Commissions are the typical means of motivating a sales team. Even so, businesses often want to boost performance to make up for prior lapses, help push a new product, or increase morale.
Global technology leader Hewlett-Packard is no stranger to the realities of today's sales efforts. The company had "a very diverse sales organization with many disparate cultures," according to Rick Hanson, vice president of worldwide sales and field operations for HP. It was Hanson's job to bring together the many acquisitions that helped form the organization as a single team. Doing this meant gaining clarity on what the important metrics were, and building a consistent strategy to achieve top performance.
Hanson had tried running sales contests with his team to achieve this, with mixed results. "Most sales contests were very tactical and binary; we had a single goal and the rep[s] who achieved that goal were rewarded," he says. Rather than engaging the entire team, only the salespeople who thought they could win something bothered to participate, not the result Hanson was going after. "The goal with a sales contest is to engage the entire organization with a multifaceted approach, one where the goals and metrics span the sales process while becoming part of the culture."
In search of a better method, Hanson began experimenting with FantasySalesTeam (FST) in 2013. FST blends sales incentives with the immensely popular pastime of fantasy sports leagues. It lets users build sales contests with their choice of sports themes, and provides ways for everybody—not just top sellers—to participate and win. Because it's built on a team model, players encourage one another to do better so they can all win.
"FantasySalesTeam changed the game," Hanson says. "No longer was it a single carrot that was put out there for a sales executive to chase with a single goal. We could now put several metrics in place, and the prize is more than monetary...winning amongst your peer group in a teaming design is also a motivator."
A comparison of year-over-year sales performance figures from before and after FST's implementation highlights the solution's success. Revenue in February from the Americas and EMEA decreased 16 and 20 percent, respectively, from 2013 to 2014. HP introduced FST in March, and saw revenue jump 44 percent in the Americas and 31 percent in EMEA year over year. The following month realized revenue improvement of 94 percent and 48 percent. Sales of one particular product swung from -47 percent to +49 percent year over year by the end of April 2014.
In addition to these raw gains, HP improved a metric it calls "linearity," which focuses on steady sales throughout a quarter versus the typical sudden third-month spike. The company realized a linearity increase of 53 percent, revealing greater reliability of sales performance over time.
Hanson and HP were just as enthusiastic about the cultural changes the system drove by mixing business with pleasure as they were about the sales results. "Many reps play some sort of fantasy sports in their personal life—now they get paid to play," he says. "When [reps] enjoy a contest, they typically work harder at it. I have had feedback that having FantasySalesTeam makes it a little more enjoyable to work here."
By deploying FantasySalesTeam for a recent sales contest, HP achieved the following results:
- 94 percent year-over-year revenue increase for the Americas region;
- a 48 percent year-over-year revenue increase for the EMEA region;
- single-product sales growth year over year of 49 percent; and
- a 53 percent improvement in sales linearity.