Here’s Why Healthy Competition Is Good For Employee Engagement
It’s time to fight with your coworkers. No, seriously. It’s likely that on most days, you and your teammates have disagreements about the way something should be done. Whether it’s a proposal or a presentation, everyone’s got an opinion about how a project should be carried about. But rare is the person who can constructively stand up and propose a new way forward.
Make no mistake: we’re not encouraging you to throw down, bare-knuckle, Gangs-of-New-York style, but what we are asking still requires courage. The courage to challenge each other’s ideas in a healthy, mutually-respectful way. It’s easy to disagree about something on a project, it’s a whole other challenge to engage in constructive conflict about it.
But on the other side of a good “fight” over the best strategy for your team’s next big decision is a final result that’s sharper, cleaner, and closer to what everyone wants: the best possible result. Our challenge to you is this: find a way to engage your coworkers in a healthy disagreement, and leave your ego completely out of it.
In the end, you may find that their way is the best way; but with a good debate, you’ll walk out with a refined, fire-tested product that everyone can be the most proud of. With more and more teams working remote, friendly competition and challenges can help keep employees engaged, even with all of the distractions. Here are just a few ways that competition brings about the best results your team could hope for.
It Opens Communication
Here’s a quick thought-experiment: if three people are wandering around a maze trying to find each other, what’s the most efficient way for everyone to come together? Would that plan include communication? Of course it would. Unless everyone starts to identify where they’re at, the process of coming to a solution is just three individuals aimlessly wandering back and forth, hoping for dumb luck to strike.
It’s important to communicate your ideas so that everyone knows where you’re at—and so that you know where your team is at. Otherwise you’re just making a lot of blind assumptions. This is even more important when working with a distributed team.
Let’s take it a step further: let’s say only one person in the maze is communicating, and they keep insisting that all of your are in the same location. You know that you’re not, so why would you choose to stay silent? Writing for Fast Company, Paul Glover makes the point that conflict is a true test of an employee’s ability to properly communicate: “If we don’t train [employees] to [communicate and manage conflict] for themselves and a manager steps in to resolve the conflict … the group doesn’t have a chance to [develop into its full potential].”
No team ever fully agrees 100% of the time—that’s just pure fiction. But the only way that we can iron out those disagreements is by bringing them to the table. And if you can do that in a constructive way, you’re opening up the potential for some really healthy and paradigm-shifting conversations.
It Encourages Diversity of Thought
Henry Ford is famous for saying of his invention of the Model T, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” And this idea carries over to the idea of healthy conflict: If we simply stick with the status quo, we cannot come up with new ideas. And if we don’t challenge the normal way of thinking, we can never innovate. If you have an environment in which people feel comfortable to disagree—and know how to do it in a healthy, respectful way—you’re going to have people who are unafraid to vocalize risky ideas.
Conversely, if you have an environment at work where challenging conventional ideas is discouraged, you’ll never be able to truly move forward. You’ll be treading water instead of swimming upstream. When you encourage your team to challenge each other, someone won’t sit at their desk feeling stupid: they instead will be OK to float an idea that the rest of the group may graciously shut down. Rebecca Greenfield explains the probably all-too-familiar scenario in which fear of conflict causes a creative roadblock: “People hoping to look smart and productive will blurt out low-hanging fruit first. Everyone else then rallies around that idea both internally and externally. Unfortunately, that takes up time and energy, leaving a lot the best thinking undeveloped.” Don’t create a culture of “yes” people.
Create an environment where people dare to poke holes in an idea until you’ve uncovered all the flaws. If you truly care about creating the best possible result, you’ll never be afraid of being told something is wrong: You’ll crave it.
It Unifies Team Goals
What is your highest aspiration for your team? More likely than not, you probably have loftier dreams than simply agreeing on everything. For most of us, the greatest success of our team is measured by setting goals and achieving them.
And getting to those goals takes risk, and innovation, and a whole lot of hard work. And that’s why simply agreeing or disagreeing on a strategy isn’t enough. If about coming to the best possible conclusion that everyone on your team can buy into. As psychologist Sherrie Campbell explains, “conflict provides each person a voice that’s an essential component of effective teamwork. Feeling heard and important are key psychological factors linked to inspiring and motivating each member to commit to an objective.” By promoting healthy conflict within your team, you’re essentially taking a temperature on how unified your team is. If there’s freedom to disagree, it means that everyone is on the same page in terms of working towards a shared goal.
If team members do not feel the freedom to disagree, it may mean that you as a leader are not properly communicating your team’s goals—or worse, your team simply isn’t bought into achieving those goals. When employees don’t feel a sense of ownership in your team’s overall success, that’s when employee engagement crumbles. Healthy conflict is the firm foundation on which all of your team can grow and work towards its ultimate success, no matter where they are located.
The Best Way to Motivate Employees – and Its Free
Remember when you were a kid, and you got a shiny gold star sticker for just about every accomplishment you could think of? Finishing your homework, gold star. Showing up on time, gold star. Washing your hands?? Yep, gold star. Now, if I had a gold star for every time I washed my hands at this age, I might need to start buying folders in bulk to slap on some more shiny gold stickers.
Why was this effective in getting kids to do their work? Kids, adults – everyone – love getting recognized and appreciated for their work. The need to feel appreciated doesn’t go away just because we’re not 8-year olds anymore. This need carries over to our adult years. When you’re not appreciated, you’re not motivated.
This is especially true for difficult times or times of change or transition, as Doug Conant says over at the Economist: “ Showing gratitude is the least you can do as a leader—particularly in times of turmoil or transition.” He goes on to state that many leaders believe that appreciation is paying their employees, or that the appreciation goes without saying, but that is false.
Appreciation has proven to be a powerful motivational tool, and can even serve as important factors in overall good health and relationships. There is no downside to showing gratitude to your employees, as long as you do it the right way. That’s why, when you’re trying to motivate your employees, the very first place to start is with appreciation.
The Science of Appreciation
Over the last few decades, researchers have consistently found that showing appreciation – that is, truly being thankful for what you have – is closely tied to several key health indicators. For example, a Chinese study found that practicing gratitude and appreciation helped improve sleep, which in turn had a positive effect on symptoms related to depression and anxiety. Another study determined that being appreciative not only increases optimism, but also helps influence behaviors, most notably, increasing physical activity and thereby reducing pain and illness.
A National Institutes of Health study supported these findings. In short, appreciation stimulates the hypothalamus region of the brain, which controls major bodily functions including eating, drinking, and sleeping, as well as metabolism and stress responses.
This stimulus has a positive effect on these functions, which explains why gratitude can improve overall health. However, appreciation also stimulates the parts of the brain that produce the neurotransmitter dopamine, one of the so-called “happy” chemicals.
When you experience a dopamine “rush,” it feels good, and you’re likely to want to do it again, something that scientists call a virtuous cycle. Therefore, when you express or receive gratitude, it can create the natural response of wanting to continue that behavior.
Even more interesting is the idea that people who express gratitude are often more willing to spread their feelings of positivity to others. This prosocial behavior creates a general feeling of goodwill, unity, and teamwork among groups. Combined with the virtuous cycle that being appreciated can create, and it’s easy to see why showing appreciation to your employees is one of the simplest, yet most effective, means of motivating them.
Need more proof? One survey found that 80 percent of employees are motivated to work harder when their bosses show appreciation – as opposed to only 40 percent of employees who work harder out of fear, either of their boss or of losing their jobs.
