Sales teams can learn a lot about motivation and how to design engaging sales cultures from Super Mario 64. Structurally the game changed a lot about the gaming industry which helped make playing video games more fun going forward.
Prior to Super Mario 64, the majority of video games were roughly structured in the following way:
- Players start with a set of “lives”.
- Playing earns the player points.
- Doing good things earns lives/ points.
- Doing bad things loses lives/ points.
- Losing all your lives means game over.
- Leaderboards publicly display your points.
- Losing the game restarts you at zero.
Within this structure and game design, rarely was the purpose for playing the game to “beat it”.
It was to “beat your friends” by scoring more points than them. Being the best meant you could brag about being the top spot on the leaderboard and avoid the humiliation of coming in last.
As a result you would never let your friends try to solve a problem when it was your turn to play. You also never shared your secrets to success.
Tell me this doesn’t sound familiar to working in sales?
Super Mario, Video Games And Working In Sales
The way old video games were structured for players, is very similar to how current sales environments are structured for sellers.
Most salespeople are only as good as their last “game” or month. At the end of each month/ quarter they face the crushing sensation of restarting back at zero.
There is also constant pressure to earn more “lives” and “points” in the form of closing deals. This allows salespeople to keep their job so they can keep selling/playing the game and avoid the humiliation that comes with being at the bottom of the dashboard.
When you run out of lives in sales, it’s Game Over, which means you’re likely going to be looking for a new job.
Due to the way this game is set up, fear of failure is rampant which means salespeople are always looking for shortcuts, rarely share leads and almost never collaborate on deals.
Those of us working in sales have a lot to learn from the game designers of Super Mario 64. The changes they made changed gaming forever by essentially removing “lives” from the game.
They still had them… And if you did too many bad things Mario would die, but the most important change game designers made was you didn’t have to start back at zero or at the beginning of the game when you died.
You restarted close to where you failed so you could try again.
Game designers made failing Safe and Fun.
This allowed players to take more risks, explore levels more freely and find creative solutions to problems they would not have found otherwise. It also resulted in friends working together to share turns, secrets and best practices.
Game designers also removed the heavy use of leaderboards and instead made in-game achievements more clear/ purposeful, rewarded character development and made each level feel new and unique, which created a more meaningful experience for the player overall.
This meant players focused all of their attention on the task at hand – playing and “beating the game”; rather than worry about “beating their friends” and avoiding humiliation outside of the game.
As a result Super Mario 64 (and future video games) became intrinsically motivating to play, which boosted engagement, time spent playing and overall performance by players.
Sales leaders the design lessons we can adopt from the gaming industry are this:
- Make it safe for reps to fail.
- Stop using fear and “lives”.
- Stop starting at zero each month.
- Keep lifetime revenue sold visible.
- Dial back the dashboards.
- Make Career progress clear.
- Reward Personal development.
- Make sales targets MEANINGFUL.
- Lower Team Competition.
- Encourage collaboration and sharing.
What lesson from Super Mario 64 do you think you sales organization could benefit most from adopting?
Looking to improve your sales team performance, resilience and EQ through better Mental Health? Checkout the various training options provided by the Sales Health Alliance by clicking the link below.
About The Author
Jeff Riseley is currently the Founder of the Sales Health Alliance and Mental Health Advocate. With over a decade of sales experience – Jeff understands the importance of Mental Health in achieving peak sales performance.
Jeff combines his sales and Mental Health expertise to improve sales performance through mental health best practices. His strategies have helped sales teams become more motivated, resilient and better equipped to tackle stressful events within sales.