, , ,

What Sales Reps Can Learn From Michael Phelps and Game Mechanics

Imagine you are Michael Phelps, one of the world’s’ greatest athletes. You have worked your entire life to win a gold medal at The Olympics. You put in endless hours training at the pool and have always pushed harder to surpass your goals. Whether those goals were to cut off 5 seconds from your 50M or to win gold at The Olympics, you are always working hard to achieve them.

        In a very atypical way, Phelps and Game Mechanics are interrelated. Phelps uses many strategies to get faster, stronger and better. There are many similarities between his training tactics and the tactics used in games that lead to self-improvement. Game Mechanics, which is the reason why games are not only addicting but effective at helping people reach goals, are one of the main growth strategies that have helped Michael Phelps win so many gold medals.

In the corporate world, Game Mechanics has the power to engage and motivate sale representatives through user experiences that track, quantify and helps visualize progress. The 4 key benefits that Game Mechanics offers can be broken down into four distinct categories. These top mechanics are designed to make it easy for the sale representative to visualize their goals and for the company to monitor their sales force.

1. Data Visibility

Data Visibility is essentially a timeline that helps the sale representatives visually see their goals and progress. So where does Phelps fall into any of this? Well, in order for Phelps to achieve the gold medal at Rio, he needed to set and reach his smaller goals first. Phelps needed to create a four-year timeline. He started off by setting the goal to qualify in the smaller races in order to qualify for the world championships. After achieving that goal and qualifying at world’s, he could then move onto his next goal, which was The Olympics. After qualifying for The Olympics his new goal was to win gold. Each milestone reached motivated Phelps to continue pushing through his workouts.

With Game Mechanics, companies can create specific goals for each sales representative by giving them a visual breakdown of the goals they need to achieve, for example:

-EP in the image above are points

With Data Visibility, sales reps have the ability to track, visualize and quantify a specific sale representatives’ progress. So just like Phelps, who has to win races in order to qualify for the Olympics, sale representatives have to sell a certain number of products to reach the goals set by their company.

   Empowering sales representatives with visually engaging goals helps them fall more easily into the “Flow Zone.”

The “Flow Zone” is where challenge and skill are equally demanded to achieve a goal. In the case of Phelps, he needs to be “in the zone” during his competitions. His skills need to be sharp and he needs to feel challenged and pressured to achieve peak performance. When his skills match the challenge at hand he enters the “Flow Zone” and is able to win gold after gold.

        Sale Representatives can achieve the “Flow Zone” by having a strong product, interpersonal skills and facing a challenging situation where they need to reach a specific quota. This challenging situation can stem from competitive (and healthy) peer pressure or from a demanding economic environment. Overall the “Flow Zone” within Game Mechanics engages the sale representatives and helps them to be more active and present, not jaded and disconnected.

2. Tools to Achieve Mastery

        Just like Phelps needs his swimming goggles, bathing suit and dedicated training to be successful, sales representatives also need industry specific tools and training. In order for companies to be efficient at providing these tools/trainings to their sales reps through Game Mechanics, an enablement path must be clearly laid out and visual. By setting out a clear path of growth, sales reps gain a sense of mastery each time they learn something new, are equipped with a greater knowledge or master a task. Rewards also play a huge role in motivation along the way. Rewards can come in many shapes and sizes, but the most important rewards for “knowledge workers” are intrinsic. A great way for a company to do this is by molding an environment where they feel that these tools will help them build a stronger foundation for their career path and help them become stronger professionals. (learn more on how this can be achieved here).

3. Personal Accomplishment

        Everyone loves to be recognized and compensated for the work they do. Phelps is no different, he loves to be rewarded for the hard work he puts in the water. His rewards usually consist of gold medals, sponsorships, and praise in the media. Sale representatives also like to feel praised by the company they work for. Game Mechanics provide different ways for a company’s employee to be recognized for their achievements and hard work.  These opportunities to be recognized can be divided into 3 different strategies that help to maintain users active, engaged and motivated:

1. Rewarding engagement is key in order to boost performance

  • Boosting sales reps’ confidence can motivate them to continue to work hard and not get disillusioned if their performance is not at par. Get to the root of the problem if performance is an issue, but don’t stop motivating them – this helps to maintain a healthy environment where they can flourish.

2.Use rewards that unlock new opportunities

  • Give your sale representatives a reward that will help them grow or open new opportunities   

3.Rewards should be unexpected

  • By surprising your sale representatives with a reward, their reaction will be more genuine than if they expected the reward.


4. Social Recognition

[Tweet ““On Average 37% of the day is spent on work or work related activities”- US Bureau of Labor Statistics”]

Even though swimming is mostly an isolated sport, you still belong to a team. Phelps wins his own gold medals, but is still part of Team USA. When Phelps wins, his team is proud because it benefits the team and country. There are also times when Phelps has to compete with his own teammates. Sale representatives and Phelps are alike in this sense because sale representatives are part of a team, yet still have to be competitive against each other to be the top seller. The Social Recognition aspect of Game Mechanics allows each individual to know that their peers applaud their work, sort of like a digital high five.


With Game Mechanics focusing on conjuring social recognition for individuals who have put in the hard work and remain engaged, it creates social fulfillment within the individual. This apparent fulfillment also helps motivate other individuals who might not be doing as well. Another aspect of Social Recognition is that it fosters a mentorship program that supports the professional growth of its members. These social and digital environments allows sales reps to share their success and expertise with fellow peers, motivating them to be more engaged (more on social environment here).

        Another important tactic to make social recognition work is friendly competition. As mentioned before, sometimes Phelps has to compete against his own teammates to win the race. Friendly competition can be essential in the workplace because it can boost performance and productivity within sale representatives, giving them a bigger incentive to win. Competition also helps spark creativity and increase performance levels because everyone wants to be on top and recognized as the best.

[Tweet ““The healthiest competition occurs when average people win by putting above average effort.” –Colin Powell”]

Overall, Game Mechanics help turn potential into achievements. Its different tactics will motivate and engage sales representatives to accomplish all their goals and yield successful results. With the help of Game Mechanics you can become the Michael Phelps of sales.