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Accelerate Sales Effectiveness with Gamification

Sales SPIFFs and contests have been used to incentivize contact center agents to sell more for decades. Although these one-off tactics may result in spikes in sales, they do not produce sustained improvements in sales performance. Why? Because the psychology of sales, like most things, is fairly complex.

Remember the five levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – beginning with sustenance and safety; progressing to belongingness, love and accomplishment; and finally, to the achievement of one’s full creative potential?

Nancy Nardin, nationally recognized thought leader on sales productivity, has applied similar principles to create the Hierarchy of Revenue Needs. At the most basic level is who to sell to and why; next, is when and how to engage; the third level is why someone should buy and why they should buy from you; at the fourth, how to close the sale; and the fifth and final level is how to sell more, again and again. In addition, there are two segments that span the entire hierarchy – manage, forecast and analyze; and develop, coach, onboard and motivate.

If the hierarchy sounds familiar, it’s probably because the actions required at each of the five levels correspond to the sales cycle stages you’d typically find in a customer relationship management (CRM) system. The sixth and seventh segments refer to the necessary administrative and training and development responsibilities of a sales organization.

Understanding the sales stages in the Hierarchy of Revenue Needs is the first step toward achieving a highly effective contact center sales team. By adding Gamification to your sales technology stack, you can accelerate effectiveness at each stage to help your agents achieve top revenue performance and sustain it over time.

Improving & Sustaining Sales Effectiveness

Gamification uses game mechanics to encourage desired behaviors. It provides a consistent and automated way to reward both new and seasoned contact center employees for meeting and exceeding the goals and expectations you establish. The reason that gamification works is that it motivates measurable improvements that drive sustainable revenue results. Let’s take a look at the two over-arching administrative and training segments and then review the five levels of the Hierarchy of Revenue Needs, and the various behaviors and key performance indicators (KPIs) related to each – all of which can be rewarded through gamification to accelerate goal achievement.

Develop, Coach, Onboard, Motivate
Gamification can be instrumental in getting new contact center sales agents up to speed on everything they need to know to be successful right from the start. It can make learning more fun and award early achievements, which helps build confidence and motivates them to reach full productivity faster.

Some of the key performance indicators  in this segment of the Hierarchy that can be tracked and rewarded through gamification include: viewing and filling out new hire documents or corporate culture videos, securing ID badges, attending security or ethics training, demonstrating aptitude and consistent and correct usage of sales tools, and interviewing top sales agents for advice on best practices.

Gamification is also ideal for providing ongoing feedback and perpetual learning for all employees, keeping them engaged and motivated to raise the bar on sales effectiveness on a continual basis.

Manage, Forecast & Analyze
Sales managers are tasked with building a plan to reach the desired results, making the necessary tweaks along the way to respond to changing conditions, both large and small. Starting with an initial roll-up forecast, they must dive into changes as they arise, identify risks, coach teammates as needed, and measure and adjust at every turn.

In order to ensure that managers are working with the most accurate data, sales agents must supply real-time information on productivity and revenue. Some examples of Sales KPIs that are indicators of success are listed below. It is important that your organization agrees on the definition of each of the KPIs you choose to use, as many companies define these terms differently.

  • Dials per Hour. The number of outgoing calls made every hour, regardless of whether or not the agent actually spoke to anyone.
  • Contact per Hour. The number of calls made per hour where the agent talked to a decision maker.
  • Sales per Hour. The number of units sold per hour.
  • Revenue per Hour (and per call). Dollar value generated every hour. Used to calculate employee labor percentages per hour (and per call).
  • Sales. Gross sales in number of units. This can be calculated per day, week, month or year.
  • Average Ticket Value. Value per sale. Calculated by totaling sales amounts over a specific period of time and dividing that by the total number of customers. This measurement helps management understand overall profitability.
  • Sales Slippage. Refers to a sale that was forecasted to close in a certain quarter but has moved out to the next quarter or beyond. It is important for sales management to know as soon as the agent is made aware of the slippage. Based on how the numbers look overall, management may decide to provide an extra discount to the customer or an incentive to sales to accelerate the close of a deal slated for the following quarter to try to move it forward.

