How to Avoid Complacency with Competition on a Sales Team
Complacency is the leading killer among sales teams; it steals enthusiasm, crushes motivation and otherwise saps the energy of your salespeople. As a manager, strive to avoid it in your team members at all costs. Instead, create a little friendly competition and have your sales team stretch.
The best way to avoid complacency is to continually inspire your people and give them incentive to progress, grow, and innovate. Never let them get stale.
Most salespeople are already competitive — it’s one of the most common traits among the truly great sales leaders — so it doesn’t take much to stoke that fire. If you dangle the carrot, the good ones respond very quickly. They want to win. They need to win. It’s in their blood.
The great thing is competitiveness is contagious. If you can light that spark in a few of your people, most of the others usually catch on. Nobody wants to lose — and if they do, they probably aren’t going to be around for the next sales contest.
You may have some people tell you they didn’t want people competing against each other. Forget that! You most definitely want them competing, but as much as they are on different sides, they’re on these same team.
Ultimately, your sales department must operate as one. But, within that department very few things drive sales better than a good, competitive team with each member having a burning desire to succeed. Be careful not to let the competition sabotage the overall good of the team.
How to promote sales contests
Keeping score and celebrating wins helps to keep your salespeople focused on growing their sales and gross profit.
One favorite ways to do that is through periodic sales contests. This is not something you can do constantly because it will lose its effectiveness, but properly planned and executed, a sales contest is a great way to keep your team engaged and focused.
Try to run one contest per quarter for a few weeks or even for a month. It seemed to be just often enough to keep everyone interested and not water down the real goal.
It’s not a bad idea to plan an annual calendar in advance, but you should also be prepared to put a program in place at a moment’s notice if needed.
Show salespeople the numbers
One of the great debates among sales managers and leaders of sales teams is how much information to share with the people on the front line. The theory is that if they knew what gross profit actually was, they’d give it all away in price concessions if they have some influence over price. Do you buy that?
If professional salespeople are properly trained and compensated based on gross profit, they have a vested interest in not cutting prices. If you train them to build value, hold their ground, and actually believe their product or service is worth what you’re asking for it, amazing things will happen.
If you don’t show them the numbers, you can almost guarantee you the numbers your salespeople make up in their mind will be far worse than what you’re trying to keep them from seeing. If you’re not disclosing profitability because you’re making 20 percent gross profit, they think you’re making 50 percent.
In one person’s years as a sales manager and as VP of sales, his mentor used to share the numbers with everyone — good, bad, or indifferent. When asked why he said, “Well, I don’t want to be the only one worried about them.”
You know salespeople like to win. If you show them what the score is, they will help you win, but if you keep that information concealed they really have no way of knowing how well they’re doing other than what you tell them. When salespeople have some skin the game, their attitude about price cuts changes dramatically.
Share the good and the bad. When you do, take the time to explain the difference between gross profit and net profit and let them know just because you made 20 percent on the sale doesn’t mean the company is taking that to the bottom line.
Step through a set of sample financials with them and let them guess how much the company actually nets at the end of the month. Their assumptions again will be much higher than the reality, and the truth could be eye opening and very beneficial.
Make sales competitions fun!
A key ingredient in successfully implementing sales contests, programs, and promotions is to keep it fun. There’s nothing in this world wrong with enjoying your job. In fact, if you’re not, maybe you should do something else.
This isn’t a dress rehearsal. This is the only life you’re going to get so you might as well enjoy it.
As a manager, you set the tone for your people. If you have a good time, they’ll have a good time and see that it’s okay to be pleasant and enjoy what they do. It doesn’t have to be so serious all the time. Lighten up. Relax and enjoy the job.
Build your contests and incentives around holidays or events and let your salespeople really take ownership and get into the spirit of competition. Put together sales teams of people who don’t normally work together and count their total sales toward the score or contest — give them a reason to foster new and stronger relationships with each other.
When setting up contests and competitive programs always remind your department that everyone ultimately is on the same team. Create an environment where people are sincerely happy for each other’s success and not trying to succeed at another’s expense.
When people are having fun, you can be assured they will sell a lot more than when they are just dragging around waiting on Friday to get here.