Whether you are in sales or in other functions, you have seen this happening. The quarterly sales competition. At the beginning of the financial year, the sales teams are given their quarterly targets and then the job is to chase and achieve them. But money doesn’t come that easy. Therefore, incentives are offered to them in financial terms. They can range anywhere from half a month’s pay to an overseas holiday based on how you achieve your numbers. One of the organizations that I worked for — offered cars as well if you could make your annual target.
So, that should be incentive enough for a salesperson to achieve those numbers and stick on with their organization, right? According to a report by the Bridge Group in 2018 (https://blog.bridgegroupinc.com/2018-sdr-metrics-report) the average tenure of a salesperson in a B2B organization has come down to 1.5 years from 3 years in 2010. Please note — the challenges of B2C sales are different. In B2C, you focus a lot more on distribution, marketing, customer success, and demand creation. B2B is more consultative, face to face selling — where you need to be both a storyteller as well as an analyst at the same time.
So what is it that is afflicting B2B sales. Is it the reluctance of salespeople to stick on (we sometimes blame it on flighty attitudes and the ‘grass is greener on the other side’ perception) or are the barriers set too high? Or, is the incentive not good enough? Or, is there a sense of mistrust? i.e However, hard I try, the end-goal is deliberately kept elusive and sky-high so that I can’t reach it.
Gamification, as some of the key studies around this subject shows, has been able to solve many a problem. In Sweden, the idea of a speed lottery has made people drive consciously on the roads. Maybe, B2B sales structures need a similar makeover too. There is a counter-argument to that as well. It was one of the first business processes to get gamified. As we know — a game needs to have three aspects — a goal, rules, and players. Here we have all three — a goal (your target), rules (you cannot cheat your clients, you need to perform by the quarter, etc.) and players (the salesperson). Moreover, it has a leaderboard and rewards as well. When the payouts happen at the end of the year/month/quarter — you announce the best salesperson. So why is this gamification not working? (Let’s not forget the fact that one key aspect of a game is that it is voluntary. A sales competition is not voluntary — you can’t choose not to play)
Maybe, we need to look at the entire process through a different lens. What is that you consider when you go about giving out the rewards to sales reps? In most cases, it is the achievement number. But let’s consider a few factors:
a. B2B sale doesn’t happen in a day, it has a cycle. Where is your sales rep in that cycle?
b. B2B business may not grow from a single category of clients, expanding horizontally is critical. If you are selling an enterprise SaaS product, it is critical that it is adopted across business categories. Every time you enter a new category, you are adding one more case study to your kitty — which will help you build other businesses.
c. B2B Sale is a collaborative process. It doesn’t happen only because of one magical sales guy. It happens because of the knowledge that he/she accrues over a period of time, the backend support he/she gets, the brand that supports his/her efforts, and a lot more. Therefore, a collaborative salesperson, who is helping the business grow by going out of his/her way might actually be contributing much more than his/her target.
If at the end of the year, an organization ignores all the rest and focuses on the number, it is possible that someone might lookout for ‘greener pastures’, however mythical they are. Now, turn this thinking on its head. What if we gamify it differently? What if instead of doling out annual bonuses based on just one achievement number — we look at drafting a point system that can look at the business differently.
- To increase your sales you need insights. Are your salespeople contributing to building organizational insights? (I would like to refer to Deloitte’s successful gamification experiment — Who What Where — with Badgeville here — https://sconfinivenice.wordpress.com/2013/11/22/deloitte-who-what-where-app/)
- Are your sales people contributing to increasing the category of clients. It is an easier sale when I have a lot case studies in a particular category. Suppose my SaaS Learning Management System has made a lot of buzz in the Pharma market. It is possible, that the next Pharma company I visit will be quite willing to talk to me. But when I visit a retail store chain — the reaction might not be so welcoming.
- Are your salespeople contributing to building enough case studies? Are there differentiated requirements that he/she is being able to think about, turn it on its head and offer a solution? This can be the holy grail. You have got a consultant in your hands.
Think of all of these before you start thinking about how the leaderboards will look like. Break down each of these points into an excel sheet and attach a Priority score to it. Figure out your business objective. Maybe you are just a startup and you need to build credibility. Assign a higher score for logo acquisition rather than business value. Maybe you already have a product that has been doing great within a certain category. Assign a higher score for a different category. Maybe your HRMS has been sold vastly in banks, assign a high score to someone who can sell it in a retail chain rather than a bank, no matter what the value is. Parallely, reward the one who gets a bank to sign a fat contract. Assign scores to your sales team for optimum performance which will help your business rather than one assigned target in one particular category. Most CRMs are well-defined now-days, add your gamification element to that. Add some fun elements to it — avatars if you want, give out badges based on multiple achievements and not just one. And then when you calculate scores at the end of the quarter you might see a very different yardstick of success than the one that you have been working with. The other advantage is that unlike a single number breathing down their neck, your salespeople will have time to be creative, work with more enthusiasm and also use lateral thinking in growing your business. All without losing points or ending up in a zero sum game. They may think more about how to grow your value in the market rather than about spending company time to find the next opportunity.
Do you think gamification can further enhance in the sales process? Do share your thoughts. Connect to me on Linkedin.