In third grade, I remember winning a top prize in my non-mandatory elementary school science fair with an amazing papier-mâché Mount Vesuvius, chili lava, and hot dog people. I also remember desperately studying for spelling tests in order to have the privilege of the “teacher’s chair.” In the decades following, I saw McDonald’s successfully increase its bottom line through their Monopoly sticker game, which allows buyers to win prizes instantly, or by collecting all the stickers in a given color assortment. The frenzy was real. Nowadays, Starbucks keeps me around via their virtual cup accumulations and tiered incentives like free birthday gifts or coffee. All these events had or have one basic commonality.

What is gamification?

In business, gamification isn’t only about playing games, it’s about using psychology and technology to improve your workflows and ultimately your bottom line by using internal and external motivators to your program’s advantage. Organizations must use technology to help channel sales reps build on three inherent human desires: competence, relatedness, and autonomy, ripening them for maximum productivity. This is believed by psychologists to exist naturally in humans, creating a direct link between personality, motivation, and optimal functioning. A Talent LMS Survey found 87% of respondents felt more productive and 84% felt more engaged when using gamified technology. This was true across gender, age, industry, and roles. Additionally, research done at the University of Southern Maine also finds that “demographically, there were few direct correlations with gamification use.” So, for an individual to perform at optimal efficiency and be engaged (and therefore maximize profit for your sales channel), managers must look to satisfy the human desires for knowledge (competence), connection (relatedness), and control of their own lives (autonomy).

What psychological factors come into play with the use of gamification?

When gamifying your channel program, know that third grade me and Starbucks guzzling adult me are motivated by the same two basic types of motivation. Everyone’s motivations in the world can be generally broken down into these two–intrinsic and extrinsic. If you are reading this blog in order to study for a test on gamification, then you are extrinsically motivated. If you are reading this to learn more about psychology and motivation, you’d be intrinsically motivated. These two coexist as the vehicles we use to actively chase the natural desires mentioned above.

Intrinsic motivation is an inherent drive within to complete an action which can include our interests and values. It is intrinsic because it originates within the individual as they seek new challenges or possibilities. Simply put, this is a human’s own personal desire to perform tasks well or learn about something new. The “reward” can be self-fulfillment, expanded knowledge, or the pleasure of knowing it was a job well done or the fact they made someone else proud.

Extrinsic motivation comes from external factors such as money, leaderboards, and other tangible rewards or incentives. Therefore, in extrinsic motivation, individuals favor the outcome over the actual process. Motivating them are the typical gamification examples- the miles and levels at their favorite airline, or the employee of the month wall at work. Other examples can include rankings, lotteries, and timers. It is at this point (favoring outcome vs. process) that channel managers can use gamification to capitalize on and compliment extrinsic and intrinsic motivators for individuals in their sales channel.

Remember, your sales reps are your greatest asset. Start motivating and achieve channel success today.