Competition has been shown to be useful up to a certain point and no further, but cooperation, which is the thing we must strive for today, begins where competition leaves off” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

We often talk about the idea of “healthy competition” when discussing how to run and motivate our sales teams. However, in order to spur on healthy competition, it’s important to reflect upon what unhealthy competition is – to be sure that we are driving the right behaviours and optimising for the desired outcome.

In general, it’s important to re-think the “winner and loser” mentality that plagues most sales teams. Gamification works best when it fosters a “win/win” mentality. Everyone works hard to achieve their goals, and regardless of the result – everyone had more fun, felt they worked towards a shared goal and got the most out of themselves. If players can game the system for their own benefit, but which hurts the other team members – you’ve developed a toxic game.

Enterprise competition can cause problems when you design for a win/lose game. The trick is to design for win/win game which will deliver a much more engaging and sustainable campaign. Therefore for the enterprise, designing for ‘co-operative competition’ is best as it taps both intrinsic and extrinsic motivators that are innate in all of us.” CMSWire

A few questions to ask yourself when launching a competition: 

  1. How could everyone win this competition? If you already can guess who will win – you’ve created a poor competition. Pick different metrics, chance up the teams. Just make it harder to predict the outcome.
  2. At the end of this competition – will everyone be happy? Even if someone doesn’t win – can they have enjoyed themselves and improved their own results?
  3. Can we compete in teams to achieve set goals? This would foster both competitive spirit but also teamwork.
  4. Are we incentivising the right behaviours? Will this make people focus on what we as a company feel is important? What metrics you compete on is the most critical element of a competition.

Remember you want “salespeople who understand healthy competition will challenge themselves, but not at the expense of others.


Written by

James Pember
CEO Sparta, gamification & performance management technology for the world's biggest and most-loved enterprise brands.Passionate about performance. Passionate about helping companies drive change. Love the intersection of behaviour, business, psychology and technology. One-time marathon finisher (probably won't try again).