How to Show Appreciation
Showing appreciation can be as simple as saying “thank you” to your employees. However, true gratitude and appreciation goes well beyond simply being polite. For the most benefits, appreciation needs to be sincere, specific, and offered in such a way that the recipient doesn’t feel compelled to offer anything in return.
In general, leaders should make sure that their gratitude is authentic, specific to the task or accomplishment, and promptly given in order to have the biggest impact.
In other words, instead of a rushed “Thanks,” for someone who went above and beyond to reach a deadline, a more sincere, “Mary, thank you for staying late yesterday to assemble the orientation packets. We couldn’t have done it without you,” will create more positive emotions.
More Ideas for Employee Appreciation
There are times, though, when more than a thank you is warranted. Again, you want to show appreciation on an ongoing basis, so consider implementing some of the following practices:
- Publicly recognize your employees for accomplishments and broadcast these accomplishments on TVs, Slack Channels, Microsoft Teams and more!
- Offer tokens of appreciation. Surprise your team with unexpected employee appreciation gifts, a catered lunch, or coffee and snacks just to say thank you for their work. Customize this to the individual employee as much as possible for the greatest impact. Nothing worse than getting a gift card to a coffee place when you don’t drink coffee!
- Include recognition in an employee newsletter.
- Reward excellence with a greater role in decision-making, or greater responsibilities.
- Offer additional benefits, such as extra time off, the option to telecommute, or perks like employee parties or outings.
- Identify what motivates specific employees and tailor your appreciation to them. Got an introvert that doesn’t like the spotlight? Have a private convo and express your gratitude. Have someone who wants the public kudos? Send an email to the executive team (CCing them) with their accomplishments.
Motivating your employees with appreciation doesn’t have to cost a lot, or anything at all. When you take the time to appreciate your employees, not only will you have a happier and more productive team, but you’ll also foster more loyalty and reduce turnover while creating a pleasant working environment from anywhere.
3 Fundamentals to Motivate your SDR Team as a New Sales Manager
2020 is hard enough for businesses and has been especially challenging for B2B sales teams. There are only so many times you can get told where to put something before you need to take a lap and really evaluate your life. It’s no wonder why a lot of SDR’s have their sales career stall out here. So, how do you keep your team motivated and consistent?
Of course, you can get a strong push from members from cool spiffs and incentives, but if you want consistency you need to know your people, create a team structure that is accountable and rewards positive outputs, and give them the tools to be successful.
This probably sounds obvious, but there is a reason that there are 10 million sales and leadership books on the market and it’s because people often forget the fundamentals. Just like you would not go into a job interview without doing research on the company [I hope] you’re going to be working for, you shouldn’t skip over the most important part of the process: the people performing it.
For those stepping into their first SDR leadership role, here are some fundamentals that must be in your 30/60/90 day plan:
- Know your people
- Create a solid team structure
- Focus on creating good habits
If you can manage to accomplish these three things, you will be able to motivate and inspire your team to show up and work hard for their personal goals and believe in your leadership to get them there.
Know your people.
Who are you leading?
Existential – I know – but after you’re done rolling your eyes, hear me out. In my experience, not everyone has goals (shocker!). A lot of SDR’s join the industry because they “need a job”, but why? It could be to move out of mom and dad’s house, or because they have a kid on the way, or they are looking to buy a car, or to climb the ladder and sell their way to financial freedom, or something less obvious.
It is your job to understand what each person cares about so you know what is going to resonate with them and keep them in the game mentally. Take the time to get to know each member of your team, what they care about outside of work and what they want to achieve short term and long term. It is your job to discover what makes them tick and give them a goal that they can be excited about. If people are fired up about a goal, they can get fired up to make that next call.
Once you understand what their goals are, show them what inputs they need to put in to get there, help them build a timeline to achieve the goal and help them turn something abstract into a concrete vision.
I can not stress how important it is not to skip this step when starting as a new leader. Without it, you will not get the most out of your team, push them to new heights, and many of them will likely fail. You are not just giving them support, you are helping them achieve their life goals. It is their responsibility to achieve those goals, but it is your responsibility to support it and coach them to get there.
Create a solid team structure.
Without structure, there is chaos.
People are creatures of habit and one way to make people comfortable in a role, earn the respect of the team, and instill discipline is creating a familiar structure that they know what to expect day-to-day.
For example, when their work day starts, have a team huddle and create consistency with the huddles. Mine are almost always the same:
- Information: Any news for the team or org to keep people up to date.
- Education: Focus on one small area of improvement that aligns with the teams overall performance. Give them actionable instructions on what you expect them to do.
- Recognition: Recognize wins, effort, and metrics. This will earn appreciation from performers and motivate others to get recognized.
- Motivation: Give them something to fight for today.
Every morning, hold this meeting. If the team is lacking energy, bring the energy yourself and check in with your team leaders. If the team is on fire, pour gas on it and don’t let the motivation slow down at all.
After all my huddles, I would then go around and “touch chairs”. Chair touches are not replacing one on one’s, but just a quick check in and daily goal setting. Talk to each member of your team and check their vibe/mood/mindset. Go over their metrics with them and see how they are aligning with their pipeline and their personal goals. See how they’re doing personally. Someone who is having the best month of their life and eyeing a raise is going to need different attention than the person who is going through a breakup. However you set this up for your team, make sure your team feels supported and accountable everyday.
Protip: When you feel your team’s momentum start to stall, have a list of spiffs you can pull out to inject some additional life into them. If you can get them competing with one another, even better. Diamonds cut diamonds.
Focus on creating good habits.
Everyone can get better.
Whether or not you are working with an A, B, or C player, everyone has room to improve. What you don’t want to do is give your people a million areas they should focus on – it’s impossible. If you give them too much to focus on, you are going to get people who are overwhelmed and not actually improving in any single area. Likewise, if you have them focus on areas they are excelling at or have little room to improve, you will not only not improve results but you also risk losing credibility.
Most improvements fall into two categories for categories for SDR’s: “Will” and “Skill”.
“Will” issues are obvious and if you have the right motivation in place (see “Know your People”), there is a good chance you can inspire people to put in the effort. There are a lot of things outside of the SDR’s control, but effort is something that everyone can control.
“Will” issues need to be addressed quickly and efficiently because they can bleed into the team. People who are busting their ass will become resentful of people who are showing up late or interrupting the rest of the team instead of doing their job and lose faith in you as a leader. Leaders need to reign in laziness and distractions consistently and set a steady rhythm for the team. Praise and reward the team members who are putting in the effort and manage [up or out] those who are not [without good reason]. Create a culture of consistency and your life will be much easier.
Once the “Will” issues are resolved, you should focus on the area that each of your team members can improve on the most. Use the metrics as a guide here. For example, if one of your team members is setting at a +10% demo set rate but their set to demo hold ratio is -20%, focus on how they are setting their demos and what they are considering a set. Or if someone’s connection rate is below standard, focus on where/when/who they are calling so they can get more folks on the phone..
The key here is aim small, miss small. Give them very specific instructions you want them to work on, listen to their calls and verify they are following the process and doing it consistently. Form that habit, watch them improve and not only will they trust your leadership more, they will lean on that habit even on their worst day which will improve their consistency. Then find the next big area of improvement and repeat.
Adapt the target, not the principles
When you’re setting up your first 30/60/90 day plan, these foundations will serve you and your team well, BUT it’s important to know that they are all a moving target. People change, goals change and situations change. Leaders adapt to those changes and allow for some flexibility to their system to adjust to what changes. That said, the basic principles stay the same.
