Go Sell It On The Mountain

By Malcolm Fleschner

In May 2001, when Erik Weihenmayer became the first blind mountain climber to ascend the summit of Mt. Everest, he beat incredible odds to achieve an extraordinary goal. Looking to tap into the same level of motivation and drive that propelled Erik to such heights, Aventis Pharmaceuticals tapped him to help kick off the company’s six-month nationwide sales incentive contest in 2002.

Titled, Over the Top, the contest used a mountain climbing theme to challenge Aventis sales reps to achieve monthly sales targets. Salespeople reaching their goals received points that were good towards the purchase of merchandise and travel offerings from a catalog of more than 3,300 rewards.

Tapping into the team members’ spirit of adventure, the creative communications pieces that went out during the contest arrived via mixed media, with each reinforcing the contest’s overall theme. In addition to sending out a direct mail brochure that included a motivational message from Erik and detailed program rules and awards, Aventis also created a contest Website named Base Camp where participants could go to track their progress against other sales associates. As points were accrued, automatic emails went out to notify participants of their achievements.

Erik also helped throughout the contest by sending motivational emails and voice mails to encourage participants to stay focused. Meanwhile, Aventis sent targeted, themed reminders to salespeople’s homes, including a mountain carabineer with a compass to communicate direction, a sunglasses clip holder for the car visor to emphasize vision, and a sporty belt loop watch to stress timeliness.

Each month sales reps reached 105% of quota they received 40,000 points. Sales reps who hit their collective number for all six months of the contest received 1,000,000 points. In addition to rewarding individual sales associates for hitting their targets, the Over the Top contest also encouraged teamwork within groups by awarding points to area managers and regional directors for team accomplishments.

So, what were the results? The Aventis sales organization did Erik Weihenmayer proud. Sales quotas were surpassed overall and by more participants than had been projected. Sales revenues in first quarter 2002 increased 22.1% over the same period in 2001, while selected franchise lines experienced even growth across the board. Unquestionably, the Over the Top contest showed that a strong theme, combined with compelling rewards and a well-orchestrated communications strategy, can drive salespeople to surmount even the highest selling peaks.