How to Build a Successful Sales Team That’s Collaborative, Not Cut-Throat
Is it possible to build a thriving, competitive sales team that also works well together? Find out five ways you can encourage your sales representatives to reach company targets without making them feel like they need to “take down” their colleagues.
Hitting financial targets is obviously a large part of what makes a sales team successful. And, more often than not, reps are expected to achieve individual goals that may put them in direct competition with their colleagues.
So, how can you encourage a competitive spirit, without pitting team members against each other?
Tiff Daniels, Director of Sales at Outback Team Building & Training, provides his insights on this question and more in the latest episode of our podcast, “Outback Team Building & Training Tips.” Continue reading to find out what he had to say on this topic, or hear straight from Tiff himself by listening to the episode below.
“Really try to understand the people you’re managing. To understand who they are, what motivates them, what gets them engaged, what’s driving them, and what their goals are.” — Tiff Daniels (Director of Sales, Outback Team Building & Training)
5 Ways to Create a Successful, Unified Sales Team
Competition is clearly an effective tactic to boost sales. However, according to Tiff Daniels, it’s important that the type of competition you’re encouraging is not taken too seriously, or it may lead to a hostile environment.
Here are Tiff’s top five pieces of advice on how you can encourage a thriving sales team, with colleagues who have each other’s backs.
1. OFFER REGULAR CONTESTS
One of the easiest tips Tiff has to offer? Try motivating your sales reps with fun little contests.
For example, you can challenge your team to see who can make the most number of proactive customer calls in a day, or over the course of a week.
Contests can take place once a month, last a couple of weeks, or reset every day. You can try experimenting with your team to see which rhythm works best for your group.
Tiff also suggests offering a small reward to the rep who wins each contest. This can be anything from a gift card to a financial bonus, which would be in addition to the individual’s sales commission.
These types of challenges are often low-risk, so they can help inspire action without putting too much pressure on employees.
2. USE LIVE SALES LEADERBOARDS
Another tactic that Tiff has found success with is displaying his team’s sales statistics on live monitors.
These screens show key performance indicators (KPIs), as well as daily, weekly, and monthly sales that reps have made. The multiple data points shown on the leaderboards offer individuals plenty of opportunity to rank well for different things.
Tiff explains that many reps now work towards “making the screen,” while also cheering on their colleagues when they’re successful. “People are more competitive and more engaged,” says Tiff.
If you decide to rank your team against their peers, however, Tiff cautions that you may want to categorize achievements based on people’s roles and how long they’ve been with the company. This helps make the rankings more “apples-to-apples,” and can prevent reps from feeling demoralized.
3. TRY THE “BUDDY SYSTEM”
One way to ensure team members have each other’s backs is by using what Tiff calls a “buddy system.”
With this type of set up, an individual who takes a vacation or gets sick will have someone – a “buddy” – who will take over their leads while they’re out of office. If a sale is made by the buddy, the two reps get to split the commission.
As a result, sales don’t suffer when a team member is absent, and colleagues make a point to look out for each other.
4. MAKE FRIENDLY COMPETITION PART OF YOUR CULTURE
Tiff suggests that instilling a fun, competitive spirit right into your company culture can have a positive effect on your sales team’s attitude towards competition.
At Outback, for example, employees are often participating in gambling pools for TV shows like Survivor or the NHL playoffs. Office bets like this can help coworkers have fun with competition, while they bond over shared interests and experiences.
“We’ve got a really engaged group of people,” says Tiff, “and they want to get involved in some pools, compete against each other, and have a laugh.”
5. USE THE HIRING PROCESS
Another strategy that Tiff uses, specifically when hiring new reps, is the DISC assessment.
DISC is a behavioral analysis program that can help hiring teams better understand how a potential sales candidate would fit in with their current reps.
As a best practice, Tiff recommends doing the assessment with a few top sales representatives to find trends within their behavior. This can help you know what to look for with possible hires.
Tiff also suggests adding a practical component to your interview process. At Outback, the hiring team asks sales candidates to participate in Escape Room: Jewel Heist in addition to the DISC assessment. This has helped Tiff see whether people’s written DISC results have aligned with their actual behavior in a real-life scenario.
As a result, Tiff has been able to recognize and hire people that will be competitive with their targets, as well as team players.
Help Your Sales Team Become More Effective
Contact our team today for a quick consultation, and find out how you can help your sales representatives hit bigger targets, while working even better together as a group.
Don’t forget, you can also tune into Tiff’s interview above, or download the episode by subscribing to our podcast, “Outback Team Building & Training Tips,” on iTunes, Google Play, SoundCloud, Stitcher, or wherever you listen to your podcasts.
