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Selling Games & Contests

Updated on March 31, 2012

Yesterday a new book arrived at home by famed Sales author Harry J. Friedman. ‘The Retailers Complete Book of Selling Games and Contests’ is the latest book from Friedman giving retailers and sales leaders access to 100 selling games that have been tried and tested.

In my experience selling games do work to help drive behavioural change and to introduce new products or services. In recent years I’ve introduced incentives to drive security leads from my retails teams so that it is now a set KPI for every individual in the network as well as having a bounty on mobility scooters as we introduced this product into our business.

Friedman in this book gives some background into why you would run selling games and contests as well as 100 of the best campaigns he has come across in his stellar career.

Why Have Games?

I have an opinion that because I pay people to sell for a living that I expect that for the money that I pay them that they will perform day in, day out. During my tenure I’ve also introduced a cash sales incentive program where staff get paid over and above their salary for their sales performance. On top of this we have annual sales awards and each Manager has a discretionary fund to pay out for store level incentives or ad hoc performance.

But from time to time, sales can be boring or demotivating if a sales campaign is not working. This is when games become important. Games can be set up to:

  • Motivate staff towards attaining stretch targets
  • Supporting the introduction of a new product or service
  • Teach staff new behaviours such as adding on, closing or even the approach

The key here is that having the games is to improve sell behaviours or sales statistics, not just to make the shop more fun or to ‘reward’ staff in hard times.

The book!
The book!

Elements of a Game

I always believe that games that have a short duration eg under 1 month are more effective than longer campaigns. Depending on your business 1-3 day campaigns may be better than even week long campaigns. For my business monthly campaigns are more relevant due to the way we report.

Friedman, in his book, gives us the 10 commandments of sales games:

1. The game will be written – all of the rules, the what if’s, etc will be written down before the game commenced. Areas to consider include how will ties be handled, how will the game be tracked, what about returns or credits and could the salespeople tamper with the result.

2. The game shall have a goal – a realistic and attainable goal that reward a specific sales stat or behaviour needs to be the focus

3. The game shall have a specific timeframe – as mentioned shorter contests are usually more effective in reaching goals or changing behaviour than longer campaigns

4. The game shall have rules – you need to publish all of the rules so that everyone understand what they are trying to achieve

5. The game shall be tracked – every time someone makes a sale they need to do something (colour in a square, move a pin, etc) and every hour/day the manager will send out an update so that everyone remains focussed on the outcome

6. The game shall have props – depending on what the game is a prop is needed. If the game’s theme is football you will pass the footy to the person who gets the next sale. In the back office create a ‘field’ or have a special day where everyone wears their favourite team’s jersey

7. The game shall have appropriate rewards – cash can be king, but other rewards such as time off, gift vouchers, sports tickets, merchandise can be just as effective. The prizes don’t have to be huge, sometimes recognition is just as important

8. Everyone shall have an opportunity to win – everyone can be winner, especially if they exceed the expectations. In the past I always have one major winner, but those who contribute also receive a reward. Recently I ran an incentive at a Baby Expo. The goal was to exceed $8,000 and there were two parts to the reward – 50% based on individual goal & 50% on team achievement. We got the team target, but not every salesperson got the individual target, but they still got the 50% reward.

9. The game shall have leadership – the store leader needs to own and motivate staff on the game and to ensure that they assist staff through coaching to achieve during the length of the campaign and beyond

10. The game shall give a return on investment – the campaign is not about giving away the companies money to the staff, it is about lifting results both short term and in the future to drive additional performance from the team

PIRO – preparation in, results out should be the catchcry of any sales game or contest!

Selling the Game to your Staff

Once you have prepared the campaign you need to sell the game to your staff. If your team is struggling in a statistic, behaviour or a product then you can tell the staff that you have developed this game to assist them in attaining target. The other element is about getting their buy in.

Harry Friedman relates a story about an incentive game run at a retail store around a horse racing theme. When the sales manager announced the campaign at the sales meeting he appears fully dressed as a jockey complete with helmet and glasses. As he entered the room the bugle played to announce his arrival! This colour added to the excitement about the campaign and helped to sell the concept to his people.

By setting the campaign up right at the commencement means that you can expect and set high expectations for the game you are about to commence that will lead to a solid return on investment.

Return on Investment

The last element of preparation that Friedman covers is getting management buy-in and return on investment.

If the store manager goes to management and asks for funds because the staff a demotivated or there is no fun in the store then the answer is going to be no. However if the preparation shows that there is a return on investment then the answer will most likely be yes.

For example if you have a low add on score in your shop and you want to run a game that will help lift this by 20% and then will deliver an ongoing additional 5% increase the investment in the campaign is minor as compared to the ongoing return on investment.

In sales there is no thing as free money. Everything that you spend must help to lift the ROI of the business. Recently I had a store manager who wanted to put a carport on her site to protect her car when she was at work. I asked how was this going to benefit customers and increase her sales. The answer was that there was no benefit to anyone other than herself and that it would decrease her profitability. The carport didn’t go up!

The Friedman books
The Friedman books

Fun and Games!

The final element is then choosing the game. In the book there are over 100 different retail games that have been tried and tested by Harry and are known to work. Once one of these have been chosen you need to think through:

  • Do you need an individual game where you reward individuals for their performance
  • Do you need a team competition where you create friendly rivalry between shops or the contact centre to drive performance
  • Is the campaign really about developing people skills in the Friedman sales system or other core values of the business

The key to this is to do the right thing for the customer and the future of the company. Then you can let the games begin and remember to have’s Showtime!!

The Retailers Completed Book of Selling Games and Contests by Harry J. Friedman is available from Amazon or direct from the Friedman Group, RRP USD$24.95.


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