Gamification may be a bit of a buzzword – my spellcheck doesn’t recognise it so I guess not everyone has caught up with the concept – but in essence sales teams have used gamification since the beginning of time. Contests to hit targets, rewards and SPIFFs have motivated thousands of sales reps over the years to keep closing deals and making money.

Yet these often lose their impact over time and while your top reps keep hitting target and reaping the rewards, often the rest of the team throw in the towel and just let them get on with it. As any performance coach will tell you, incentives only work if they’re highly targeted at the individual (i.e. they really want them) and if they’re achievable (i.e. sales reps have the right skills and resources, and a fair chance of getting the top spot).

One of the problems when only a few high achievers are engaged with the process is that they hang on to their knowledge and skills, and no one else gets a share. This means that if they leave for another job, you’re left with the ‘average’ sales reps (the majority in most companies), which then means you’ll need to recruit expensive top sales reps if you want to maintain and grow sales.

The answer is to pass on the knowledge and skills those top sales reps have to the rest of the team, and this is where gamification is different to the traditional approach to sales performance strategies.

How gamification works with sales teams

In an article for Gartner researcher Brian Burke says:

“Gamification can be used to nudge salespeople to enter client information, assess the quality of sales leads, and follow-up after sales meetings. Following these steps leads to a more effective sales process, benefiting both the salesperson and the company.”

As well as the traditional leaderboard to introduce competition into the team – which may engage some sales reps but not everyone – there are other ways of motivating people to ultimately up their game.

Gamification tools aimed at sales teams are getting good traction. These are a step up from just motivating sales reps to perform better, they actually help train up the team to perform better.

In his post on the best sales prospecting tools, Adam Williams featured a tool that rewards people for ‘actions’ rather than achievements. Instead of having to hit a sales target to get a reward, sales reps can accrue points for initiating actions that will help them hit target in the long run; such as booking a meeting, adding a new opportunity to the pipeline or following up after a sales call. The aim is to install best practice within the team, pass on that knowledge of how to close more deals from the top reps and get everyone doing it.

Actions then become embedded behaviours that will help everyone succeed, and those actions can also make sales activities a lot more transparent – empowering everyone with the secret to success and ensuring that this knowledge is retained in the business if someone moves on.

If I was heading up a team of 50+ sales reps, I would have actions such as ‘adding leads to the CRM’ and ‘sharing content with prospects through the sales portal’; so that all the sales enablement tools that can make a real difference get used, and therefore the business derives value, gets better visibility and increases the collative IP. Just a little bugbear of mine…

Other features I like about some gamification tools are the ‘team challenges’ where the focus is on engaging an entire team – perhaps introducing some healthy competition between different groups within the company. I think this again helps to empower everyone and share the knowledge, it provides a reason for those top sales reps to support their colleagues and help them do better.

Check out Fantasy Sales Team which, as it sounds, uses the Fantasy Football model to motivate all team players to do their bit for the greater success of the sales team / company.

What rewards and incentives work?

According to research hard cash is not the only motivating factor for sales reps, although it helps! For many people, especially younger people, it’s more about the experience. That can be the sense of achievement from making progress or winning, seeing tangible results from their actions, or from the collective feeling of being part of a winning team.

Rewards can range from a digital badge that gives them kudos and respect, to shared experiences like a night out or weekend away, and of course cash.

Optimise gamification for your sales team

One of the great things about these gamification apps is the data they collate on different activities. If you’re not seeing engagement with the games or incentives, you’ve got all the data available to explore why and test different ideas.

You’ve also got data that can link good practice and behaviours with outcomes, exploring what activities and sales strategies actually make a difference.

How effective gamification is for your sales team will come down to aligning tools with your objectives, providing the right incentives, and of course adoption. However, I think that getting the majority of your sales reps engaged with these kinds of schemes will be a lot easier than the traditional leaderboard dominated by your high achievers.

What’s your company using? Share your sales secrets below…!

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