It's difficult for companies to find one method of motivating every member of their sales teams. Great salespeople and average salespeople are motivated differently. But companies with engaged employees bring in an average 147 percent more earnings per share. So how do you find a way to keep every member of your sales team engaged?

Plans personalized to each salesperson are costly and time-consuming, but not everyone responds to the same traditional incentive plans like commissions. Companies such as Microsoft are turning to gamification techniques like FantasySalesTeam to keep every member of their sales teams actively engaged.

But a study done by the Wharton School found that while gamification can have a positive effect on performance, employees who are forced to participate begrudgingly actually perform worse. Companies should consider the following three tips when devising gamification strategies to engage their sales teams:

1. Don't make your top salespeople play.

Here's the truth about great salespeople: They want to do their job. They want to do it well and not have their commissions cut or capped. They don't want to spend time doing anything other than selling and winning.

As a sales manager, all you should be doing for these rainmakers is making it easier for them to do their job and empathizing with their gripes — and these people typically have a ton. Asking them to get involved in a game to help others get better at their jobs will infuriate the top of the top if it has much of a time commitment. It's just not something they'll want to be involved in.

2. Uncap the commission for your best salespeople.

Studies have shown that the optimal compensation structure for sales teams is one in which sales commissions are uncapped. In fact, 79 percent of companies with no commission cap meet or exceed their quotas. If you know anything about high-performing salespeople, that result should come as no surprise.

If you insist on involving everyone in your gamification initiative, this commission idea can act as the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down. If the prize is uncapped in your game, it stands to reason that all salespeople, including top salespeople, will work harder.

3. Be fair and have multiple winners.

For sales teams as a whole, competitions can be a home run. In addition to sharing best practices, they engage salespeople who are motivated by credit and winning, which is not insignificant. But most importantly, it will motivate non-stars to perform better. Research shows that contests with more than one winner go further to boost employee morale and performance than competitions structured around one prize.

And it makes sense — most contests are won by the best of the best, so others feel unmotivated. Gamification that attempts to level the playing field can help include everyone on your team, as long as you've taken care to make it worthwhile for your top performers, too.

Microsoft and other teams aren't wrong to adopt gamification. When done correctly (i.e., in a way that won't anger your top rainmakers), it can be a great way to increase sales. Just make sure you've taken the time to design a method that will work for all of your salespeople.

Do you have any other tips for incorporating gamification into sales? I'd love to read them in the comments!


Jeff Winters is founder and CEO of Sapper Consulting, which replaces cold calling for its clients. It’s cooler than it sounds.