Gamification of sales training  … Does it really work?

While the skeptics, will always question the concept of gamification and its application in learning., the fact is that gamification of learning is making a deeper penetration in the modern day workplaces. According to a research 53% of the technology stakeholders have responded that gamification and its application at the workplace will be widespread by the year 2020.

In fact the concept of gamification is not new to the world of sales!

  • Do you run contests for the best performing sales executive in your organization?
  • Do you have rewards like a cash prize, bonus or some fancy trips to exotic locations for the sales teams achieving maximum sales?

If yes then you are incorporating some elements of gamification into your sales. Well what does it do? It motivates your sales team to perform better and achieve bigger targets. So if gamification works in the world of sales, I am confident that it will have takers in the world of sales training also.

Gamification of sales training essentially consists of introducing game mechanics like points, badges, leaderboards, virtual and physical rewards, which induce the learners (in this case the sales professionals) to engage in a certain kind of behavior or exhibit particular skill sets that can help them achieve higher sales or negotiate better deals or generate higher number of qualified leads.

In this blog, I have listed down the the design elements that can be applied while designing gamification of sales training.

1.Induce the competition with leaderboards

One of the strongest drivers in the world of sales is the need to achieve more than others, to perform better than the others and to win more deals than the others. This human psyche of  competing with co-workers in the workplace is one of the game mechanics which can be safely used in the gamification of sales training. Most of the sales professionals will vouch by with the efficacy of leaderboards in driving the sales training, but a word of caution here…. they should be used with a pinch of salt.  Wondering why…….? Well leaderboards if not designed and implemented properly can lead to negative consequences and impacts, which can prove damaging in the long run.

For example a leaderboard which lists down only the top ten performers can be skewed and biased as the other sales professionals might feel demotivated. Another thing is that if a leaderboard shows certain performers on the top and certain other performers at the bottom, then an action plan for both these categories of users must be in place i.e. how to you motivate the non performers to come up on the leaderboard and how do you motivate the performers to sustain and up their performance.

2.. Inbuilt a strong theme or a captivating story 

While designing gamification of sales training it is important to include a story or a theme, which the learners can connect with to make it engaging. Sales professionals due to the nature of their work are short on time (as they have to be constantly on the field) and have a very short attention span. An engaging storyline can help to capture the attention of the learners or a theme makes it more interesting and engaging.

Themes and storylines are just like role plays, where the learners assumes certain roles or plays certain characters and based on the theme they are required to perform certain actions. For example a theme around the FIFA world cup will have the players assuming roles like forward, defender, midfield etc and their objective is to  score maximum goals. Just visualize the adrenaline rush which the learners will have while learning from this kind of sales training modules.

3. Incorporate reward structure 

Two of the strongest drives in the human psyche are fear and favour. A reward structure is a positive motivation like a favour. Using points and badges in sales training gamification, you can simulate these drives to motivate performance and foster desired behavior. Here’s what you should know if deciding to implement a reward structure with points, badges and other virtual and physical rewards in sales gamification:

  • Studies done at IBM Research and the University of Chicago  says that earning points can change user behavior, even when they have no monetary value. Points should award activities that lead to success, not success itself. Rewarding points simply for closing sales deals won’t teach your salespeople how to get better at it. Try assigning points for positive sales behaviours like warm greetings, good product knowledge, being well groomed, preparing for sales call etc.
    While learning a player should be able to not only gain points but also loose them. Loss prevention is another strong motivational element and on top of driving us to improve, it makes us be more careful.
  • Badges and certificates whether virtual or actual should be a sign of honor or an indicator that the badge owner has an expertise in a certain field like the best presenter or best groomed salesperson etc . Badges and certificates helps the learner to feel recognized .
  • Surprise Rewards are not anticipated by the learners so that you can carefully incorporate them in the various stages of the gamified sales training.  Surprise rewards are instant and share the extra moment of joy or gratification for the learners.
  • A score can convert to a real prize – that’s what Nikon did in one of their sales training programs, offering Helicopter rides over London as a reward for high scores.

4.Throw challenges that are not easy yet achievable

Challenges have the value of creating a definite purpose and the framework of the efforts required to achieve the purpose. In a game environment, a challenge might be completing a level or winning a race. In sales gamification challenges can be completing a certain training course or achieving a benchmark win rate.

Here are some things to be mindful of when creating challenges:

• Challenges should be achievable but not easy to keep the salesforce engaged and “wanting more”. To that end it is important to tailor challenges based on each group’s unique capabilities and needs. The feeling of striving against a challenge and overcoming it leads to a whole new level of motivation and achievement, which is ultra important in sales training.
• Progress should be transparent. Allowing sales professionals to monitor progress through certain predefined parameters will let them know where they should focus and what’s the next best action to reach the goal.
• The actions and the operational framework required to complete a challenge should be clear and self-explanatory. For example, a sales training on “how to sell” can have a challenge on how to create an impression on the customer in the first seven seconds of meeting. The actions required to complete the challenge can be “ have a smile”, “ greet the customer warmly”, “shake hands firmly” etc.

5.Include the element of time

Time is one of the important game elements that should be used while designing the gamified sales training module. Have you heard about the term “moment of truth” in marketing and sales? It is that particular moment where the customer comes in contact with the brand/service or has an interaction with the sales person. This is a precious moment which either creates an impression and leads to sales or the customer feels dissatisfied and does not return back to the brand/product /service. This moment of truth is in fact the element of time which the sales professionals need to understand and work with to achieve maximum success. Hence the gamification of sales training should definitely incorporate the element of time.

6. Enable Sharing in social media and forums

Facebook, Linkedin, Google Plus etc are some of the very popular social websites. With millions of people active in the social sites , the reach and popularity of such mediums are very high.

In a gamified sales training module, the organisation can allow the learners to actively share the success and achievements of the social feeds . Many organisation has internal portals where they facilitate the same. This helps in making the employees feel  motivated, encouraged and share their joy of getting recognized and rewarded.

These are some of the important design elements that can be used in a gamified sales training module.
Feel free to give your suggestions and recommendations on the basis of your experiences in developing gamified sales training modules.