How to Get the Most Out of Sales Gamification
For past, present, and potential sales gamification software buyers, there are six questions to ask your sales gamification vendors. This article states what they are and why they matter.
Since the new year, Ambition has been the subject of two articles that take a long hard look at the state of enterprise gamification February's major Inc. article and last month's Harvard Business Review case study ask some important questions about the industry, so it seemed like a good time to offer our own insight on determining the value of a gamification product.
For the uninitiated, gamification refers to any software designed to turn work or some other aspect of daily life into a game. In the enterprise context, gamification platforms integrate with a CRM or other data source and turn employee KPIs and activities into a competition and improve engagement. Traditionally, these platforms work by offering features such as leaderboards, badges, and other automated “rewards” for completing objectives, following desired behaviors and overall high performance.
The earliest gamification platforms, like Bunchball and Badgeville, focused primarily on rewarding users with badges. Later platforms such as Hoopla and LevelEleven took a different approach that emphasized TV leaderboards and one-off individual competitions. A top-tier gamification solution can offer a unique set of value-adds to your workforce, listed as follows:
- Drive KPIs
- Engage personnel
- Instill accountability
- Improve data analytics
- Facilitate coaching
- Benefit culture
The idea behind gamification is to add an extra layer of fun, motivation and transparency to employee performance, and sustained improvements in productivity and lasting KPI benefits.
Evaluating the Benefits of Sales Gamification Software
A robust gamification platform combines the best aspects of sales acceleration, automation, and business intelligence tools into one platform. The following is a checklist you can use to evaluate whether your gamification software is up-to-snuff.
Question #1. Does it sustainably impact KPIs?
Like any enterprise software, the true value of gamification lies in its long-term return-on-investment. A 2014 CIO article pinpoints what that has looked like so far, focusing on several key findings from Gartner.
- The top 20% of engaged organizations average 250 percent higher revenue growth than their peers.
- By 2015, the vast majority of gamification applications will have failed to meet expectations.
- Misalignment between user goals and organizational goals causes failure.
The Harvard Business Review cites Ambition's impact on Clayton Homes KPIs as evidence that gamification software can offer dramatic, sustainable improvements in KPIs by creating an immersive user experience.
They found that Ambition led to "an 18% spike in outbound calls, doubled the percentage of calls that resulted in an appointment, increased the number of transferred calls eightfold [and] qualified referrals by the inside sales team are now up over 200%.” Harvard Business Review.
Question #2. Does it create engagement?
Employee disengagement is the number one problem gamification purports to solve. If successful, gamification can offer tremendous value to an organization. Compare the engagement levels of your workforce with those cited below:
- 70 percent of American workers are disengaged in the workplace.
- Active disengagement costs the U.S. $450 billion to $550 billion per year.
- Among sales workers, 29 percent were engaged, 51 percent were not engaged, and 20 percent were actively disengaged.
Source: Gallup Poll. State of the American Workplace. May 2014.
High-quality gamification software should eviscerate disengagement. Therefore, it's important to compare engagement levels prior to onboarding a gamification solution with those after, say, six months using the platform. What does powerful engagement look like? In their March 2015 case study of Ambition's impact on Clayton Homes. Harvard Business Review author Ethan Bernstein found a number of sales team members not just engaged, but checking their Ambition Score with a frequency that rivaled social media. “Some employees checked scores and rankings every 5-10 minutes. That might have been unproductive if focused effort hadn’t increased dramatically, too. During the championships, many employees stayed late or came in on the weekend to put in a little extra 'playing' time.” Harvard Business Review.
Question #3. Does it promote accountability?
The best gamification software aligns your sales organization with the systems used by high-performers. What are those systems, you ask? HBR outlines them nicely in a February 2015 article that discovered a direct correlation between a closely monitored, well-defined inside sales process and achieving high performance.
- 37% of high-growth companies use inside sales as primary sales strategy vs. 27% who use Field sales.
- 50% of high performing sales orgs have sales processes that are closely monitored, strictly enforced, or automated.
- 48% of underperforming sales orgs have nonexistent or informal structured sales processes.
Source: What Top Sales Teams Have in Common. Harvard Business Review. February 2015.
Top-tier gamification solution drives accountability to your process as a whole, not just individual pieces. It goes beyond a cold call leaderboard and creates a codified process for employees to follow. When that happens, you don't have a rat race for a leaderboard. Instead, as HBR found in our case study, you have collaborative, peer-driven culture of accountability.
“Employees consistently said that they were most often competing with themselves, trying to beat their own personal records. Sales became more of a team effort. Reps coached each other on how to do their tasks better, celebrated each other’s rankings and held each other accountable.” Harvard Business Review.
Question #4. Does it play well with data?
It's a given that gamification software should dramatically improve CRM adoption and accuracy. Yet, you'd be surprised to find out that most gamification vendors require manual data entry or limit data integrations to Salesforce.com. In doing so, they limit the long-term utility they can provide your company.
