Healthy competition within a sales team

My personal feeling is, it’s not competing with my peers that will motivate me or improve my commitment and achievement of results. Best practices thou, are always welcome and should always be shared amongst the team.

To be very honest, my experience with regards to competitions amongst peers as the reverse result. That label of “healthy competition” had always in the vast majority of people a negative connotation or opposite to what “healthy” should mean and bring.

The less armful approach – speaking of the team cohesion – I’ve seen so far, is the establishment of very clear rewards and incentives. Transparency of bonus schemes (less and less transparent or with items that are out of the sales rep control), career evolution, recognition and praise at higher level.

Unfortunately in most companies I’ve been and others I know personally, this process is very opaque and staff in general have the feeling that opacity is done on purpose. In a team “competition model”, in order to rate a team member with the highest grade you need to “downgrade” some other or the team in general to reach your “overall target”.

Now with all that said, it depends a lot on the kind of business, teams and market approach. For instance a team operating in EU with a sales rep per country. The Southern guys will argue the economics and markets are far more favourable in the Northern countries than in the south. That’s a fact, at the same time there’s no ideal world. What you can do here is have specific targets that are in line with market realities (for instance different metrics on DSO’s). Difficult, but not impossible.

I would say that in order to avoid damaging the team spirit with a team ranking, you can create a kind of team target besides the individual targets. You can argue here “there will always be those who contribute and those who collect same rewards”. That’s a different story.

Underperformance is still a kind of a taboo in most companies. One thing being below target due to some very concrete and factual circumstances, another is to simply lag behind and drag yourself moaning and complaining the market circumstances are difficult.

There are also the “soft skills” factors that can’t be measured in a straight figure but are equally important for the business, something you can’t have in metrics: Team player, attitude, commitment, sharing knowledge and best practices, respectful behavior.  The lack of those behaviors should be penalized to not rotten the spirit of the team.

The “healthy competition” inside a team may be well intended, but I’ve seen very often sales colleagues overruling common sense and good working practices just for the sake of higher numbers. Don’t forget, numbers can be tricky and there are several ways to get them. Sales folks can be very creative. I’ve been in a team of 10 in a major oil and chemical company, most of them good folks and professionals but the moral went down hugely, because the commercial director had that brilliant idea of the “healthy competition” within the team.

The reason? One or two weren’t playing by the rules, just to reach outstanding numbers and visibility. It is discouraging and unfair when you work on a professional and responsible manner and you see someone showing off using practices are at least, doubtful or that simply the systems and figures don’t reflect the reality. It’s called “fooling” the system or “ticking” the box. Praise or recognition shouldn’t be done for such non-valuable practices.

Think long term, don’t try to invent small shortcuts. Shortcuts may bring short term gains but will bring as well long term pains.

My motto is, as a team member, you shouldn’t compete with your peers, you should complete your peers and the business.

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