Is Sales Force Gamification Possible?

Back in March this year Lauren Carlson, CRM Market Analyst for Software Advice the Austin TX based advisory firm posted a thought provoking article entitled “Game On! Can Playing Games Drive Adoption of Sales Force Automation” on the company’s CRM blog. In the post Lauren noted how she had been brainstorming the idea of incorporating various aspects of gamification in to Sales Force Automation systems. The initial thoughts being awarding achievement badges as recognition of training level and colour coded leaderboards for data quality and outbound call intensity.

Vincent Beerman, Director of Development for Spectrum DNA, designers of gamified social loyalty programs for retailers, publishers and brands, wrote a follow up post on the same blog entitled “Sales Force Gamification = (Automation + Motivation + Socialization)^2“. In this article Vincent wrote

Bad Motivation Kills Good Automation
Like the Industrial Revolution, early attempts at gamifying the enterprise have been slow, clunky, simplistic and sometimes downright counterproductive.

However, there are a few promising exemplars of Enterprise Gamification such as Rypple (enterprise social software) and Idea Street (a U.K. civic collaboration platform) that support the studies of human motivation by academics such as Daniel Pink and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

Consumer loyalty programs have embodied game mechanics for decades. I’ll bet you know someone who’s taken a flight late in December just to keep his or her elite flyer status. That person is clearly a committed gamer.

Daniel Pink’s book Drive serves as a beacon to marketers, managers and trainers with the message, “beware extrinsic rewards for intrinsically rewarding activities!” Pink encourages managers to highlight a worker’s intrinsic motivations and reserve the extrinsic  motivations (cash, points or prizes) for tedious or unappealing tasks.

I think most salespeople would consider learning and using a new SFA system “tedious and/or unappealing” regardless of the purported efficiency or profitability rewards.

Most enterprises, and most SFA systems, are built around carrot-and-stick, reward-and-punishment incentives. Mr. Pink turns this Motivation 2.0 approach on its head with research showing that the fastest learners, and often the best performers are those who  voluntarily take on challenging tasks with only intrinsic motivation or social status at stake. In fact, introducing extrinsic rewards in a clumsy, heavy-handed way can backfire, creating entitlement among users.

Learning a game, on the other hand, incorporates intrinsic human motivators and delivers extrinsic and social rewards in appropriate combination. Golf is the ultimate exemplar of humans voluntarily taking on challenging tasks with only intrinsic and social motivation.


Adding game mechanics and dynamics to SFA systems is an inherently risky business that needs to be approached with extreme caution. Most Sales people have developed a healthy disdain for SFA systems from surviving a plethora of new software launches, each one introduced as the answer to life, the universe and everything. Unfortunately most have ultimately been merely a new incarnation of a clumsily adapted CRM system, poorly tuned to the needs of users.

I recently asked Daniel Pink his thoughts on gamification, to which he responded:

“Gamification could go either way — toward 2.0 if the rewards are the point of the exercise, towards 3.0 if the rewards are a form of feedback, information, and a way to make progress and achieve flow.”

Sage advice; the temptation for designers of gamified systems is often to go too far, you could say to use “too much of a good thing”. For a successful implementation of a gamification enhanced SFA system it is critical that system designers thoroughly analyse the work that the users of the system do and restrict the introduction of game mechanics and dynamics only to the areas which are repetitive and mundane by nature. Attempting to reward sales people for the incredibly creative aspects of their work is, for me, a certain recipe for disaster.

I should say, I am a proud to consider myself a sales person. I have worked in many roles, some with nice sounding titles that had nothing to do with sales, however a solid background in sales is for me a badge of honor. I therefore feel some affinity with the words of Jane McGonigal when she says “We Don’t Need No Stinking Badges”. However, if you can show me a system that gets me motivated and engaged, or heaven forbid, actually enjoying getting my notes up to date, keeping my data clean, relevant and on the system (rather than just in my cellphone) maybe, just maybe I would play along. I can appreciate the intrinsic rewards garnered from hitting the top of the data quality leaderboard, but please remember, I am a sales person so if there isn’t a cold hard cash prize for that achievement I think I can live without the soft warm feeling of being number one as long as “I am pulling my numbers in”.

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6 Responses to Is Sales Force Gamification Possible?

  1. Pingback: Enterprise Gamification – Approach With Caution | Gametuned

  2. Pingback: Gamification / Motivation | Gametuned

  3. The badge is the dollar. That’s what motivates salespeople.

  4. Pingback: Gamification and Motivation 3.0 | Gametuned - Gamification Solutions

  5. Kathy Sierra says:

    “Attempting to reward sales people for the incredibly creative aspects of their work is, for me, a certain recipe for disaster.”

    According to Pink and others, you do not even need the “incredibly” qualifier on “creative aspects”. So my rewrite would be, “Attempting to reward (virtually anyone) for the creative aspects of their work is a recipe for disaster.”

    Thank-you for what I believe was a more thoughtful and precise look at the how/when/why of using feedback and rewards in a specific work environment then I have seen in most of the new gamification frenzy.

    • james says:

      Thanks for your comment Kathy – I think your rewrite makes sense and certainly underlines the point that it is not just SFA systems that need to be approached with caution.

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