Meta-games: My experience in creating contests for sales managers
I work in the field where the IT department plays a significant role, but still only serves the core business. In my position, I provoke all sorts of innovations and have my nose in a wide variety of business processes. In this article I will share my experience in creating contests for sales managers.
In order to immediately demonstrate my attitude to the subject, I put the concept of “meta-game” in the title. In today's world of computer application "meta-game" means, as the mechanics, aimed primarily at the developer's goals, not to entertain the player ( the source ).
Transferring this idea to the work of the sales department, we can formulate the following statement:
Competition for sales staff is designed to achieve specific results that are not typical in the framework of the usual salary and premium motivation.
A typical goal of a competition may be to increase the sales of a specific product or brand by solely increasing the concentration of attention on a given object and the interest of the selling employees.
The most common types of additional motivation in this case may be:
- A small financial incentive for each unit of goods sold (which, in fact, is not a competition, and is only a type of bonus)
- A small financial incentive for each product, but after overcoming a certain threshold value.
- A small financial incentive for every 3, 5, 10, etc. units of goods. This option is much preferable to the first, because encourages the desire of the sales manager not only to earn more, but also to “round off” their current performance in a big way. For example, I have 8 units sold, and I will receive a reward for every 5, I need to finish up to 10.
- Building the results of all managers from larger to smaller and rewarding the first or first three places.
The disadvantages of the most simple designs listed above include the fact that they involve only one or two types of human motivation, and it is also very close: monetary, love for round numbers, the desire to be first.
Regularly holding contests with a similar design, you will see the same people among the active participants.
If you transfer all of the above to figurative thinking that is close to me, then I propose to present a large fabulous cauldron with a thick, sometimes bubbling mass. The longer the boiler is, the more heavy particles settle to the bottom. You really want everything to boil evenly, but the only tool for mixing with you is a tablespoon with which you barely reach 10 cm. How to get to the very bottom?
If you re-read the shortcomings of simple designs, we can assume that the answer lies in the combination of the maximum number of “motivations”.
Let us examine some real examples.
In the life insurance sales agency, where there is a constant influx of newbies, all managers were divided into three leagues:
Juniors are beginners with work experience of up to 2 months. The first month is a
training one; according to the results of the second month, the agent goes to the Reliable league or the Zombie league.
Reliable - these are agents with work experience of 2 months and sales of two or more
cumulative (most valuable) programs on a monthly basis.
Zombies are agents with work experience of 2 months and sales of less than two
accumulative programs every month.
The agent's league for the current month is determined by the previous one. For example, if an agent from the League of Reliable sold only one savings agreement in March, he is sent to the Zombie League in April.
Scoring is similar to the Olympic medal standings. Accumulation programs (gold), accident protection programs (silver or bronze), and possibly some special programs (also silver or bronze) are taken into account. Above is always the one who has more gold medals, regardless of the presence of silver and bronze. Silver or bronze affect the occupied places with equal results for gold.
Photos of the competition table, unfortunately, not preserved.
What is the value of this system as a meta game?
Selling employees get a clear idea of the priorities in their work: they are records, and a good result should be shown regularly.
In many companies, a sharply negative view of demotivation for the result. However, in contests even symbolic de-motivation can be effective. In practice, the fear of being in the company of Zombies can be more frightening than a temporary loss of money, and a prolonged stay in the lower league helps managers decide for themselves whether to break into Reliable or leave the agency.
In another area, where the influx of newbies is much weaker, and the managerial staff is very stable, the system has undergone minor changes.
All managers (16 people) at the end of the “zero” month were divided into two leagues equal in number: Champions and Outsiders (the names of the leagues were proposed by the head of the sales department).
Without any competition, within the framework of bonus-incentive motivation, each sales manager had six different KPIs every month. For their performance, depending on the final percentage, for each KPI, a certain amount was added to the bonus part of the salary. Competition with two leagues was supposed to stimulate KPI over-fulfillment.
Ranking in the leagues was based on the average percentage of completion. The first three places of the Champions League received financial rewards (the tangible prize fund was divided as follows: 50% - first place, 30% - second, 20% - third). The two winners of the Outsiders League did not receive rewards, but the next month they changed places with two managers who took the last and the last but one place in the Champions League.
This design created four points of struggle:
- For a prize, i.e. for financial reward
- For not being the last in the big leagues, in other words, for the “right to stay” (Managers appreciated it as an opportunity to qualify for a cash prize next month)
- For the top two places in the outsider league
- For not being the worst of the worst
Daily changing results were available online.
Despite the fact that this program was better than nothing, it had its drawbacks.
- Managers could overlap the unloved KPIs at the expense of those that were given easily (after all, it went by the average value).
- Already in the middle of the month, individual managers could abandon the struggle, seeing that someone was winning with a noticeable margin.
The design described above existed for two years, until a completely different system appeared in its place, named after the TV game “Weak Link” that once existed.
The main objective of this competition was to prevent low and, moreover, zero values for any of the six KPIs.
All managers were combined in threes. And only one troika received a prize fund, which was equally divided between its participants.
The design of the competition was rather difficult for the first perception, but after the emergence of understanding, it caused the desired excitement.
