Sales is a naturally competitive profession, and many organizations now use some form of a gamified system to up the ante and spur success. Leaderboards, ranking, rewards, and a President's Club for top performers are common incentives. However, these rewards are frequently based only on output, not the behaviors leading up to a closed deal. 

At the same time, these extraneous meta-game systems are not tied to the actual day-to-day CRM tools used by the organization. The rewards may hold high value during the 10 seconds of applause at the company meeting, or while the top-performing reps are lounging poolside in wine country. But in between, these motivators are easily forgotten in the daily hustle. In addition, there are numerous behaviors beyond just winning deals that contribute to success and are statistically proven to help close a deal, but few systems reward these steps along the way.

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Having managed teams both large and small throughout my career, I've gained some valuable insight into what motivates top performers, and—perhaps even more important—how to incentivize mid-level performers to increase their output to top-tier caliber. In my experience, it's become clear that gamification platforms are the perfect tool for driving sales team performance. Here's why:

1. Tracking Short-Term Progress to Predict Results
Sales is inherently an outcome-driven business, but it's tough to predict that outcome—you must wait until the end of the race. On the other hand, if you were setting out to fly a plane across the country, you wouldn't wait until you've safely landed to start measuring and evaluating your flight metrics. You'd be doing that all along the way. Why should sales be any different? Gamification makes it simple to have a more predictable sales outcome by tracking incremental progress and providing frequent feedback around the behaviors that lead you and your team to the successful outcome. By measuring success based on more than just the end-result, you can duplicate the process that yields success for more predictable outcomes.

2. Ruthless Competition Drives Victory
Sales professionals thrive on competition. Giving them more behaviors to compete on, such as the best activity records, cleaning their pipeline, and converting leads into opportunities efficiently, drives a new level of performance within an organization. While not all gamification programs focus on competition, one of the core frameworks of gamification design is to use competitive elements to incentivize behaviors that aren't inherently much fun to perform, such as converting a lead into an opportunity and completing call logs.

3. Collaboration by Peer Pressure
Sales will always be an industry driven by individual performance, but what if you could effectively reward collaboration in achieving team goals? Well-run sales organizations already recognize top-performing teams in addition to individuals. Gamification allows an organization to create a collaborative environment where team members can see the performance of their region or group. This inspires both collaboration between reps and creates a sense of collaborative peer pressure to drive increased performance.

4. Reinforcement, Reinforcement, Reinforcement
It's critical to focus on steps that move you closer to established goals and to ensure that everyone on the team understands those steps. Since standing over each account executive's shoulder 24/7 is not scalable, desirable, or at all effective, a gamification program can work extremely well to continuously reinforce key behaviors in a fun and non-confrontational way, as part of a rep's natural daily workflow, without coming across as overbearing, intimidating, or scrutinizing, leading to higher output.

5. Motivation by Record of Success
Research has proven that overcoming challenges and demonstrating growth is motivational for sales teams, in addition to fiscal rewards. By providing your sales team a persistent story of their personal success, you create a sense of urgency around attaining the next level. For instance, you could create a mission to reach a specific number of $10,000+ opportunities and track how many each account exec has won since joining the company. Providing this record of success (or "Personal Scorecard") you offer each representative a more personalized game to play against him or herself, ultimately increasing the output of your long-term players.

Gamification is experiencing explosive growth across virtually every industry, with businesses of all types and sizes discovering how this new business strategy of applying game-style techniques to non-game experiences can motivate desired behavior. Gartner Research reports that 70 percent of Global 2000 organizations will have a gamified solution by 2014. Already proven effective for driving customer loyalty, user engagement, and employee performance, gamification is especially well-suited to increasing sales performance and output.