Gaming is better than management

So I will be honest, I was not a big gamer growing up unless it was sports.  I have never been a fan of shooting games or car games.  I did like Madden and NCAA football when it was being made.  If you are in sales management and manage a team of millennials, it is possible that many of them like video games.  To successfully manage the younger generation, you need to understand how gaming works and compare it how your company does performance management.

So how do most companies manage sales professionals?  They give them a quota.  This quota is not a number that is created in collaboration with the sales rep.  The only feedback on performance the rep gets is comparing their sales to their quota.  Most companies do a bi-annual review process through HR.  Typically the sales rep will get good marks if they are obtaining their quota and will receive less than stellar marks if they are not hitting quota.  For most sales organizations the offer compensation based solely on sales.  Even if your company offers a salary and a bonus, the bonus is based on how much you sold.  There are no incentives for customer satisfaction, customer loyalty or activities performed.  Finally, a sales professional’s job is what it is.  Meaning it really does not change.  You call on prospects, you work them through a sales process and you either sell them or you don’t.  Then you repeat

How is that different from gaming?  How could understanding gaming change your management style?  First, let’s look at how gaming works.  Gaming gives you instant feedback.  No matter the style of game, you know if you passed the level, won the game or race and if you are allowed to move to the next level.  Second gaming gives you rewards.  You earn points, coins, card packs or some type of reward for doing a different task and successfully completing them.  Finally, gaming gets progressively harder.  You start on an easy level and as you progress it gets harder or you can change the difficulty level of the game.

So if you are a sales manager, how can you work with your reps to help gamify the sales role?  First look to provide instant feedback.  I am a big believer in tracking activity on a weekly basis.  Not only does tracking activity within the sales cycle allow a manager to coach sales professionals on their sales skills but it provides instant feedback.  I can see each week what my closing ratios are and if they are improving as I hone my skills. Another way of giving instant feedback is by doing what the military calls After Action Reviews.  After action reviews are a good way to review how a call went and how it could have been better.  Then based on the areas of improvement for the sales call, you need to work with your rep by doing role plays to help them hone these skills.

The second thing you can do is creating rewards.  I have had jobs that did activity-based pay.  In activity-based pay, you pay the rep for performing a task that should help progress the sales process.  This pay is part of their base pay but they could lose money if they do not do enough tasks.  I am not a big fan of this process but it does encourage reps to make sure they do a minimum amount of work each week or month.  As a sales manager, it is good to find little ways to reward your reps for their efforts.  You want to focus your rewards not only on selling a big deal but also doing the little things that help the organization.  I mentioned in an earlier post how a sales manager treated my wife and me to dinner after I traveled to another territory to help the company when a rep left.  Those little things can mean the world to a rep and each rep is different.  I had another manager that created rewards for the whole team.  Those were good too.

Finally, you want to allow for a progression of difficulty.  Video games get harder as you go along.  You do not want to necessarily make it harder for your reps to sell but looking at it another way, can you provide the rep with greater responsibility as they progress in their role.  When I worked for Cintas they did a good job of this.  When you started, you went through training and then after training, you would spend between 2-6 weeks calling on existing clients and try and sell add-on product to these accounts.  These sales were a little easier to execute because they were already customers.  After doing that you would graduate to your own territory.  If you were able to perform above goal for a certain period of time you could become a mentor to younger reps.  This gave you more responsibility and more things to do in addition to selling.  Finally, you had an opportunity to get promoted to sales manager.  I really liked this process.  In addition to doing the things that Cintas did, you could give them responsibility for teaching a training, doing role plays with younger reps or even leading a sales meeting.

By combining all of these thought processes into your sales management playbook will pay huge dividends as you manage more millennials or members of the gaming generation.

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