Creating a High-Performance Sales Culture

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Mike Smalls

Hoopla CEO and Founder Mike Smalls

Has your inside sales team built a strong sales culture that keeps your reps engaged?

Hoopla CEO and Founder Mike Smalls has 66.6 reasons you should. He notes a little-known statistic — that only a third or less of employees are motivated and engaged at any given time. That means that about 66.6 percent of your sales reps are probably less than gung ho right now.

And that’s bad news for your business. Engaged salespeople perform better. They stay with companies longer. This might sound intuitive, but these workplace dynamics have been confirmed with reputable research, like that done by “Gallup Management Journal.”

Smalls shared some proven secrets for engaging your reps in his presentation, “Creating a High-Performance Sales Culture,” at the Inside Sales Virtual Summit.

How can you boost sales motivation?

Many sales leaders struggle with the challenge of keeping their teams motivated. Sometimes, leaders assume that sales reps must motivate themselves or that it requires a coin-operated model, such as prizes and rewards.

Smalls has found two methods that consistently drive engagement and motivation on sales teams: competition and recognition.

Salespeople are a lot like professional athletes. They love to be recognized. They love to be on the highlight reel. They are not afraid to compete. They like to win.

“There’s just a lot of corollaries to professional athletes,” Smalls says. “So, when we look at what is spelled out in scientific studies of competition, we can certainly look at ways to apply it and get our teams to operate at peak performance.”

Here are three specific tips you can use in your own sales competitions:

1. Consider Size: The size of the competition affects engagement. The larger the group involved, the more likely you are to see folks disengage because some of them will think they can’t win.

2. Create a Level Playing Field: If people feel that something is unfair or that someone is being treated differently, they will disengage. Establish a clear set of rules and an impartial scoring system to maintain a level playing field.

3. Encourage Rivalries: If you really want to unleash your reps’ competitive spirit, make it a team sport. Pit teams against each other within the company to form a friendly rivalry or slap a metaphorical bull’s-eye on the back of your biggest competitor – and watch your team’s performance soar.

Common pitfalls to avoid

Creating a high-performance sales culture is tricky. Even experienced sales leaders often make costly mistakes.

Here are a few common pitfalls you’ll want to avoid:

Improper incentives: If the prize spread is too big between first and second place, you may see more cheating or more risk-taking as your reps battle it out for the biggest reward. If the prize spread is too small, nobody will feel any motivation to move up into fifth place when they’re sitting pretty in sixth.

Lack of variety: If your sales reps are constantly competing against the same people, the bragging rights and other intangible benefits of winning diminish in value over time. In this case, prizes and rewards play a bigger role. Think about the frequency of your sales competitions and adjust your rewards accordingly.

Stall tactics: Studies show that once somebody is in the leading position in any kind of competition, that person tends to retreat into risk-avoidance mode. The leader just wants to maintain the lead until the competition ends. How can you get people who are in the leading position to continue to strive for greater levels of performance? Introduce a sub-contest to keep engagement levels high.

If you follow these tips, you’ll be glad you did. Your sales culture will improve in measurable ways.

Note: Some of the ideas and research Smalls refers to in his presentation come from the groundbreaking book “Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing,” written by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman.

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