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Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic Sales Motivation Factors & How to Ignite Them with Gamification

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Do you know what really motivates your sales reps? You might think it’s an easy answer — money. But it’s not that simple. 

Sales reps generally fall into two categories — or somewhere in between. Understanding what motivates each of your sales reps is the key to unlocking their best performance.

The illustration below shows You-kai Cho's* interpretation of the 'Core Drives' that influence whether motivation is extrinsically or intrinsically driven. To visualize this, Cho has mapped the core drives in relation to the two sides of the brain. This distinction doesn't refer to brain geography in medical terms—it's simply a way to help conceptualize the core drives of employees who are intrinsically motivated by the enjoyment of sales itself vs. extrinsically motivated by the desire to obtain tangible benefits in exchange for their work. In this sense, left-brain core drives are those that are associated with logical, higher-order analytic thinking or ownership. Whereas the right-brain drives are underpinned by creativity, curiosity, and social tendencies.

Sales Motivation Factors

Extrinsic Sales Motivation Factors

It is likely that your middle-performers are extrinsically driven. The main motivating factors for these sales reps are things like money, rewards, and other material recognition. Their best results occur in short, heavily-incentivized sales cycles, and they love external rewards and status symbols.

These are the reps who will pull out all the stops to outperform their teammates during each sales cycle in order to grab the bonus. Extrinsically motivated reps love to see their hard work translate into higher earnings. They equate effort with potential income, so it's a safe bet they'll be working the phones and burning the midnight oil when there's an opportunity to make more money!

Intrinsic Sales Motivation Factors

Contrary to what you might think, your top sales reps are likely to be intrinsically motivated by true enjoyment of their work and satisfaction in achieving their personal goals — even more so than money. Their main sales motivation factors are things like recognition, fulfillment, and their love of the job. They produce consistent results time and time again.

Intrinsically motivated reps are highly satisfied by being the best at what they do — and they're willing to invest the necessary time and effort to achieve this. They'll often seek out licenses, certifications, and professional development courses to help them learn new skills and improve their sales techniques. They see themselves as their biggest competitor, and they're always striving to be better.

"In a sales team, you need to understand what motivates people. Some people want to get a promotion, whereas others prefer recognition — and others focus on the money, a pat on the back, or any kind of reward. It depends, as it’s quite individual."

Alen Mayer

Author of Selling is Better than Sex

Many companies design their incentive programs to cater solely to extrinsic motivators and later discover that employee motivation plummets when they remove the incentive — sometimes even diminishing lower than before the incentive was introduced. It is, for this reason, that understanding how employees are stimulated is so important. With this knowledge, you’ll know exactly how to motivate sales reps to achieve the best possible results over the long haul. 

How to Motivate Sales Reps — Regardless of Their Motivation Factors 

A little recon is the first step in motivating each of your sales reps to perform to the best of their ability. Your job as an effective leader is to figure out what motivates each person on your team. Observe them 'in action' and bring your observations to your 1:1 coaching sessions. Encourage each employee to share their thoughts — and make sure to listen. Some effective opening questions could be:

  • What do you enjoy about sales?
  • What’s your least favorite part of sales?
  • What type of sales rep would you like to be known as?
  • What are your personal and professional goals?
  • What are your career aspirations?

If you hear answers that are mainly driven by tangibles, some of your best motivation tactics will be performance-based incentives, promotions, and raises.
To nudge these employees along the path to success, you might consider having regular conversations about things like their personal financial goals, sales targets, milestones, and rewards.

For sales reps who seem driven by things like pride or a sense of purpose, you’ll want to take a different approach. To get the best out of these reps, you should try to acknowledge their accomplishments in public, help them celebrate their wins, and ask them to spearhead special projects. Discussing and setting career goals and pointing out how their efforts are contributing to the company’s overall success are excellent ways to get the best out of your intrinsically motivated employees.

Setting a regular target and additional 'stretch goals' with incentives that speak to each employee’s motivation factors can have a profound effect on their performance. Consider making a list of appropriate and varied incentives (e.g., movie tickets, gift certificates, lunch with the CEO, “free” PTO) that each employee can choose from when they achieve varying levels of their quotas. Make sure to include options that will appeal to both extrinsic and intrinsic sales motivation factors. 

"At Pipedrive, we use SPIFFs gamification contests on a weekly basis. Our contest focuses on honoring effective activity-based behavior such as calls or demos with potential customers. It has proved to push our team to do their everyday work even better on a global scale, and in the long run, it helps align the company’s targets with sales targets."