The 18 Best Sales Books for 2020
2020 has been a difficult and complicated year for many. Between Covid-19 and the uncertainty that it brings, and trying to still meet your sales goals, this year can feel impossible. Thats why we’ve gathered 18 of the best sales books right here for you to dive into in 2020. A great mix of classic sales books that should be on any sales leaders bookshelf and newer titles extremely suited to 2020’s problems. Here they are in no particular order:
Best Sales Books for 2020:
Emotional Intelligence for Sales Leadership
Author: Colleen Stanley
Focused on sales leadership, the first entry in our list of best sales books, shows how empathy and emotional management are key to building a strong and productive sales team. Inside Colleen Stanley gives simple steps on how sales leaders can create cultures that listen to their salespeople, embrace feedback and roll with change. This is a must-have book for any sales leader who’s looking to grow a department during any time – but especially during COVID-19.
Review Quote: “I have been delivering EI programs to leaders and individual contributors for many years and have seen the positive results when leaders both develop their emotional intelligence and then help team members build their EI. Emotional Intelligence for Sales Leadership offers specific, practical tools and approaches needed for leaders to build specific EI competencies that drive results.”
We’ve featured some of Keenan’s Tips inside our Hoopla platform, and a big reason is because of this book: Gap Selling. With this Best Sales Book, Keenan shreds long standing sales myths and focuses on a brand new way to connect with your buyers. Remember: your customer doesn’t care about you or your business – they just want to know what you can do for them!
Review Quote: “I having nothing but high praise for Keenan and this powerful, provocative and supremely helpful book! From his motivation as a professional seller (to successfully solve customers’ problems) to his bold statement that your sale is won or lost during the discovery phase of the process, to his EPIC rant in Chapter 11 about why most demos suck (he actually uses the word “butcher” to describe what most salespeople do during their awful demos), I found myself shouting “Amen!” in vehement agreement with just about everything suggested in Gap Selling.”
The Challenger Sale
The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation
This best sales book – The Challenger Sale should really be a pair of best sales books, that also includes The Challenger Customer by the same two authors. The Challenger Sale, released in 2011, created a fundamental shift in sales processes for many organizations. This helped to change sales approaches from one of relationship building to literally challenging prospects beliefs. Combined with its newer sister book, these are a must read for any sales professional looking to up their game.
“Even though this was written back in 2009, the information and insight still has value today in 2020. Customers still value a professional who can Teach, Tailor, and Take Control. A trusted advisor who shares valuable insight that can help the customer achieve the business objectives.”
How to Win Friends & Influence People
Author: Dale Carnegie
Okay, maybe this one is a bit too easy. But this classic book by Dale Carnegie has sold over 15 million copies for a reason and will most likely continue to be one of the best sales books. With time-tested advice, this book can help salespeople have a more positive outlook on life. This is a great book to read not just for sales people but for any person in business.
“Even though this was written back in 2009, the information and insight still has value today in 2020. Customers still value a professional who can Teach, Tailor, and Take Control. A trusted advisor who shares valuable insight that can help the customer achieve the business objectives.”
Addicted to the Process
Author: Scott Leese
Scott Leese is a consistent contributor to the Hoopla Blog, and for good reason. His first book: Addicted to the Process focuses on creating and sticking to a proven process to make sure your sales numbers are through the roof. This is a great book for sales professionals dealing with more transactional sales, but any sales person can benefit from learning how to build motivational habits and celebrate small victories.
“This is an excellent book for people who are early in their sales career. Practical advice that gives you a roadmap to a successful sales career. Scott writes with tactical to-do’s and story telling that makes his points come to life. This book is also a quick read but filled with ideas. I read the whole thing at a car dealership while getting my truck serviced.”
Eat Their Lunch
Author: Anthony Iannarino
Looking for a resource to help you get more aggressive with selling? While you might think that you need to be cut throat and super aggressive to win customers from your competition, this book by Anthony Iannarino proves that the opposite is the case. Broken into three parts, this goes into developing relationships, building consensus and winning with intangibles. With excellent, proven strategies for gaining customers from the competition this is a no-brainer for best sales book.
“Every now and then there comes a book with such far-reaching implications that literally everyone across the sales industry reads it and then begins fervently implementing the guidance in their personal and corporate strategy. Anthony Ianarino’s new book Eat Their Lunch is just such a book. ”
From Impossible to Inevitable
From Impossible to Inevitable throws out great examples of hypergrowth from companies like Hubspot, Salesforce and Echosign. An amazing book for sales professionals (especially sales leaders) who need to build a scalable sales team, create templates for success, and take revenue to the next level.
“What I like most about this book is that it is so much different than any other business book I’ve read and the reason for that is the advice is from two people who have “been there done that”. There’s no advice in this book that Aaron or Jason haven’t gone through themselves and seen success with. It goes through what it really takes to successfully build a fast growing SaaS company.”
To Sell is Human
Author: Daniel H. Pink
Author Daniel Pink explores a fresh look at selling in this best sales book. Many salespeople will enjoy how he breaks down that every person works in sales in some capacity. With some great practical examples of how to improve your sales process, as well as exploring the science behind selling, this is a must have book for every salesperson.
“Awesome sales book. I especially liked how he spent the first third of the book talking about how pretty much everyone in the world today is in some form of selling. You might not see yourself as a “traditional salesman,” but whatever you’re line of work is, your survival/success will depend on how well you can “move people” …”
For many organizations Covid-19 turned their entire sales process on its head. Outside sales people with in-person meeting quotas now simply couldn’t. How can you overcome something like that? When thinking through our best sales books list, we couldn’t ignore our current environment. Enter: Virtual Selling, a brand new book out to tackle how you can connect with buyers, develop relationships and win more sales virtually. This best sales book contains techniques and practical advice that salespeople can use right now. It’s especially pertinent right now in 2020 – and its part of why it makes our best list.
“Mike Schultz and his coauthors have written an excellent guide to virtual selling. Throughout the book they leverage the extensive research they have done with actual executive buyers, illustrating the large gaps between what clients and customers are looking for and what sellers are giving them. They weave many practical tips into the chapter on how to sell and build relationships virtually, while also sharing evergreen strategies for moving from a general conversation with a buyer to a sold contract. Whether you’re early in your career as a salesperson or account executive, or a highly experienced professional, you’ll find many valuable ideas here that you can implement immediately..”
Author: Dan Ariely
While not a traditional sales book, (and not normally found on best sales books lists) Predictably Irrational goes over how humans make irrational decisions in an overwhelming majority of situations. This is extremely helpful to salespeople when figuring out how to position a sale, or even talk about price. Yes even when it comes to something as concrete as numbers, human beings are still not rational thinkers. Get this best sales book, read it, and then get irrational with your sales process.
“Dan Ariely’s book Predictably Irrational is a fantastic and eye-opening read. The author describes how he at age eighteen fell victim to a terrible accident and had to spend several years in hospitals. The separation from society that came from this led to an ability to objectively observe people and society as well as question certain behaviors. The book consists of countless behavioral experiments carried out by Ariely to understand why we act the way we do. ”
Author: Neil Rackham
As a technique, SPIN selling has become nearly canon in the sales world—it’s something you’ve undoubtedly heard of whether you know it by name or not. The method, which Rackham himself fathered, calls into action a sequence of questions: first the Situation, then the Problem, the Implication, and finally the Need-payoff.
