How gamification can drive high scores from your sales team

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The core capabilities of sales performance management are many and varied, ranging from incentive compensation management to territory management; from configure price quote (CPQ) to quota management; and from learning management to sales analytics.

While not a ‘traditional’ part of SPM solutions, gamification is rapidly emerging as another common tool introduced into SPM suites by vendors. Designed to encourage positive behaviours with incentives, rank results in real-time and offer recognition to those reps who are doing the right behaviours, gamification’s appeal is understandable to sales leaders.

Indeed, the sales department is no stranger to applying game theory to drive the selling process, whether it’s through prizes for the largest sales or leaderboards of salesperson performance. So the opportunity to capitalise on more sophisticated gamification tools is an obvious next step. Through the use of gamification, sales leaders can motivate their teams by means that aren’t just about pure dollars, and the gamification programme therefore expands upon whatever incentive compensation plans are in place.

Broadly speaking, the main benefits that gamification can drive are:

  • Behaviour change: The most common use of gamification is to engage a specific audience and encourage them to change a target set of behaviours. By turning the desired behaviour change into a game, people become engaged and encouraged to adopt new habits. These behaviours could be anything from the adoption of new technologies/processes to engaging in better team collaboration.
  • Skill development:  Gamification is increasingly being used in both formal education and in corporate training programs to engage students in a more immersive learning experience.
  • Innovation: Innovation games generally use game mechanics to create a more engaging experience, but the key is to engage lots of players, solving problems through crowdsourcing. 
  • Staff engagement: Gamification contributes to the team members feeling more actively involved and rewarded for their contributions. “Gamification is not just a solution or game, it is a method of actively engaging employees to drive business transformation,” says Maggie Buggie, VP global head digital sales and marketing, at Capgemini. “An increasingly engaged workforce can result in improved operational efficiencies, increased productivity and quality of service, increased customer satisfaction and retention, and increased revenue and profitability.”

The tools that enable this include leaderboards for recognition and transparency; rewards for incentives; and group boards to drive group incentives.

Tim Knight, co-founder of CloudApps, notes: “Gamification provides motivation; it nudges users to follow best practice and breaks down the sales process into a series of everyday steps. Gamification motivates users through points, progression through levels and by placing sales people on leaderboards.”

Ken Krogue, president and co-founder of InsideSales.com, notes: “We have found real-time dashboards and statistics in the form of leaderboards will immediately boost sales significantly. But you can also present challenges around real-time promotions or contests around an effort format (such as calls and appointments) and result format (sales closed). The ability to put statistics in real-time in front of the sales teams and then allow them to compete and to recognise for individual and team achievements has been very powerful.”

One of the key advantages of gamification is that it is continuous, rather than sporadic, recognising an employee’s contribution on a continual basis, rather than quarterly or monthly. “This is something that can be used continually, which is more interesting to everybody, and certainly starts to align people with the objectives of the company and makes everything more visible,” remarks Neil Penny, CTO at Sunrise Software. “You can align it with your key performance indicators, so it can engender collaboration, competition and of course recognition – and all that leads to better employee motivation and engagement.”

The ability to put statistics in real-time in front of the sales teams and then allow them to compete and to recognise for individual and team achievements has been very powerful.

Furthermore, skills such as closing techniques can be developed far quicker in the frontline workforce with gamification, notes Maninder Kapoor Puri, executive vice president, people supply chain and service excellence at Firstsource. “Practical objections and rebuttals, up-sell and cross-sell techniques can be gamified in a fun way, which can help the sales team feel more empowered and confident in converting every potential opportunity into a sale.”

Gamification techniques give employees a sense of achievement, tie into reward and recognition schemes, and make everyday tasks more exciting, fun and collaborative, so it’s easy to see how they can drive staff engagement. But how exactly can managers ensure gamification is introduced successfully so that everyone gets the most from it?

Penny shares the following tips to introduce gamification into the workplace, which represents a three-step methodology to successful implementation. 

Gain buy-in

  • Don’t assume everyone understands the concept of gamification and make sure to position it as a motivational reward and recognition system rather than just another fad.
  • What’s in it for the players? Linking rewards to something tangible like cake and coffee, or even monetary gain, will grab their attention.
  • Recognise that not all players are the same – challenges and rewards need to reflect differences in roles and function.
  • Don’t commit to promises of rewards you can’t keep – a sure-fire way to demotivate your team.

Start simple

  • Wait until everyone is familiar with gamification before introducing more complex, longer-term goals and rewards.
  • Go slowly to build up confidence and keep players keen – start with simple challenges and rewards that encourage healthy competition between players such as ‘highest weekly customer satisfaction rating’, ‘lowest service level agreement stats’, ‘lowest number of re-opened incidents’ or ‘highest number of approved knowledge base articles submitted in a month’.
  • Decision criteria for determining winners should be based on measurable statistics such as being ‘rated 5 out of 5 by a customer’ rather than just ‘closing 10 incidents a day’.
  • Make first-time rewards attainable to keep new players motivated.
  • Create tiered rewards that motivate players to continually do better.
  • Mix it up – apply different rewards for different service desk groups at different times but make sure players are competing against colleagues performing similar tasks.
  • Don’t be ‘out-gamed’ – minimise the opportunities to cheat by keeping rewards criteria clear and strict.
  • Align gaming scenarios with business objectives to keep them real and meaningful – after all, gamification is all about supporting the business!.

Monitor and iterate

  • Continually review the effectiveness of your gamification techniques – is everyone participating?  Are there enough rewards and challenges to keep players interested in the long term?
  • Listen to staff feedback – more often than not, they will know what works, what does not and come up with fresh ideas.
  • It’s an evolving process – constantly tweak and roll-out new challenges and rewards to keep up momentum.

Knight shares these further pieces of advice to ensure that gamification enables sales performance improvements.

  • Resist the temptation to change every behaviour at once, keep it simple to start with and pick the five or six areas that need immediate attention.
  • Carefully consider the culture of your teams and make sure the theme and wording of the game match. For example, one of our customers in China have a young and predominately female team for which they selected the theme of shopping destinations as a good cultural fit. Another customer in the US with a predominately male and slightly older workforce selected baseball as the theme most likely to motivate and engage. Once you have selected the theme try and match the rewards to the theme.
  • Reward both the individual and the team. Creating competitions that motivate the whole team as well as competitions that motivate the individual will heighten engagement levels.
  • Reward little and often. Regular rewards will keep motivation levels high. Resist the temptation to just have one large ticket item as the prize, you will find that peer recognition is a stronger motivator than any prize you can give. It is the act of giving the gift that is important and the visibility to others, not the actual reward itself.

“Gamification is simply the dynamic used to create the outcome you seek by motivating the behaviours that will drive you to that outcome. In the case of sales, the typical outcome you seek is improved sales performance,” says Knight. “The inputs to this are increased user adoption of CRM systems, greater sales efficiency and improved sales effectiveness. What you really seek is not ‘gamification’ but ‘behavioural motivation’ and the lever to motivate sales people in a positive way is ‘gamification’.”

About Neil Davey

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Neil Davey is the managing editor of MyCustomer. An experienced business journalist and editor, Neil has worked on a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites over the past 15 years, including Internet Works, CXO magazine and Business Management. He joined Sift Media in 2007.

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