What Are The Two Types Of Gamification? The Fundamentals Explained

Adam Steele

May 25, 2023

Have you ever wondered how sports teams stay so fiercely competitive and motivated? Much of that spirit is nurtured by the elements inherent in the sport – the rules, the scoring, the competition, the recognition. Now, imagine bringing the same invigorating energy into your sales team. That's where gamification, a powerful strategy revolutionizing today's sales environment, comes into play. Fundamentally, gamification involves the application of game mechanics in non-game contexts to stimulate engagement, competition, and achievement. It essentially distills the adrenaline rush and excitement of a sport into a sales context.

So, what are the two types of gamification? They are "structural gamification" and "content gamification," each with its unique attributes and application methods. But we'll delve into those later. For now, think of a sales team without gamification as akin to a sports team playing without a scoreboard. Where's the motivation? Where's the clarity about the goal? Just like the scoreboard in sports, gamification can serve to ignite that competitive spirit and goal-oriented mindset within your sales team. This is underpinned by several principles of behavioral psychology, especially those that revolve around motivation and reward-seeking behavior. As we proceed, we will take you on a journey to explore these psychological concepts and see how they power the magic of gamification in sales.

Diving into Structural Gamification: Understanding Its Essence

When we talk about gamification in sales, "structural gamification" is an indispensable piece of the puzzle. But what is it exactly? In a nutshell, structural gamification employs game mechanics – like points, badges, leaderboards, and levels – to an existing structure to drive participation and engagement. Now, think of how this principle can be superimposed on a sales environment. It's like infusing the sales process with an electrifying spirit of a basketball game, with every sale bringing in points, leveling up, or moving up the leaderboard.

Sales, Basketball, and the Power of Structural Gamification

Imagine a basketball game. It has its rules, scoring system, and a clear indication of who's leading – a comprehensive structure. Now consider a sales team working without these elements; it's like playing basketball without any points, fouls, or an identifiable end goal. That's a bleak scenario, right? Just as these structural elements drive a basketball game, the same elements when used in sales—think points for closed deals, badges for upsells, or a leaderboard ranking—can create a palpable sense of competition and progress. They don't change the 'content' of the sales process, but they shape the environment in which it occurs.

The Psychological Backbone of Structural Gamification

Structural gamification resonates powerfully with our psychological makeup. To understand why, let's delve a bit into behavioral psychology. The operative principle here is Skinner's theory of operant conditioning, which suggests that an individual's behavior is shaped by its consequences. Applied to sales, every successful deal (the behavior) rewarded with points or badges (the consequences) encourages repetition of that behavior. Not to forget, the dual force of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. The intrinsic joy of making a sale gets amplified with the extrinsic rewards of structural gamification, creating a potent cocktail of sustained motivation.

Structural Gamification in Action: Real-world Examples

How does this play out in real-world sales scenarios? Consider a company that uses a point system for its sales team. Every time a team member closes a deal, they earn points. These points are visible to the entire team through a leaderboard, creating an environment of healthy competition. As the points stack up, so do the tiers or levels, each accompanied by unique badges. Over time, these badges serve as symbols of experience, expertise, and success, fostering a sense of pride and achievement. This is structural gamification in action, making the process of sales more engaging and rewarding, and catalyzing team members to push their limits.

While we've taken a deep dive into structural gamification and its profound impact on sales performance, it's only one side of the gamification coin. There's another compelling aspect known as "content gamification" that seamlessly complements its structural counterpart, enhancing not only the environment in which sales happen but also the sales process itself. Shall we turn the coin over and explore?

Unveiling Content Gamification: Its Application and Impact

After diving into the energetic dynamics of structural gamification, it's time to delve into its compelling counterpart - "content gamification." In essence, content gamification transforms the process or the 'content' of the activity, enhancing engagement by making it more game-like. In a sales context, this could mean transforming sales training into a quest or turning client follow-ups into a detective mystery game. It's the creative reimagination of the sales process into an engaging game, making the journey as enjoyable as the destination.

The Sports Analogy: Understanding Content Gamification

Now, let's borrow from the sports analogy once again to bring the idea of content gamification to life. Imagine training to be a tennis player. The structural aspect would involve the tennis court, scoring system, and the rules of the game. However, the content is your actual play - the rallies, the serves, the thrill of the game. Now, what if your coach transformed your training drills into a fun, interactive game? Suddenly, the monotonous practice sessions take on an exciting spin, and you find yourself more engaged and motivated. That's content gamification in action!

Psychological Underpinnings of Content Gamification

Unsurprisingly, content gamification has robust roots in psychology. First, there's the Zeigarnik effect, which indicates our propensity to remember unfinished tasks better than completed ones. So, when a salesperson starts a gamified training module or a quest, they're more likely to stick with it to completion. Second, there's the phenomenon of cognitive flow - a state of intense focus and immersion in an activity. As sales activities transform into engaging games, salespeople can experience this 'flow,' driving productivity and satisfaction.