If you’d prefer to read Tiff’s interview, see below for the full transcription of the podcast episode.
Kara Sy (KS): Hi everyone, and welcome to “Outback Team Building & Training Tips,” a monthly audio resource for HR and business professionals. I’m your host, Kara Sy, and this month I’m joined by special guest, Tiff Daniels, Director of Sales at Outback Team Building & Training. Thanks so much for joining me today, Tiff.
Tiff Daniels (TD): Thanks very much, Kara. Pleasure to be here.
KS: Great. So, our topic this month is how to successfully lead a thriving sales team, and Tiff will be sharing his insights on what it takes to inspire employees to be both competitive and collaborative. But before we begin, let’s start out with our quick tip of the month.
KS: Each month, we begin the episode with a quick tip for our listeners. Tiff, do you have any advice for people managing a sales team for the first time?
TD: That’s a really good question. I think to begin with, is really try to understand the people you’re managing. To understand who they are, what motivates them, what gets them engaged, what’s driving them, what their goals are.
KS: And, do you have any advice for how to do that with a group, right? You have a whole team, how do you get to know each individual?
TD: I guess the question would be is, how big the group is. I mean, if you’re managing a team for the very first time, I’m going to guess it’s not… well, I mean it could be, hundreds of people, but it could be a group of 5, you know, 10 sales professionals, so there’s still that opportunity to get to know them fairly quickly with one-on-one meetings, prior to really, you know, kicking off with the entire team.
KS: Yeah, and do you recommend, like weekly meetings? How often do you want to touch base with these people?
TD: I meet with my team members as a whole team, I meet with them 3 days a week for a quick, 10-minute catch up: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings. And then I also have a weekly sales meeting for about 45 minutes, once a week as well. And then on an individual basis, I meet with all my direct reports on a monthly basis as well, to review their data and goals.
KS: Right, so what would be the difference between that 45-minute weekly meeting and then the 3 smaller ones? What are you going through?
TD: The weekly meeting is to review how we’ve done as a sales team the previous week, and then to talk about best practices and success stories, and then have a usually about 10 to 15-minute learning opportunity, and then just go over any sort of administrative or structural changes or improvements that are going in with the organization, because also in those weekly meetings, we’ll bring in other departments like, for example, from our events team. We are always improving our products and services so, therefore, what are the things the sales reps need to know with regards to changes in our programs, or even from the marketing team. They might be doing a new marketing initiative, so we have the department heads from those other departments come in to the meetings as well and update us on any new strategies and initiatives.
KS: Right, I mean, when you’re getting these best practices and these tips from other departments, that’s helping you keep the edge on the competitive side, and then when you’re celebrating the successes, that’s when you’re doing more of the collaboration, and celebrating everyone as a unit.
TD: Yeah, very correct.
KS: Is that fair?
TD: Yeah, that’s very fair.
KS: So, you kind of have a bit of both in both those meetings.
KS: Okay, yeah, and so on the one-on-one meetings, are you focusing more on helping people achieve those best practices or you, you know, wanting them to be more of a team player? How are you speaking to them in those one-on-one meetings?
TD: On one-on-ones, I’m looking at what is going well with them right now and let’s continue to work on what’s going well and improve upon that, and then identify maybe what isn’t going well, as well, and then see whether there’s a learning opportunity with that, and then, depending on what it is, we might address that head on, right then and there. There could be, we do call reviews, audio reviews of calls they have with customers to help improve that, or it could be a workflow or a process thing that we can use, we can identify through our CRM and see there’s some room for improvement there to improve productivity and effectiveness.
KS: Okay, and so would there ever be an opportunity to bring in another team member on those to help with, say, best practices? Or is it always solely about that individual?
TD: No, it depends upon what the room for improvement is and I also have, what we call, sales captains on our team. So we have 3 or 4 more senior sales reps that, part of their job is to help coach some of the more junior sales reps, and therefore depending even on those one on ones, I might bring in one of those sales captains to help coach through the situation, or if I identify that, that one of the sales captains has a greater forte on that area, I might just, make sure that they do that offline themselves.
KS: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Okay, so with that, let’s get to our main interview.
KS: So in your opinion Tiff, what are the benefits of having a competitive sales team that can also work well together?
TD: To me, it’s about engagement and culture. We’ve got a great group of people that I know that in their own right, each one is very competitive. They actually are consistently trying to beat each other out and do well, but also, they understand that they have to help each other as well. We have thousands of customers all across North America, and we also know that there can be some sort of alignment between different types of industries, different types of customers where, you know, one sales rep might be working with the company that’s very similar to a lead that just came in for another sales rep, and therefore, if they can share the stories about how, some successes, or how they’ve helped another customer that’s similar to this new customer another rep is dealing with, then that, I think, helps the entire team grow as a unit and help our customers simultaneously.
