Not Just For Kids: How Gamification Can Help Fill Your Channel Pipeline

Lynn Smith, COO, Focused Impressions

Gamification has become a popular method of improving sales because it works. Putting measurement devices such as leader boards, point totals, and scorecards in places where they are typically not found has been shown to improve performance. As Paul Graham of Y Combinator notes, “Merely measuring something has an uncanny tendency to improve it.”

This fixation on measurement works hand-in-hand with people’s competitive nature. Posting someone’s “score” is useful because it delivers immediate feedback to the recipient, shows where they stand relative to their peers, defines targets and goals to aspire towards and a gives people chance to see opportunities for improvement.

What’s Driving the Rise in Gamification?
Gamification has been around for a long time in business. Sales-driven businesses like car dealerships keep close track of individual salespeople’s scorecards and post leaderboards in the office. This horse race-style of gamification has served both industries well.

But gamification really hit the big time recently using tools like cloud computing, mobile technologies, social media and quantitative analytics. As these technologies became more widely available, it has opened up a world of opportunity to quantify and optimize more life activities.

At its best, gamification works by engaging users. Research has revealed that gamification lessens the steepness of the learning curve and gives “players” flexibility in determining the best process to use to get the results they want. It also teaches people to work more collaboratively, as a team in a game, and provides a means for rapid problem solving.

The Gamification of Sales
What is the best way to motivate a sales team? It’s a question sales managers have pondered since sales was invented. They are forever tinkering with their company’s compensation plan to determine what works. The final answer can vary widely from company to company. While some companies favor “carrots” in the form of incentives and bonuses, other companies instead prefer a “stick” in the form of threats and social pressure. Most companies now use a mixture of the two which research indicates is the best model.

Because performance is measurable, sales can resemble a competitive game and sales managers will often further the comparison by acting in the role of a coach. Posting leaderboards in the office and tracking individual salespeople’s quarterly scorecards re-emphasize the competitive nature of the job and improve performance.

This reliance on data and close tracking of performance provide an immediate feedback system for salespeople. Gamification in sales drives increased performance, greater collaboration, and more rapid problem solving. This is perhaps the reason why so many former athletes and game players pick sales as a career.

Performance Improvement Strategies
This close tracking also gives sales managers a sure-fire technique to improve performance in targeted areas. If they need an improvement in one area, for example “number of outbound calls”, they only need to bring attention to it by measuring it and displaying individual scores. They can also incentivize certain types of behavior by offering bonuses, monetary, gifts, or paid time off, for hitting targets. Gamification also adds an element of fun and engages users.

This all works fine in a situation when a company’s sales force is in-house. Sales manager can easily supervise and monitor the scores of the people around them from their office desk. But what happens when a company’s primary means of distribution is through a network of resellers and agents?  Fortunately modern technology like cloud computing, mobile technologies, social media, and quantitative analytics has arisen in recent years to meet this need. These technological innovations now provide a means for the distribution and tracking of incentive programs to a wide network of affiliates.

Distributed marketing platforms are enabling organizations to create gamified programs to incentivize distributed sales teams, agents and franchises to implement marketing programs, use and share new collateral and content, to ultimately bring in new business.

A mobile app gives sales people up-to-the minute access and they can log in to see how many reward points they’ve earned, their standing on leaderboards, and programs they can participate in to acquire more points. The software handles all the rest from the issuing of challenges to the redemption of reward points and the distribution of prizes.

The upside of using a distributed marketing strategy to sell a product or service is already enormous but has even greater potential with the addition of effective gamification.

Lynn Smith is the chief operating officer of Focused Impressions, which helps companies drive demand for products and services through their channel partners. She brings more than 25 years managing integrated communications programs for Fortune 100 companies.