Content Gamification in Real-world Sales

Let's look at how this comes to life in a sales environment. Consider a company that has turned its sales training into a series of missions in a virtual reality game. Salespeople step into the role of a superhero, solving puzzles and overcoming challenges that mimic real sales scenarios. As they progress, they gain new skills and knowledge crucial for their sales role. Not only does this make the learning process more engaging, but it also leads to better retention and application of the learned skills. That's the power of content gamification.

While content and structural gamification can each create a significant impact on their own, the magic truly unfolds when they come together. Just as in a captivating game of tennis, it's the interplay of the game's structure and the player's skill that creates the real excitement. Similarly, in sales, the fusion of structural and content gamification can open doors to unimagined levels of engagement and performance. Let's delve into this synergistic relationship next.

The Interplay of Structural and Content Gamification

Understanding structural and content gamification as individual concepts is akin to understanding the notes in a piece of music separately. While each has its significance, the true magic unfurls when they are harmoniously played together. Likewise, the symphony of structural and content gamification, when played well, can amplify engagement, motivate sales teams, and significantly improve sales performance. But what does this harmonious blend look like, and what is the secret to hitting the right notes?

The Sports Parallel: A Balanced Game

Think back to our tennis game analogy. A captivating game of tennis isn't just about the rules (structural gamification) or the player's engagement with the sport (content gamification). It's a perfect blend of both. The excitement of the match lies as much in the precise serve or the nail-biting rally (content) as it does in the suspense of the scoreboard and the structure of the game (structural). Similarly, a well-gamified sales process elegantly integrates both aspects, creating an environment where salespeople are enthralled and driven to perform.

The Psychology Behind The Interplay

When we delve into the psychology that underlies this interplay, we see the importance of achieving a balance. Heider's Balance Theory, for instance, suggests that individuals strive towards a state of balance. In gamification terms, this means a harmony between the structural and content aspects of gamification. Another psychological concept to consider is cognitive load. If a game is too rule-oriented (high structural gamification), it may overwhelm and disengage the player. Conversely, if the game lacks structure (low structural, high content gamification), it may lack challenge and fail to maintain interest. The optimal engagement occurs when both the structural and content gamification are in balance, providing a game that is both challenging and fun.

Now let's consider the larger picture. Gamification doesn't operate in isolation. It influences and is influenced by various aspects of sales performance and team dynamics. Let's explore these fascinating interconnections in our next section.

The Impact of Gamification on Sales Performance and Team Dynamics

When applied skillfully, the fusion of structural and content gamification has been demonstrated to markedly improve sales performance. However, the impact extends beyond raw sales numbers. The true power of gamification can be seen in the transformative effect it has on team dynamics, motivation, and skill development.

Gamification and Sales Performance: The Empirical Evidence

Studies reveal that companies leveraging gamification can increase revenue, growth rates, and other key stats. This boost in sales performance stems from the heightened engagement and motivation engendered by an environment imbued with elements of play.

Psychological Factors at Play

Why does gamification lead to such noticeable improvements in performance? The answer lies in the realm of psychology. In a gamified environment, sales team members are motivated to participate and excel because they find the process intrinsically rewarding. This satisfies our innate need for autonomy, competence, and relatedness, according to Self-Determination Theory. Moreover, gamification fosters skill development through repeated practice and immediate feedback, a premise rooted in the idea of deliberate practice.

The Sports Team Analogy: Synergy and Performance

Imagine a sales team operating like a well-oiled sports team. Just as sports teams thrive on camaraderie, friendly competition, and shared goals, a gamified sales team can achieve similar dynamics. In such an environment, salespeople work together like players on a sports team, striving towards a common objective while also seeking individual accomplishment. The result is not just improved sales performance but also enhanced team cohesion and collaboration.

Considerations and Potential Pitfalls

However, as with any tool, gamification should be used judiciously. If not implemented thoughtfully, gamification could inadvertently foster a culture of excessive competition, which may result in stress and ethical issues. Hence, it's essential to strike a balance between competition and collaboration, much like maintaining a balanced team spirit in sports. An optimal gamified sales environment should also consider individual differences, providing varied challenges and rewards that cater to different personality types and preferences.

Final Thoughts

Just as an athlete appreciates the balance between the rules of the game (structural gamification) and the thrill of the game itself (content gamification), a sales professional must understand and embrace these two types of gamification for a robust sales strategy. The interplay between structural and content gamification is akin to a well-choreographed dance, where each type enhances and complements the other, resulting in a performance that is far greater than the sum of its parts. It's this harmonious balance that fosters engagement, boosts motivation, and fuels performance in sales teams.

The key to the success of gamification lies deep within our psyche. The psychological foundations of gamification tap into our inherent needs and desires, leading to an environment that is not only productive but also immensely satisfying. Therefore, let's not shy away from embracing gamification in our sales strategies. Let's turn our sales teams into well-trained, cohesive sports teams, thriving in an environment that's both competitive and cooperative, challenging and rewarding. And remember, as Bill Bowerman, the co-founder of Nike and a legendary track and field coach, once said, "The real purpose of running isn't to win a race. It's to test the limits of the human heart." So too, the purpose of gamification isn't just to win a sale, but to unlock the untapped potential within each sales professional.

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