How to Elevate Your Use of Gamification to Effectively Drive the Right Set of Repeatable Behaviors

March 26, 2020

Sara Howshar

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Guest Writer: Brian Trautschold, Co-founder and COO, Ambition

There’s a reason the sales gamification “trend” has stuck around for so long: it really works. Sales contests have the power to drive performance and create lasting behavior change — but only if you’re running them intentionally.

Too often, sales managers will spin up contests at random, when energy seems low or they need a quick lift. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what they’ll get: a short-lived spike in activity.

You’ll get the most out of sales gamification when it becomes part of your sales coaching strategy, giving every competition has a clear, well-defined purpose and objective.

Good news: it’s not as hard as it sounds. Here are five ways to use gamification so that it drives the right set of repeatable behaviors.

  1. Use the right metrics
  2. Weight your metrics
  3. Focus on quality
  4. Try most improved leaderboards
  5. Run team competitions

1. Use the right metrics

When you’re spinning up your next contest, try going beyond those “standard-issue” KPIs. Yes, we all know revenue is the goal, but on a day-to-day basis, what really matters are the leading indicators of success. What are the early-stage activities that result in closed deals? Those are the behaviors that your competitions should be driving.

Start by working backwards: reverse-engineer your sales funnel by each opportunity stage, moving from closed deal to RFP to demo to first meeting to...(you get the picture). The more description, the better.

Then, learn which activities help deals progress through each stage of your sales funnel. Figure out which sales motions work the best for each stage of an opportunity. The activities that drive stage conversion are the ones you should measure, coach around, and gamify for reps.

2. Weight your metrics

Reps tend to spend more time on the activities they’re most comfortable performing. Unfortunately, those activities may not be the ones that are most important when it comes to driving conversions (see #1).

In other words: all activities are not created equal — and in your competitions, that means they shouldn’t be given equal weight.

Let’s say your SDRs rely heavily on emailing for outbound initiatives. But based on historical data, you know that calls will produce more qualified leads, faster. You can use your next competition as a tactic to change behaviors and mindsets across your entire team.

This is exactly what our customer Demandbase recently did. Demandbase used Ambition to build a Fantasy-football themed contest. Over the course of 11 weeks, his SDRs competed on three teams, each vying for the highest weekly activity score. Meetings set by calls were the most heavily weighted activity — helping to instill behavior change across the team.

The result: after the competition, Demandbase’s SDRs had increased voicemails by 16x, call connects by 7.5x, and meetings booked by phone by 31x on an average weekly basis.

3. Focus on quality

Smart sales leaders know more activity doesn’t necessarily equal more revenue. Your reps may be putting in the hustle — but are they actually making an impact, or are they just spinning their wheels?

Sales gamification is a great tool for incentivizing effort and keeping energy up, but if that’s all you’re doing with your contests, then you’re getting short-changed. Make sure you’re running sales competitions that emphasize effectiveness.

You can do this by highlighting “efficiency metrics” — ratios that show the quality of your reps’ efforts. For example: instead of competing on number of calls, have your team compete on call connects-to-meetings set. Those kinds of efficiency metrics tell a story that you won’t get by just looking at sheer volume — i.e.: when your reps get someone on the phone, are they successfully closing a meeting, or are they striking out?

By incorporating efficiency metrics into your gamification strategy, you’re making it incredibly clear to your reps that putting in dials or shooting out emails is great, but what really matters is whether anything comes of those activities.

And bonus: if you keep an eye out for the players who are falling behind when it comes to efficiency metrics, you’ll identify great opportunities to coach up your reps in areas where their skills may be lacking.

4. Try “most improved” leaderboards

There’s a common frustration that both managers and reps alike have when it comes to sales contests: so often the same players are at the top of the leaderboard, over and over again.

Of course, every team has its all-star sellers, and they should be recognized and rewarded for the work they do. But that doesn’t mean you can’t give everyone a fair shot. Especially for newer reps, sales contests can actually be demotivating — and even demoralizing — when they don’t have a shot at winning. (Obviously, this is the exact opposite of what you’re hoping to achieve.)

Fortunately, there are ways around this. Our favorite is the “most improved” leaderboard. Essentially, after you choose the right activities to focus on (see #1), have your team compete not on volume, but on percent improvement over their individual past performance.

This puts everyone on even ground — and perhaps even gives your average players a leg up, as your middle 70% have the greatest opportunity for performance improvement.

5. Run individual and team competitions

Don’t run the same contests over and over again. Make sure you’re mixing it up, especially when it comes to individual versus team competitions.

We find a lot of sales managers gravitate toward individual competitions, but team competitions shouldn’t get left out in the cold. If they’re structured thoughtfully, they can be incredibly powerful.

For starters, team competitions naturally foster collaboration — something that can fall to the wayside when your reps are stuck in the day-to-day grind. That mindset of, “We’re on the same side,” can do wonders for your sales culture, helping to build and nurture relationships among your reps — which can make for happier, more connected employees and ultimately less turnover (not to mention improved performance).

Team competitions also create organic peer-to-peer coaching opportunities. Take advantage of this by running competitions that pair newbies with veterans — especially when you’ve got teams competing on efficiency metrics.

The result: you’ll help ramp your less experienced reps by letting them learn from a seasoned peer, and you’ll be giving your new rep exposure to a different kind of sales coaching, from someone who’s more recently been in their shoes.

Bottom line: with the right tools, sales gamification is a fun, flexible way to motivate and engage your team and bring some buzz back to your sales floor. But it can (and should!) be much more than that. When you make your sales contests part of your overall sales coaching strategy, you can expect to drive lasting change around the right behaviors and improve performance across the board.

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