Collaboration vs. Competition


Collaboration vs. Competition

As a sales manager or marketing leader, it’s part of your job to motivate optimal performance from your team.

There’s been plenty of internet ink spilled on the factors behind peak performance at work. Historically, harnessing employees’ competitive spirit has been a signature way to motivate workers. Specifically in the sales and marketing professions.

But with all the technology and data we have to study workplace performance, a new theory is emerging. Many believe collaboration to be superior to competition in an organizational setting.

It might be tempting to swing the pendulum in the opposite direction, removing all competition altogether. But the competition and collaboration aren’t mutually exclusive when implemented correctly. In fact, the two can live in harmony to the mutual benefit of your team and your organization.

In this post, we’ll discuss the natural byproducts of a culture of competition versus collaboration. We’ll cover how to best motivate your employees or sales reps for peak performance. And we’ll explore a healthy place for competition.

A culture of competition

Not all competition is bad, but pitting employees against each other is rarely good. Here are a few reasons why:

Competition discourages knowledge-sharing

Competition, at its very core, is to try and perform better than those around you. It is literally a “rivalry for supremacy.” 

This logically leads to some problems among work teammates.

There are entire software industries built around the gamification of sales. There are even leaderboards and score charts on central display in the selling space for top performers.

Now, put yourself in the shoes of an ace sales rep. Every day when you walk in, your name is illuminated at the very top of that public leaderboard display. You’re revered as a sales guru and favored by all.

Other sales reps are eager to understand your secrets and how you’ve garnered such success.

What motivation do you have to disclose your tactics to your teammates? You’re seen as the darling of the sales team — why give that up? Why share best practices if it means relinquishing your spot on the coveted leaderboard?

The example may be tongue-in-cheek, but the principle is sound. Competition naturally pits employees against each other. It (intentionally or not) discourages high performers to share best practices.

It creates a “me versus them” culture that breeds resentment, stress, and can prevent other reps from succeeding.

Competition can create silos between departments 

A healthy organization has three general categories of expertise that are crucial to its success: 

  1. A group that builds (product development) 
  2. A group that supports (customer success or tech support) 
  3. A group that sells (sales, sales enablement, and marketing)

Sometimes there is an overlap between these groups. But any business, product, or service has some variation of these three disciplines.

Each of these departments would like to think they’re the most important. After all, without the build team, there’d be no product. Without the support team, customers would churn. Without the sales and marketing team, who would buy?

Truthfully, each of these groups is like a leg on a three-legged barstool that supports the weight of business growth. Eliminate one and the stool would inevitably fall over.

Here’s why this is important. A culture of competition will creep beyond the bounds of individual departments into the culture of the company as a whole.

This is doubly true if departmental leaders are the ones perpetuating it.

One thing we can all agree on: pitting departments against each other is never a good idea. If board meetings or check-ins with C-level leaders become constant “one-up” sessions between department heads, the morale of the organization will take a nosedive.

Silos between departments because of egos or the desire to be the best will never lead to success. As the ancient adage goes, “a kingdom divided cannot stand.”

Competition can be a demotivating factor for some employees 

A highly competitive sales environment assumes that all sales reps are motivated by “beating” their peers. And while the typical “sales” persona is typically one of intensity and competition, that’s not always the case. Furthermore, when the “be the best” message overpowers the teamwork message, it can do more harm than good.

Sellers have a variety of different selling styles and approaches. Competition (more specifically competition anxiety), causes an uptick in “fight-or-flight” responses.

Powering your sales team on pure adrenaline to be better than their peers is antithetical to creative thinking. It can also be bad for critical problem-solving which requires mental space and clarity.

Thankfully, there’s a better way forward through encouraging a culture of collaboration.

A culture of collaboration 

As work cultures evolve, more articles are exploring and questioning the value of competition. Many thought leaders have come to the consensus that collaboration is an all-around better way forward.

So what are some of the key differences between employees that compete and employees that collaborate?

Collaboration means team ownership

At the heart of collaboration lives a communal (as opposed to individualistic) view of success. When one person excels, it means we can all learn and succeed through their sharing of best practices. “A rising tide lifts all boats” might be the creed of an organization centered on collaboration.

Collaborative teams have a greater sense of team ownership over the success of projects or campaigns. When a campaign succeeds, the entire team played a part. When it fails, the team fails as a whole – and can own that outcome and learn lessons together.

Of course, this doesn’t mean problematic employees or individual errors shouldn’t be addressed. It simply means that individuals who don’t pull their weight or drop the ball have more accountability to succeed. Why? Because of each employee’s dependence upon one another.

This also goes a long way eliminating resentment and underhanded practices. The ones that can birth from a “me versus them” competitive culture.

Collaboration means sharing best practices

There’s no greater feeling for a sales rep or marketing employee than discovering a tactic that consistently resonates with prospects and drives deals forward.

It might be a particularly hard-hitting feature/benefit talking point. It might be a high-value piece of content. Or maybe a prospect demographic that always resonates with your product or service.

Collaboration means not hoarding these secrets in an effort to be a gatekeeper of knowledge. Rather, you’re eager to share what’s working for the success of the team.