What makes this book so special isn’t simply that it gives you a road map to an extremely viable way of selling, but that it also helps you to own your process. Neil takes the time to go through every stage of what a sales person will face—and if you can manage to take some smart notes, you’ll be ready for nearly any curveball a client throws your way.
“Enter ‘SPIN Selling’ – this book delivers where all of those other books have failed. In this book is a solid layout of how you should structure your sales calls, and not only that, but data to back up their claims and examples to on how to lead. Read this book, take notes, and I guarantee if you weren’t already aware of how to sell in this style, your selling WILL improve. ”
Secrets of Closing the Sale
Author: Zig Ziglar
The late Zig Ziglar is certainly not an unfamiliar character in the world of sales himself. He made a career not only as an author, but traveling the world inspiring millions of people across a multitude of professions. And that’s what makes his writing so special.
Ziglar believed that everyone had something to sell—and a way to sell it. This massive four-hundred-plus page book gives you more than just a few simple ideas: he gives you actionable ways that you can fight past objections and get to the real close.
“This is a fantastic book. While it is especially valuable for beginners and first year sales reps, it has value for anybody in the profession. As an experienced sales professional myself, I will say that this won’t teach a seasoned sales veteran any new information about HOW to sell, but it will help to realign your thoughts with WHY they buy.”
New Sales. Simplified.
Author: Mike Weinberg
Oftentimes here on the blog we’ll talk about what happens when salespeople get stuck in a rut—a low cycle where they don’t feel like they’re making much progress. This is often a time where employee engagement is at its lowest.
One of the most effective ways to combat low sales numbers is by focusing on your pipeline—generating new sales, rather than simply relying on renewals. And that’s exactly what Weinberg gets into in this book. With a full pipeline, you take the guesswork out of your quarterly performance. By doing the due-diligence ahead of time, you’ll reap the rewards for months down the road.
“Finished this book in a week and a half- very well written and also easy to read. Some very good and practical ideas that would help any level of seller. Mike does a great job showing the value of asking strategic questions, the power of listening, and just how important it is to search for new business in order to keep the sales pipeline full. Would highly recommend!”
The Sales Acceleration Formula
Author: Mark Roberge
Speaking of data, Mark Roberge has taken a look at the numbers, and developed a formula that every manager (or aspiring manager) should be thinking about: how to build the best sales team you can.
We firmly believe that when you build a better team, everyone benefits. It gives your employees a roadmap that allows them to see what their best can and should look like, helping them to get better in touch with their own goals—ultimately pushing their performance to the next level.
“This is a book every SaaS entrepreneur needs to read. It’s not just about sales, but the whole startup business from inception all the way to the $100M bar. It’s a lot about sales management in a fast growing context. Hiring, training, developing, coaching, managing the best sales teams possible and then repeating. That’s how you scale and grow revenue in a predictable way.”
Author: John Brooks
When a young up-and-comer named Bill Gates refers to it as “the best business book I’ve ever read,” it’s safe to assume that it’s probably worth reading for yourself, too. Veteran New Yorker writer John Brooks tackles twelve engaging stories from across Wall Street and beyond that will fuel your imagination of what you can accomplish in sales. Sometimes, especially for newer sales reps, half the challenge is not knowing what’s out there. Consider this your crash course.
“This book makes me feel as though I’m sitting at the knee of my grandfather, listening to wise recollections. A writer of articles in the 1950’s and 1960, many for the New Yorker, the author intelligently and thoughtfully steps through 12 events, one per chapter.”
Sales Development Playbook
Author: Trish Bertuzzi
The world of sales, and especially the way we build teams—whether they’re in our physical office or an increasingly popular group of remote employees—is changing at a break-neck speed. It can be hard to keep up with the changes, especially as we seek to create repeatable paths for success.
In this book Trish outlines a real path for development that gets into the nitty-gritty. It’s real world advice packaged in a totally palatable, hard-to-put-down package.
“If you are in business, or just want to have a blast and learn a bunch of super-solid, get-it-done stuff about the real world of sales development, The Sales Development Playbook is not just a must read – it is a “must consume”. And if you are a CEO, Sales VP or sales development leader, I strongly urge you to do more than read this book. Put Trish’s plays into your playbook and get ready to put up some big numbers.”
Your Sales Management Gurus Guide To:Leading High Performance Sales Teams
Author: Ken Thoreson
Aside from being an industry leader in wordy titles, Ken focuses on the idea of building a high-performance sales culture. Whether you’re in leadership or this is your first week of inside sales, everyone should be on board with nature of a high-performance culture. And ideally, everyone should be on board with helping to build that culture.
You’ll find that we talk often about creating a culture that celebrates healthy sales competition. High performance sales cultures, that produce high-performing employees, benefit immensely from this competition, as it gives everyone a chance to challenge each other as well as their perception of what’s truly possible.
“As many salespeople and CEOs can attest, good sales managers are hard to find. Ken addresses head on the problem – lack of sales MANAGEMENT development. This is the go to guide that Ken has built over many years from his successful consulting engagements with companies large & small. I would include this book on the very short list of good sales management books with “Rethinking the Sales Force”.”
Author: Jill Konrath
As we’ve said before, making the transition from one sales role to another (or starting from scratch) can be a totally foreign leap—and one that doesn’t feel so easy to make. But with Jill Konrath’s ever-popular and helpful guide, you’ll find that transition is something you should welcome. And what’s more, it’s something that you can thrive in.
Whether you’re going from an individual contributor role to a manager’s seat, or you’re simply looking to break in to a new industry, Jill’s absolutely got you covered.
“Easy read and the best practical plan for learning to be smart and efficient in the sales profession. You need to have this guidebook as it differentiates you and moves prospects from status quo.”
Employee Motivation Tips: How to Hire for Motivation
Jim Collins and his research team spent years studying the attributes that separated good companies from great companies, encapsulated in his book Good To Great. Though there are many qualities that the great companies shared in common, the first one – get the right people on the bus – was a surprise to Collins.
Collins wrote that the leaders of great companies “did not first figure out where to drive the bus and then get people to take it there. No, they first got the right people on the bus (and the wrong people off the bus) and then figured out where to drive it. They said, in essence, ‘Look, I don’t really know where we should take this bus. But I know this much: If we get the right people on the bus, the right people in the right seats, and the wrong people off the bus, then we’ll figure out how to take it someplace great.’”
This couldn’t be more true. For true employee motivation you need to start with motivated people. The question then becomes how do you find the right people to get on the bus and how do you make sure they’re motivated to deliver their best work? Here is the formula that I use.
The first thing that I do is ask someone to explain their life story. I want to know their background. I want to know what their childhood was like: the sports and activities they were involved in, how much trouble they got in, what classes they liked, and why.
James Altucher advises people to find a way to make money doing what they loved as a kid. My friend, Max Altschuler, was always building with Legos as a kid and now he spends his time building companies. I was obsessed with sports and a die-hard competitor (and still am). Now I build teams and compete every single day in the world of selling. There’s nothing else I’d rather be doing.
This may seem unnecessary but let’s remember a simple fact: I’m not hiring an employee, I’m hiring a person. As the leader, it’s my job to put the right people in the right places to succeed and I can’t do that until I know the team personally.
Testing For Persistence
The next thing I want to know is how someone deals with adversity. Mike Tyson famously said that “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face”. It’s not about the punch: I should have permanent black eyes based on how many times life has smacked me across the face. What’s important is how you respond to that adversity.
