There is a new way for vendors to encourage channel partner engagement with their products, and it’s called gamification. When I first heard this term I was like, game-if-a-what? Now it’s a term that has been accepted as sales enablement lingo, but usage (or implementation) seems to be a mythical as the jackalope.
So what exactly is gamification? It’s a modern approach to training, both for sales and technical audiences, where elements of game mechanics are used to develop skills with the use of competition and incentives, with the ultimate goal of increased product retention and thus increased sales. Many IT vendors are starting to explore such methods for two reasons. The first reason is to get ahead of their competition. With partners having multitudes of vendors on their offering card, the vendor needs to find a way to make its training and enablement offering unique, and dare I say fun. The second reason is a topic that I repeatedly hear in the market, and that is: How do I reach the new wave of sales and technical reps, within partner organizations, that are part of the GenX and Millennial generation? These two generations come with a new way of learning. The millennials, especially, is a generation whose way processing data was driven by technology in schools and around sophisticated gaming consoles at home. This generation has broken the mold on traditional training methods that include death by PowerPoint delivered by the traditional old school methods of day-long training sessions and on-demand webinars. They also have a competitive appetite that thrives on recognition—they hate to lose more than they want to win.
The big question is, why aren’t more vendors implementing gamification as part of the training and enablement strategy? Two reasons: resources and budget. Vendors have been using the same rinse and repeat approach to training and enablement for decades and that won’t change overnight. It takes a great deal of effort and a knowledgeable staff to make changes to a certification or partner program that ultimately has grown into an elaborate training framework that has to support multiple product offerings and solutions. It also isn’t a cheap “fix,” and while some vendors have homegrown gamification applications in place, working with some of the top industry gamification vendors like GamEffective, Bunchball, or LevelElevan can come with rich upfront costs, depending on the scope of the project, that weren't included in the training or programs budget cycles.
What vendors need to consider is the long-term ROI with the new wave of sales and technical folks that soon will outnumber the more “seasoned” generations. The simple fact is that gamification applications are designed to help accelerate the training and sales offerings vendors need to stay competitive in a market that embraces Pokémon as a new form of exercise.