Keeping sales reps motivated – especially in today’s business world where no prospect has time for a sales call – is a key challenge for managers. Compensation, commission and bonuses alone are not enough to get sellers up in the morning, ready to take on another day of prospecting, qualifying and closing.
A day after kicking off the panel discussion on process and metrics at the Sales. 2.0 Conference East in Boston – a critical but more geeky than fun topic – I got to be on the TV game show “Make that Sale”. Yes – you read that right: a game show for sales people. Competing for the coveted electronic device of the moment (an iPad), the contestants, some confident and practiced, others flustered and nervous, got on stage one at a time after the audience enthusiastically chanted “Make that Sale! Make that Sale! Make that Sale”. I was one of three “experts” (along with Will Wiegler from BigMachines and Garth Moulton, cofounder of Jigsaw, recently sold to salesforce.com) on a panel of judges who rated each contestant’s performance on a scale of 1 to 10. The audience got to pick their favorites and the contestants got to score themselves, too.
Many managers play into the fact that sales reps are naturally competitive and organize monthly or quarterly contests with prizes in order to boost short-term sales results. But the typical approach is to reward reps for being top salesperson or selling the most of a certain product. Why not, instead, organize a skills-based contest that has longer-term impact? Best-selling author Daniel Pink, who draws on research in psychology, economics and sociology, has many of us thinking about a different approach to motivation. Rather than always throwing money at the problem, how might we integrate mastery, autonomy and purpose – the real motivational factors Pink identifies in his book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, into our incentive plans? I submit that fun is an equally important motivator in a profession in which it’s commonplace to hear the word “no”.
This is exactly the premise of “Make that Sale,”,which tests sales professionals’ mastery of core skills such as presentation and story-telling, technology-usage and personalization in a fun new way, using the popular and proven TV game show format. The show is the brainchild of Gerhard Gschwandtner, the creative executive force behind Selling Power magazine, the Sales 2.0 conference and other market-leading media and events for chief sales officers. It is produced by the top-notch team at San Francisco-based DreamSimplicity.
Gerhard and DreamSimplicity’s Floyd Tucker took turns hosting 3 pilot episodes of the show: “Most Memorable Sales Story”, “Find That Prospect” and “Make that Elevator Pitch”. Three to four contestants competed in each time-limited contest. It was a blast to be on the judge’s panel, though, as on American Idol, we didn’t always agree. Will, the senior director of marketing for Big Machines and a jazz musician in his spare time, was for the most part detailed and spot on for a marketing guy critiquing sales performers. Sometimes, though, I gave him a hard time for being a little too brutally honest for sensitive sales types. Garth was the not-afraid-to-be different, quintessential iconoclast that we know and love from his popular blog, Garth’s World. Not surprisingly, he showed a bit of favoritism for the nontraditional underdogs. Garth gets extra style points, though, for performing on the spot when Gerhard asked him to make his own elevator pitch in the final episode. The guy is seriously good.
Watch the show to see which contestants won, how we judges scored them, and how the audience favorites differed from the judges’.
What creative methods do you have for mixing it up and motivating reps? Are fun, skills-based contests part of your incentive plan?