Why the best inside sales managers encourage internal competition

by Steli Efti

sales-management-competition

If you want your inside sales team to reach their quotas and feel motivated to crush it every single day, there’s one thing you should embrace:

Competition.

I’m not talking about the competition between your company and another. I’m talking about the competition between your own salespeople. I’ve heard far too many struggling inside sales managers say things like “Collaboration is better than competition” or “Competition creates a bad corporate culture.”

Here’s the reality:

Internal competition can be healthy for both your employees and your company.

When you’re building your inside sales team, it’s important to hire people who aren’t afraid to compete. But it’s not enough to bring in competitive people and encourage them to go at it.

You have to create an atmosphere where competition benefits everyone, instead of harming morale and team motivation.

One of the biggest mistakes that inside sales managers make when trying to foster competition is focusing on the wrong thing. Far too often they try to leverage job security, pay or the threat of public humiliation in an attempt to drive competition. When you take this approach, internal competition is fueled by anxiety and fear, resulting in churn and even unethical sales practices.

The best inside sales managers think about competition a bit differently. Rather than focusing on negative outcomes, they offer incentives like bonuses, public praise, trips, awards, clever celebrations and other rewards that make the sales team eager to step up their game.

A classic technique for encouraging competition is keeping track of every sales team member’s wins on a public leaderboard. Not only does this inspire employees by showing them how they measure up to their colleagues, but if you reset the leaderboard each month, it gives every employee a fresh chance to earn that top spot.

Another simple technique is creating a prize wheel for your salespeople. When someone on your team reaches a specific goal, they spin the wheel and win a prize—say, dinner for the whole team at a local restaurant, or a $50 Amazon gift card. Get creative!

In the early days of Close.io, we had a bell. We’d ring that bell every time we made a sale. And when that bell rang, it didn’t just signal an individual accomplishment. It celebrated—and motivated—the entire organization.

Here’s what one of our early team members wrote about the bell:

If someone is having a rough day or questioning what they are doing at a startup: working long days, building something that other people may not believe in yet, something as simple as ringing a bell can lift their spirits. It is a tangible signal that lets everyone in the office know that what we are working towards is worth it, and that we are seeing positive results.

You see, sales celebrations don’t need to be extravagant.

People just want to be recognized, share their wins with the team and have fun.

If you keep that in mind, then competition within your inside sales team won’t be a bad thing. It will be focused on positive reinforcement to keep morale high and inspiration flowing. When a sales team is competitive due to positive reinforcement, there are three key benefits that show up time and time again:

  1. More innovative solutions
  2. Improvement in work quality
  3. Stronger bond among team members

An inside sales team that is motivated to compete will be willing to take more chances and try new things. If you rely on negative reinforcement, your team will feel safer sticking to what they know—or they might look for unethical solutions out of desperation. But the offer of public praise, bonuses and celebrations encourages innovative thinking.

Teams that are motivated by competition know their work is being watched. As a result, they’re not going to be sloppy with their outreach emails or slack off when it comes time to follow up. Instead, they’ll be more inspired than ever to execute at a high level so they can move up the ranks on that leaderboard or ring that sales bell.

Negative competition on a sales team can turn nasty overnight—it’s every man and woman for themselves, after all! But when you embrace positive reinforcement, you’re more likely to see your team come together to win as a unit. While they will certainly be motivated to achieve their own goals, they’ll also be motivated to help teammates achieve theirs.

So what do you do next?

First and foremost:

I need you to realize that there’s no bell or prize wheel in the world that will automatically make your team competitive. Whatever form of encouragement you choose, you need to embrace it fully, nurture it as a tool, and help your team buy in. Ensure that the culture of competition you’ve created is a positive one, and do everything in your power to keep it that way.

We recognize that managing a team of inside sales professionals is no easy task. That’s why we put together the Ultimate Sales Management Toolkit that helps sales managers like you get a clearer understanding of how to do your job at a high level. Download the toolkit, including free email templates, sales scripts, a hiring checklist, and more, today:

Get The Sales Management Toolkit