Competition is an essential force in society. In sales, competition is inevitable, and when done in a healthy manner, can be instrumental in pushing your sales team and individual members to uncharted heights.
As a sales manager, knowing how to tap into this for a beneficial purpose can be difficult. On one hand, you want to shepherd this existing competitive spirit to inspire our natural order to be better. But the opposite could result in a divided and dysfunctional work environment.
When you start exploring why we are drawn to competition, the layers are rippled with psychological nuances. For example, the social comparison theory explains it by saying that each of us has a human instinct to continually improve, while simultaneously making sure our performance level is equal—if not better—than those around us. We want to lift more weight than the person next to us in the gym, make more money to keep up with our friends, or be funnier than others when out in a social setting.
So let’s learn some ways you can harness this primitive tendency using gamification or contests with your sales team to inspire healthy competition.
Keep the contests fair.
No one enjoys competing with someone who is out of his or her league. That’s why there are weight divisions in wrestling and boxing, grade or age divisions in science fairs, and even five separate levels in minor league baseball.
So when putting together sales contests between individuals or teams, try and match players with similar abilities and skill levels. That’s because—as psychologists explain—the comparison theory works best when both individuals are comparatively close in ability or performance.
Now this can mean a couple things. Apart from skill level, consider creating contests between team members selling the same product or selling in the same region of the country. This will help ensure a more level playing field and healthier competition.
Make rankings easily viewable.
My 5th grade teacher didn’t keep the 100s chart buried in a filing cabinet or on her computer. It was on the wall for everyone to see. If it wasn’t visible, I—and many other student in the class—wouldn’t have cared as much and wouldn’t have tried as hard. When I saw my ranking on a daily basis, it was personal.
When having sales competitions, make sure rankings are visible. This increases the comparison theory in us and will instantly inspire lower performers or those who don’t win contests to do better and work harder so falling short doesn’t happen again.
And don’t worry about lower performing salespeople getting their feelings hurt or high performing team members losing interest. The act of rankings, no matter where you fall on the leaderboard, inspires competition to simply jump one spot. To beat the person ahead of you.
Keep the contests short in length and don’t worry about the prize.
I love baseball, but I realize it’s not as popular as it once was. One of the top reasons my friends or colleagues “just can’t get into it” is the regular season is too long.
Keep this in mind when making sales contests. Short contests produce much better results than long ones that stretch out over a full quarter or even the year. Try to keep them no longer than a month so your reps don’t lose interest or lose sight of how important each day and each call is to the end result.
A lot of sales managers also worry about how to best use prizes to inspire competition. Do you offer gift cards or an extra day of vacation? Often, bragging rights is enough to motivate sales people. Like myself, it was seeing that I had the most 100s. That’s what drove me to study harder. So offering prizes for the highest performer or most improved team member is a great idea, but don’t rely on that solely for interest from your sales team.
Remember, competition goes much deeper than getting an Amazon gift card. It’s part of our natural order. All you have to do as a manager, is tap into it and harness its influence to get results.