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The "Staff Competition Increases Sales" Myth


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Many books have been written using sports scenarios as analogies to teach important selling principles. One critical component that must be factored into the sports arena is the element of competition. In sports, athletes work to be better at their events, or in their team positions, than others playing the sport. Teams strive to defeat the opposing teams with participants working to do their best to win. On the surface, this concept of competition seems like a valuable tool to implement with a sales organization. In fact throughout this manual sales professionals have been referred to as members of a sales team. The logic is that in sports, competition encourages the athletes to do their best, therefore in selling, competition will also encourage sales professionals to strive for better sales results.

When you set up sales contests that pit sales representatives against each other for cash or a trip to the Bahamas, the temporary gains you achieve are more than erased by the long term morale problems this type of competition creates for your sale organization. What usually happens is that one or two people win the competition every time. After a while, the rest of the sales team doesn't even try to win the prize. Often they believe that the contest is stacked in favor of your top producers, lowering morale even further. The overall effect of using competition in the workplace, then, is that it will not motivate your people to work harder, but will instead, discourage and demotivate your staff.

The best incentive programs are designed where every participant can be a winner. By having sales professionals compete against their past sale performance levels, you can generate a lot more enthusiasm for your contest and avoid the morale issues that a head-to-head competition creates. A point or chit system for a grand prize drawing is an effective tool as well. Assign points for improved performance and then draw a winner from the points or chits placed in the larger pool. With this approach, each sales staff member has a shot at the grand prize and can be winners of smaller prizes for the number of points accumulated during the sales contest period.

VIRDEN THORNTON is the founder and President of The $elling Edge®, Inc. an Ohio consulting firm specializing in sales and sales management training, personal coaching, advisory services and publishing. Clients have included Sears Optical, Eastman Kodak, IBM, Service Linen Supply, Bank One, Jefferson Wells International, and Wal-Mart to name a few. Virden is the author of the “best selling" Building & Closing the Sale, Prospecting: The Key To Sales Success and Close That Sale, a video/audio tape series published by Crisp Publications a division of Thompson Learning. He has also authored a client acclaimed Self-Directed Learning series of sales, coaching, telemarketing, and personal productivity manuals. To obtain a substantial discount on two of Virden's latest books, 101 Sales Myths or Organizing For Sales Success, go to:

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