Many of the 300 sales reps for Varsity Spirit Fashion, which sells cheerleading apparel to high schools and colleges across the United States, are former athletes themselves. "They're highly social and highly competitive," says Marci Neumeister, the company's vice president of sales. That made LevelEleven, an app that helps sales managers set up contests, a natural fit for Varsity's sales force.
While attending Salesforce.com's Dreamforce conference a few years back, Neumeister saw a presentation on gamification that piqued her interest. She tried a gamification app she found on Salesforce.com's AppExchange, but thought it was too complex and time-consuming for Varsity's needs. The second app she tried, from LevelEleven, had the right mix of features and ease of use. In May 2013, the company tested the app with its Eastern sales division. "I started seeing the results immediately," she remembers. "We had to wait and see, does that turn into revenue? Then during Q3, we were the only region that achieved our sales budget for the year."
Neumeister originally created week-long contests focused on a specific goal, including setting up appointments or moving deals through their final stage. Surveying her sales reps, she discovered they preferred rewards such as Starbucks gift cards and other gift certificates. During an early test, one region made 137 percent more appointments in one week, and saw an additional $1.6 million in sales. After a few additional contests, however, Neumeister shortened contests to two days. "We found that [results] would wane toward the end. Why not keep it high level, high energy?"
That's where "ad hoc" points came in, "a great idea that [LevelEleven founder and CEO] Bob Marsh gave us." At the beginning of a contest, sales reps are assigned points based on how they met the contest's goal before it even began. That means sales reps were rewarded for their behavior even when no one was watching, not just for responding to the incentive. That was key to making sure that sales reps were incentivized for good behavior whether or not there was a contest running.
Administering the contests also gave Neumeister insights into where her reps were struggling. When Varsity saw reps who didn't put effort into the contest, management dug deeper to find out why, and changed its style to respond. LevelEleven was also able to reveal gaps in the reps' understanding and use of Salesforce.com. A contest focused on moving opportunities into the "at risk" category resulted in a 9,500 percent increase of these leads into the category, mainly because no one was using the category before the contest. "It told us there were areas of Salesforce that we...needed to provide more training on because [the sales reps] didn't know what to do," Neumeister says.
After the strong test in one region, Varsity rolled out the app nationwide, replacing all other contest efforts. Although some regional managers had run contests before, "a lot of it was manual," tracked via spreadsheets. LevelEleven was "a lot less labor-intensive for the management team," with the added benefit of being "simple and streamlined." Reps receive daily emails with the leaderboard. Tracking of the sales contests is done in real time, not after a manager tabulates figures in a spreadsheet.
Sales managers can also run contests that align with short-term or long-term business goals. Before the company ran a "Close It Out!" contest, a large number of opportunities were in the next-to-last stage. During that stage, competitors may jump in and try to take business by undercutting on price, for example. Running the contest led to more than $5 million in business closed. Reps were also encouraged to update opportunities or show who they lost the business to during the contest, leading to a 307 percent increase in opportunities moved to another stage.
LevelEleven is a start-up that was created when HelloWorld (then ePrize) spun off the company in October 2012. The small, fast-growing business has the kind of customer service one would expect from a company of its size. "We live and breathe this every day," Marsh, a former sales manager, says. "We know the trends, what's working, and can say, 'Here are the best practices,' and give them ideas." That level of attention mattered to Neumeister. "The team at LevelEleven was wonderful to work with; they modified things based on what our needs were. They were a great partner to achieve success."
After implementing LevelEleven to administer sales contests, Varsity Spirit Fashion saw:
- 137 percent more appointments made in one week and an additional $1.6 million in sales;
- $5 million moved to "order sent/won" during the "Close It Out!" contest, an increase of 307 percent; and
- a 9,500 percent increase in opportunities moved into the "at risk" category.