Working in sales is challenging and competitive work, no matter what you are selling. It takes a certain kind of personality, a great deal of sales skills, and plenty of confidence to master.
In more ordinary times, sales teams could benefit from mentorship, coaching by supervisors, and other skill-building practices, but remote operations have made it more difficult to support sales teams in these ways. However, one way businesses can still encourage and support their sales teams is by developing low-stakes, skill-building competitions.
Sales Competitions 101
Sales competitions are a common tool used in business programs and companies of all sizes, but there are several different popular models and approaches. For example, the Bernie Moreno Center for Sales Excellence hosts a regular undergraduate sales competition based on a role-playing framework, with students judged by industry experts and buyers.
Other business programs are known for their elevator pitch contests, which are premised on selling an idea, more than selling a product.
Whatever the approach, though, the goal is to help students or novice salespeople build fluency and confidence in professional interactions.
Businesses interested in developing sales competitions as a means of skills development will have to overcome the difficulty of holding a competition outside the boundaries of the office. Beyond simply pitting staff against each other in a struggle for more real sales, what are their other options?
One way to encourage staff members to focus on their sales skills, while taking them out of real-time sales scenarios, is by using a platform like VALT, commonly used in business education, to role play sales scenarios. Staff can form teams and judge members of the other group on their effectiveness or other established criteria, perform critiques, and identify ways of improving the sales practices shown.
Not every business considers competition the best way to support sales skill development, but many of the same strategies used in competitions can also be used in skill-building exercises.
For example, if your team relies on extended presentations as part of their sales strategy, you might task team members with developing better presentations based on various criteria. One team member might research how to develop and use visuals, while another might examine the use of statistics. Another might look into body language and how those cues inform presentation efficacy.
Why have staff teach each other about sales strategy? It’s all about the different ways we approach information shared by peers compared to what we’re taught by supervisors or other authorities. Often, such presentations are more relatable or easier to understand. Because they aren’t offered on the basis of absolute authority, team members can choose aspects of these presentations to embrace and others that don’t suit their style, without fear of judgment.
Motivation Vs. Education
Much of the time, sales competitions are premised on pushing team members to work harder or make more sales, rather than on becoming more skillful salespeople. Businesses should keep this difference in mind when deciding on how to approach the issue. Motivation is an excellent tool, but it’s not the same as education. One is about this moment, and another is a way of playing the long-game. To put it another way, if you’re trying to meet your sales quota, you want to motivate your team. But if you want to easily grow your business’s success quarter after quarter going forward, you want to educate them.
There’s a place for both skill-building and motivational competitions on the sales floor, but your team needs skills before they can really capitalize on the motivational framework. As remote operations continue, emphasize development. Only after that can you ask them to put those skills into practice.