Sales is a uniquely meritocratic career and competition among sales staff; with commissions, bonuses and other ‘carrots’, acting as great motivators. Many of the best sales cultures involve healthy competition – and a ‘performance culture’ at their core.
As a manager of sales pros, it can be tempting to revert to more ‘traditional’, aggressive methods of leadership; involving pitting colleague against colleague in a race to the top. Indicators that you should redesign your sales culture can include high churn, resentment among sales reps, poor employee attitudes towards leadership, and a general lack camaraderie between workers. In a world where sites such as Glassdoor can instantly impact an employer’s brand, you can’t afford to allow negative competition to tarnish your reputation.
When done incorrectly, competition can be counter-productive and lead to some very negative outcomes. In the worst cases, a negative sales culture can even breed scenarios where sales colleagues will try to take potential business from each other - to the overall detriment of the company’s reputation and bottom line.
So how can sales leaders motivate and push their salespeople to hit targets without potentially negative consequences? How can you lead a sales team in a manner which fosters positive competition rather than negative behaviours or a ‘blame game’? How can you keep all your top performers happy and rowing in the same direction?
Here are some top tactics to help you build a positive sales culture and avoid negative competition.
Decide What You Stand For
“There are no friends in business”, or so the old adage goes. Sure, competition is an important part of a sales role but does that mean that you, as a sales leader, should foster a culture where “freedom for the pike is death to the minnow”? This is a fundamentally important question you must ask yourself. In some sales teams the kill-or-be-killed attitude can work but is that what you want to be your legacy to the next generation of sales pros?
Decide what you stand for. This should come from the top and filter down. Ideally, your organization is a place where top sales people can achieve without demoralising or stepping over others in the team.
One of the biggest killers of a happy and healthy sales team can be introducing the wrong team members – those with bad attitudes and negative approaches to hitting targets. When looking to grow your sales department, create a checklist of character traits that your new hires will need to have in order to create an effective and productive sales organization. Look for those that engage with the employer brand and able to communicate your company vision to prospects.
For some sales organizations, teamwork is a top characteristic that salespeople need in order to create the right culture within the organization. This is especially important in sales teams with collective targets. It is the responsibility of the leadership team to define your sales culture and the characteristics your salespeople will require to work within a more collectivist sales culture. Ensure your HR department knows to look for potential candidates who understand the importance and rewards of working as a team to achieve goals.
If your sales team are doing the right things then the sales will come. By ensuring you have the correct processes, procedures and philosophy in place, you will be able to develop a large, wide and full sales funnel. To create the most possible leads, you should look to build in healthy competition alongside functional momentum.
It’s important to encourage your team to increase their activity, knowing that sales will increase as a consequence. This doesn’t mean quality should drop in either the sales communications or follow up efforts. Educate and empower your sales pros to make the best-possible use of sales and marketing tools available to them – such as triggered email and social media automation - and be sure to regularly communicate the benefits and opportunities available if your sales execs can hit (and exceed) targets.
When your sales teams achieve targets you – as a leader – must absolutely recognize their successes. Sales pros who are rewarded and recognizes are far more likely to feel motivated. They are also more inclined to stick their necks out as examples to more junior team members; thereby creating a culture of knowledge sharing and encouragement.
If your aim is for your salespeople to deliver revenue then, simply put, they need to feel loved by the company when they hit objectives. Put the importance of their efforts to the ongoing success of the whole company front-and-centre. One proven tactic way to achieve this is gamification - making them extra motivated to compete and inspire others around them.
Face Up to Failures
Confronting failures in a constructive and helpful manner is just as important as recognizing successes. As a sales leader, it is your responsibility to work with the team to understand why targets were not met and to foster a sense of collective responsibility. Avoid scapegoating at all costs as this can kill team morale and harbour resentment.
Remember to maintain a dynamic and high-energy work environment. When the sales funnel dries up, it can crush egos and kill morale. This is why positivity is the key to keeping your employees going in the right direction - even in the face of rejection. Keep things light and publicly acknowledge your best salespeople and encourage them to share tips that lead to success.