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When sports teams win, they exchange chest bumps, high-fives, and pats on the back. They strut before the crowds and pour the champagne. Wins are greeted with less fanfare in the sales office, but sales team members relish some of the same victory dance. Focusing your sales incentive plans on teamwork has advantages and disadvantages worth considering.

Read our analysis about individual vs team incentives, 12 pros and cons:

Individual vs team incentives: Advantages to Team Incentives

  • Collaboration: Team-focused incentives reward the integration of strengths and efforts they call “collaboration.”individual vs team incentives
  • Communication: Sales management clearly endorses its preference for teamwork when it rewards team outcomes.
  • Competence: Top-performers will carry low-performers to win as a group.
  • Competition: When you reward a team on its achievement, you also encourage continued rivalry between teams.
  • Conflict: The press to succeed as one can suppress individual personality conflicts and counter-productive ambitions.
  • Cross-training: Successful teams have a way of cross-training and supporting each other to cover for gaps in ability.

Individual vs team incentives: Disadvantages to Team Incentives

  • Collaboration: While team incentives encourage a flatter organizational structure, they also provoke an enforced collaboration. It levels individual performance to a dispiriting average.
  • Communication: While team processes share the information that leads to innovation, history has rarely recognized group innovation. Truly unique advancements are individual accomplishments even though teams may refine the processes.
  • Competence: While teams pool competencies for a larger strength, they also diminish the self-worth of individuals wrought out of their own self-interest. Unreserved team play contradicts human behavior that favors self-reliance and ego.
  • Competition: While sales management might encourage rivalry between department teams, it invites intra-team rivalry. The sales rainmakers resist carrying the mid- and low- performers. What the team sees as peer pressure, the individual producer finds unfair.
  • Conflict: While team performance may redirect corporate culture, it will likely do so only following disruption. Even when accepted as a norm, team members on a winning team will not want reassignment to lower placing teams.
  • Cross-training: While teammates may share sales tools and experiences, sales still created individual relationships. Top performers do not trust change and will not surrender more to the effort than it takes to close the win.

So, you see there is a disadvantage for every advantage, but the balance is an artificial device of this article constructed to make the point that the balance is tenuous at best.

Don’t believe everything you hear about teamwork.

What we can conclude is that incentives that reward sales team performance will compromise individual performance. But, that is not enough to dismiss the team recognition. Much depends on the existing corporate culture, the product line, and the market niche, so much so that generalizations are not constructive.

Pros and cons of rewarding the team win – conclusion.

We can conclude that any sales incentive program that does not address and serve corporate goals is misdirected. It is counter-productive if it singles out individuals at random, weakens the morale of the larger group, or encourages corruption.
We invite readers to continue and challenge this conversation on individual vs team incentives. Succeeding blogs will develop the pros and cons of individual incentives, but we look forward to modeling a plan that balances both motives.

Image courtesy of bplanet at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tomek Jordan

advisory board member at Repignite
Interested in Sales Performance Management, Sales Incentive Management.