KS: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, you want to be sharing the best practices, but at the same time, you know, you are working towards hitting your own targets, and so, you’re helping each other hit those targets individually but also as a team.
KS: So how do you recommend encouraging an environment of friendly competition? How do you make this happen?
TD: Well, we have a little contest, sometimes I have an ad-hoc contest just on a daily basis, you know, most number of dials or what we call PAECs which is Proactive Exploratory Conversations, so that’s some friendly competition, there might be a small reward, gift cards and financial gain. We also, I think this isn’t just specific to the sales team, but we’ve got a real cultural and engaged group of people that just like a lot of things that are going on, whether its watching shows like “Survivor,” or you know, what’s going on with the playoffs in NHL, in NFL, and they all get engaged and they want to get involved in some pools and compete against each other and have a laugh, so I think it’s a big part of just having people that are, you know, like to help their colleagues but also have fun being with their colleagues.
KS: Right, so you are encouraging that sort of friendly competition outside of the work place as well as, you know, what their KPIs and what they’re trying to hit personally, and their financial goals and that sort of thing.
KS: Yeah, so to have like a fun gambling pool at the office kind of, and still, you know, it’s not all cut-throat. It’s fun!
TD: That’s right, yes.
KS: So, are there any programs or incentives that you recommend to keep in place a competitive spirit. I know you mentioned the little one-off competitions, but, anything in particular?
TD: Well, I think on the incentive side is the one thing that we do is we have incentives that are based on whether it’s reacting to a lead that was generated by our marketing team, or, being or generating a proactive lead that was generated by a sales rep. So, they get commission in different ways and get incentives in different ways. So, therefore, I think that will create the behaviours we’re looking for to get the best out of each individual sales rep but also as a sales team.
KS: Right, and are there any programs that you use? I know that there’s the TVs up there, and there are the monitors, so anything, like, what exactly is that?
TD: Well, we have monitors throughout our sales floor, and also different parts of the office as well. It shows the KPIs, shows how people are doing, whether it’s their activity levels, you know, number of dials they’ve made, the number of conversations they’ve had, or, the financial results. Had any sales occurred today, or this week, or this month, and then we rank them as well so they can see how they are doing against their peers, but we also make sure it’s based on people’s roles because we know that sometimes if you rank someone who’s been in a role for one year against someone who’s been in a role for 8 years, that can be a bit demoralizing, so we also look at where are they within their tenure and their role within the organization, and then compare, so it’s more apples-to-apples as well.
KS: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Do you find that it motivates them? Do they work?
TD: Oh, definitely! Yeah, we put the monitors up, I think it was about a year ago when we first had those on, and the first few weeks, there was some nervous sales reps. They were like, “Wow, everything I do is front and center and displayed,” and we actually lost some sales reps because of it.
TD: Yeah, because I think they didn’t like the idea that their, you know, their information was public. But this is information that anyone could have found anyway, it’s not hidden. It’s just that you have to do a little report within our CRM to find it. Now it was automatically displayed at all times. But I know last year, it has definitely helped because the cream of the crop has risen to the top and people, I think, are more competitive and more engaged, and because of it, I think the other knock-on effect is they all want to do better, because they see that that’s a big part of how they are being judged, not only amongst their peers but also themselves – “I want to do better, I want to be at that next level.”
KS: “I want to make the screen!”
TD: “I want to make the screen! Yeah! I want it to have my face.” And that’s another thing we do, we have the person’s face on the top. On the top of these categories, and we have lots of different screens showing different data points, so there’s always an opportunity to be there even on a daily basis because we have daily, weekly, and monthly screens showing those KPIs.
KS: And I’m sure it inspires both, people congratulating their colleagues when they see that they’ve made a really great sale, but also inspires that little, you know, not trash talk, but kind of competitive, like “I’m coming for you this week!”
TD: Oh! It happens on a daily, weekly basis and that’s so true. I think the first point you made there about rewarding or celebrating other’s successes is huge. There’s this one sales rep that, you know, a year and a half ago, I remembered he was having some challenges, transitioning from a reactive role to a proactive role and he is just, like, done some incredible things the last year but, the part of that has been other peers that maybe had more experience, have been longer, were right there to cheer him on along the way, which I think really helped him up his game and be more successful today.