During the interview process, dig into examples that candidates have in their lives that illustrate their persistence in pursuing goals, and ability to get back up after being knocked down. Did the candidate finish a TuffMudder or UltraMarathon? If so, you can take it to the bank. They are pretty good at pushing through failure and hardship. Has the candidate discussed how they were the first person in their family to attend college, and worked two jobs while finishing classes to pay for it? Now that is somebody who persisted in the face of obstacles.
Kevin Gaither, SVP Sales at Zip Recruiter told me recently on my podcast that after he asks someone to tell a story about how they lost a deal, he asks “Then what?” You lost a deal, so what? Did you sulk for the rest of the day or did you use it to fuel the rest of your day?
I got my start in sales in the transactional sales world and we weren’t hunting million-dollar deals that take a year to formulate. I was winning and losing deals every day. So you need to be able to handle repeated losses, take a deep breath, and get back to grinding without your confidence waning. You can learn a lot about someone based on how they react to failure.
Motivation & Hunger
The best way to understand someone’s motivation is to ask them. Point blank: how are you motivated? They’ll come back with a number of answers: money, recognition, power, growth. Those are all fine, but I want to get to a deeper level. If someone is motivated by money, why is that? Do they have student loans they’re paying off? Do they have a house or engagement ring they’re saving up for? Have they always dreamed of owning a Chanel purse? I want specifics and I want to look in their eyes to see how hungry they are to accomplish that.
Here’s a story about hunger that I wrote about in my book Addicted To The Process. In 2008, I gave a job interview to a guy I’ll call John. At the time, he was in his mid-thirties and had already hit rock bottom. He’d had a substance abuse problem, and he’d been locked up in jail for almost a year.
In my interview with John, I could tell that he was ready to change his life. He wanted a new way forward but wasn’t sure how to get there. We brought him into the company as an entry-level salesperson and John rose through the ranks to a top individual producer and later grew into sales management. John’s a friend of mine now and we’ve worked together at three different companies. John is now a SVP of Sales at a prominent SaaS company and makes mid six figures, while giving folks opportunities to change their lives the way he did. Legend.
Sometimes leaders spend too much time focusing on past accomplishments and failures and not enough time on learning about what is driving this person. Most people would have passed on John: that would have been the easy decision. But I’m glad that I took the chance on someone I knew was hungry.
Where are they?
The days are gone of searching sites like Monster, Craigslist, CareerBuilder etc. for talent when hiring for sales. In fact, I have spent zero dollars on recruiting and finding sales talent in the last 5 years. How?
- Grow your network.
- Add value.
- Do what you said you would do.
- Then do some more.
- Help people.
I spent tens of thousands of hours in the last few years building up my network and brand on LinkedIn. I am connected with people all across the country, and overseas. The talent pool I’m able to draw from is huge because of this.
Once you have a sizable network, and are a known commodity, you begin to attract more of the right candidates to your roles and to your company. The ROI is massive. It’s not that hard to do. It does require your time, consistency and good storytelling. What part of being good at your job doesn’t though?
As a leader, your most important job is to hire the right people. It can be as much an art as it is a science. Although I have a gameplan going into an interview, sometimes you have a feeling in your gut about someone that you can’t ignore. You can see in the whites of their eyes whether they really want it – or if it’s all a gimmick. But don’t just trust that. Test it. Ask questions around it and confirm that your Spidey-sense was working properly.
Pixar co-founder Ed Catmull wrote that “if you give a good idea to a mediocre team, they will screw it up. If you give a mediocre idea to a brilliant team, they will either fix it or throw it away and come up with something better.” That’s the type of team you’re hiring for. Not just people to make more calls, but people who can help lead the organization in a stronger direction and make a real impact.
A good product, culture, funding: these are all great. But they fall short if you don’t have an outstanding team behind them. Hopefully, with the above strategy – and some good gut decisions – you’ll be on your way to hiring a group of A-players.
How do you motivate the Motivators?
Anyone who’s been in sales knows that it’s a tough job. Sales reps need proper motivation to keep pushing to pick up the phone and send email after email. There are countless blogs instructing leaders on how to better motivate their sales teams. I’ve even written a few of them. However, sales managers often get overlooked in these conversations and it’s time to show them some love.
Sales Managers are on the front lines and need to keep their sales reps motivated on a daily basis. But if the sales managers aren’t motivated, then you have a whole other issue on your hands. They can’t possibly transfer enthusiasm to the sales reps if they don’t possess the enthusiasm themselves. That becomes a bottleneck.
So the question is: How do you motivate the motivators?
The first step is to acknowledge that your sales managers need to be motivated as well. As a leader, that’s your job. It’s not enough to hire and promote intrinsically motivated people. A common trap I see is that company leaders just assume someone is motivated because of a successful track record or overall positive attitude. That’s not necessarily the case. Do you know anybody who is 100% motivated 100% of the time? Me either. We all need a little pick-me-up at times, and external sources of motivation should never be ignored completely.
Here are three ways that I keep motivators motivated on a sales team:
Know what motivates them
I’ve written before that motivation is highly individualized. In order to truly motivate anyone, you need to know the person. It’s not just “a manager”, it’s Scott. Scott isn’t just a robotic manager. He has thoughts, fears, goals, and dreams. You need to spend time getting to know each of these managers on an individual basis and know how they feel about things.
There are two ways that I learn about someone. First, I’ll ask them about who they are as a person. Where did they come from, what activities did they enjoy as a kid, what bosses have they loved and hated in the past?
I’ll directly ask: What motivates you? What gets you fired up? Equally important, what demotivates you? Trying to understand who this person is at their core to get a feel for what has excited them in the past can only be done by spending time with them and genuinely caring to know them.
The second way is through trial and error. Sometimes people aren’t as self-aware as they think they are. They say they don’t care about money but every time we have a cash prize for a contest, they go all out. You need to observe how people react to different scenarios.
Someone’s motivation is also a moving target and will adjust over time. Maybe I was initially focused on career development and pivoted to be solely focused on financial gains because I want to buy a house for my family. You need to be able to shift your approach as your people change.
The better you know your people, the better job you can do at motivating them.
Get them invested
Sales is a very numbers-focused game. If you have the right people on the bus, your sales team is attacking their quotas like a hungry hyena. However, this can cause individual contributors and managers to have tunnel-vision and only look within the scope of their responsibilities. There is less collaboration because everyone is hyper-focused on their own quota.
In this scenario, if someone next to me has a problem or question, I’m less likely to actually help them out unless it directly benefits me. There is so much focus on the trees (quota) that they forget about the forest around them (company’s success).
Here’s a fix for that. Give your sales managers more equity in the company. Get them invested in the entire company’s success. Not only will this fire them up to perform better in their role, but it’ll increase collaboration across teams. Now you have managers communicating with each other, filling in to help out if needed, and working as a true team.
You can also elicit a similar response by how you set up your bonuses. People respond to incentives, plain and simple. If I know I can make $5,000 by our entire team hitting our number this month, then you bet your ass I’m going to do everything I can do to make that happen. Why not unite all the sales managers behind one goal? They will be more likely to help sales reps not under their direct supervision, celebrate every deal closed regardless of who it is, and increase collaboration among peers.
Let your management team have skin in the game. Treat them like owners of the business and they’ll begin acting like it. It’s an investment that will easily pay for itself with the increased production.