Jens Oberbeck

VP of Sales — Pipedrive

Boost Sales Motivation with Sales Gamification

Gamification, a way of recognising and rewarding success using sales competitions and instant notifications, is one of the most powerful tools in your management arsenal. It’s a method of positive reinforcement, and it’s an excellent solution if you’ve been wondering how to motivate sales reps to outperform their targets.

Gamification is everywhere — from fitness apps to social media feeds. Incorporating game-like elements into non-gaming environments has become part of our daily lives, and it’s scientifically proven to improve engagement and performance. 

Most sales reps are inherently go-getters who love recognition! So reward them a little bit every day and drive incremental performance with leaderboards and instant notifications to alert whenever someone books a meeting, saves a customer from churning, makes an upsell, closes a sale, or meets a goal. 

On a larger scale, you can create quarterly or monthly sales contests or sales competitions to entice, engage and incentivize your reps to even higher levels of achievement! 

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5 Sales Contests Ideas

Sales contests are a favorite among managers and sales reps alike. Extrinsically motivated sales reps enjoy the competitive aspect and managers love the results! Here are three sales contest ideas to help get you started.

1. Head-to-Head Sales Contests

In head-to-head sales contests, one team member challenges another to a 'duel.' This could be based on a KPI — for example, who books the most meetings. In this instance, an Apple Watch was offered as an incentive. But rewards don’t always have to be material — prizes like getting to leave early on Fridays for a month or dibs on the best parking spot can also be fun and effective motivators.

Head-to-Head Sales Competitions

2. Team Sales Contests

In team sales contests, all team members compete against each other. Here you can see the agents competing on the basis of how many leads they generate during the month. The use of conditional colors clearly shows who has reached their targets — and makes it easy for everyone else to see how far they have to go before they catch up.

Team Sales Contest

3. Team vs. Team Sales Contests 

Team vs. team sales contests challenge teams to compete across locations or departments. In this example, teams in Denmark, France, and the United States are competing to achieve the highest value of sales. For that extra motivation to reach the top spot, this could be displayed in a podium format. 

Team vs. Team Sales Competition

4. Award Points and Badges

Intrinsically-motivated people love recognition — and points and badges are a fun and economical way to recognize and celebrate their achievements. 

This example uses Plecto’s gamification software to display a star badge for any team member who reaches their monthly meetings target, a dollar icon when a rep hits their value of won deals target, and a champions cup badge for any rep who hits their performance agreement goal. 

To do this in your own organisation, simply determine which KPIs are important to your team and set the badges accordingly!

Gamification Software

5. Set Up Instant Notifications

Give immediate kudos by displaying instant notifications on TV screens, smartphones, and computers whenever someone reaches a milestone. By doing so, you fuel your reps’ competitive nature, fulfill their need for recognition, and allow everyone in your team to celebrate each other’s successes as they happen!

Hot Tip: Less is more with instant notifications — too many alerts can reduce their impact, so choose your notification KPIs wisely and sparingly.

Gamification Software Instant Notification

"The psychology of a salesperson is actually pretty simple. They want to do well. They want to excel in what they do. They’re competitive by nature and they want to beat all the others. That's why, for example, the gamification aspects of Plecto's platform, I think are excellent."

Gopal RajGuru

Managing Director — Innovate+Grow

Give your new tools a test drive!

Knowing how to motivate sales reps to outperform their targets is your first step in building a high-performance sales team. Start by talking with each of your reps to identify those who are extrinsically motivated and those whose motivation stems from intrinsic factors.

Signup for a Plecto 14-day free trial and you can implement these contests, badges, and instant notification gamification features into your own organization — then sit back and watch your team's performance skyrocket!

Start your free trial today

Get started in minutes. No credit card required.

Start 14-day free trial Book demo

If you want more exclusive ideas on using gamification to improve your team's performance, download our free guide, VCC: The News Sales Performance Formula!

With contributions from 13 sales experts, it’s chock-full of inspiring insights and real-world examples from industry-leading organisations. You will learn exactly how to build a performance-driven culture in your sales organisation using our tried-and-tested 3-step VCC Model.

*Yu-kai Chou, in Actionable Gamification: Beyond Points, Badges, and Leaderboards (Milpitas, CA: Octalysis Media, 2019), p. 30, 34 


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