calling… And Why That’s Good News For You

Here’s what the winners themselves had to say.

Participating in the cold call competition encouraged me to ditch the canned call script in favor of having a detailed, targeted conversation with the prospect based on their company’s situation and where they fit within it. Now that I know I can handle working under that amount of pressure I feel like I can make a call to even the most stubborn prospect no sweat.”


“I really appreciated the opportunity to be able to demonstrate my cold call abilities to management who don’t get to see much more than my performance metrics on a daily basis.”

As a bonus, this sales competition will help people on other teams understand what you’re doing. For instance, we were told by the people we invited that they had no idea the types of conversations Sales was having with our prospects, and they appreciated getting the invite.

In other words, it will elevate Sales throughout your entire organization.

Oh, and one more thing: Huge Congrats to Tyler Menk and Riley Sloan on taking home the Win!

Laura Guerra is a Director of Sales at EAT Club, a food tech company based in Redwood City feeding the hungry minds of over 1000 companies including Mastercard, TrueCar, and Wag! She eats (pun intended), breathes, and dreams about creating high performing sales teams through a strong culture. She’s created culture clubs and women’s groups at various companies in an effort to improve collaboration, support, and resources to help improve employee engagement.

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