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The Green Sheet Online Edition

January 12, 2015 • Issue 15:01:01

Street SmartsSM

Games are for kids — not

By Tom Waters and Ben Abel
Bank Associates Merchant Services

If I were to describe someone to you as a "gamer," what image would come to mind? The person would probably be of high school or collage age, most likely be male, and probably somewhat socially inept, sitting in his mom's basement and chugging Mountain Dew while playing World of Warcraft until the early morning.

However, statistically the average person who identifies as a "gamer" is 35 years old, 68 percent of them are above the age of 18, and 47 percent are female. That is a broad demographic. So what does this tell us? That people, in general, like to play games. That's how King, the company that produces Candy Crush, brought in a whopping $1.5 billion from that one game in 2013.

As exciting as that number sounds, what does it matter to us unless we're getting the account? This is where the concept of "gamification" comes in. This term, first coined in 2002, relates to applying fun, engaging parts of the gaming experience to client interactions, mundane work duties and the more menial parts of day-to-day life.

This has been applied in various industries for a host of purposes, and has seen great success when done properly. In 2013 over 70 percent of Forbes Global 2000 companies said they would be applying this concept to their marketing and retention programs.

Would it work in my sales department?

The idea sounds intriguing, but does it work? Let's take a quick look at how gamification has been successfully applied by a few companies for distinct sales department objectives:

  1. Educating salespeople: Astra Zeneca used an e-learning game to entice sales agents to voluntarily learn about new products, a process that had previously proved difficult. Implementation of the game brought usage rates up to 97 percent with a 95 percent completion rate.
  2. Engaging potential clients: Australia's Commonwealth Bank built Investorville, a game designed to teach potential homeowners about real estate, educating them on investment strategies, rental returns and interest rates. Through the use of this game, the bank was able to generate an additional 600 loans in the first year after launch.
  3. Motivating sales staff: In 2013, Access America Transport implemented an inter-office sales competition measuring the sales staff of each office on various key performance indicators. Four hundred employees, broken into 122 teams, competed against each other for the highest scores each week, all viewable through a leaderboard everyone could access. This contest produced a sustained increase of outbound sales calls by 100 percent and monthly sale count by 35 percent.

Yes! I got 10 more points!

Gamification pioneer Yu-kai Chou is an international keynote speaker on the topic. He also is the founder and chief executive of the Octalysis Group, which consults on how to motivate and engage prospects, clients and employees. As gamification has become more popular in business, the biggest mistake Chou sees is "The Curse of the PBLs [points, badges and leaderboards]."

This is the notion that simply assigning a point value to an action, then letting people compete based on the points they accumulate through this action will make the action fun. (Yes! I can't wait to dial seven more times and be a level 37 phone dialer!)

By that logic any activity with a point value would be fun and engaging. We all know that is simply not the case. A quick trip to the App or Play Store will show you how terrible many games with point values are. Then what is it that engages people and keeps them coming back for more?

Maslow psychology for the 21st century

Chou created "Octalysis – The 8 Core Drivers of Gamification," an eight point framework to understand what drives people. Let's review these drivers and consider how they can apply to your sales teams and client interactions.

  1. Epic meaning and calling: People want to feel that they are part of something bigger, that their actions have meaning. Salespeople are motivated knowing not just that they'll earn more, but that they've moved the entire group closer to a goal.
  2. Development and accomplishment: This is the internal driver to feel like you're making progress and overcoming challenges. People like to grow and feel like they're getting better. This is why people like badges of accomplishment, awards and public recognition.
  3. Empowerment of creativity and feedback: People like to try creative things, hear how they can improve and attempt to do better next time. One way this can be achieved is by not always working off a rigid script but allowing people to inject their own sales style to try things out.
  4. Ownership and possession: This is not just the desire to accumulate things, but also to make them your own. This is why many companies allow clients to customize their user engagement platforms.
  5. Social influence and relatedness: This driver is directly tied to how we interact with the people around us, both in competition and collusion. Leaderboards, sharing on social media and having virtual opportunities to interact exemplify this.
  6. Scarcity and impatience: You want something because you can't have it. A program's exclusivity makes you want to enroll that much more.
  7. Unpredictability and curiosity: We do things because we want to know what will happen next. It's why people like to gamble or try something new. It's also why prospects are interested in new technologies and programs.
  8. Loss and avoidance: People take action to prevent negative occurrences. The following phrases capitalize on this: You must act now! Remember, this deal will be gone tomorrow. You must hit the sales quota this week!

Let's have some fun

While our sales offices may operate differently and we may take various approaches to client interactions, research verifies that this approach has produced positive results when applied properly. The task for each of us is to determine how these tools can be used to make us more efficient, productive and profitable.

The gamification paradigm says that work doesn't have to be dry and monotonous; when overlaid with the enjoyable aspects of gaming, business tasks, too, can become enjoyable. Let's play a game. end of article

Tom Waters has been dedicated to the merchant service sales profession since 2001. Currently, he is responsible for cultivating relationships with entrepreneurs in information technology, accounting, sales and marketing in his role as Sales Director of Bank Associates Merchant Services ( www.bams.com). Using fresh and matter-of-fact training methods, Tom has contributed to the success of thousands of agents, affiliates and clients. He can be reached via email through t.waters@bams.com or via phone at 347-651-1065.

Ben Abel is Regional Director at Bank Associates Merchant Services. Since joining the team in 2006, he has risen through company ranks with a paradigm that his success was measured by the success of those around him. Ben is a dedicated, pioneering trainer whose methods of merchant services consultation have helped many agents expand their portfolios in terms of processing volume, deal count and profitability. He can be contacted at 347-866-9571 or ben@bams.com.

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