Is There a Difference Between Gamification and Games? The Sales Angle

Adam Steele

Jun 7, 2023

Games and gamification, two concepts seemingly intertwined yet distinctly separate, hold immense transformative power in sales. They can change how sales teams operate, fostering competitiveness, collaboration, and skill enhancement. However, these concepts' efficacy relies on a nuanced understanding of their unique attributes and how they can be tailored to the sales environment. Imagine a basketball coach not knowing when to call for a scrimmage and when to focus on free-throw drills; the results could be suboptimal. Similarly, understanding when to use a game and when to apply gamification in sales can be the key to unlocking peak performance.

Now, let's introduce a player that isn't often recognized but influences the game from behind the scenes - behavioral psychology. Just as it subtly shapes the decisions and actions of our basketball players on the court, it similarly guides the behaviors and choices of salespeople. Whether it's the power of positive reinforcement or the impact of social proof, behavioral psychology is the invisible thread that connects games, gamification, and their influence on sales. But how, you may ask? Join us as we take a deep dive into these concepts and unravel the captivating interplay of gamification, games, and sales.

Dissecting Games and Gamification - An Unveiling of Terms

Picture a game of soccer. The thrill of the chase, the precision in each pass, the strategy behind each play - the anticipation of a goal. There's an electric pulse of excitement that only a live game can generate. It has its rules, its goals, and it is voluntarily participated in for the joy of play and the thrill of competition. This is the essence of what games are all about, whether we're talking about soccer or a high-stakes sales pitch.

Understanding Games

By nature, games are systems defined by rules, where players interact to achieve a specific outcome or goal. The players have freedom within the bounds of the game to strategize and maneuver, and their involvement is usually voluntary. For example, a soccer match is a game where players compete to score more goals than the opposition. There are rules, such as no handballs or offside players, and there's the ultimate goal - to win. However, despite the competition, it's fundamentally about the thrill of participation.

Now, imagine a sales scenario as a game. The salesperson and the client are the players, the negotiation is the playing field, and closing the deal is the goal. Each player has a strategy and maneuvers within the rules of the business context. Just as a soccer player might attempt a daring overhead kick to score, a salesperson might present a compelling pitch to seal the deal.

Deciphering Gamification

Moving from the field to the training ground, we begin to explore the realm of gamification. Gamification isn't a game in itself but rather the application of game-like elements in non-game contexts. If we consider a soccer training session, drills like penalty shootouts aren't games in themselves. They borrow elements from the game (like scoring a goal) but place them in a structured, repetitive context to enhance specific skills.

In sales, gamification might take the form of a leaderboard that tracks the number of deals closed. It's not a game - there's no defined endpoint, and participation isn't purely for fun or competition's sake. Rather, it's a technique that borrows the competitive element from games and applies it to the sales context. The aim is to encourage behaviors that lead to more sales - much like how penalty shootouts aim to improve goal-scoring ability.

Connecting Games and Gamification to Sales

Understanding the differences and similarities between games and gamification can shape a new way of thinking about sales. A sales 'game' might involve a friendly competition among salespeople, where the 'player' who closes the most deals in a week wins. It's a bounded event with a clear goal and voluntary participation. On the other hand, sales 'gamification' might involve ongoing strategies, like a points system for meeting client engagement targets. Here, game-like elements are used to incentivize certain behaviors without the structure of a defined game.

Through this lens, the sales process becomes not just a business activity, but a dynamic interplay of strategy, competition, and skill - all geared towards achieving the 'goal'. To truly harness the power of games and gamification in sales, however, we need to delve a layer deeper and understand the underlying mechanics that drive their success. This brings us to the fascinating intersection of games, gamification, and behavioral psychology.

How Behavioral Psychology Bridges Gamification and Sales

The Principles of Behavioral Psychology and Sales

Behavioral psychology centers around how our actions are influenced by our environment. Key principles like reinforcement, punishment, and conditioning are pivotal in shaping behavior. For example, a salesperson might be motivated to meet their targets if there is a bonus (reinforcement) at the end. On the contrary, the threat of demotion (punishment) might deter them from underperformance. Here, it becomes apparent how closely behavioral psychology is intertwined with the art of sales.

Applying Behavioral Psychology to Gamification

Now, let's marry the power of gamification and the influence of behavioral psychology. Gamification, by borrowing elements from games, stimulates the same joy, curiosity, and competition we experience during play. When combined with behavioral psychology, gamification can effectively motivate specific behaviors. Just as game designers use rewards (like power-ups or new levels) to motivate players to keep playing, gamification can use similar rewards to promote desired behaviors in a non-game context like sales.

The Influence of Sports and Behavioral Psychology

Consider an unexpected analogy from gymnastics, a sport where perfecting form, technique, and sequence is paramount. A gymnastics coach doesn't merely punish a gymnast for a missed move; they use positive reinforcement to encourage improvement. When a gymnast nails a difficult routine, the coach's praise serves as a powerful motivator. They're more likely to repeat the behavior (the flawless routine), driven by the reward (praise).

Translating the Analogy to Sales

Now, transpose this analogy to a sales environment. Sales managers can use similar positive reinforcement strategies to promote effective sales behaviors. Suppose a salesperson successfully negotiates a challenging deal. The sales manager's recognition can be a powerful motivator for the salesperson to repeat the behavior. And here's where gamification comes into play. If the recognition is publicly acknowledged, say, by awarding a 'Top Negotiator' badge on an internal leaderboard, it's likely to inspire not just the recipient, but the entire team to strive for similar success.

This application of gamification, founded on the principles of behavioral psychology, effectively incentivizes desired behaviors in sales. It's akin to a gymnastics coach using praise to inspire a gymnast to repeat a well-executed routine, encouraging others to strive for the same level of performance. The complexity of this strategy lies not just in its implementation but also in understanding its underlying mechanics.

