Meeting the Summer Sales Challenge

While summer means barbecues, beach days, and warm nights, it can also mean low productivity in the business world. A recent CareerBuilder study found that more than one in four employers (26 percent) think workers are less productive in the summer than during the rest of the year. From vacations to summer hours, a variety of distractions can keep your sales reps from reaching their full potential. But just because the lazy days of summer are upon us doesn't mean your business has to suffer. The key to keeping your employees engaged from July to September? Gamification.

Gamification—the business buzzword of 2013—doesn't just mean slapping on badges and giving employees rewards here and there. Its real power lies in its thoughtful application, through well-designed and engaging competitions. Gamification taps into sales reps' already competitive nature while simultaneously providing them with a sense of community and collaboration.

Need some hard proof that gamification works? Look at Comcast. Last summer, the company's sales management wanted to increase the number of appointments booked per day, so they decided to embrace gamification tactics. After initially trying to boost productivity by running contests with spreadsheets and reports, they downloaded a gamification app to drive their summer competition. The average number of appointments booked per day skyrocketed by an astonishing 127 percent.

Need more proof? Digital engagement company ePrize leveraged gamification competitions internally to support sales of a new product last summer. The company wanted to incentivize reps to accelerate sales of a mobile product recently brought to market. Once contests were up and running via a gamification app, the ePrize team increased sales of that new product by 230 percent.

Not only is summer a perfect time to deploy fun competitions that keep employees focused, but the season also lends itself to creative contest themes and incentives. Here are some ideas for using the season to your advantage:

Use summer favorites as incentives. Instead of being concerned about a lack of productivity because there's a big baseball game in town, use that game as a reward. Get sales teams collaborating and moving fast by offering the winning team a trip to the ball park. Barbecues, rooftop get-togethers, and even half workdays are great ways to incentivize employees to focus on deliverables.

Encourage time off. Take advantage of the warm weather and advocate for employees to take a walk around the block or head to the park for lunch. Sales can be a tough industry, and little breaks can really revitalize and reinvigorate reps. A little sunshine goes a long way.

Play off of the season. Tying a fun theme into your competition is another great way to pique employee interest. During the 2012 Summer Olympics, the Detroit Pistons had their own Sales Olympics gamification strategy to boost suite sales. The team-based competition included assigning sales teams to countries and giving points whenever an "athlete" (or sales rep) from their "country" (or team) hit a desired quota on closing suite sales. In addition to getting points for closing deals, reps were also given points when actual Olympic athletes from their "country" scored in the summer games. The Pistons' sales department had a blast with the competitions and even increased sales by 18 percent.

The summer months account for a quarter of your business year, making it imperative to stay on target with sales goals despite all of the obvious distractions. Gamification taps into the playful nature of summertime and offers you a real chance to not only engage reps to hit their goals, but to surpass them. So embrace the season's distractions creatively and use them to your advantage!

Bob Marsh is the CEO of LevelEleven.

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