Give them the autonomy to own their job
Nothing strips people of confidence more than thinking their leadership team doesn’t believe they can handle their business. Your sales managers want the autonomy to run their teams. Sure, they need to follow company guidelines, but they should be able to do it their own way.
This means that they’re running team meetings, they have the ability to hire, fire and train their team and can work to develop their own leadership style and philosophy. What I see too often is that the Executive leadership plays “Big Brother” on the mid-level managers. Their title says manager, but they’re not really allowed to do much of anything. Their boss (or boss’ boss) handles all of the difficult conversations.
They’re going to mess up. Let them. They’re probably going to do a worse job than you think you would. That’s OK. They need the time and experience to fall down and learn how to get back up. That’s how you develop great leaders and keep them motivated to come into work ready to battle each day.
To perform at the highest level, you need a team that’s motivated to do their best. While it’s important to hire the right people, it’s ultimately on the leaders of the company to make sure people stay hungry for growth. Too often we put our full emphasis on the individual contributors and forget about managers. We incorrectly assume that front-line managers don’t need external motivation, and should be entirely capable of motivating themselves. Even the best of us need a little support and a shot of adrenaline now and then.
The truth is that if you want to have a high-performing sales team, you need to have high-performing sales management. And to have a high-performing sales management team, they need to be motivated. You need to know each of them as a person. They need to feel like owners of the business. They need autonomy to do their job well. Get your managers fired up and watch how well the rest of your sales team performs.
Why You Should Hire People With The Same Birthday
Don’t worry. We haven’t rebranded as an astrology website.
We just happen to believe in something called “social facilitation.” And it’s something that we think can help you to unlock a higher level of performance from all of your employees – not just the ones who share the same birthday
Psychology Today helps us to understand the concept of social facilitation, and the effect that it can have on our employees. Put simply: “When people think they’re working together, they work better and longer, and enjoy it more.” In other words, people perform better when they know they have a support system.
Making Each Other Better
Now let’s dive a bit beneath the surface. This isn’t about assigning your employees group projects to work on. It’s about how the ideas of community and common bond can actually help us to perform our individual tasks better – as the Psychology Today article notes, up to 93% faster, in fact.
In that same article, they go on to cite a study where a group of people were all working on the same project—but were never actually told to work together. When the subjects of the study found common ground, those groups began to help each other, spent more time trying to finish the assigned task, and were ultimately more successful.
The lesson, according to psychology today, was simple: “When you’re designing in a team, make sure to point out things that the team members have in common, even if they seem small and superficial.”
Let’s break down the three ways in which this plays out most importantly in the office:
Better Understanding Our Role
Finding commonality within the office often starts with recognition. When managers can help our employees to see each other, that allows individual contributors to recognize other individuals who not only share their role—but those who can be an example of what high performance looks like.
Recognizing and celebrating great employee performances gives your employees an roadmap for their own performance – and by creating that culture of celebration, you’re making it easier for employees to approach each other, find commonality, and learn from each other. All of that, ultimately, is a surefire way to boost performance.
Having a Clear Vision of Our Goals
Additionally, that sort of social facilitation enables employees to hone on their true goals.
Going back to the study cited above, when participants found commonality and began to work together on a task, they reported that one to two weeks later, they still elected to work on similar projects.
Oftentimes, employees can become frustrated when they don’t have a specific vision of their short and long-term goals, which can lead to them working on irrelevant tasks. But with the right guidance, employees that have a clear vision of their goals are going to be much more engaged with the work, which will ultimately lead to more efficiency and higher satisfaction.
Being a Part of a Larger Purpose
So let’s get back to birthdays for a second. The point of that is not to cherry pick some stat that might suggest people who have the same birthday will perform at a higher level. Instead, it’s one of those “superficial” reminders that we’re not alone at our jobs. In fact, we’re part of a larger organization.
Giving employees the opportunity to find commonality, and a shared concept of what your organization can accomplish together, gives them the tools to maximize their role, their performance, and even more broadly their purpose.
Give your employees the gift of knowing how they make your company better—how their engagement makes a positive difference for everyone. That’s common ground we can all get behind.
No Reward? No Problem. How to Stay Inspired During Difficult Times
Stop me if you’ve been here before. You feel like you’re biking through a long, windy tunnel. It’s dark, steamy, and almost impossible to see what’s coming ahead. There are hills and valleys that you’re pushing through and, no matter how long you’ve been going, you still can’t see a light at the end of the tunnel, promising a checkered flag for all of your efforts. No podium awaits. No medals or trophies being handed out. No cash prize to soothe the aches and pains.
If that sounds familiar, you’re not alone. There are times in our careers where we’re pushing hard with what feels like infrequent rewards and almost no breaks.
It seems like a lot of us feel that way right now. Sales can be a hard, lonely, exhausting profession even during a good year. Throw a pandemic, economic collapse, massive layoffs, and social justice issues on top of it and you’ve got quite the toxic combination.
But I’ve been through the wringer enough times to tell you that things will get better. You will make it through that tunnel. You always have an extra gear; if you know where to look to find it. Knowing where to look means having strategies for pushing through a difficult time, while staying motivated and sane.
For anyone that feels this way, here are a few things I’d recommend trying:
Find Your “Why”
Let’s start with what may be the core issue: your “why”. Simon Sinek wrote that your “why” is “the one constant that will guide you toward fulfillment in your work and life”. Friedrich Nietzsche said that “he who has a why to live for can bear almost any how”. In its simplest form, your “why” is your reason for doing something. In this case, it may take some soul searching to really find if what you thought was your “why” really intrinsically motivates you.
Greatness takes diving into the depths of one’s soul and performing at a high level over a sustained period of time. The only way to accomplish that is to have a deep enough “why” to push through the barriers: the early mornings, the late nights, the rejections, the highs, and the lows. Yearning for more money will only get you so far.
My “why” came two decades ago when I contracted an autoimmune disease that spiraled out of control. I was holed up in a hospital bed for the better part of four years. I wasn’t sure if I was going to see daylight again, breathe fresh air again or even survive the night. I feel like I was given a second chance and I intend on making the most of it. I feel a responsibility to not only provide for my family but to be a great role model and show people how sales can change your life. It’s what inspires me to not only achieve but to do it the right way: by helping out as many people along the journey as I can.
The next step for pushing through a tough time is to set concrete goals. Goal-setting is one of the most important skills you can learn in your career. I set goals every month for what I want to accomplish and build the systems I need to make sure I achieve them.
A common philosophy for setting goals is to make them SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-oriented. If you’re newer to goal-setting, these are great benchmarks to make sure you’re setting goals the right way.
An example of this may be that you want to make 1,000 cold calls this month. You’ll notice that this passes the SMART test. Additionally, this goal should be a leading indicator of something larger. Do the math: if you make 1,000 cold calls, how many meetings do you produce? How does this compare to your quota and what your peers are creating? Will this help you achieve your longer-term goals?
One thing that 2020 has made crystal clear for me is that the “re-evaluation” of goals is an absolutely essential [yet often overlooked] aspect of goal setting. Nobody could have predicted your entire industry would collapse due to a pandemic, and it feels unreasonable to expect your original goals to stand with zero consideration to the reality of your situation.
Evaluate your ability to hit the inputs that ensure your outputs are attained. If the inputs are compromised, you will need to adjust your output goals. Your main goal now might be to survive and keep your business afloat rather than hitting that million dollar marker. Perhaps your re-evaluation will cause you to reconsider a bunch of paradigms you held close to the chest, and lead to a breakthrough and re-imagining of your business and how things operate.
