A lot has been written about gamification, it’s validity and whether or not it’s a silly, techfuelled buzzword that is destined to fall out from our vocabulary over the next few years.
For those who haven’t heard the term, gamification means applying “game mechanics” to work,in order to drive increased productivity, performance and enjoyment. Common elements of gamification include being rewarded points, unlocking “prizes” and progressing through “levels”.
In it’s simplest form, gamification should make work more fun by making it more like a video game. Sounds ridiculous right? Well, in many ways, yes. In Silicon Valley, we’re seeing companies try to gamify almost every aspect of an organisation whether it’s engineering, marketing or administration.
Interestingly though, sales is the one department where work is already gamified. As salespeople, we start each month at 0, and must “levelup” to our quotas, earning specific bonuses and achievements along the way.
Sounding more like a video game to you?
Before looking at why gamification is so powerful in sales, let’s take a step back and look at the traditional methods of motivating salespeople and why gamification is a truly effective way to motivate your teams.
Traditional Sales Motivation
One of the biggest misconceptions surrounding salespeople, is that they are purely fuelled by a desire to make money. With this in mind, most incentive programs are designed around cashbased bonuses and commission boosts. Just think back to all the sales jobs you’ve had, or incentive programs you’ve devised. I’d take a fairly safe bet that the high majority of those have been heavily built around cash bonuses or valuable prizes (trips, bottles of wine etc).
However, extensive research shows that financial compensation is not the primary driver of sales motivation and work ethic. In 2010, The Tas Group surveyed salespeople to try and find out what truly motivates salespeople. The results were fascinating (but not at all surprising).
As the graphic above shows, salespeople are primarily motivated by “winning or making progress”. In other words, the feeling of “leveling up” and progressing through your career. To be fair, compensation was a fairly weighty factor in sales rep motivation, however the sum of the other factors significantly outweigh the financial part.
Financial compensation has a couple of other downsides too. For one, they rarely help to motivate “middle performers”, only helping drive the top performers into higher performance. In addition, a study by the Incentive Research Foundation found that 50% fewer sales reps are motivated by money, compared to just 5 years ago. This indicates a massive shift in how millennials are motivated at work, and how we need to manage them. Making progress, being part of a great culture and recognition are the new cash bonuses.
To summarise, most of what we are using to motivate our sales people may not even motivate them into higher performance.
What is Sales Gamification and why does it work?
The use of “game mechanics” in order to boost results, morale and energy on the sales floor. Common “gamification” elements include badges, leaderboards, contests and achievements.
As I said earlier, gamification is particularly relevant for sales given that the work is already partly gamified it’s just generally not facilitated and helped along by managers.
Why does it work?
Gamification works in sales because it drives performance in four ways:
1. Real Time Feedback
Building leaderboards and sales competitions is a great way to drive a real time feedback loop. If reps feel like they are making small progress all the time (every time they book a meeting, make a phone call) they are positively reinforced to keep going. Salespeople are most effective when they are excited, focused and energized. Keep it that way by rewarding them (with points, badges or achievements) constantly.
2. Transparent and Clear Goals
In sales, we all have a goal. Our quotas. We spend all day thinking about them, stressing about them, wondering how we’re going to make it. By using the most classic gamification element the sales leaderboard the path to hitting that goal is much, much clearer.
3. Motivating the entire team (not just the stars)
Incentive and compensation plans often fail because they’re designed to reward the top salespeople in an organisation. One way to combat this, is to set up incentive plans and sales contests focused on sales activities. If reps are competing based on dollars, they stars will always win, leaving middle performers demoralised. However, if it comes down to booking meetings, anyone can win opening up the floor for a more competitive and excitable atmosphere.
4. Drives recognition and mastery
Perhaps the most important element of sales gamification is that it drives recognition and a desire to “master the craft”. Visualizing progress really helps reps understand where they are, and how they can improve. It drives a desire to be better, and to master the craft of selling. In addition, it helps drive recognition and make reps feel more appreciated at work.
Salespeople are most often driven by intrinsic motivators (personal development, progress and good performance), and it’s clear that traditional methods of motivating salespeople won’t be as effective moving forward. Financial incentives and cashbonuses aren’t what motivate our salespeople, so let’s stop dangling those carrots and start helping reps to become better salespeople by driving personal development, progress and rewarding great performance.
James Pember is the CEO of Sparta, a software company focused on delivering software that helps sales teams boost motivation, energy and results via online sales competitions. Find him on Twitter or email.