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Top 3 Mistakes in Sales Gamification

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Written by Bob Marsh | January 11, 2013 | 0 comments

The concept of using gamification in an enterprise setting has been getting a lot of buzz recently. Games and contests can be effective ways to help motivate your employees by incentivizing specific behaviors to achieve specific business goals. And in the sales environment, where your sales teams are naturally competitive and love to win, gamification can move mountains. Here’s a list of common mistakes to avoid when using gamification in sales, and some real-world examples on how to get it right and make sure you get the most from your efforts.

Mistake #1: Thinking Short-Term

Gamification has the ability to change behavior for not just one instance, but also the long term. It’s important to understand what habits you want your team to develop and reward behaviors that can drive this change. For instance, in sales, it’s easy for your team to get comfortable pitching the same products, but if you have a new product to pitch, you need to consider that your sales team has to change their habits and get comfortable with the new product and how to pitch it.

A rep’s hesitation to pitch that new product is mostly personal—they don’t want to look dumb in front of the client, not be able to answer a question, or get laughed at because the pricing is way off. So pitching that great new product is about dislodging that deep personal hesitation—a reward and some peer pressure can help them break through.

Sales Gamification Success: ePrize ran a competition with reward points every time someone pitched the new product. Management thought the new product was an easy sell—well priced, complements the main product being sold, and clients would want it. The product launched with great fanfare—training sessions, slick marketing collateral, and people offering to help pitch. But months went by with little movement.

One idea is the classic sales contest—everyone who sells it gets an extra spiff or prize. But ePrize realized that the behavior to change was the pitch—and the pitch would lead to a sale. So, they used gamification to motivate the pitch—every pitch gets a point and the most points wins. As the sales team would see each other rising up on the leaderboard, it encouraged collaboration and people would ask each other how they were developing their pitches, find out what worked, and create more effective pitches. In a matter of weeks, ePrize saw a 230% increase in sales of this new product, which sustained well after the competition was over. Habits were changed for the long run.

Mistake #2: Rewarding Everything

Keep it simple. It’s extremely tempting as a manager to reward all kinds of behaviors and try and solve for all the exceptions. When using a CRM system like Salesforce.com, a company is empowered to measure just about anything. That also means things get way too complicated. If you try to motivate all kinds of behaviors, people won’t understand what you’re trying to motivate—you end up motivating nothing.

People will just do what they always do and wait for you to tell them if they won something. Stick to one or two behaviors at a time and have your contest help build participation and reward the behavior you want to motivate—more calls, closing deals, or following up on leads. You’re trying to nudge people in a certain direction, not track what’s already happening.

Sales Gamification Success: Lawley Insurance in Buffalo, NY was struggling with getting good sales forecasting data. Forecasting information is critical to planning the business. Lawley had several different behaviors they wanted to motivate, but decided to keep their first gamification effort simple—go update your sales opportunity data in salesforce.com with accurate estimated close dates and sales stages. Earn points for just those behaviors and the winner would get tickets to a Buffalo Sabres game. That simple competition drove huge results—in 2 weeks, Lawley saw 152% more updates to their sales opportunities than in the previous 8 months combined.

Lawley then ran a separate competition focused just on increasing sales activities such as making calls and logging client meetings and saw even stronger results—257% more weekly activities during the two-week gamification effort compared to the previous 8 months.

Mistake #3: Keeping Your Eyes Only on the Prize

In the midst of creating a gamification strategy for your sales team, it is easy to become too focused on what prizes to offer as rewards. All too often we see management focused on the prize when it turns out sales teams are motivated more by recognition than by a physical prize. When dealing with sales teams, let alone most professionals in the workplace, competition itself is enough to get your team participating. People thrive on recognition so use gamification to trigger the natural competitive nature of your team.

Sales Gamification Success: Comcast’s small business sales organization was looking for ways to spike daily sales activities by their sales team. Specifically, they wanted to increase the number of appointments set each day. They ran a very simple contest where salespeople were rewarded for booking meetings and tracking those meetings within Salesforce. The prize was a simple “Dinner for Two,” which resulted in a 127% increase in the number of appointments set each day compared to a similar competition run in the past. While a nice dinner is motivating, that wasn’t the real motivator here.

So what was the difference between this contest and the previous one? With this new contest, standings were shared via a real-time leaderboard within Salesforce (where salespeople are logging their activity throughout the day), and an automated leaderboard email sent out each morning—at any time, salespeople knew exactly where they stood. Tapping into salespeople’s competitive nature is much more powerful than offering some big fancy prize.


Bob Marsh is the CEO of LevelEleven, a sales gamification and CRM solutions company that has one of the most popular apps on the Salesforce AppExchange: Contest Builder. LevelEleven was incubated by ePrize, where Bob managed sales teams for 13 years. Follow Bob on Twitter @BobMarsh5.