Setting small attainable [and flexible] goals will help you on your path to a larger goal. It will keep you motivated, happy and determined to press on.
Let’s say there are no near-term payoffs in your job. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be rewarded for your efforts. If others won’t reward you, reward yourself. Something I like to do is gamify my job and my goals. If I achieve a task, if I reach a new “level”, I will reward myself with something.
You can customize this for each of your goals. For achieving a major financial or career goal, I may celebrate with a steak dinner or a nice night out with my family. If it’s a smaller goal, I may just pour myself a nice glass of tequila. Trust me, sometimes it’s just an accomplishment to make it through the damn day and my shoulders instantly relax as soon as I close the laptop after sending my final email.
You don’t need to wait for the “big moments” in life to celebrate. Gamifying your career not only helps you stay on track and motivated, but you also have a lot more fun. Find small wins through each month to reward yourself to stay motivated and enjoy the journey.
A lot of top performers will take a challenge head-on and work themselves to the bone trying to accomplish their goals. While that intensity can be invaluable, there needs to be a time when you turn it off. Sometimes, this can mean taking a week (or longer) to leave home and relax on a remote beach in Costa Rica. But if you can’t get away, there are a few ways that you can take a shorter, refreshing break.
One way I do this is by walking. Soren Kierkegaard wrote that he “walks himself into a state of well-being and away from every illness.” I practice taking gratitude walks, where I will spend the time reflecting on things I’m grateful for. Putting those positive things in front of my mind can change my whole perspective.
I’ve found solace in writing too. Sometimes it’s engulfing myself in a blog post like this. Other times I’m working on a bigger project, and I’m in the midst of my second book right now. But there are some days where I just open up a notebook and write whatever is on my mind. Those words are just for me and help me clear my head.
I make a point to surround myself with great people. Seeing a smile on my children’s faces can turn my entire day around. Having a conversation with a good friend can lift my mood. There is no such thing as a “self-made man or woman”. We all have companions on our journey and it’s important we spend time with them.
Times are tough right now. If you feel like you’re climbing a never ending mountain: you are not alone. You can reach the summit. You can master your current situation.
In order to do that, you may need to leverage some of the above tips. Just trying to power your way through issues with brute force and willpower isn’t enough. Trust me, I’ve tried that and failed.
Spend some time with yourself to understand what will be helpful. What’s your “why”? What do your goals look like? Are you rewarding yourself for your efforts? When’s the last time you took a damn break from your cell phone?
It’s possible to climb this mountain and have fun along the way. Give the above tactics a try and let me know how it goes. See you at the top.
Intrinsic Motivation & Sales: Why is it the perfect job for certain people?
I love sales. It’s in my blood. I honestly couldn’t think of another career that I’d rather have joined, or one where I’d have equal success. As a former athlete and diehard sports fan, I find a lot of similarities between a sales floor, soccer field or tennis court.
Mark Cuban says that business (and sales) is the ultimate sport for those that want to compete. “In business, it’s 24 by 7 by 365 by forever, and you’re competing with everybody.” Damn…I love that.
If that quote makes you want to run for the hills, you may be better served as an accountant or be in another corporate job. But if it makes you crack a smile and makes your heart pump a little bit faster as it did for me, then you may be fit for a huge sales career.
In my experience, successful salespeople are motivated by one of four things: money, competition, recognition, and what I’d call autonomy. Let’s dive deeper into why each of these four motivators can be so powerful for salespeople.
Let’s cut straight to the chase: you can make a boatload of money in sales. It’s wild to me that in college, the only careers that are described as high-earning are lawyers, doctors, and investment bankers. It’s not uncommon for a great salesperson to earn high six figures or seven figures in a year. And they didn’t have to go through an additional 4 years of school either. Although 20 years later we may still be trying to legitimize our existence to our parents who swear you “would’ve made a great lawyer.” [We can unpack that topic another time].
For anyone looking to pay down student debt, a mortgage, and who wants to become financially independent quickly, this is the perfect job for them. The best part is that most sales jobs pay uncapped commissions, meaning there is no ceiling to what your payday can be after a great month or quarter (if you’re not receiving a commission in a sales job then we need to talk).
It’s not always about the money itself. Money is usually a means to an end: covering an expense, achieving a savings goal, or being able to afford something nice. The truth is that sales can help you achieve your financial goals if you get good enough at it. The truth is money gives you the freedom to do more of what you want, when you want to.
Sales is a great place to spend your time if you’re competitive. The stereotype is that former athletes make great salespeople. And while I’ve seen my share of athletes that suck as salespeople, the stereotype is true for me. I’m a sports maniac and played every sport under the sun while growing up. One reason that I love sales is that it reminds me of stepping onto the field again and battling for a win. I’m a competitor through and through.
I find a way to compete every day. I think I would shrivel up and die without it. Whether it’s competing with friends and colleagues over work targets, other leaders I know and their amazing accomplishments, or even coaching some of my private clients and seeing them rise to the top of the leaderboard; I want to win. I want to see the carrot in front of me. I want to chase it.
It can also be great to compete with yourself and the goals that you have. At the end of the day, your success isn’t hindered by what the salesperson next to you is doing. It’s almost like shaving minutes off of your mile time on the track or knocking down your golf handicap through practice. You control you. If you love setting goals and working to smash them, then sales would be a great job for you.
The third reason that people love sales is recognition. Early in my sales career, I would have preferred everyone in the company knew my name and that I was #1 rather than make “more money”. With a job that is so focused on numbers, your performance can be judged very easily. Plenty of companies I know have every sales rep’s name on a giant screen on the sales floor. I love this. Public recognition. Some names were green, some were yellow and others were red. That’s a hell of a feeling if your name is plastered up in green. If you enjoy seeing your name in lights, sales might be a good fit for you.
Recognition is a big piece of how companies lead sales teams. It’s easy for a sales leader to shout out a top rep for their performance or a big deal they closed. Your name may get a shoutout in a company-wide email or slack channel for a big win. Most companies have a Sales Rep of the Year competition and offer a President’s Club trip for their top performers to some exotic location. The only thing better than a trip to Hawaii is a free trip to Hawaii that you earned through having a killer sales year.
I can’t speak for every sales job here, but there is usually a lot of autonomy involved in your day-to-day. You have a quota and guidance on how to get there, but you should have some space for creativity on how to achieve that goal. As you gain more experience, you’ll likely be given more autonomy to run your business.
The most liberating part of sales is that you can control your own destiny. You’re not working on a big group project with minimal influence over its success. Win, lose, or draw: it is literally all you out there. To me, that is wildly freeing. I know that my work ethic and attitude will have a direct impact on how much money I make, how often I achieve my goals and the type of recognition I receive from my leads. That’s an amazing feeling that you don’t get with most jobs.
Want to continue earning more autonomy? Keep producing. If you are one of the top salespeople then a good sales leader will know to give you the freedom to operate in a space that is motivating and conducive to your success. If you are beating your goals month after month, why would I care if you made 20 dials vs 200 dials, and why would I care if you worked 6 hours a day instead of 10 hours a day? I wouldn’t if the results are there. That level of autonomy is extremely motivating for sales folks.