Creating collaborative channels that encourage this kind of knowledge-sharing is crucial to success. Maybe it’s a dedicated Slack channel or scheduled agenda item in team meetings.

Some sales enablement software solutions even have collaborative features that streamline this process. For example, in addition to managing, measuring, and distributing your sales content, Accent Content displays the most popular content used by your peers.

An intuitive content carousel shows what assets your peers are using and the file information shows prospect engagement metrics. This is an excellent complement to the normal means of communicating best practices, and an automated way sales reps can stay in the know of team activities.

But add marketing AI to the mix, and you can analyze and score content based on its ability to move the needle with buyers on a much granular level. Then leverage sales AI to automate intelligent recommendations to your sellers. Now you can hand deliver to your reps content that is proving itself effective with their peers’ opportunities’ buyer personas, industries, stages, etc.

Collaboration means awareness and transparency

If there were ever two departments in the history of the modern workplace that could benefit from collaboration, it’s sales and marketing.

These two departments are two sides of the same coin. They exist for the same reason: to draw in qualified leads through great content and accelerate them through the funnel to an eventual sale.

We’ve covered the importance of a sales enablement team and sales enablement manager in past blog posts. These roles can mitigate a lot of the roadblocks to collaboration and communication. And they can ensure both teams are aligned with the sales strategy.

Sales enablement solution providers (like ourselves) can offer a range of features that streamline collaboration between sales and marketing. The trick is to find one that can scale with your team as your needs inevitably evolve over time.

Accent CRM Supercharger uses AI to aggregate all CRM data and show key metrics about the health of the deal in an intuitive dashboard. This means reps can offer assistance to their peers and to the marketing team by simply focusing on their deals and doing what they need. The AI does the heavy lifting automatically capturing and analyzing all the activity data. And the flow of data and insights is accessible for everyone who needs it, as well as easy to digest.

Accent Marketing Insight goes a layer deeper. It shows how the efficacy of content relates to the closing of deals and how prospects specifically engage with content. These factors are calculated by a sophisticated AI engine. Then, they’re referenced against historical lead data. From there, they’re transformed into succinct prescriptive recommendations for sales and marketing teams.

This, along with a host of other features present in the Accent software suite, automates the more tedious parts of collaboration and data collection and keeps everyone in the loop.

Collaboration brings out the best in everyone

An incredible thing starts happening when you slowly but surely build a culture of collaboration in your marketing and sales teams. In place of competition anxiety, siloed employees, and fight or flight responses grows a culture of efficient problem-solving.

As knowledge and perspectives are shared, employees build on the success and best practices of their peers. The result is an ever-increasing ideation cycle that results in better content, more qualified leads, a happier team, and more sales.

In other words, a culture of collaboration creates employees that are significantly greater than the sum of their parts.

The fuel that motivates innovation is less about individualistic success and more about team success. 

A healthy place for competition

If you’ve read this far, you might think I’m arguing that competition is the cardinal sin of business. Not so! There’s a healthy place for competition. After all, there’s no way to entirely remove the natural sense of competition in the human spirit (and we shouldn’t try to).

As long as you have deadlines and quotas, there will always be competition, especially among sales employees. It’s impossible not to compare yourself to your peers, even subconsciously.

However, as a sales and marketing leader, you have control over how you perpetuate or motivate that sense of competition within your team.

A better way forward is to channel that competition into mutually beneficial motivation.

Competition within a department, as we’ve discussed, must have a winner and a loser. It’s not mutually beneficial for the organization. Someone will inevitably come up short. The key is to be competitive against the correct things.

Competition against self

Leaders and professionals committed to continual self-improvement know that the most important barometer for success is simply being better than they were yesterday.

Comparing against peers is a losing battle. There are so many variables and strengths that individuals bring to the table at an organization. A better way is to have KPIs that measure against past individual performance. 

These are metrics you can set for your employees or work with them to set for themselves. It could be as simple as closing 10% more deals as they did last quarter or writing ten more outreach emails than they did yesterday.

KPIs also serve well as platforms for instructional conversations. Especially in your one-on-one meetings with your teammates.

Competition against organizational competitors

Competition against actual competitors (what a novel idea, right?) is a healthier way for your employees to channel that competitive spirit.

One of the best ways to level up collaboration between your sales reps is through a comprehensive sales enablement program. It will also automate the tedium of their responsibilities, and help them crush the competition.

The Accent Technologies suite of software exists for this very purpose: to remove common obstacles in sellers’ ways. Also to streamline the content production workflow and increase the speed at which qualified leads become satisfied, paying customers.

Next Steps

To learn more about how Accent Connect can help you transform your sales organization, contact our team today.

Accent Technologies is the first and only SaaS company to bring together Sales AI and Content Management in a true REVENUE ENABLEMENT PLATFORM. We provide both sales and marketing with better visibility into the performance of their teams and their content. This drives revenue through intelligent recommendations for complex sales scenarios and provides the data for rich analytics that power better messaging, coaching, forecasting, and long-term customer support. Learn more about our solutions or request a LIVE DEMO to see it in action.  

By Accent Technologies

3rd August 2020