When I started in B2B sales after graduating college, I sold payroll services. I later migrated to selling software/hardware turnkey IT solutions to the SMB sector. In 1978 I got my first sales manager job and worked my way up from there. Back then, in the 1970’s and 1980’s, B2B sales management operated on a pretty simple model. The core assumption: reps need two kinds of motivation, money (commissions and bonuses) and recognition (trips and awards.) Managers spent a few days a year planning out an annual “Presidents Club” trip for quota busters, and designing some plaques and certificates. That was it. Life was simple.
Starting in the late 1990’s and gaining momentum rolling into the 21st century, a new model of B2B sales management began to evolve. This new approach said, in essence, that commissions, annual trips and plaques aren’t enough to motivate 21st century sales professionals. They need to be continuously stimulated with games, competitions and contests year ‘round. The world is a highly competitive place, and management must adapt. Companies started copying the Dotcom formula: Foosball tables, air hockey, and beer and pizza celebrations at the office on Fridays.
Managers started spending a lot more time creating, designing and tracking contest results. One big annual trip becomes 3 or 4 (long weekend) mini trips. Quarterly and monthly contests are supplemented by weekly and daily competitions. Prizes may be cash, but often are merchandise, catalog gift certificates, restaurant and retailer gift cards, etc. Sales management is also bringing Gamification to sales conferences and training sessions, making every part of a salesperson’s professional life organized around competition: peer vs. peer, team vs. team, region vs. region, etc. Sales conferences are no longer boondoggle R&R trips, but rather highly structured, informational, training and role play sessions that feed reps’ competitive spirit. Welcome to Sales Boot Camp!
The underlying assumption to all this is that money and recognition is not enough. That the sales floor must constantly maintain a sense of urgency, that today’s sale is more valuable than tomorrow’s, because you got numbers on the board 24 hours sooner. Some companies have even created apps and Salesforce.com plug-ins to automate the process of running and managing sales competitions, as covered in this recent article in Inc. Magazine: http://www.inc.com/bob-marsh/salespeople-thrive-off-competition-so-up-their-game.html
All of this is part of the cultural shift in professional B2B sales that started during the Dotcom boom of the late 1990’s. This gamified approach to B2B sales management has now spread to other vertical markets, particularly those centered on providing turnkey solutions to the SMB market in crowded, highly competitive industries.
Sales management must continue to change and adapt with the times…a necessity to keep your business competitive.