Tap Into Intrinsic Motivations To Get The Most From Your Sales Executives

Sales executives are people and they’re motivated by intrinsic factors. Are you taking these into account to increase staff retention and foster a positive Sales Organisation culture?

How to motivate sales people

Question: Has your Sales Organisation built an incentive programme designed to cater for ‘intrinsic motivators’ that includes recognition, development and working towards a higher goal or calling – and is it effective in increasing staff retention and fostering a strong and positive Sales Organisation culture?

The reality 

According to our research at ThinkSales Global, only 33% of Sales Organisations have built an incentive programme designed to cater for ‘intrinsic motivators’ that includes recognition, development and working towards a higher goal or calling.

In addition, 31.2% of companies rate their confidence as Outstanding that their incentive programme is it effective in increasing staff retention and fostering a strong and positive Sales Organisation culture.

The ‘intrinsic motivation’ problem

Most people are motivated by both intrinsic and extrinsic factors. Sales Organisations tend to focus on extrinsic motivators alone with commissions and incentive programmes. The problem is that in the business of sales, sales executives encounter rejection on a daily basis. Extrinsic motivators are important, but intrinsic motivators keep them going after the tenth bad cold call or bad sales meeting.

If your sales executives can’t stay motivated in the face of rejection, they will lose momentum and struggle to make their targets or perform lower than the Sales Organisation’s sales activities.

 Keep your sales force intrinsically motivated

 The difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivators lies in cognitive and emotional elements:

  • An intrinsic motivation is about the journey. You’re motivated to do something well because you’re doing something you love.
  • An extrinsic motivation is about a means to an end. You’re doing something because of an end goal, not because you necessarily enjoy the task.

How does this look in a sales context though?

Intrinsically motivated salespeople enjoy the sales job. They’re motivated by the job role itself. Extrinsically motivated salespeople are motivated by rewards such as money and recognition. Sales is simply a means to that end.

Intrinsic and extrinsic motivations both have cognitive and emotional dimensions.

When a person is intrinsically motivated, they are challenge seeking (cognitive dimension) and have task enjoyment (emotional dimension). This means that:

  • A sales executive who is motivated to solve complex sales problems and tackle new sales problems. The harder the sale, the better the challenge. This is what challenge seekers live for.
  • They enjoy selling for the pleasure of it and believe that what you do is more important than the commission you earn.

Extrinsic motivations also have cognitive and emotional elements, in this case, compensation seeking (cognitive) and recognition seeking (emotional). This means that:

  • They are motivated by money and have set income goals. Sales are chased to meet these goals.
  • They are motivated by recognition earned from their manager and peers who look up to them.

NOTE: There is nothing wrong with extrinsic motivators. In fact, it’s important to understand the extrinsic motivators of your various team members, as they tend to be individual. However, you cannot focus only on extrinsic motivators.

Understand intrinsic motivation to support your sales team

In his book, Drive, Daniel Pink reveals the mismatch between what science knows and what business does.  Traditionally, motivators are extrinsic, but increasingly, the value of intrinsic motivators are being understood.

According to Pink and other scientific researchers, intrinsic motivation revolves around three core elements:

  1. Autonomy
  2. Mastery
  3. Purpose

1. AUTONOMY: Hire good people and leave them alone – but hold them accountable

Autonomy is different from independence. It means acting with choice – which means we can be both autonomous and happily interdependent with others.

The stats

A sense of autonomy has a powerful effect on individual performance and attitude. A Cornell University study on workers’ autonomy at 320 small businesses discovered that businesses that offered autonomy grew at four times the rate of the control-orientated firms and had one-third the employee turnover.

Autonomy enables high performance. In order for this to work, people need autonomy over:

  1. Task: What they do
  2. Time: When they do it
  3. Team: Who they do it with
  4. Technique: How they do it.

NOTE: Encouraging autonomy doesn’t mean discouraging accountability. People must be accountable for their work. Come from a point that presumes that people want to be accountable and have control over their task, time, team & technique.

2. MASTERY: Encourage people to become problem-solvers

Autonomy demands engagement, which produces mastery. Solving complex problems requires an inquiring mind and the willingness to experiment in order to find a fresh solution.

Mastery abides by three specific rules:

  1. Mastery is a mindset: It requires the capacity to see your abilities not as fixed, but as infinitely improvable instead.
  2. Mastery is pain: It demands effort, grit and practice. It does not happen easily or overnight.
  3. Mastery is a never-ending journey: It’s impossible to fully realise, which makes it simultaneously frustrating and alluring.

3. PURPOSE: Align individual causes with the company’s mission

The most deeply motivated people hitch their desires to a cause greater and more enduring than themselves.

Today, purpose maximisation is taking its place alongside profit maximisation as an inspiration and a guiding principle. The new ‘purpose motive’ can be expressed in three ways:

  1. In goals that use profits to reach purpose. Giving employees control over how the organisation gives back to the community, might do more to improve their overall satisfaction than one more ‘if-then’ financial incentive
  2. In words that emphasise more than self-interest
  3. In policies that allow people to pursue purpose on their own terms.

These theories don’t reject profits, but they do place equal emphasis on purpose maximisation. In other words, if you align profit maximisation with purpose, you have the potential to rejuvenate your business and remake the world.

Sales Leader’s Toolkit

Intrinsic motivation takes into account each sales executive’s innate interests and how they’re hardwired.

To reach this understanding and to support your sales force’s intrinsic motivators, you should answer these questions:

  1. What kinds of needs motivate sales execs?
  2. What kinds of incentives can your company use to influence employee behaviour, and how do these function on an intrinsic level?
  3. What’s the best way to design a sales job?
  4. Besides compensation, what other rewards can I use to motivate my sales people?

Assess the health of your sales organisation

Designing an incentive programme that caters for ‘intrinsic motivators’ and includes recognition, development and working towards a higher goal or calling and ensuring it works to increase staff retention and foster a positive Sales Organisation culture are two of 322 measures of a world-class Sales Organisation.

ThinkSales Global is a specialist revenue engineering consultancy.

We assist our clients to deliver market-defying results through strategic and tactical intentions within a Sales Organisation Maturity Model that addresses the five key pillars of high-performing Sales Organsations, namely:

  1. Competitive Strategy
  2. Customer Engagement
  3. Sales Talent
  4. Sales Management
  5. Sales Enablement

How does your Sales Organisation stack up? Find out by taking the ThinkSales 5 Pillar Strategic Sales Assessment™.

This first-of-its-kind 360-degree gap analysis report enables your Sales Leadership team to assess its strengths and detect weaknesses and impediments to revenue growth across the five pillars.

Click here for more information on the ThinkSales 5 Pillar Strategic Sales Assessment™.