From Apathy to Passion: Fostering Competitors

A little healthy competition never hurt anyone, right?

In fact, according to Teach for All co-founder and CEO Wendy Kopp in a Wall Street Journal article, competition might be the perfect catalyst for high sales team performance. Kopp cites competition as the reason for the innovation during the world’s space race. Just a decade before the United States landed on the moon, the whole endeavor felt like the plot of a science fiction novel. Humans walking on the moon? Absurd.

Then we started competing with Russia and well, suddenly there was innovation happening. There were breakthroughs, quantum leaps in space travel possibilities. And then one day Buzz Armstrong made human history with one small step that was a giant step for mankind.

Competition in the workplace isn’t always about negative rivalries. Healthy competition can push employees out of apathy and encourage them to stretch their limits. Mundane daily routines can take on new meaning as coworkers accomplish significant milestones. Sometimes all it takes to bust someone out of a slump is watching a peer’s achievement. Employees may say they just want a paycheck – but everyone wants to feel capable and valued, like they’ve done something meaningful. Professional competition holds out that possibility to employees by encouraging ingenuity and confidence in their abilities.

Of course, competition can be a nuanced thing. No team wants two employees who want to see the other fail. Healthy competition takes the long view and prioritizes teamwork and shared goals, rather than achievement at the expense of another.

To foster this kind of competition among your sales team without negative repercussions, take these 4 steps.

1. Give credit where it’s due.

Only one kind of person likes feeling invisible at work – an underperformer. Create a dashboard that updates daily and quarterly progresses for all your reps, and puts out individual successes for all to see. As they see their colleagues succeeding, you can believe they’ll feel motivated to make those extra calls.

2. Focus on individual improvement.

Every sales rep gets dealt a different hand of cards. To keep jealousy and resentment from raising their destructive heads, make it clear that the ultimate goal is for each rep to beat their personal best. You’ll keep morale high and foster collaboration and even coaching between associates.

3. Partner up.

Some companies have seen major success by pairing a new hire with a tenured employee during competition. It allows the new hires to navigate difficult calls with someone who’s done their time in the trenches while giving seasoned sales reps a set of fresh eyes to look through. Meanwhile both parties sharpen their skills and encourage each other in the competition.

4. Celebrate the wins.

If you know sales reps, you know they love recognition. Make sure you reinforce the behaviors that spark top-notch performance; not only will you encourage representatives to keep up the good work, you’ll motivate other reps to join them. Whether you’re duplicating winning plays or pointing out smart tactics, these celebrations build consistency across the team and take collective performance to a higher level.

Every sales leader’s dream is a team that supports each other. Foster healthy competition and you can find yourself with a team that brings you tighter camaraderie and more closed deals.