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Sales have gained a reputation as being a cutthroat area of the business world. While it is true that people working in sales are often competitive, that doesn’t mean that sales should be a dog-eat-dog environment of hyper-competitiveness. Unfortunately, many sales departments are riven by division and rivalry. Management often even encourages this way of doing things, actively seeking to pit individuals against one another.

Ultimately, a toxic environment like that isn’t good for anyone. A sales team should be precisely that: a team. A team is always preferable to a group of rivals struggling against one another. People are stronger together, not alone or separated.

It might seem that encouraging vigorous competition between sales team members might have beneficial results. From a certain perspective, this might even be true… But only over the short term. In the short term, driving up the stakes of competition (such as by threatening to fire the lowest performer on the team) might boost sales.

However, that effect won’t last. The issue is that stress levels, job satisfaction, and a sense of togetherness and camaraderie are of huge importance in ensuring employees perform at a sustained high level. It’s always possible to do too much over a short time frame — the problem is that this approach inevitably leads to the collapse in motivation and performance known as burnout.

In limited amounts, stress has its value. Feeling some amount of pressure to land a big sale is good for all involved. But when people complain about stress, they really mean chronic stress. Sustained for too long, stress becomes an awful experience. It dramatically diminishes a person’s ability to deal with challenges, wrecks mood, worsens sleep quality, and in general makes life miserable.

In a sales department that is not team-oriented, chronic stress is inevitable. Once stress sets in, it has a way of getting out of control quickly. Highly stressed employees become irritable with one another, which worsens the situation for everyone and results in still-higher stress levels, which in turn further degrades performance.

One way to look at it is that people want to have good relationships with those they spend a significant amount of time with. A sales team will be around each other a lot. If relations between individuals are fraught with tension due to an intense, cutthroat atmosphere, every person will be worse off.

All of this is why sales team managers and team members alike must prioritize creating an environment marked by togetherness and team spirit. Rather than pushing colleagues down, every member of the group should try to help each individual succeed. Ultimately, this will benefit everyone. Individuals, the team as a whole, and the company itself will gain.

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