What Are the 7 Game Design Rules You Can't Ignore in Becoming a Sales Contest Pro?

Adam Steele

Sep 8, 2023

Over the past few years, we've witnessed a surge in the application of game design across various industries. Businesses from healthcare to finance have harnessed its power to drive engagement, boost motivation, and produce desired outcomes.

Now, imagine bringing that level of energy and drive to the sales floor. Enter the transformative nature of game design rules. By infusing sales strategies with these rules, we can unlock unparalleled performance, inspiring teams to not only meet but often surpass their targets. But how exactly do these game design rules work in sales? It's not magic, but science—particularly, the science of behavioral psychology. This field provides insights into human behaviors, motivations, and triggers. By understanding what makes our sales teams tick, we can craft contests and challenges that resonate, motivate, and drive success. 

What Are the 7 Game Design Rules in Enhancing Sales Strategies?

The modern sales landscape isn't just about pitching products or services anymore. Today, it's about crafting experiences, narratives, and engaging your teams in new and compelling ways. Herein lies the power of game design rules. By understanding and implementing these rules, organizations can create sales strategies that resonate, inspire, and deliver.

The Game Design Rules Explained

So, what exactly are these rules?

Fidelity: Ensuring that any sales game or contest closely mirrors the challenges and scenarios a salesperson faces in the real world. Just like in a soccer match, where every practice session, tactic, and strategy is designed to mirror the real challenges of a game, fidelity in sales contests is about making the experience as authentic as possible.

Objectives: Clear, defined goals that participants aim for. In basketball, it's not just about scoring; it's about how you maneuver the ball, pass to your teammates, and employ strategies to get to the bucket. Similarly, in sales, objectives might include reaching a particular sales target, acquiring new clients, or exploring a new market segment.

Constraints: These are the boundaries within which the sales game is played. Think of it like the lines on a tennis court; they define the playing field, making sure all players have clear guidelines.

Success Criteria: How does one define victory in the sales contest? This criterion spells out the benchmarks or metrics that signify achievement. In a sport like swimming, it could be clocking a particular time, and in sales, it might mean achieving a certain conversion rate.

Reward: The incentives that drive participants to engage and perform. The feeling a sprinter gets when they stand on the podium, medal around their neck, is analogous to the recognition and rewards a top-performing salesperson feels when they ace a sales contest.

Play: The element of fun, engagement, and immersion. Just as a child might get engrossed in a game of hide and seek, play in sales contests is about ensuring participants are fully engaged and find the process enjoyable.

Competition: The driving force that spurs individuals or teams to outperform each other. It's the adrenaline rush a racer feels when another car is right on their tail, pushing them to speed up and take calculated risks to maintain the lead.

The Synergy of Combining the Rules

Now, while understanding each rule is crucial, the real magic lies in combining them. Think about it: a football game wouldn't be as exciting without the thrill of competition, clear objectives (scoring), and rewards (winning and the recognition that comes with it). Similarly, a sales contest becomes truly impactful when all these game design rules come together to create a holistic experience.

The combination of these rules helps to create a sales environment where team members are not just participating; they're deeply engaged, motivated, and driven to achieve their best. These contests then become more than just short-term engagements. They transform into platforms for learning, growth, and peak performance.

Just like a coach wouldn't rely on a single drill to prepare their team for a match, sales leaders should harness the collective power of all these game design rules to set the stage for unparalleled performance. In essence, it's about crafting a playbook for sales success.

With these rules in mind, let's zoom in on the first two – Fidelity and Objectives. 

Fidelity and Objectives: Taking Cues from the Precision of Golf

The Essence of Fidelity in the Sales Arena

Have you ever wondered what sets apart a trivial game from a professional sport? It's the authenticity and real-world relevance, or as we'd call it in game design, 'fidelity'. Much like a golfer who practices on the range or practice courses that mirror the challenges of a championship game, sales contests must closely replicate real-world scenarios. This means that the challenges, obstacles, and rewards in a sales game should align with the realities of the sales environment. High fidelity ensures that participants can leverage their experiences from the game in their actual sales activities.

The Power of Clear Objectives

Imagine a golfer standing at the tee, eyes focused, gauging the wind, and then swinging with a clear intention – a hole-in-one or perhaps reaching the green in 2 on a par 5. That clarity of purpose, that singular focus, is what objectives bring to the table. Without a clear objective, the golfer's swing might be aimless. In sales, objectives act as that guiding star, motivating and directing teams towards a common goal. Be it a revenue target, a customer acquisition milestone, or penetrating a new market segment; having well-defined objectives ensures that every strategy and action is purpose-driven.

Drawing Inspiration from Tiger Woods

Speaking of golf, one cannot overlook the master of the game, Tiger Woods. Throughout his illustrious career, Woods showcased an uncanny ability to set and achieve precise goals, regardless of the challenges in his path. Let's take a look at the 2005 Masters Tournament. Faced with a near-impossible chip shot on the 16th hole, Tiger could have played it safe. But, showcasing his clarity of objectives and unmatched skill, he played a shot that is still remembered as one of the greatest in golf history, eventually winning the tournament.

But what does Tiger's story teach sales teams? It's about having unwavering focus and commitment towards one's objectives. If Woods had chosen the easy way out, history might have been different. Similarly, in sales, often teams are faced with challenges that seem insurmountable. But with clear objectives, much like Tiger's focus on the green, even the most daunting of challenges can be overcome. And just as Tiger meticulously planned each shot, aligning it with his ultimate objective, sales strategies should be built around achieving the set goals.

It's not always about taking the straight path. Sometimes, it's about understanding the nuances, analyzing the situation, and then executing with precision. Just as golfers learn from every swing, every putt, and every hole, sales professionals should view each challenge, each interaction, and each setback as a learning opportunity, always keeping their eyes on the objective.