Since most administrative tasks required of contact center agents must be completed in the company’s CRM system and are essential to accurate forecasting and sales assessment, gamifying CRM usage by tracking the KPIs outlined above is an excellent way to accelerate learning and establish good habits sooner rather than later. Additional CRM KPIs managers might want to gamify include: entering primary contacts in the CRM system, rather than in a spreadsheet or personal address book; sending emails from CRM rather than from an email client that is not integrated; completing periodic training updates, etc.


Button Teal Case StudyA top business process outsourcing company saw big improvements like sales per hour up 24% and sales conversion boosted by 47% from utilizing gamification in its call centers. Get more details on their strategies, goals and results in the case study.


Five Levels of Hierarchy of Revenue Needs

Levels 1 & 2: Who to Sell to & Why / When & How to Engage
Understanding who you can sell to, where you are going to source leads, deciding how to prioritize who to target first, second, and so on is the place to start. Making sure you are clear on why you have made these decisions is equally as important. Once this work has been completed, companies typically provide guidance on list development for their contact center sales teams and may even provide some initial leads.

Next, sales agents start executing on the activities in the second level of the Hierarchy in accordance with the expectations that have been set. Agents initiate calls and email communication and engage with prospective customers.

Some of the agent-specific performance KPIs at this stage that could be gamified include:

  • Number of Leads. Be sure that everyone is on the same page about what constitutes a lead. Is it a raw inquiry or name on a list? Or is a lead a prospect that has been vetted by marketing and meets certain demographic criteria, such as industry and size, or BANT (budget, authority, need and timing) criteria.
  • Number of Transfers. Each contact center will have its own rules around when a call should be transferred and how much and what qualifying information should be gathered prior to transferring a call. Some contact centers track total number of transfers while others also track number of transfers per hour.
  • Transfers Conversion Rate. Refers to the number of calls transferred that resulted into a sale divided by the total number of calls transferred, normally expressed as a percentage. So, if 80 out of 100 calls transferred converted to a sale, the transfers conversion rate would be 80%.

Level 3: Why Buy & Why Buy From You
At this level, it is important to assess the prospect’s needs and align them with the specific solutions you have to offer. It’s a good time to utilize persona-based messaging with the various buyers and influencers on the prospective customer’s team. It is also an appropriate time to calculate and quantify the return on investment and send or review any ROI tools you have. This will go a long way in advancing the prospect toward a buying decision.

Performance KPIs that can be gamified at this stage might include demonstrated use of ROI tools, persona-based messaging, and other content (such as case studies and white papers that talk about the results other companies have achieved similar to the expressed goals of your prospect).

Level 4: How to Close
Your agent has followed all the proper steps and done everything right – including providing the necessary referrals, generating the quote, creating the contract and sending it out for signatures. The moment of truth has arrived. It’s time to make the closing call.

All of these closing activities are prime examples of sales KPIs that can be tracked and rewarded through gamification. Doing so will bring greater consistency to your sales process and provide a way for you to continuously assess what is working, and what is not, so that you can tweak your program to make it, and your agents, even more successful in the future.

Level 5: Sell More Again & Again
Studies indicate that you are more likely to resell to an existing customer (60-70%) than you are to convert a new one (5-20%). That is why the fifth level of the Hierarchy is so essential to the health of your business. It is not only important that you exercise opportunities for cross-selling and up-selling, you must also continue to nurture the relationship with your customer long after the sale is complete.

There are a number of ongoing support and value-added services that your agents should offer your customers to keep them engaged. Some include: subscriptions to your blog, membership to online user group communities, invitations to customer conferences, free passes to industry trade shows, participation in loyalty programs, and access to educational materials that can help them get the most out of your products and services. All of these examples can be tracked and rewarded through gamification.

Sales Requires a Perpetual Effort

Sales attainment requires a perpetual effort, a solid strategy and a tried-and-true process. It also requires the deployment of technology solutions such as gamification to help accelerate sales effectiveness at every stage in the Hierarchy of Revenue Needs. Providing continuous training can produce 50% higher net sales and sustainable growth for years to come.

What strategies, processes and technologies are you using to accelerate sales effectiveness and achieve sales goals?