There's a common misconception that the first quarter of the year is a period of time when you can briefly relax. That's not the case, however--especially in sales. It's essential to maintain sales engagement and excitement coming into Q1 and to get reps focused on the behaviors that will lead them to a successful year. If you miss benchmarks in the quarter that tends to have the smallest goals of the year, it'll affect your team down the line considerably.

One method that will help make the most of the first quarter is implementing dynamic competitions to engage your employees. Here are three simple steps to incorporate gamification into your Q1 sales strategy:

1. Map your route

Before you get a competition up and running, clearly define the day-to-day activities your team needs to complete to accomplish the sales goal. For example: How many leads do you need to create to achieve that number of wins? How many opportunities do you need to win at your average selling price? Then choose between one and three sales activities to focus on. Take a look at all of them, from face-to-face meetings to product demos. Ask yourself: Which will have the most impact on Q1?

Most of the time, you're going to want to focus on your sales pipeline in the beginning of Q1. But regardless of where you choose to focus within that pipeline, you should prioritize closing deals at the end of each month. The worst thing to do is to wait for the end of the quarter to start rallying your team around securing business. Get your reps to focus on activities at the beginning stages of your sales process--such as prospecting and booking first meetings--early in the quarter.

2. Encourage energy around goals with competition

Implement a variety of contests; some can last for an hour and others can run for a full week. Spicing up the durations and type of competitions keeps them fresh, which promotes participant engagement. Throw individuals' names and faces up on a leaderboard and watch their efforts stretch once they begin competing with peers. Competition and recognition serve as the top two non-financial motivators for your sales team, so you want to fully leverage both.

3. Increase recognition

The more you recognize your team and publicize their accomplishments companywide, the better. Leaderboards that display competitions keep sales goals at top of mind, and allow both managers and sales reps to remain cognizant of who is flourishing. Furthermore, other sales reps can take away great sales techniques and inspiration once they know who their top-performing peers are in each category and how those peers got to the top. Then your entire team's performance will rise collectively, so all of your reps can race together toward those quarterly goals.

Q1 is your sales team's chance to set the pace for 2014. Sure, you can bounce back from a low first quarter and still hit annual sales goals. But think of where you can take the company's sales if you crush Q1 right off the bat. How far could you go after a stellar first three months? You can find out if you understand clear steps to hit your sales goals, take advantage of gamification techniques, and recognize your reps for even the small wins along the way.