Sales people live in the moment. They need to hit this month’s numbers. They have a demo in 10 minutes. Their manager wants an update on their biggest account. They are paid on commission and they probably do not feel they have time to take your training! Salespeople probably have the most single-minded focus of any role in your organization: activities that are directly linked to making a sale are top priority and everything else is just details.
As an L&D professional, you know that knowledge and skills are vital to building a successful sales organization. But a sales rep is not paid to worry about the entire sales organization. They are paid when, and only when, they produce results. They will be reluctant to invest time and energy into training if it is not directly helping them do their job better. They are eager to learn, but only when the knowledge will directly help them on their next sales call. Wouldn’t it be great if training could be a positive part of that, and not seen as a time waster?
Serious Games and Sales Reps: A Perfect Fit
There is a reason so many of the Bottom-Line Performance clients who ask us to design a custom serious game wish to use it with sales reps. Customers who use our Knowledge Guru platform often create their games for sales professionals, too. Our experience has shown that games are often the perfect addition to a sales training program or set of reinforcement and reference tools.
There are many ways games can be leveraged as a tool to help sales reps perform better on the job. Here are five ideas to jump-start your thinking:
1. Games can prevent the need to “cram” new product knowledge
Product launches are stressful, complicated events for everyone involved. Sales reps are often bombarded with new product and technical knowledge they must assimilate quickly before their next customer conversation. Reps might find themselves studying PDFs, Googling information they can’t find or learning about the new product via a PowerPoint deck. Before long, learning about ACME corporation’s new product release feels like studying for a college exam… and there is a very good chance reps will forget more than they remember without proper reinforcement.
Our research and client work has shown us that serious games provide a much better way to learn product and industry knowledge. With the right instructional design know-how, learning principles such as spaced repetition and feedback loops can be linked to the mechanics of a game that reps can play for just minutes a day as time allows. Games linked to learning science become real time savers for a sales rep, as the gameplay is designed to help them learn and retain the necessary knowledge. And when the product and technical knowledge is especially complex, sales associates will appreciate games that truly help them learn and remember.
Example: Cisco uses Knowledge Guru games as part of their year-long Cisco Sales Associate Training Program. Sales associates average over 3.5 hours of Knowledge Guru gameplay because the games helped them study for their Cisco Sales Certification. Cisco’s game earned a 2014 Brandon Hall gold award for best advance in sales training online application.
2. Games can create a little healthy competition… and camaraderie
Not everyone thinks that competition at work is a fun experience, but your sales team probably does. Most sales reps would probably describe themselves as “competitive;” that’s why they got into the profession in the first place. Games with leaderboards can fuel this competitive drive and create a sense of competition between various locations, territories, or even individuals. Meanwhile, the scores that reps rack up can become informative to managers, showing which individuals or locations have the best grasp of key product knowledge, procedures, and selling skills.
Example: Competition through gameplay usually will not end up feeling cutthroat. After playing a Knowledge Guru game tied to a product launch, the ExactTarget (now Salesforce Marketing Cloud) employee from Australia who won “MobileConnectGuru” shared that he had never felt more a part of the team than while playing the game.
3. Games can help reps retain and apply new product info
Games can be as simple as a jeopardy clone with handheld remotes or as complex as a 3D world. Most of the time, business needs call for an experience that is somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. For sales reps, the ideal game-based solution will do more than motivate. Sales reps’ time is limited and they will likely want to limit their time spent on training as much as possible unless that training is directly helping them sell (and earn more commission). Gaming that can be done in short bursts that helps them learn, study, and retain product features and benefits is ideal.
4. Games can provide meaningful reporting and analytics
Most serious games offer far more data points than a standard eLearning course. For example, a report that shows learning objective success rate for sales reps in different territories provides far more visibility into what sales reps actually know than a raw completion percentage. This information can be used to provide additional training on the weaker topics to the regions that need it.
With relevant, accurate data in hand you can deploy just-in-time learning bites that help sales reps shore up the key information they need to learn instead of wasting their time with a full-blown course.
5. Games can provide highly contextual scenarios to practice consultative selling
Of course, sales reps need to do more than simply memorize product information to be successful. In more complex selling situations, sales training is probably a full-fledged curriculum. Game platforms and templates will rarely be the only solution used in a curriculum like this… and they may not provide the necessary context to help sales professionals with higher-level skills. These situations are an ideal place for custom serious games.
Example: In Formulation Type Matters, a serious game we created for Dow AgroSciences, sales reps enter a fictional territory with five different unhappy customers they must try to place. Players gain and lose sales and increase or decrease customer satisfaction based on their answers to customer questions. As they play, the reps access a variety of resources and consult their manager, a learning agent in the game, for help. The resources used in the game are the same PDFs they will find and locate on the job.