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Appropriately named training startup MindTickle is making a game out of bringing new sales reps up to speed.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based company announced today at Dreamforce ’14 that it has rebuilt its generalized, cloud-based training platform into one designed for “sales readiness.”

Integrated into the Salesforce CRM dashboard, MindTickle for Sales uses such gamification techniques as point-scoring, leaderboards, and quests in an effort to turn existing training and product content into something more engaging. Borrowing from gaming, there’s also a “lifeline” button — which, when summoned, allows the system to help out.

“The sales on-boarding process is broken,” co-founder and chief customer officer Mohit Garg told VentureBeat. He pointed to the current disjointed use of webinars, face-to-face classes, wikis and other Internet tools, and learning management systems (LMSs).

Instead, he said, MindTickle is “bringing this all together into one platform” with a structured learning plan and social tools for peer-to-peer learning. The intention is two-fold: on-board new sales reps and keep them up-to-date about new products — as well as the competition.

Conventional training techniques like quizzes or videos are also included, and the sales rep can gain more points or complete a step in her journey by completing them. Even within a gaming context, Garg said, the workflow of a new product or of an existing company process is maintained.

In addition to company or product content, topics might include “preparing for a sales pitch” or learning to handle issues a prospect might bring up. A manager can employ the platform’s course creation tools to readily set up a new learning track, and MindTickle reports that some companies offer rewards, such as gift cards, to high point scorers. Analytics show such metrics as which content is the most engaging or the most difficult, as well as which reps are killing it.

Gamification’s effectiveness is still being debated. A 2012 Gartner study, for instance, predicted that as many as 80 percent of gamification projects in 2014 would fail to achieve their goals because of bad design. A common risk is that the gamification techniques do not fit the learning needs of specific materials, so that, for instance, a user might earn a high score but miss the point of the content.

Competition comes in two forms, Garg said. There are older learning management systems (LMSs), such as Cornerstone on Demand or Litmos. But, he noted, they rely heavily on Q&A and other standard online learning formats and cannot match gamification for engagement.

There are also other software-as-a-service (SaaS)-based learning platforms such as Brainshark, Garg said, but these do not emphasize gamification and are not exclusively for sales rep onboarding.

On the drawing board for MindTickle: integration with other sales tools besides Salesforce, a new ability to record audio and video of sales pitches, and applying the platform to other job types, such as customer service.

Founded in late 2011, the company announced last week that it had landed $1.8 million in seed funding from Accel Partners and angel investors. In a statement on the funding, Accel pointed to the need for continual training and “bite-size learning through mobile devices.”

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