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Make the leap from mediocrity to meritocracy. Gamification can create sales superheroes.

Picture the scene. Martin works in a large electronics store selling a wide range of mobile devices across several mobile networks. All of these individual brands – both manufacturers and service providers – give Martin the chance to participate in a rewards program, but each of these rewards programs is remarkably similar. After a while this mountainous monolith of mediocrity leaves Martin bored and apathetic – the exact opposite of what rewards programs are supposed to achieve.

How then can a brand stand out in this crowded space? And even more importantly, how can that same brand effect real behavioural change by rewarding Martin for improved sales performance?

Ready, steady, game

The solution to what is a very common problem in the sales channel arena is surprisingly simple. Regardless of whether you’re in the business of inspiring perfume, cellphone, or lawnmower salespeople, gamification is the one-stop solution that will allow your brand to outshine the competition through education and engagement. Once salespeople learn about your incentive rewards, it follows that sales should increase.

Gamification works wonders in sales channels for several reasons, not least:

  1. It’s fun (a lot more fun than counting the number of air-conditioner vents in the gents’ loo)
  2. It gives instant, constructive feedback on your performance (more than we can say for most human bosses)
  3. It gives you the chance to earn rewards in the true sense of the word (a properly-designed gamification program will include rewards that are both meaningful and customisable)

Enough with the Why. Let’s look at the How

If games are fun, it goes without saying that gamification – “the use of game mechanics and experience design to digitally engage and motivate people to achieve their goals” – should be fun too. But gamification, unlike the games it is inspired by, uses this fun for a very specific and quantifiable goal. In the case of channel salespeople this goal is twofold: to educate, inspire and engage salespeople about your product range and thus increase sales. Luckily the two tend to go hand in hand.

Feedback – whether on new product knowledge or recent sales performance – is a fundamental feature of any gamification program and the same goes for the opportunity to earn rewards. As long as you’re clear on what you want gamification to achieve for your brand (and provided you engage the services of folks who know their stuff) you can achieve incredible bang for your buck (ROI for those who prefer formal terminology).

Here’s a little example

You’ve just launched a new smartphone (or lawnmower or perfume) so you design a fun and attractive infographic to educate salespeople about its features. While the information contained in the infographic might be identical to the product’s technical specifications sheet (zzzzzz, bring on the air conditioner vents), the way the facts are presented encourages salespeople to not only read them, but to actually learn and remember them through challenges, quests and more.

Typically, this infographic might be followed up by a quiz to test how much of this info has been absorbed. Once again, the quiz should look good and be enjoyable to complete – don’t make it feel like a school exam, even if that’s exactly what it is. To stimulate real learning, the quiz should tap into our innate desire to compete against ourselves and/or our peers.

While the quiz’s clever design will go partway towards achieving this goal, the promise of tangible rewards will seal the deal. Once participants know they stand a chance to get something in return for knowing your product backwards, you’ll be amazed at how their engagement soars.

A word about rewards

Even the most innovative and effective gamification techniques can wear thin if participants begin to realise that they are not being truly rewarded for their efforts. Badges and points are all very well, but once you’ve amassed enough of these, you’ll begin to yearn for something more tangible.

Very few people can say no to cold, hard cash, especially if it’s paid out in the middle of the month when there’s only Marmite in the pantry. Material rewards can be great too, as long as you give recipients some choice in the matter (personally I have no use for a blender, but for all I know you’ve spent all day dreaming of a kale smoothie) and experiential rewards also go down a treat. Here, once again, choice is key: an evening of stock car racing is not everyone’s cup of tea. Nor is a macramé course.

A game for all seasons

As shown above, gamification is great at promoting awareness of a new product’s features. But you can use exactly the same logic to enhance participants’ knowledge of your entire product range or to build an understanding of your industry-leading after-sales service, to give but two examples.

What’s more, thoughtful gamification can present scary sales targets in a more friendly (and thus motivating) manner and the judicious use of game mechanics can work wonders for your sales figures. Another great thing about gamification is that it can be personalised: not only will it get demotivated salespeople to up their games, but it will also push highly-motivated sales hounds to even greater heights.

What are you waiting for?

Say adios to sales channel mediocrity and help us to usher in a new era of meritocracy. Let the games begin!