Sales Strategy: Using Gamification to Reinforce Training and Change Selling Behaviors

When sales managers think of using gamification in sales, they often default to sales contests. While those are certainly competitions with prizes for wins, we consider contests to be separate from gamification. In our view, the term refers to the use of games to: 1) drive more sales, 2) cement knowledge and skills, or 3) create needed changes in selling behaviors. In this post, we’ll be talking about the latter two items.

How Gamification Can Make Sales Training More Effective
One of the most important, sometimes forgotten parts of sales training is the follow-up. You can have the most extensive, intense, lengthy sales boot camp in the world, but it doesn’t necessarily translate into long-term knowledge acquisition and memory retention without reinforcement to be sure the lessons stick. Think back to when you were in school – how much information do you really remember from classes that were semester or year-long? You probably remember some things – such as Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation – but not others, like the step-by-step process to solve for quadratic equations (or maybe it’s the reverse for you – oftentimes what we remember long-term is tied to our particular fields of interest). But most of it you’ve likely forgotten, which is why so many parents struggle helping their kids with math homework, for example.

So how does gamification help encode information in long-term memory and provide a boost in sales training reinforcement? Through the use of tools like short quizzes, skills-specific scenarios, flashcard-based presentations, or even actual traditional game genres such as visual novels or puzzle games.

Why does it work? We could cite Mary Poppins: “In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun,” and while that’s true, and while play plays (pun intended) a major role in the effectiveness of gamification, it comes down to knowing what specific skills and knowledge areas were taught in the training that you’re trying to reinforce. The gamification is then built around reinforcing and ramping up the retention of those newly learned items (bolded because this is the most critical part) – which is why this process really begins with planning sales training. If you don’t have the right knowledge and/or skills being taught in training, your ROI on reinforcement will be poor, because you didn’t set the correct goals for sales training in the first place.

Here at Janek Performance Group, we use Janek Xpert as our primary gamification offering. It’s been proven to increase sales training retention by up to 170% and tailored specifically for sales professionals.

Using Gamification to Create Changes in Selling Behaviors
The other primary engine of change as gamification relates to sales reps is to effect needed changes in selling behaviors. While this can take the form of reinforcement of learned skills (which by default leads to behavior changes), the change of behaviors is much broader than that, applying to your sales process as a whole.

Which form of gamification is best is going to depend on your business situation, as are the rewards and incentives – perhaps it’s cash, maybe it’s free tickets to entertainment or restaurant certificates, or it could be additional PTO. Maybe some combination of the above – say movie tickets at the first goal, cash at the second goal, and additional PTO at the third goal. The specifics not only depend on your finances, but in talking to your sales reps and finding out what motivates them. While you could also incorporate a competitive element, we find that creating contests around this can sometimes lead to decreased motivation and lack of follow-through for those sales reps who are behind – whereas if it’s individual goals, motivation is likely to stay consistently high throughout – especially for core performers, who are the least attended to part of most sales teams in terms of incentives and coaching.

Utilized effectively, gamification can reinforce sales training in a fun, engaging way and also inspire long-lasting behavioral changes to improve your revenues. You’ll need to know your specific objectives and outcomes, and know your team well enough to set the goals, benchmarks, and incentives to motivate them, but if that’s done correctly, you’ll have raised the productivity, morale, and success of your sales reps.