But how does this work? What makes gamification a powerful tool to enhance sales performance? Let's dig deeper into the mechanics of gamification and see how it can give your sales team a competitive edge.

The Mechanics of Gamification in Boosting Sales Performance

Leaderboards, Badges, and Challenges: The Building Blocks of Gamification

Take a moment to imagine a sales department where the ordinary, everyday activities are augmented with a dash of playfulness and competition. This is achieved by integrating specific gamification techniques, such as leaderboards, badges, and challenges. Each of these elements acts as a driver to encourage the desired behaviors within the team. Leaderboards showcase the top performers, badges recognize specific accomplishments, and challenges encourage salespeople to stretch their capabilities. They introduce a sense of achievement and a healthy competition into the mix.

Scoring System and Championships: The Sports Analogy

Let's revisit our sports analogies to shed light on how these gamification elements create competition and achievement. Think of leaderboards as the scoring system in a basketball game. The more baskets a player makes, the higher their personal and team score. This scoreboard incites a drive in every player to contribute more to the game to improve the team's standing. Similarly, leaderboards in sales environments instigate a sense of achievement and competition among the salespeople, motivating them to perform better.

Badges, on the other hand, are reminiscent of the medals awarded in sports championships. They serve as a testament to an athlete's exceptional skill or achievement, be it for the fastest sprint or highest jump. In sales, badges are given for specific accomplishments, like closing a significant deal or consistently meeting targets, providing a sense of recognition and achievement to the recipients.

Implementation in a Sales Environment

So, how can we practically implement these elements in a sales context? Let's imagine a software company looking to enhance the performance of its sales team. It decides to employ gamification. They introduce a leaderboard displaying the top salespeople based on the number of software licenses sold. Badges are awarded for milestones such as 'Biggest Deal of the Quarter' or 'Fastest to Reach Sales Target'. Challenges could be created like 'Close a Deal Within 48 Hours', creating a sense of urgency and encouraging swift action.

Through these techniques, the company creates a gamified environment that spurs its sales team into action, motivating them to reach and surpass their targets. The key to successful implementation lies in ensuring that the competition remains healthy, promoting growth and improvement rather than causing stress or discord within the team.

The realm of gamification offers a treasure trove of tools and techniques, waiting to be harnessed for enhancing sales performance. These mechanics, derived from our understanding of games and integrated with principles of behavioral psychology, can infuse a new vitality into sales strategies. But to leverage their potential fully, we must dive deeper into our original question: "Is There a Difference Between Gamification and Games?" Understanding this distinction and the unique impact they can each have on a sales team is crucial. Let's recapitulate and delve into these impacts in the next segment.

"Is There a Difference Between Gamification and Games?" - The Sales Impact

Revisiting the Distinction

As we venture further into our discussion, let's revisit the fundamental difference between games and gamification. Games, as we've identified, are structured forms of play that have rules, goals, and voluntary participation. On the other hand, gamification borrows these elements and applies them in non-game contexts, like sales, to motivate desired behaviors and enhance performance. Simply put, while games are a full-fledged entity with their own set objectives, gamification uses components of games to make a non-game task more engaging and enjoyable.

Impacts on a Sales Team

Understanding this distinction allows us to comprehend the unique impacts that games and gamification can have on a sales team. While gamification encourages competition, sparks motivation, and enhances performance through leaderboards, badges, and challenges, games have a unique way of building teamwork and honing strategy. This contrast can be likened to the difference between drills and scrimmages in sports.

A Sports Analogy: Drills vs. Scrimmages

Imagine a soccer team. During practice, they often engage in drills, which are designed to refine specific skills, such as passing, dribbling, or shooting. Drills, in this case, can be likened to gamification – they incorporate elements of the game, focusing on improving particular skills or behaviors.

Contrastingly, scrimmages simulate real games, allowing players to integrate their individual skills within the context of a team. Strategy and teamwork come into play, contributing to a collective goal. Like games in a sales context, scrimmages can foster a sense of camaraderie, a shared strategy, and a unified approach towards a common objective.

Understanding Their Unique Attributes

So, how does this analogy apply to sales? Gamification and games can be beneficial for sales in different ways. Gamification techniques, like leaderboards and challenges, boost individual performance by fostering a competitive spirit and recognizing achievements. Games, on the other hand, could involve activities that require teamwork and strategic thinking, such as collaborating on a group project to pitch a hypothetical product.

Just as a soccer team balances drills and scrimmages to develop both individual skills and team strategy, sales managers can leverage the unique attributes of both gamification and games to foster an engaging and high-performing sales environment.

However, it's essential to understand that the key to unlocking their full potential lies not in their isolated application, but in their thoughtful combination.

Final Thoughts

Understanding the difference between gamification and games is not just about grasping theoretical concepts; it's a strategic move. It allows for the effective application of both gamification techniques and games in a sales environment, harnessing the principles of behavioral psychology, and drawing parallels with sports. As we have seen, gamification and games each hold unique value. They complement each other, bolstering motivation, fostering competition, enhancing individual performance, and building teamwork and strategy.

There lies an untapped potential in the intersection of these concepts. Hence, I would like to leave you with an encouragement to experiment and explore these concepts further. The more we learn, the better we can adapt these concepts to suit our unique sales environment. A thoughtful blend of gamification and games can pave the way for innovative sales strategies and a high-performing sales team. As sales managers, we have the exciting opportunity to create an environment where our team can not only excel in their performance but also find the process enriching and enjoyable.

In the wise words of the lesser-known but highly influential football coach, Bum Phillips: "Winning is only half of it. Having fun is the other half." The magic of gamification and games in sales is that they let us achieve both - winning through enhanced sales performance, and having fun in the process.

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