shutterstock_110185169Two camps divide popular opinion on the topic of salespeople competing with other members of their teams. On one side, sales representatives are inherently competitive because their jobs revolve around winning customers and beating competitors and they thrive in situations that bring out their competitive drive. On the other, sales managers don’t want to invite hostility into the bull pen, and prefer to encourage sales reps to team up to beat the real competitors: the ones that put deals at risk.

Some sales reps perform better under competitive situations; some crumble under the added stress. So how do you find a balance?
A little healthy competition, when executed the right way, can invigorate the team.

How to Add Healthy Competition to the Sales Team

Set a level playing field

A recommendation from Resolution Systems, a sales training and management company, is to make sure that you don’t have a brand-new sales rep competing against someone who’s been in the business for years; with this type of inequality, discouragement will set in right from the start. In this type of situation, it’s much better to aim for percentages of increase in lead generation, closing, or whatever is the identified goal. In that way, each rep is only competing against themselves to show the most improvement.

Create teams to compete against each other

This tactic stimulates the competitive instinct while providing a built-in ego-buffering support system. The team who comes in second or third will still benefit from improved personal bonds between team members, and nobody will feel singled out. Switch out team members for different competitions so that alliances don’t become entrenched and cause long-term division in your group.

Show progress on a white board

Whether you have individuals or teams in a competitive project, it’s always helpful to see exactly where everyone stands. Making a simple thermometer-type chart to measure progress will attract attention and keep people focused on the goal.

Equalize resources

Cubiks, an international assessment and development consultancy, recommends that all team members have equal access to company resources such as funding, transportation or support staff. Also, establish and enforce clear policies about overtime work, so that team members with higher family commitments still feel supported within the context of being competitive.

Offer small but meaningful prizes to all participants

This may seem more like managing childrens’ birthday parties than sales teams, but in some respects human beings don’t change with age. One of the characteristics of unhealthy competition is that the people who lose feel bad. Providing small gift cards or extra privileges to all participants acknowledges the real effort they put in, and keeps motivation high for each new day. As Gainesville Business Report adds, “If one member of the team gets far ahead of everyone else, people will at least continue to compete for the other prizes.” The winner can then be awarded a more significant prize without any negative reaction among the others.

Establish peer rewards for the best innovation

Whether it’s fresh re-wording for sales materials or a great new plan for pre-call research, your sales team has ideas. If they bring these to an “idea fair,” and vote on the one they like the best, the winner will be recognized by his or her peers and every team member will leave with a new set of tools to enliven sales productivity.