KS: Yeah, I’m sure there’s something to be said about, getting that congratulations in the moment, you know, the day it’s happening, rather than a month later at say, you know, a debrief with the rest of the team. It kind of meaningful to know you have that celebration right away! People are aware of it as it’s happening and that’s got to feel good, to motivate you, to keep going in that day and that week, you know, until you make the next great sale.
TD: Most definitely! Yes!
KS: So, what are a few ways to encourage members of a sales team to collaborate or have each others’ backs?
TD: I guess, to my point earlier about the different industries, or all our different is that we actually will have team members that will split the value of a sale and their respective commission on it because, you’ll get referrals, a sales rep could generate a referral from their customer that actually, through their customer that’s a referral to a colleagues’ customers, and if that happens then they will basically split with the commission. We also have a buddy system, so when someone goes on vacation, or maybe sick for the day, they have a buddy and that buddy that will take over their leads and they’ll split the commission of that, of anything that comes up while their buddy is sick or on vacation.
KS: Yeah, of course you want to have that person’s back…
TD: Yeah, exactly!
KS: …He gets to take part in whatever the sale is, and that makes a lot of sense. So, how can you ensure to hire someone that’s a good fit for your team? I know you mentioned earlier that, with the monitors, that kind of dissuaded some people that weren’t quite a good fit for your team, for this culture. How do you make sure that the new people coming in will be a good fit?
TD: Well, another thing that we started a few years ago was looking at DISC assessments.
KS: Can you describe what DISC is?
TD: Basically, it’s a behavioural analysis program, that I think has been around for quite a few decades, but we initially, when we are looking at it and try to understand what is going on in the mind, soul, and body of a potential sales candidate. We did the DISC with some of our top reps and then we found trends within their behaviour and who they are, that we saw were beneficial to their success. So, and then we also, when we did this assessment with some people that weren’t performing as well, we actually did it before some of these reps, that we were talking about earlier, left. We identified that the people that had the behaviour, had the DNA shall we call it, that was enabling them to be successful, had certain attributes in certain categories, and those that weren’t successful were lacking in those attributes.
KS: That’s really interesting.
TD: And, therefore, so what we’ve done is, we still got what, we still go through telephone interviews, face-to-face interviews…
KS: The traditional stuff.
TD: Traditional stuff, but we also do DISC assessment, which then enables us to understand, sort of, what’s really in their DNA, but in the top of that, what we also do is, because we’re a team building company, it’s all about engagement and identifying people’s strengths and areas for collaboration, we decided as well to do a team building event with new sales candidates, with our, specifically we use our escape room, and then we could see how we interact with these other people, and then we would use that almost as the identifier, to say, was the DISC assessment in line with how they actually acted in a real-life scenario as well, so we could cross reference the two, because with any, I think some people are always a little bit concerned with behavioral test because they’re usually multiple choice questions. Some people think there’s a possibility you could cheat the test by giving different answers which might not then tell the true, your true DNA. So we thought, well let’s then do a team building event that we can then cross reference against that and see, did it align from what we know and what we believe is going be the best, ideal sales candidate.
KS: And so, have you found that they do align, and then after you’ve made, when you’ve hired people, has it aligned with what you saw in the DISC assessment and in the escape room?
TD: Most definitely! Most definitely! And the other benefit too, once they’ve been hired is the DISC assessment has enabled me to understand at a more deeper level what motivates people, what are their weaknesses, what areas that I can help them improve upon, and then how do I work with them on an individual basis, because we all know everybody is different.
KS: That’s great! Yeah, that’s really neat. I mean, the Escape Room is a great one because, it’s a little competitive, and the way that people are trying to take the lead, they’re trying to find clues, they’re trying to, you know, do their part, but it’s also, of course, at its core, very collaborative, because you need to work together in order to find…the treasure.
KS: Now that’s great! So, do you have any final tips for best success when managing a sales team?
TD: That’s the number one tip, I think I’ve always been a believer in life-long learning and always improving. I know that’s one of our core values is, the company always improving, and the one thing that’s really become apparent to me for the last 4 or 5 years is that, a great manager is a great listener, and listening and trying to understand what people are saying, rather than, it’s not about me telling them what to do, it’s about listening what they need and how I can help them achieve their goals.
KS: Yeah, well that’s great! Well, thanks so much for joining me today, Tiff. That’s it for this episode of Outback Team Building & Training Tips. If you’d like to learn more about how you can help your sales team excel, visit the Training & Development section of our website at outbackteambuilding.com and look for programs, such as Accelerated Selling and Rediscover Sales, and don’t forget to subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, or wherever you may listen to your podcasts. Until next time! Thank you for listening.