Sales Gamification Programs Should Reward Revenue, Not Activity
Nobody was prepared when the pandemic hit in early 2020. But those who were prepared the least were people whose jobs largely depended on face-to-face relationships, and this includes sales reps. Fast-forward a year and things finally seem to be settling into place. While the pandemic is waning here, we are also getting used to selling and building relationships digitally—over video, email, and even chat. And now seems like a perfect time to retry (after several failed attempts) making the all-digital concept of sales gamification a reality.
What Is Sales Gamification?
There are many definitions of sales gamification. The closest definition is that it turns ordinary tasks into game-like adventures, through the use of elements like points, badges, leaderboards, and levels. Some claim it creates a culture of performance and keeps sales teams engaged through “healthy” competition.
While the idea is very appealing for competitive sales organizations, until now sales leaders haven’t fully embraced it as a practice. This is because gamification could be easily gamed, especially among activity-driven business development reps, or easily dismissed, specifically among the tenured teams focused on a handful of strategic accounts. Overall, most sales reps weren’t ready to welcome the idea of gaming into their intricate enterprise relationships.
The industry has been approaching the idea of sales gamification wrong. First, the word “gamification” makes it hard for reps to embrace the concept—reconciling leisure habits with the intensity of selling (and sustaining livelihood) is a non-starter for some.
Second, sales gamification rewards the wrong behaviors—it favors activity over outcome. One sales organization using gamification ended up rewarding either the same top reps or under-performing reps who found a loophole where they could win the activity contest (like constantly calling their friend at an account they owned to gain credits).
This brings us to the third reason why gamification has been failing: poor design coupled with not enough intelligence. While leaderboards and levels are great, a good design isn’t about how pretty or rich your user interface is. It’s about serving up the right outcome-driven “move” coupled with the right incentive.
For example, if you know that receiving a signed non-disclosure agreement from the customer increases win rates by 30 percent, that’s what you strive to do if you are also rewarded for it. Achieving this level of precision will get teams to pay attention to the “rules” of the game. However, it is easier said than done. Today’s sales gamification is missing a whole layer of intelligence—it is not learning from the past to predict the future. Most gamification tools today simply operate on hard-coded activity rules.
Sales Gamification’s Renaissance: Micro-Incentives for Revenue Execution
With the complete shift to digital, it is time to leave these problems behind and rethink sales gamification. At the heart of a new approach to gamification should be the realization that just having leaderboards and rewarding activity is not good enough. Everybody knows that in sales, like in life, getting a big win requires a series of small successes. We need to find a way to detect and reward reps to achieve the exact small wins that lead to a closed deal.
It’s not gamification that sales leaders need. It’s revenue execution. It’s an approach where rewards and leaderboards directly impact the key outcome of revenue growth. Revenue execution has five core principles that close all the gaps that existed in Sales Gamification 1.0:
1. It is data- and intelligence-driven.
Unlike hard-coded gamification, revenue execution analyzes deal drivers by continuously looking at call, email, and meeting data—and even analyzes the natural language used in each interaction. This approach harvests leading indicators of success as small wins and assigns points unique to deals in your specific strategy.
2. It is incentivized the right way.
Instead of awarding volume of activity, revenue execution rewards revenue-driving activity only at a multidimensional level. If your organization’s goal is to sell higher and to acquire new logos, it’s not about calling directors. It’s about engaging with at least three director-plus titles in new accounts, and receiving a positive response or a question about pricing from at least one of them.
3. It is based on customer response only.
What reps do in revenue execution doesn’t carry much weight. It’s how customers respond that counts. Did they respond? Did they respond immediately? Have they added new contacts to the thread (multi-threading)? Rewarding customer response pushes the reps to be creative in how they engage with customers.
4. It is grounded in transparency and learning
Unlike in gamification when you see your peers climb up on the leaderboard with little insight to exact behaviors that led them there, revenue execution does away with the black box. A key principle of this approach is to share top rep behaviors with complete transparency. That’s how every average rep can finally follow the top rep formula.
5. It’s where the reps live.
Last, unlike most gamification tools that have reps log in to yet another tool, revenue execution lives where reps live—CRM, email, even Slack. All the rules, rewards, and workflows happen without the users logging in to another system. This is key to driving adoption for reps that are already dealing with three to seven tools in a typical sales organization.
In conclusion, sales gamification is having a comeback moment. But for it to work for every sales leader, we must make it smarter, easier, more transparent, and most importantly, more customer-driven than ever. And its sole measure should be revenue, not activity.
Haggai Levi is the CEO and cofounder of SetSail, an AI-powered sales platform that combines behavior science with data science to disrupt and transform traditional ways in which modern sales leaders drive and measure sales productivity. Prior to founding SetSail, Levi spent seven and a half years leading data science teams at Google to accelerate revenue, and served as a consultant at McKinsey, where he advised on growth and transformation initiatives across the world’s leading technology, media, and medical device companies.