The key factor was that for ranking the triples the smallest indicator of the performance of any KPI of any member of the troika was used. For the sake of simplicity, let's imagine that KPIs are not six, but three. Troika managers consists of Vasya, Petit and Vanya. Vasya completed his three KPIs at 100%, 150% and 80%, respectively. Petya - by 120%, 200% and 60%. Vanya - by 80%, 100% and 70%. The smallest result in the group is the value that Petit obtained in the third KPI - 60%. That it is used when ranking all triples. Thus, the competition stimulated managers to constantly align results in their group. Additional points of psychological pressure appeared: intragroup encouragement on the one hand, and fear to let down “our own” - on the other.
To avoid victories with a small margin like 102% versus 100%, every 25% of accomplishments were transferred to 1 point and the whole test was scored. If we translate the example of Vasya, Petya and Vanya into points, it turns out that Vasya's result is 4, 6 and 3 points, respectively. Petit - 4, 8 and 2 points. Vani - 3, 4 and 2 points. Thus, it turns out to be insufficient for Petya to raise his 60% to the minimum level of Vasya - 80%, and Van will have to do the same with his 70%.
Having transferred the struggle to the sphere of small and feasible values, we also eliminated the problem of abandoning the struggle in the early determination of the leader. If in the leading trio the minimum value is 3, and in yours - 1, nothing is lost yet.
In the case of the same minimum values in different triples, the winner was determined by the minimum amount of points for the troika participant. The sum of points for Vasi is 13, Petit is 14, Vani is 9. It is the result of 9 points that will be considered if the minimum value by groups coincides. This should once again stimulate Vanya to catch up with the results of the partners, and Vasya and Petya are good at “encouraging” the laggard.
In my opinion, team competitions with the feasible contribution of each participant are noticeably superior in efficiency and accuracy of settings to those that are focused on the records of individual champions.
Imagine that you want to encourage retail stores to show sales of a particular product at a level previously unattainable for them. For example, a store on Lenin Street ships 8 units of commodity A per month, and we would like this value to be 15, besides it does not look transcendental. Relatively low sales of product A may be due to its comparatively high cost of living, difficulty in understanding by managers or having a difficultly formulated need for the customer’s eyes. A simple, but far from always effective solution will be to announce a competition like this: “sell 15 units of goods A with the whole store and get a prize”. Why is this design ineffective? Most likely, the store already has a manager, who has learned to overcome objections on the high cost, he figured out the product and can explain its value to the buyer. If you imagine that there are 4 managers in the store, then the result of 8 units is likely to be distributed as follows: 5 units - a manager who understood everything, 2 - a successful manager, 1 - a manager with a random sale, 0 - a manager who, at best, makes his turns on something else. What happens if you ask these four to constantly sell 15? The record holder will not be able to constantly keep the maximum values, and managers with small indicators will rely on each other. A more effective design may be a competition in which the prize will go to the store, provided that each manager makes 4 sales. makes its momentum on something else. What happens if you ask these four to constantly sell 15? The record holder will not be able to constantly keep the maximum values, and managers with small indicators will rely on each other. A more effective design may be a competition in which the prize will go to the store, provided that each manager makes 4 sales. makes its momentum on something else. What happens if you ask these four to constantly sell 15? The record holder will not be able to constantly keep the maximum values, and managers with small indicators will rely on each other. A more effective design may be a competition in which the prize will go to the store, provided that each manager makes 4 sales.
Interestingly, contests with relatively difficult conditions work the better, the longer they remain relevant. In the first month, only the most proactive teams claim victory, but after 4-5 cycles, everyone is drawn in.
I want to complete this article with a contest that for 6 months raised sales of a particular brand in a small retail network in monetary terms six times.
With this brand, everything was as it was most often when the “good thing” is not for sale: expensive, difficult, it is not clear why. By the beginning of the contest, the product had been online for 1.5 years (quite a few) and its showcase representation did not change at all. For the sake of fairness, it should be noted that the competition was accompanied by the impact of targeted product training (although in one form or another there was training before).
Each store was a team. For the visualization of the team, a photograph of the store manager was used. Winners received 100% of the prize pool. In the offset were not sums of money and not the number of units of goods, and the number of checks with this product. By this condition, we created competition in the zone of small values and prevented the rejection of the struggle as a result of the early determination of the leader. Anyone could catch up with anyone.
After a few draws, a new condition was added to prevent wins with minimum values due to the lack of competition. Once every six days one level was “flooded”, and “drowned” were turned off from the fight. In the visualization this was accompanied by turning the photo and “knocking the ground out from under the feet”. There was a safe level of values at which flooding did not threaten.
Of course, the new rule was contrary to the idea that everyone could catch up with everyone. “Sunk” had to wait for the next draw. It was a risk. However, there was no reason to believe that the product being promoted was in great demand at the end of the month. Thus, those who wanted to claim something were considered able to make their sales regular. This bid was played and the longer the competition lasted, the better results we received. Let me remind you that the indicators of the sixth month of the competition were six times higher than those of zero. No similar product in the network during this period showed such results.
As a conclusion, I would like to note that each competition should be created for a specific situation and goal, use as many motivating factors as possible and spend as little corporate money as possible.