Is Competition Bad For My Sales Team?

Fact: nature of sales attracts highly competitive people. Fact: high-functioning teams are competitive. Fact: If you think your sales team's competitiveness is your edge, your competitor has probably already won.

The fact is most sales leaders don’t know the first thing about how to deal with a competitive salesperson or excessive sales competition. And they don’t know how to remedy unhealthy competition. This leads to a common question amongst CEO and sales leaders:

Is too much competition bad for my sales team? Underlying structures reinforce excessive competitiveness, but a high-performing sales team relies on teamwork to achieve meaningful sales performance. Excessive competition and collaboration interfere; a sales leader’s job is to bread healthy competition.

Don’t get me wrong. Without healthy competition, you have a bunch of salespeople sitting around arguing about their underperformance. A competitive environment breeds better results because your organization strives to achieve its maximum potential.

On the other hand, just because you have a tough job that takes a lot of effort and working with people who are pushing hard to achieve their goals, it doesn’t mean you’re in a toxic environment either.

sales leader speak with prospect and sales team

Nature of sales teams

A sales team is not all that different from a Formula One team. Each Formula One team has two high-functioning and highly competitive drivers. They share the same team goals.

But, they’re not on a team because they compete for the number one position.

Likewise, you can’t have two top-performing salespeople competing for the same podium finish; they can’t tie for first place.

And herein lies the problem in both Formula One and sales teams.

One person will win; one person will lose.

Yet the organization asks them to work together – in a positive atmosphere. Yeah, right?

Infighting is inevitable in Formula One teams and is rife within companies’ sales departments.

Get a Team Assessment

Optimize your sales team with Kolbe and PRINT® assessments to identify team-member strengths and motivators and illuminate bad-fit placements.

Unhealthy competition

Unhealthy competition in sales teams is an age-old problem that a company rarely solves because their leaders view the remedy linearly. The way business leaders seek to solve it is binary.

They seek to motivate each competitive salesperson with a reward response, either with:

  1. Money
  2. Competition with peers

The mistake sales leader is fuelling this mentality within their team with a monthly sales competition or contest. Conveying this message masked under the guise of “friendly competition” is effectively pitting sales reps against each other.

You may think you are encouraging a healthy level of competition; you’re discouraging team cooperation and motivation.

You can't have two top-performing salespeople competing for the same podium finish; they can't tie for first place.

sales teams and sales leaders

Competitive Team Vs. Game-Changing Team

There is a clear difference between a competitive and game-changing team.

Competitive TEAM

  • An interdependent group of individuals sharing responsibility and a common goal.

Game-Changing Team

  • An interdependent, stable group of individuals with defined roles share responsibility, mutual trust, and values. It also has strong leadership conveying a clear and common goal. A true world-class team constantly and consistently distances the gap between you and your competition.

The critical differentiator in each of these definitions is the role-defined group.

Ultimately, you want individuals that understand their job.

Talent and a competitive streak play somewhat of a factor, but it depends on whether your team members want it.

That ultimately boils down to their surroundings, so you must control the work environment. Control the new setting, and you have a shot at controlling the results in the outcome.

Smart people do dumb things and miss their targets. Do not allow that to happen. If you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, you must go together.

You need a team to achieve meaningful results. You need a team that is bought in and has developed the right culture. Whether you choose to build it or not, a culture already exists.

Understand this: culture is your competitive advantage, not your team’s competitive nature. Company culture and knowing how to get the most out of each employee will help your company to succeed.

sales hiring and sales team

Learn each employee's intrinsic motivator

Write this down and store it somewhere safe: money and pay are soft motivators.

It’s only enough until it’s enough. Making salespeople compete for rewards isn’t enough.

Let me put it another way:

Simply telling them: “You’re a team, and you need to work together” will not do anyone any good.

Instead, learn to understand all your salespeople’s affective desires because that’s how you will trigger them to want to move forward with accountability. You can speak to them at a one-to-one level with complete transparency.

People are often intrinsically motivated by:

  • stability
  • job satisfaction and recognition
  • achievement
  • recognition
  • freedom
  • Bettering own performance
  • combination of different things.

Use your knowledge of the individual’s desires to help speak to each salesperson one-to-one and figure out specific roles and activity targets for each member. They then are essentially competing with themselves.

Am I saying that you lower the bar for some salespeople? I am not.

What I am saying is that instead of trying to create competitions, do the hard work to get to know every member on your team and find out their role in your game-changing team. Once they know their role and they are correctly motivated, your organization will see game-changing results.

Get a Team Assessment

Optimize your sales team with Kolbe and PRINT® assessments to identify team-member strengths and motivators and illuminate bad-fit placements.

Do you want a game-changing team?

sales hiring and sales team

When your organization grows, you have to reinforce a culture of winning.

As the sales leader, it’s your job to identify areas in your company that need improvement.

Are your culture and structures causing problems?

Can you find creative solutions to these issues preventing progress?

Let me be clear, if the solution were in front of you, you would have solved it already.

It’s likely something that you cannot solve without support and help.

Rose Garden Consulting is solutions-focused, so if you want me and my team to ignite your revenue, we will do so with our Team Assessment and Sales Accelerator Process.

Ali Mirza

About the author:

Ali Mirza is the Founder & CEO of Rose Garden, a national sales consulting organization, and featured in Forbes, Inc, Business Insider, The Huffington Post, Business Rockstars, and The Wall Street Journal.

Ali is a highly sought-after public speaker presenting at multiple national conferences on innovative ways to accomplish transformational growth on your sales team.

Rose Garden provides unparalleled support and guidance to growth-minded founders via sales strategy differentiation, world-class sales culture creation, and exclusive playbooks, processes, and scripts to position them for limitless growth.

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