Should I encourage competition among my sales team?

Before I started running my own companies almost 15 years ago now, I climbed the ranks of every sales team I was involved in. I was fiercely competitive and despised not being numero uno on the leader board.

This commitment to winning did serve me in ways. Yet, in hindsight I spent too much energy worrying about losing, and as a result I didn’t enjoy the experience as much as I could have.

These days, I’m more laid back. Over the years, my fear of losing has been replaced with a quiet confidence and an unrelenting resilience. I like to win, sure. Of course I detest losing a pitch or project to a competitor, but I don’t lose sleep over it.

In my sales teams I encourage competition; however, I never let it compromise what we stand for as individuals and as a company. I also don’t win business for the sake of it. I choose clients wisely and never put aside my values to get paid. This way of being is hard to achieve in competitive team environments.

Competition is healthy when the team is bound with mutual respect for each other and clear and agreed rules of engagement. Competition becomes unsanitary when guidelines are ambiguous, rules are made on the fly and winning takes precedence over all else.

I was once in a sales team where IP was guarded, and the end of year trip was the end game with the customers being the means to that end. And it wasn’t an inspiring environment to play in.

Your sales team won’t have much energy or time left to fight for your customers if they are too busy fighting to win among themselves. Nor will they be focused on creating win/win outcomes with your customers if they are too focused on fulfilling their own agendas.

To create a successful team, you need to develop a sales culture that rewards individuals, but not at the detriment of other team members. And never at the detriment of your customers!

Rewarding individual success alone can de-motivate others and also encourage resentment towards the successful person. Some sales managers promote this approach, much like carrot and stick leadership ? this is old school leadership ? thankfully we’ve evolved beyond it.

How is success measured in your sales team? Happy customers? Profit? Gross sales? Annuity revenue? Loyalty? Entrepreneurialism? Work ethic? Passion? Or all of the above?

The most common measurement is: gross sales. This is a simple metric, but rarely the best gauge of a successful sales team. The reason is your “top line” is of little interest or benefit to your customers. Top line measurements are misleading, as most of the reality lies below the surface.

I measure my sales team’s performance by a number of metrics, namely: work ethic and their willingness to contribute to others, including customers. My team is competitive, absolutely, particularly when it comes to other companies in our space. They are also fiercely competitive when it comes to getting the best out of themselves!

I reward team success above all else. If one salesperson is clearly ahead in a particular month, I encourage them to keep going, but also to help the others to succeed who aren’t on par. This rewards their individual success, it shares success IP, and importantly fosters a winning team culture.

A team is only as successful as the weakest link. To move forward you need to either remove the weak link altogether, as a consequence you make the collective smaller, or you collectively work together to augment the weak link and make it stronger. Unbreakable. Making the collective stronger!

A wining team it’s not about “me” and “my” success. It’s about “us” and “we” and the success of “our” team!

For more Selling Strategies advice, click here.

Trent Leyshan is the founder and CEO of BOOM Sales! a leading sales training and sales development specialist. He is also the creator of The NAKED Salesman, BOOMOLOGY! RetroService, and the Empathy Selling Process.


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