Win The Budget Battle

By Malcolm Fleschner

Financial types can be the natural enemy of the sales manager trying to free up tight budget dollars for a sales contest. But sales contesting guru Bruce Fuller discovered a terrific way to persuade those financial types to loosen the purse strings: Get them involved in the contest.

“In most companies you have a VP of finance telling the president: Let’s not spend money on another contest,” Fuller says. “So I found it was a good idea to talk to the finance guys and involve them in the contest – get them to help me develop the numbers for the contest. So I went to our VP of finance and said: Let’s have a look at all the sales budgets across the country for all of our sales departments. What I need to do is bump up those budgets a little bit and use a percentage of the incremental sales to fund the contest. When I got financial management involved it became their contest, too.”

In addition to including finance people in the planning stages, Fuller says he also likes to take number crunchers away from their ledgers and expose them to the light of day during contest announcements.

“As a method of introducing the contest we might act out a skit, and I’ll try to involve the non-sales people in that, too,” he explains. “For example, we once had a contest based on a banking system. We created a fake bank and put fake deposits for each salesperson in their bank accounts. The idea was that if the salespeople went through the contest and hit their targets, the deposit amounts stayed in their accounts – and then we transferred them into a real bank account. The skit took place in the company bank with the finance guy portraying the head of the bank. So all of a sudden the finance guy is now playing the game. He’s watching what’s going on, he’s part of the theme. He’s excited about being involved.”

Part of the problem with getting at those elusive funds, Fuller notes, is that finance people have little understanding of what goes on in the sales department and why contests make so much sense as a motivational tool.

“Finance people tend to be individuals stuck in offices,” he says. “They’re not out in the field working with the salespeople, and they’re not working with clients so they don’t understand the excitement that can happen during a sale. By tying them to the contest kickoff and the day-to-day contest operations they become involved and buy into it.”

For more information, email Bruce Fuller at