Now, while objectives give direction, constraints define the playground and success criteria set the benchmarks for achievement. To better understand these facets, let's transition to the marathon track, where endurance athletes push boundaries while adhering to set constraints and aiming for clear success criteria.

Constraints and Success Criteria: Learning from the Rigors of Marathon Running

Understanding the Nature of Constraints

In any game or professional sport, constraints are the set boundaries that challenge participants and carve the pathway to success. They're the rules of the game, the very parameters that define the scope and push players to innovate within set limits. Consider them the racetrack for marathon runners. Too wide, and the challenge diminishes; too narrow, and it becomes unfeasible. Just right, and it becomes a test of skill, strategy, and endurance.

Marathon Running: A Test of Physical Limits and Endurance

Marathon running is not just about speed; it's a culmination of strategy, physical fitness, mental strength, and the will to endure. Runners face numerous physical constraints - the terrain, their stamina, weather conditions, and of course, the distance itself. Yet, what drives them is the success criteria, which in its simplest form is finishing the race. But the best don't just aim to finish; they target beating personal records, outpacing competitors, or even making history.

Eliud Kipchoge: Defining New Boundaries

One of the monumental moments in sports history was when Eliud Kipchoge, the Kenyan marathon maestro, shattered a boundary many deemed impenetrable. He completed a marathon in under 2 hours, clocking in at a breathtaking 1:59:40. But how did he achieve this feat? Kipchoge didn't just wake up one day and decide to run; it was years of meticulous planning, rigorous training, and a firm belief in his objective.

He faced constraints, both physical and mental. Yet, by setting a clear success criterion – breaking the 2-hour mark – he pushed himself beyond what many thought was humanly possible. His story stands testament to how clear, ambitious criteria can propel individuals to transcend their limits.

Translating this to sales, teams often face constraints in the form of market conditions, competition, and internal limitations. However, when equipped with clear success criteria, much like Kipchoge's 2-hour target, these teams can channel their efforts efficiently, innovate within constraints, and achieve seemingly impossible goals. The critical takeaway? Don't just set targets. Aim for milestones that challenge the status quo, and then equip and motivate your team to chase them down.

Reward, Play, and Competition: The Thrill of Soccer Championships

The Electrifying Power of Rewards

Let's consider this for a moment: What motivates a salesperson to push their limits, pull a late-nighter, or chase a challenging lead? The answer often lies in the anticipation of a reward. Just as a soccer player's eyes shine at the prospect of lifting a coveted trophy, sales teams are invigorated by the promise of bonuses, promotions, or even simple recognition.

In sales contests, rewards aren't just transactional elements; they are the lifeblood that fuels ambition and determination. Offering a tangible or intangible prize creates a focus for participants, serving as a beacon to guide their actions and strategies.

Harnessing the Spirit of Play

Why do children immerse themselves in games, oblivious to the world around them? It's the sheer joy of 'play'—an activity undertaken for enjoyment and recreation. Transferring this concept to the adult world, especially the sales arena, we find that 'play' can be an extraordinary motivator. When sales contests are designed to be engaging, playful, and enjoyable, participants are more likely to invest time, energy, and strategy into them. It's not just about the endpoint but the journey and experiences along the way.

UEFA Champions League: A Masterclass in Competition and Rewards

Every year, top European football clubs vie for one of the most prestigious titles in the sport—the UEFA Champions League trophy. These teams, replete with world-class talent, don't just play for the thrill; they compete for glory, pride, and a chance to etch their names in history. And any team in Europe has the opportunity to work their way up through many tiers of professional leagues to eventually reach this ultimate goal.

While the teams might be fiercely competitive, it's the allure of the reward—the gleaming silver trophy—that elevates their performance. This drive is palpable in tightly contested matches where every pass, tackle, and shot counts. Every move is strategic, every player's role is crucial, and the ultimate aim is victory.

In a similar vein, when sales teams are presented with a clear, attractive reward and pitted against each other in friendly competition, they tend to outdo themselves. The synergy of competition and reward can create a charged environment where meeting targets becomes more than just a task; it becomes a mission.

Celebrations: Not Just for Victories on the Field

When a soccer team wins a match, the stadium resonates with cheers, players embrace, and fans celebrate. These moments of jubilation aren't just about the game—they're about acknowledging hard work, strategy, and dedication.

In sales, it's equally vital to celebrate achievements, big or small. Recognizing a team member's exceptional performance or lauding a team's collective effort can boost morale and motivation. Such acknowledgments remind participants of their value, fostering a sense of belonging and encouraging them to aim higher in subsequent endeavors.

As we've seen, elements from sports—rewards, the essence of play, and competition—can significantly enhance the design and outcome of sales contests. Drawing inspiration from them, how then can we implement these game design rules to drive optimal sales results? With the right approach, it's not only possible but can be transformative for an organization's sales performance.

Final Thoughts

The very essence of sales contests, much like in sports, revolves around the application of game design rules. In the vast landscape of sales, these rules aren't merely guidelines—they're pivotal strategies that mold the framework of contests. By understanding the significance of each rule, sales leaders can craft environments where teams are not just motivated by rewards but are also genuinely engaged in the process. 

By ensuring that sales contests are designed with the participant's experience in mind, sales leaders can foster a culture of continuous improvement and excellence. The power of motivation and engagement can't be understated; when teams are driven, they not only meet targets but often surpass them, elevating the overall sales performance to unprecedented heights.

As the renowned basketball coach Rick Pitino once said, "Excellence is the unlimited ability to improve the quality of what you have to offer."

Outfield is pioneering sales gamification software to power CRM or any tech stack. Learn how our modern approach boosts output up to 3x.


Recent Posts