Balancing Competition & Collaboration | Clarity Stack Blog

Posted on 16 Sep 2020

5 minutes

How to Balance Competition & Collaboration in Sales Teams

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It’s almost an unwritten rule that, by their very nature, sales teams need to be competitive. You can see why: they need to promote their product or service to steal a march on rival businesses, and in many cases each member of the team is working towards a performance-related bonus and commission which naturally brings out that competitive edge.

While this can be great for getting leads to convert there are also times when sales teams need to come together as a unit to help each other reach their collective goals for the good of the department, and the business as a whole.

Friendly competition and inter-departmental rivalries can be healthy when the teams are built and structured in the right way. We recently spoke about how to build a high performing sales team on the Clarity Stack blog, and it’s a very, very fine balance between a sales department that genuinely bonds and gels as a unit and one that becomes a number of individuals focussed solely on their own performance and the commission in their pay packets at the end of the month.

If you end up with the latter it can have a detrimental effect on both performance and morale with the more successful failing to pass on experience, expertise and assistance to their colleagues who may be struggling to sell through a lack of experience, sheer bad luck with their leads or poor technique.

To help you find that perfect balance we’re going to use some of our sales intelligence (see what we’ve done there), to share with you our top tips to reach that sweet spot between collaboration and healthy competition within your own sales team.

Focus on building a team culture

Our first recommendation, in all honesty, has nothing to do with individual sales technique or team performance, but the way the team gels as a unit.

Every member of your sales team brings something different to the table whether it’s decades of experience, a passion for a particular niche or sector or just the famous “gift of the gab”; but if your team doesn’t work together it’s almost impossible to pass those skills on to the wider team.

Bonding as a sales team over lunch or even socialising outside the workplace with a few drinks, dinner at someone’s house or a bit of 5-a-side football can make all the difference and can help break down any potential barriers that may have – completely inadvertently – gone up because of competition or rivalries within the department.

Before long it will feel much like a group of friends and teammates all striving to help each other reach their personal and team goals, sharing tips and even leads for the good of personal development and the wider business.

Set tangible individual and team targets to encourage collaboration

We’ve touched on individual and team targets already but they are a major part of every sales department in every business in every sector. When you bring in performance-based bonuses and commission on sales in return for hitting specific targets it’s natural that the individuals within the team will start to focus on those goals. A whiteboard in the office or a digital screen that everyone can see can work in one of two ways in this respect: spurring people on to get closer to those weekly or monthly targets, or making them panic and fear for the bonuses come pay day.

In our experience we have found that daily and weekly catch-ups within the sales department can have a positive effect on every member of the team, identifying not just those who are on track for their targets but those who might need some assistance so that the sales manager or senior members of the team can lend a helping hand to establish what might be holding them back.

Learning to work well with others is something that has been ingrained into us since our early school days, but it’s still something that many struggle with because of their introverted or extroverted natures. Quieter members of sales teams can be just as good at their jobs as the extroverts, it’s just that they might struggle to ask questions relating to their performance and development; while the extroverts might not be able to see that they need to take a step back and look within themselves – or at the introverts – to see how they can work better as part of the wider team.

Don’t stifle ambitious members of the team: use it wisely

Having ambitious members of the team is no bad thing as it shows that everyone is looking to progress their own careers by learning and, eventually, leading. There is a fine line between encouraging ambition and stifling it, forcing members to take their position within the department and bide their time until the opportunity to progress arises.

The unfortunate thing that happens all-too-often is that the ambitious members of sales teams will have their wings clipped, forcing them to re-evaluate their positions within the company and either moving on or losing that drive and ambition that makes them such a great salesperson first and foremost.

There is no harm in enabling the more ambitious members of the team to take on certain challenges and responsibilities, whether it’s inducting new members of the department or unofficially managing some of the less experienced members of the team so that they can share their experience and expertise, allowing that ambition to flourish while also ensuring that they remain a grounded, key member of the department.

A bit of competition can bring out the best in people

Healthy competition within sales departments can lead to new techniques and methods that help members to develop and eventually hit their targets. By looking at the data on the office whiteboard or within their own spreadsheets they can see that they might be falling behind and they need to do something about it. That competitive edge then comes through with different approaches that help them transform their fortunes, which they can then share with the wider team and other members who might be some way off their targets, too.

While some will be happy to implement the same methods and scripts for months on end, the more ambitious and competitive will look for new ways to develop and evolve their sales techniques so that they always stay ahead of the curve – and their goals!

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