It seems like forever ago when I first took on the role of SDR.
We used to have monopoly money that our sales managers gave out for various contests that we would later turn in for “cash” that was added to our commission checks.
We tried everything. Spinwheels, shooting darts at objects on our manager’s heads, puzzles on whiteboards. You name it, we tried it.
Then when I became a manager, it was my turn to come up with ways to motivate my team and make the workday more fun.
Spoiler alert—this article is much more fun if you read it first before viewing the ridiculous picture of me all the way at the bottom.
“But Tuso, SDRs are adults and games are for kids!”
I’ve literally heard this one before. Yes they are adults, but the idea that adults can’t have fun is preposterous. From most of the adults I know, having a little fun could probably help improve their days tremendously.
Games and contests may feel somewhat gimmicky. I get it. But the SDR role takes a toll on you.
While I’ve managed individuals on sales teams in a wide range of age groups, the vast majority were right out of college. Many had little-to-no experience. Most didn’t know what they wanted to do for a career, which is how they got to me.
Take that and add tons of monotony and rejection (forget about it if you don’t train and coach them). Then to make it even more fun, make their job constantly tied to a number based on many factors they don’t have a lot of control over, and tie their self-worth to that number.
Voila! This is how the SDR role looks at most companies I have seen.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
For me, one of the many tools in my arsenal to combat this dynamic was gamification. Not just games for games’ sake–actual fun at work that engaged employees and made them look forward to coming in each day.
This was one of the reasons why I have managed to get upwards of a 90% retention rate of SDRs over large spans of time (6+ months) in an industry that churns and burns this role like nobody’s this business.
The goals for each game I’ve done were all different.
Certain games helped the team have fun. Others helped them learn.
Some games let middle-of-the-pack performers have their 15 seconds of fame too.
Others rewarded behavior we were trying to produce across the floor (boost show rates, for example).
Whichever game I used, I tried not to have it so my team expected a game or even a reward. Rather, we had them in our arsenal for special occasions or random moments to make work fun and enjoy the connections we have in the place where we spend most of our time and the best games were team-oriented.
Some of the best games I got over the years was from empowering my most energetic team members to come up with ideas and letting them run with it.
I recommend using the ones below as a reference point, but also trying to come up with some on your own.
Let’s dive in…
1. Game of Phones
In working with two large sales teams at two separate companies, Game of Phones was by far my favorite and most successful game I have ever done.
We broke the sales team into groups of roughly 5-8 players per team or “houses”.
I would mix it up, taking into account skill level, seniority, title, etc. Senior AEs with brand new SDRs, quota crushers with newcomers, etc.
We used Hoopla, a sales gamification software, to create a point system that automatically tallied the points and updated in real-time on either everyone’s monitors or an overhead projector. We even had music and a Game of Phones photo for the game (google “game of phones” under images).
At one company, we created really simple rules so something like every $1 in revenue was a point if generated by the SDR and closed by the AE. You could also do opps booked, attended, activities, etc.
The game is meant to incentivize the behavior you want. The driving factor of the game though is the team’s participation and involvement.
You really have to get the managers on board and in turn have them get their teams pumped up before the game even starts and post the simple rules so everyone can see them.
2. Mario Karts
For this sales game, we taped 4 balloons to the back of everyone’s chairs and every time you booked an opp you could pop someone’s balloon (sort of like how the video game Mario Karts works).
The person with the last balloon taped to their chair wins.
Disclaimer–if your team has members that aren’t top-notch in sportsmanship this isn’t the game for you. Also doesn’t work if your team or environment is sensitive to noise, but fun to think about nonetheless.
3. “Just Because”
Whether or not we admit it, we all love a good surprise. It’s the bad ones people don’t like.
When I have the budget, I like to do surprise trips, games, and fun things with my teams. Happy hours and drinks are great, but I like keeping it more on the creative side too.
Some of the ones we’ve done here:
- kayaking trips
- white water rafting trips
- Disneyland tickets
- dinner and a movie for 2
- concert tickets
- dinner at one of the nicest restaurants in the city
- lunch with the CEO
- group tickets to a sports outing
The “just because” can be tied to metrics too. If a team works really hard to get to a goal and achieve it together, occasionally spending money shows you really value what they’re doing.
The few extra dollars spent here goes a long way in keeping the team happy and engaged.
Don’t be boring and don’t just add money to people’s commission checks. If you have a talented rep they can do that all by themselves.
4. Scavenger Hunts
This was my favorite non-metric focused game I’ve ever done.
I spent a week writing a complicated scavenger hunt when I was managing a team of SDRs in Costa Rica (we’ve also done them with huge success in the US).
On everyone’s first day of work, I called a SDR huddle first thing in the morning to intro everyone to the company and, to their surprise, they didn’t actually have to work that day.
In the huddle, I read off a pre-written script of rules and everyone just looked at me with a confused look on their face. Then I gave them each a packet of paper and they were off to hunt.
First place team won a dinner at the nicest restaurant in the city.
5. SDR Bingo
This has become more and more popular recently, but it’s definitely worth doing. I would also put behaviors we were trying to encourage into the bingo cards, but also generally have fun.
“Book a demo with x persona.”
“Book a demo using some ridiculous/funny phrase”
Still surprised at how into this game teams get.
6. Buy random gifts and/or things they wouldn’t buy for themselves and then tie to KPIs
I’ve seen several sales managers do this one and it’s a hit every time.
Wrap a bunch of presents of wildly different sizes and put them in the dead center of the sales floor. Then tie the behaviors you want to the opening of a gift and have each day’s winners open them at the end of the workday. This game is cheap and it’s so fun!
I’ve seen people do fancy socks, board games, gift cards, Apple Watches, iPads, dinnerware, luggage, bluetooth speakers, and tons more.
Any simple gift does the trick here (except money – money is probably one of the most extrinsic rewards people can have and can often produce the opposite results you’re trying to achieve).
7. Pie your manager in the face
I lost this competition (clearly). But we broke our individual sales teams into groups and the losing manager gets pied in the face by the opposing manager in front of the entire company.
At least I’m smiling while doing it 🙂
Although all of these games are fun, I generally try to focus on intrinsic motivators for each individual in my 1-on-1s and then use gamification to amplify the team’s connection to one another.
Using the carrot/stick approach has often left me and my teams frustrated. Plus there’s already a growing body of evidence that shows that using strictly extrinsic motivators can actually decrease the performance of your team.
But games that foster human connection, pride through achievement, and connection to their work have gone a lot further for me and my teams.
How do you have fun with your sales team?