How to Promote Healthy Competition in Your Sales Team

The sales team is unique inside a growing company. People are often drawn to working in sales because they are confident both in their ability to develop great rapport with potential customers, and in the product or service they’re selling.

It’s safe to say that most people in sales have outgoing, competent, and competitive personalities. This often makes the sales team one of the most dynamic, engaging places to work. However, when it becomes a pressure cooker, sales can also transform into one of the most toxic places to work, and this can hugely impact your company’s revenue.

A stressed-out, hyper-competitive sales team’s performance suffers.

A stressed-out sales team usually shows the following symptoms: nasty in-office politics and energy, forming cliques to maintain power, and desperate levels of competition that result in your salespeople not supporting one another. If your salespeople are losing out on potential opportunities, lone-wolfing it, or hiding important communications, take it as a sign for a cultural overhaul.

The good news is that a healthy, competitive, and supportive team environment is possible, and it starts with the foundation of how your sales team functions – the expectations placed on them, how sales data is used to motivate or blame, and the team environment where both competition and collaboration can co-exist.

The Zero-Sum Mentality

Sales is a zero-sum game. This means that your potential customers must choose between options, and when a winner is declared, there are also losers. If a customer chooses to work with your business, it means another business or option has lost out. No one gets half-grades.

This natural “zero-sum” reality becomes a source of tension when it ends up in-house. If your salespeople believe that when their colleague wins, they lose, they cease acting like a team.

The truth is that your salespeople, while trying to win opportunities daily, must also act like a team on behalf of your company. They should feel comfortable and excited to work together, celebrate team achievements, and offer one another advice and information that could result in more sales. Fear of coming out a loser can stop any of this good stuff from happening.

The following three symptoms of a struggling team may explain why your sales team is working against, and not with, one another.

Constant Measuring Sticks

At Evolved Metrics, we are all for gathering, analyzing, and acting on sales data, including keeping track of individuals’ quantity of sales interactions. However, it’s a common misstep by leaders to use data as the only way to measure success and value.

Think about it this way: if you judge a salesperson’s job by quantity of interactions alone, without taking the quality of their interactions into account, or without considering how awesome of a team member they are (maybe they play a consistent role in helping their colleagues close deals), you will end up with a team that is laser-focused on the numbers and coming out on top. There are economic consequences to this way of thinking, including negative customer experiences and low conversion rates.

If this is the case in your company, consider that metrics are just a tool. Data can uncover important gaps and truths. However, for your data to achieve this, you need to treat the numbers as a way to see bigger trends, generate ideas, act strategically, motivate salespeople, and celebrate notable progress. Don’t forget to look for the other characteristics that make your salespeople great additions to your team.

Fear of Blame & Being Called Out

If a sales manager is hyper-focused on the numbers (some of which may not matter in the big scheme of things), they might make the common mistake of blaming and calling out individuals for “poor performance”. This is usually intended to motivate people to work harder and “win”, but it tends to have the opposite effect, resulting in a growing bitterness and the sense that true accomplishment is impossible.

If you suspect this is an issue in your company, consider changing how you or your sales manager address a lackluster sales performance – if it’s serious enough, chat with the salesperson in private. And importantly, don’t jump to conclusions when it comes to data and sales metrics. Data is clarifying, but it could point to many different conclusions. For example, a salesperson’s quantity of interactions could be low, but their conversion rate could be high, making them just as effective but in a different way. Make sure you have all the information first.

Changing Goalposts

Salespeople get naturally fired up and motivated when they are challenged to reach a compelling target, and this can have the effect of bringing them together as a team.

However, if the goalpost keeps moving right before they reach it, there is a “carrot on a stick” effect that eventually leads to burnout and unhappiness. No one will maintain their high efforts if they realize they’ll never get a chance to succeed and celebrate a win. Your salespeople are smart. Pick a goal, stick to it, and celebrate before choosing another goal.

Healthy competition is crucial in a strong sales team. In summary, ensure it remains friendly by keeping everyone pulling in the same direction.

Each member of your team is valuable and brings individual gifts to the table. Make sure they are recognized for their strengths, and send them out on the hunt as a team. 

Take time to analyze and draw informed conclusions from your data, not reactionary ones. 

Those who strive together, can maintain friendly competition, and celebrate together, succeed.

Do you want a sales team that succeeds together?

Book a complimentary consultation with us! We help small and medium-sized businesses achieve clarity between individuals and teams, implement processes that support a healthy work culture & foster understanding and collaboration.

It’s time to grow your sales.