Good sales people radiate a special kind of intense energy. They tend to be business professionals with a particular sense of personal drive and ambition, coupled with an unflagging work ethic and a never-give-up determination. It can make for a very dynamic team environment — or if not channelled positively, an antagonistic one.
The flip side of working in sales is the incredible pressure reps and even entire teams can be put under to meet a particular quota or an annual revenue target. As we get closer to the end of some firms’ fiscal years, the stress levels can reach a fever pitch.
Worst-case scenario? In an unhealthy competitive sales environment, reps may behave in ways that don’t contribute to the company’s overall success. It’s not a matter of acting maliciously towards one another, necessarily, so much as failing or not bothering to share information about customers and prospects.
Many organizations are already thinking about what their revenue opportunities will look like in 2019, and developing a sales strategy to capitalize on them. All that planning won’t matter much, however, if the team is so busy competing and looking out for No. 1 that they don’t rally around the common objectives.
If you’re a sales manager or even the owner of a business, consider how you can strike the right balance between competitiveness among salespeople and also encourage collaboration within the team. Like this:
1. Gamify the Process, Not Just the Results
Many organizations have a leaderboard or running tally of who’s closed the most deals, which is sort of like encouraging sales reps to think of themselves as elite athletes in pursuit of a gold medal. There’s nothing wrong with that, but you might also want to consider recognizing the kind of activities that lead to closed deals, which set an example for everyone and encourage others to do the same thing.
Some examples of other “scores” you could keep include:
- Who’s entered the most opportunities or fresh data into CRM over the past month
- Who’s acted upon the most leads generated via the marketing team’s efforts
- Who’s spent the most time building opportunities in a digital channel like social
Any of the “winners” here will hopefully inspire their co-workers, rather than breed resentment, because it will be clear that they’re doing the groundwork necessary to generate long-term success in sales.
2. Build Common Ground Through Online Communities
Beyond team meetings and the like, many sales reps are more or less working on their own, and often not in the office at all. Many of them enjoy that freedom and flexibility, but it can still mean they feel a bit isolated when they run into the inevitable challenges.
The great thing about digital technologies like the cloud and mobile apps is that distributed or decentralized teams can feel more connected than ever before. Some options include online portals that go well beyond a traditional intranet, offering resources for all sales reps and places for them to turn to each other for help and support when necessary.
Another option is enterprise social networking tools that give sales people the lightweight communication features of services like Twitter, but in a private network where they can talk more freely.
3. Use Data To Evaluate Performance Holistically As Well As Individually
If you’re using a CRM like Sales Cloud, reps and their managers have an unprecedented ability to look at what’s working and what’s not in terms of their approach and the results they’re generating. When you look at that data collectively, though, you may start to see strategies and tactics that are more common across the entire group. You might also be able to set more realistic and achievable goals based on a larger-than-imagined addressable market, cross-selling or upselling opportunities that haven’t been considered before, and so on.
Reps can and should still set personal goals, of course, and managers should nudge the team to challenge each other to evaluate the data so that they can surpass the team’s (or their own) personal best. This is the kind of competitiveness that’s much more playful than the days when every rep jealously guarded their personal rolodex.
4. Turn the Attention on External Rather Than Internal Competitors
It’s easy to take notice of who’s crushing their quota when they’re sitting across the table or in the next cubicle, but the best sales pros spend much more of their time keeping watch on those working for rival companies who are winning over the same accounts they’ve been trying to pitch.
Data can be a game-changer here as well, especially when you talk as a team about what you know regarding an outside competitor’s win rate and how you can aim to outdo them as a united front.
5. Celebrate Progress — any Progress — as a Group
The best sales managers have learned that teams need to occasionally take their noses away from the grindstone and reflect on the victories they’ve achieved.
It’s great when it’s possible to get everyone together in person, but that’s not the only way to go about it. Recognition and celebration can be as simple as a group text message, a rousing email, a video chat and so on. Just be sincere and try to look for ways in which the team has pulled together, rather than simply competed with each other.
Anyone who’s played sports of any kind knows there is great value in a competitive spirit — just make sure it’s a healthy one that makes sales reps feel motivated and eager to take themselves (and the team) even further.