Look, sales isn’t for everyone. Some people are better suited for jobs focused in Excel spreadsheets or writing code all day. I think a big part of your formative years is about trying to identify what type of job is best for you so that you can grow in that field for the next few decades. If you can develop a killer sense of self-awareness you will be able to set yourself up for success by choosing a profession that fits your mindset and habits already.
But if any of the above criteria get you excited – money, competition, recognition or autonomy – then we may be in business here. As a leader, there are a ton of ways that I can try to motivate you but the best sales reps I know are intrinsically motivated. They know what they want and they won’t stop until they get there.
How to Build Friendly Sales Competitions
Salespeople are inherently competitive. It’s in their DNA. Many were athletes in high school, college, and some at the professional level. They know what it means to be a good teammate and to compete.
They play by the rules. They understand the team comes first. They know how to get up after getting knocked down. They compete and fight until the very end. They can be competitive and stay within the spirit of friendly competition. It’s why they decided to pursue one of the most fiercely competitive professions there is, sales.
You want people like this on your team.
What are the best types of friendly competition?
There are different forms of competition with specific goals in mind. They are friendly, competitive, they may be fun, but they all serve a purpose. Some may be focused on readiness and preparation, refining our messaging, others about teamwork and striving to reach higher goals. In the end, it’s about improving and getting better everyday.
Let’s cover three types of competition with these specific goals in mind.
Fast and Furious
The first competition is “Fast and Furious”, an adrenaline pumping competition serving as an indication of readiness and preparation. The manager starts off the day with “I’ve got two tickets to the Rage Against the Machine reunion tour burning a hole in my pocket, looking to give away to the first person who sets a demo or a meeting by 11am today.”
The goal and instructions are simple, time-based and imminent. Perfect to exercise fast twitch muscles and get the neurons firing away. It’s before the game, at the starting line. It’s the athlete inside. Sales people like it because it’s fast, the prize is for the taking and has immediate gratification. It’s now, it’s an experience, and it’s attainable.
“Fast and Furious” develops and refines the adaptive skills and the ongoing conditioning needed in sales. You cannot predict when the customer will be calling in or when you have them on the line. No time to sharpen the pencils, tweak your scripts, “it’s go time.” You can customize and create your own competitive versions of these competitions, and you should. Variety is the spice of life, so apply it here as well.
This is not all fun and games. It’s an effective tool to assess the readiness and preparation of the team. How prepared, precise and organized were they out of the gate? Did they fumble, shuffle through, get off the line slow? Were they exact, efficient and successful? Like a track athlete coming out of the blocks, or the defensive lineman getting off on the snap of the ball, it’s about reaction time and preparation. So when do we review our readiness?
Immediately following is the best time for group feedback. What was most effective? What worked, what didn’t? All great learning lessons captured in a very short period of time. As much as this may be about results, and getting the first demo, “Fast and Furious” is more an indication of preparation, and how ready they are to play. The end goal is about making adjustments and improvements like you do after every game. Perfectionism is a disease. It’s not about being perfect, but getting better every day. Progress, not perfection, is the goal here.
Best Value Proposition
Another competition is “BVP” or the best value proposition. This is where each salesperson writes out and submits anonymously their best value prop, and the best rebuttal to an objection they faced. The team listens to all, and then votes on the best. It’s a great way to learn from your peers, align and refine your messaging, and take in different perspectives.
You can do it anytime, maybe monthly or quarterly to stay fresh. This is great for new hires and trainees in particular as they acclimate to their new selling environment. These work really well for virtual team meetings and happy hours. Listen to calls together as a group. Break them down as a group. Role play as a group. Don’t let distance hold you back from getting and giving feedback.
Next, is a more formalized, longer form competition that also includes support team members within the sales organization. Let’s call it “Destination.”
1) Start by forming teams combining sales and support. No more than three people per team. Forming teams serves multiple purposes; creating new relationships, collaboration and cross functional teamwork. It’s a great way to appreciate and learn about other roles and responsibilities in the organization.
2) Keep it simple. Stay within the current day to day metrics, or the same “activity-based” metrics in play today. It’s not only about what you do, but doing it more effectively. To set goals, take your daily or weekly activity metrics and multiply by 1.20 representing the initial “stretch goal” with incremental increases of .025 thereafter per step, as the competition progresses to the final destination. Sales athletes understand it gets harder in the 4th quarter, as you get closer to the goal. You don’t reward for what’s expected, you reward for what’s on the other side of expectations.
3) Each step represents the flow leading to a sale; dials, conversions, appointments, demos, proposals, or whatever makes sense for your organization. Do not include actual sales results at this point (overly complicates). Total team sales serves as a tiebreaker, if it comes into play. This competition is about teamwork, and driving the right behaviors with activity at the center.
4) The competition has a starting point and a final destination. As each team meets/exceeds the assigned measurement goal for each step in the journey, starting with the first step, they move to the next level up. Teams that don’t achieve the goal, stay where they are and don’t move. The first team that reaches the final destination wins the prize, bragging rights and all the other good stuff that comes along with it. Best to keep the contest duration to 60 days or less, as longer periods only run the risk of the team losing focus and continuity.
5) Important that it’s visual-based, with a “Map” displayed on the office walls. Teams create their own names, emoji, and team personas. You want everyone seeing how the teams are progressing on their journey. This is where you see the creativity and imagination of the teams. Don’t micromanage this process. Let them be creative, and silly if they feel like it.
6) The Good Twist. The prize connects to the final destination, extending to an outside place. An experience is always better than a cash reward. A shared experience is even more powerful. This allows teams to better visualize and connect the contest to a destination, a real place they plan to celebrate victory as a team (more on this below). Remember, your aim here is to create fun, competitive office chatter between teams who “can’t’ wait to go to x place.”
The final destination is up to you. My favorite, Costa Rica [of course].
The Mount Rainier Summit Challenge – where teams start off by following the standard “Disappointment Cleaver” route from “Paradise” base camp, to “Camp Muir”, to “Cathedral Gap”, to “Ingraham Flats” to the Summit”, traversing 5 steps before reaching 14,411 feet, the top of the mountain.
The team prize– connecting with the Mount Rainier journey and experience. The first team to reach the Summit of the majestic mountain wins the prize. It could be a day off from work with lunch at the “Paradise Lodge,” and day hiking as a team through the beautiful mountain meadows. Maybe, a REI backpack for future hiking trips and adventures. And all within budgets of course.
Not in the country? Let’s move the competition to the city:
The New York City Adventure– same route concept as the Mt Rainier Challenge, so will be brief. In this case, the route could be from the NY office location, down the elevator across the street to the subway, cruise across town or hitting Uptown, Midtown, Tribeca to the final destination. [New Yorkers please forgive my route logic!]
The team prize – The first team to arrive at the destination wins the prize. It could be the restaurant they always wanted to go to, or to a Broadway show. Connecting the journey with the prize and destination, a real place, creates more meaning, allows the team to enjoy the moments outside and develop stronger relationships. It also makes the competition fuller with lasting memories that don’t go away. They will remember the experience.
The End Goals
Salespeople and teams become better every day by getting closer and more connected with teammates. The end result here drives the right type of behaviors and results.
They are sales athletes who want to operate at peak performance and levels. Let’s support our teams by creating conducive environments that are fun, friendly and drive results.
I can’t think of anything more important than tapping into the sales athlete, the competitive spirit within. Now more than ever, when most of the world is experiencing a forced function and working remotely and connecting virtually and in need of community and culture, enjoy, and have fun creating friendly sales competitions.