There’s nothing like a little competition to motivate a sales teams — or anyone, for that matter.
One of my role models, Teach for All co-founder and CEO Wendy Kopp, described in The Wall Street Journal how competition drove innovation during the world’s space race. Would Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin have made it to the moon if the U.S. weren’t trying to best Russia? Likely not. Just a decade earlier, the task seemed impossible, but competitive pressures made it happen.
Competition inspires employees to stretch their limits. One person might struggle to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but she’ll persevere when she sees teammates knocking down those same obstacles. Everyone wants to feel strong and capable, and competition makes them abandon their excuses to push through adversity.
This is doubly true for sales professionals, who tend to be competitive by nature, with themselves and others. They’re used to the strain and success that comes with hitting sales targets. Healthy competition helps them do so with passion, stamina, and confidence.
One year, my company rallied everyone around a year-end stretch sales goal. Management set up competitions to reward top performers, but we also gave prizes for team engagement. No one wanted to be the reason we fell short of our goal, so everyone went into overdrive to push us across the finish line. We hit the target, but more important, our achievement created camaraderie and boosted morale.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt believed competition is useful only insofar as it promotes cooperation. That’s as true for businesses as it is for governments.
Unhealthy competition is a cancer. When team members are out for themselves, it causes others to react selfishly, too, and soon nobody views their success within the context of the organization. When colleagues begin picking at each other, tearing each other down, and snatching leads from underneath one another, unhealthy competition has set in.
Salespeople who understand healthy competition will challenge themselves, but not at the expense of others. They know they’ll face highs and lows in their careers, and they put in effort regardless of whether they’re shooting sales bull’s-eyes or woefully missing the target. To encourage positive, competitive climate among your sales representatives:
Let people see one another’s daily and quarterly progress via gamified dashboards. When you’re having a rough day, it’s easy to blame leads for your struggles. But when you see a dashboard showing your colleagues’ successes, you’ll find fresh gusto to dial those extra dozen numbers and hit your next sale.
Rather than pitting Jim against Jane, encourage salespeople to beat their own personal bests. When people compete with themselves, they’re more likely to reflect on how they can do better and less likely to blame others. By focusing on outselling themselves, salespeople develop self-reliance and are willing to share sales tips with others.
My company pairs new hires with tenured sales reps so they can learn to navigate challenging calls and overcome objections. We also highlight big wins through a “Presentation Olympics,” in which everyone submits his best calls and votes on the top three. Not only does this lighthearted event foster a sense of pride among the winners, but it also motivates others to reach higher and creates bonds among co-workers.
In sales, recognition is essential. By reinforcing behaviors critical to standout performance, you encourage top sales reps to repeat them and motivate others to model them. Our annual Pinnacle Club recognizes the top 30 percent of sales consultants. It’s a fun competition that encourages people to go the extra mile, learn from one another, and enjoy the fruits of success.
Healthy competition inspires individual reps, but it also strengthens teams. When colleagues root for each other and support one another’s growth, everyone wins — especially your company.
How do you encourage healthy competition on your team? Share your tips and tricks below in the comments.
Lisa Pearne is vice president of sales at California Casualty, an auto and home insurance provider for educators, law enforcement officers, nurses, and firefighters. Having spent 22 cumulative years with the legacy company, Lisa oversees 65 sales team members in its Colorado Springs, Colo., and Leawood, Kan., offices. She earned a B.A. in Business Management and Administration from the University of California-Riverside in 1993.