You’re on your toes, constantly looking over your shoulder to make sure that nobody sees what you’re doing. You listen closely for telltale sounds, and as soon as you hear them, you hastily stop and cover your tracks.
No, this is not a suspense film and yes, I’m sure many sales executives and agents have experienced this situation at one point or another.
It’s usually what happens when you try to play games at work.
Thankfully for office ninjas who routinely sneak in a round of Solitaire or Minesweeper during the workday, a steadily increasing number of research results have shown that playing games at work might actually be a good idea.
Instead of being time wasters, games played at work can actually boost productivity and rev-up employee morale. “I compare games with a coffee break. If you are like me, you use them in strategic, functional, useful ways,” says University of Utrecht’s Professor Jeffrey Goldstein, who pioneered one of the earliest studies on the subject.
And as years pass and we become more and more immersed in technology, the practice of incorporating games into the everyday workflow of employees has soared in popularity. The practice has become so widespread that it even has its own name—enterprise gamification.
Back in 2011, tech industry research company Gartner predicted that approximately 70% of major companies will have incorporated some form of gamification into their systems, while market analysis done by M2 Research pegged enterprise gamification revenues to reach approximately $938 million by the same year, a far cry from the $100 million that was invested in 2011. By 2015, Gartner says that 40% of the “Global 1,000” organisations will have used gamification as a way to transform their business.
Judging from the sheer number of companies and organizations that have embraced gamification (from Google and Accenture to investment banks, Nike and even the US Army) we can see how it has risen to become the new buzzword in a wide variety of industries.
Selling is an innately competitive activity. Great salespersons thrive in besting not only the competition but also beating their own personal revenue targets.
Yet, there’s always room for improvement. And after all, what better way to harness this innate need for competition than to develop a game around the entire process, right?
This is where sales gamification comes into play, as companies strive to make routine tasks more engaging by rewarding employees who meet targets with scores, badges and ranks that are often prominently displayed and easily accessible to agents and executives alike.
By integrating custom-made gamification software into their CRM systems, many big players like Microsoft, Yahoo, and Accenture hope to change behaviors, develop skills, and enable innovation among their respective teams, which will ultimately pump up sales revenues.
Seen from this angle, gamification looks like the perfect panacea for lagging sales, right?
Not so fast. Gartner, the very same company predicting the soaring popularity of gamification, also warns that without careful planning, 80% of current gamified applications will fail by 2014, primarily because of poor design.
And one of the easiest things to mess up in implementing gamification is the lack of proper design and implementation of sales leaderboards.
Borrowing its definition from sports competitions where a leaderboard refers to a board that displays player ranks and scores, a sales leaderboard does exactly the same purpose—to display the “scores” of employees and encourage productivity.
For example, a call center company with a gamified CRM might begin rewarding sales reps with badges or points for performing everyday tasks (like following up on leads, closing deals or meeting daily quotas). A sales leaderboard then displays the number of badges accumulated by each agent and allows them to compete with each other, all for the good of the company.
Having a leaderboard might seem like a good idea, but there are several potential snags that sales executives need to watch out for, such as:
Measuring success with the wrong ruler.
Just because it’s called a sales gamification leaderboard does not mean that you should equate victory with the amount of dollars earned or the number of deals closed by agents.
Instead, sales executives should look at how overall employee behaviors are changing—calling more leads, producing more high-quality content, answering client inquiries faster and more efficiently. This ensures that productivity is enhanced in a sustainable way and prevents discriminating against agents who may be located in less populated areas with a smaller number of leads or prospects.
Remember that the aim of gamification should be changing behaviors, improving productivity and fostering employee well-being, and NOT just increasing sales.
Leaving underperformers behind. A poorly designed leaderboard often emphasizes those at the top and often leaves the underperformers behind. Instead of motivating an agent who lags behind, it may cause them to become discouraged. If not addressed immediately, underperforming employees may resent the leaderboard and refuse to use the system altogether.
Fostering a “me over we” attitude. A good leaderboard should be designed with the company’s overall goals and vision in mind, and should foster cooperation and teamwork among employees. If you have a leaderboard that just highlights the achievements of top-ranking individuals, this can have an adverse effect on overall team morale and dynamics. Top-ranking agents may also resort to underhanded methods just to keep ahead of the competition
Take note though, that more often than not, the benefits of having a well-designed sales leaderboard and gamification system often outweigh the risks.
Sales executives planning on implementing gamification should consider the following practices that can help make sales leaderboards an effective way to track employee productivity, encourage teamwork and amp up sales:
The leaderboard should accurately reflect the things that your company wishes to improve on. For example, do you wish to improve on sales velocity? Then you should choose metrics that accurately reflect this (i.e measuring the length of time it takes from lead generation, prospecting, nurturing and closing a deal), instead of just purchasing a pre-made gamification system whose leaderboard may not be aligned with your own objectives.
Simply put, try to make the whole process fun for everyone involved, especially for sales reps who will be using the system on a daily basis. Take note that just because you’ve put stars as rewards for high-performing employees, or repackaged tasks as quests, or even put in flashy graphics does not automatically mean that employees are going to have fun, or that they are going to fully engage with the system.
Executives should look deeply into who their agents are, what they do and what makes them tick so that an appropriate gamification system can be designed based on their actual needs. Only by having an in-depth knowledge of your user base can you harness their skills and make them more productive.
Encourage teamwork. As the mantra goes, there is no I in team. Make sure that the sales leaderboard does not overly focus on individual achievers—instead design it so that group efforts are more handsomely rewarded. Give points for “quests” accomplished by a team, and encourage sales reps to share their experiences and “game strategies” with one another.
This article is originally published at Tenfold.
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