In contrast, the providers that work best and most flexibly with your data offer serious long-term potential. The CEB and MIT/Sloan have released massive reports in the past year finding that executives are seeking better data analytics and more tangible ways to evaluate talent performance.
- 52% of executives use analytics to inform/examine ROI of decisions on talent.
- 40% of orgs lack a plan to use assessments to engage and retain top talent.
- 37% of orgs collect metrics to improve employee development programs.
- 43% of executives feel they have the data they need when making decisions.
- 87% of executives are calling for their organizations to further leverage analytics.
Source: The State of the American Workplace. Ambition. August 2014.
In short, there is growing emphasis on putting meaning behind numbers and putting numbers behind decision-making. Your gamification solution should do just that. The Harvard Business review noted Ambition's impact in putting meaning behind the numbers for Clayton Homes:
“Reps said the social aspect was key to creating the peer-to-peer accountability that they felt drove the increase in productivity. Most Ambition users said they couldn’t wait for another season to begin — they missed the immediate feedback, recognition, and energy.” Harvard Business Review.
Question #5. Does it foster coaching?
Your growing Millennial workforce has done without quality coaching for long enough. Authoritative studies on Gen-Y workers consistently find that Milennials crave three things from their employers, all of which should be key value-adds of your gamification software:
- Consistent feedback.
- Collaborative, open environment.
Source: What Millennials Really Need. The Daily Muse. November 2014.
Elite gamification software gives time-strapped managers the right mentality and actionable insights needed to coach efficiently. In its feature on Ambition, Harvard Business Review identified two reasons our software facilitated coaching.
- It made managers self-identify as coaches.
- It scored performance using multiple metrics, so managers can easily spot an area of need.
Per HBR: “Managers started seeing themselves as coaches, offering people guidance on what they could each do to help the team’s performance. Because scores were calculated based on a set of metrics, not just one, managers could spot where individuals were strong or weak and provide mentoring.” Harvard Business Review.
Question #6. Does it improve culture?
Gamification software promises improvements to company culture. And to be sure, a great company culture offers all kinds of advantages. It attracts new talent, instills loyalty in your top talent, and brings energy and passion to your employees.
According to a recent Deloitte study, the best company cultures for Millennials have the following 5 traits:
- They make innovating a priority.
- They encourage employees to think creatively.
- They develop leadership skills.
- They take a creative approach to business processes.
- They take risks.
Gamification tools that rely heavily on TV leaderboards to drive motivation and behavior inevitably create user backlash. Why? They're just a more disingenuous version of the Glengarry Glen Ross leaderboard. You also might want to think twice about the cultural impacts of giving each user a cartoon avatar.
Per Harvard Business Review: "As one employee said, 'It wasn’t just about carrot-and-stick motivation (like traditional leaderboards), but rather about prolonged discipline.' In other words, employees saw this as a feedback tool for themselves, not as a “big brother” tool for their managers." Harvard Business Review.
How Ambition Works as a Sales Gamification Vendor
Now an all-in-one front office performance management platform, Ambition began as a sales gamification platform, and have been building off those features ever since. Here are three client-run product walkthroughs that show 8-10 core features of Ambition, some of which fall under the umbrella of sales gamification.
On the Clayton Homes, who onboarded their 60 person inside sales team to Ambition in Summer 2014. Their objective: Improve productivity, accountability, and overall performance. Their unorthodox strategy: Transform sales into a fantasy sports competition. Here's how they set up Ambition:
- Managers drafted all the reps in the inside sales unit into five fantasy football teams.
- Different teams went head to head each week.
- Reps scored points according to their sales performance in three critical areas. Each point increased their "Ambition Score."
- TVs publicly displayed the top scores and played individuals’ theme songs when people reached milestones.
Want to learn more? Contact us and let's start assessing how we could add value to your specific needs.
Sales Gamification & Performance Accountability
Ambition is a sales management platform that syncs every sales organization department, data source, and performance metric on one easy system.
Ambition clarifies and publicizes real-time performance analytics for your entire sales organization. Using a drag-and-drop interface, non-technical sales leaders can build custom scorecards, contests, reports, and TVs.
- FiveStars: Adam Wall. Sr. Manager of Sales Operations .
- Filemaker: Brad Freitag. Vice-President of Worldwide Sales.
- Outreach: Mark Kosoglow. Vice-President of Sales.
- Cell Marque: Lauren Hopson. Director of Sales & Marketing.
- Access America Transport: Ted Alling. Chief Executive Officer.
Watch Product Walkthroughs:
- ChowNow. Led by Vice-President of Sales, Drew Woodcock.
- Outreach. Led by Sales Development Manager, Alex Lynn.
- AMX Logistics. Led by Executive Vice-President ,Jared Moore.
Read Case Studies:
- Clayton Homes: HBR finds triple-digit growth in 3 sales efficiency metrics.
- Coyote Logistics: Monthly revenue per broker grew $525 in 6 months.
- Peek: Monthly sales activity volume grew 142% in 6 months.
- Vorsight: Monthly sales conversations grew 300% in 6 months.
Contact us to learn how Ambition can impact your sales organization today.