Today's post is by Scott Eidle, an evangelist for sales best practices, including sales process, enablement, and operations. He leverages more than 20 years of sales and marketing experience to share insight about the top trends in the software and technology sales space, and is currently a global sales enablement executive for an enterprise software company.
Sales leaders in every industry continue to look for the magic potion that increases the engagement of their sales teams. Tapping into the competitive nature of salespeople, the reasoning goes, can be used to improve their daily behavior – leading to higher adoption of sales fundamentals and improving the overall performance of borderline reps who have potential but who just haven’t produced the results those leaders are looking for.
It’s a great theory, and one getting a lot of buzz – and funding. But the reality is that investing in gamification isn’t the answer. Here’s why:
1. The only true way to drive lasting and meaningful engagement (and results) from your teams is to improve your sales culture, which doesn’t need a piece of software or an online contest system.
Sales culture starts from the top down, and is something you just can’t fake. It starts with holding people accountable for best practices – something every salesperson agrees has a direct correlation to the end result: that salesperson selling more of your product or service and making the money they were promised in their OTEs (on-target earnings.) And it is reinforced by managers who hold reps accountable for core fundamentals they know will provide consistent and reliable results.
Sales reps are who they are because they recognize the investment in time and effort they have to give their jobs in order to achieve those OTEs. They understand there are parts of the job that just aren’t any fun but need to get done. It’s the same mindset athletes have when they go from amateur to professional: pro athletes work harder than amateurs – even at the things they don’t like to do – because they know and commit to mastering the fundamentals in order to showcase the talents that make them superstars. Top sales reps have the same mindset. They know they cannot afford fundamental mistakes if they want to perform their best and reach their potential.
2. If your gamification strategy doesn’t support your sales culture down to the letter, putting a focus on a gamification contest will ultimately turn off the reps who know they can’t win that contest.
You’ll see this most from the veteran sales reps, especially those who experienced success before you implemented a computerized gaming system. Sure, they want to win – it’s in their competitive DNA – but, if they think they can’t, they’ll ignore the contest and focus solely on doing their own work and not worrying about scoring imaginary points to win prizes they might not buy with their bigger commission checks anyway. Veteran reps will have the confidence to ignore the promotional emails and the online leaderboards, and won’t give into the “rah-rah” atmosphere. (In fact, it’s also the best way to take a “Challenger” salesperson and turn him or her into a “Lone Wolf” when they start to feel the organization heaping a little too much praise on any gamification leaders that are not putting up the numbers they are.)
3. In any competitive environment – especially with salespeople who thrive on recognition – reps will learn how to game the system and cheat to improve their results.
Whether the point system is driven off of CRM entries or some other reporting system, you will get what you measure. But, unless there is an auditing system that holds people accountable for artificially inflating those numbers, you will get reps who are more focused on winning the contest than actually performing the fundamentals that are meant to lead to the ultimate goal of selling more.
Having seen this first-hand, this is the kind of atmosphere that can cause unnecessary (and unhealthy) friction in your sales teams. In this specific example, a veteran rep raised the ire of her sales colleagues by boasting about her ability to consistently win the sales contests run by her division – even boasting, “Almost every new appliance in my house is from winning one of these stupid contests!” The rest of the team did some research on her past wins, figured out her “formula” for winning, and deployed those same tactics to pump up their own scores and effectively beat her at her own game. The results were both nasty and contentious: she started to raise allegations of cheating against her teammates until she realized her complaints might expose her previous results to scrutiny, and the team chemistry was damaged beyond repair.
Gamification as a practice is not a bad thing. It can keep a sales team focused on doing the right things – especially those who sell a product with a long sales cycle that requires dedication and engagement throughout in order to ultimately result in a sale. But the key to success isn’t in buying a gamification system but rather making the commitment to the culture that defines your sales organization.