Psych Motivators For Gamifying Sales: Extrinsic Motivation

Adam Steele

May 15, 2023

Ever pondered what fuels the tenacity of a marathon runner or ignites the fiery passion of a footballer on the field? What is it that keeps them going, even when the odds are stacked against them? Often, it's a potent mix of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. While intrinsic motivation is fueled by internal drives, such as passion, desire, or personal satisfaction, extrinsic motivation is a powerful tool that influences behavior through external rewards. In the context of sales, extrinsic motivation can be a pivotal tool to boost performance, spark enthusiasm, and drive results.

Picture a sales team as a troupe of athletes. They're individuals with unique strengths, yet they come together to achieve a common goal. The exhilaration of winning, the recognition, the bonuses – these are their medals, the extrinsic motivators that push them to perform. But how can we channel this motivation more effectively? How can we make the sales process not just a means to an end, but an engaging journey for each salesperson? A hint lies in two spheres: sports and behavioral psychology. Get ready to dive into some advanced, unexpected concepts that link these worlds together and offer a fresh perspective on sales gamification.

The Relay Race: From Sports to Sales

Imagine you're at a sporting event, the crowd is roaring, and the relay race is about to start. Each participant, ready and waiting, is an integral part of a larger, cohesive team. They know their performance is crucial not just for their personal glory, but for their collective success. It's an environment buzzing with extrinsic motivation. The tangible rewards are clear - medals, trophies, public recognition - but the intangible rewards are just as potent. The camaraderie, the shared glory, and the thrill of contributing to a team's victory can be just as invigorating. Such is the power of extrinsic motivation in sports.

Sales teams, like relay runners, are individual performers working towards a collective goal. Every phone call, every pitch, every contract signed is like passing the baton in a relay race. Each team member's performance impacts the team's overall result. In this environment, extrinsic motivation can be an impactful tool, driving individuals to achieve their best not just for themselves, but for the team's collective success.

Extrinsic Rewards: A Runner's Medal, A Salesperson's Commission

Extrinsic motivation in sports often comes in the form of tangible rewards. Relay runners yearn for the weight of a gold medal around their necks, the applause from the crowd, the adulation of their peers. In the sales domain, the rewards may be different, but the underlying principles of extrinsic motivation remain the same. Salespeople, like athletes, strive for commissions, bonuses, public recognition, and career advancement. These rewards act as powerful motivators, urging them to strive for excellence and, in turn, elevating the team's overall performance.

Just like a coach identifies the unique strengths of their athletes and assigns them to the leg of the race where they can perform best, a sales manager should recognize the unique skills of their team members. Assigning roles based on individual strengths can maximize performance and ensure that the team functions as a well-oiled machine. By offering the right extrinsic rewards, managers can ignite a fire within their team members, pushing them to perform at their best.

A Team's Success: The Intangible Reward

While medals and trophies are coveted rewards, the feeling of being part of a successful team is an intangible reward that often gets overlooked. When a relay team wins, it's not just the glory of the individual runner; it's a shared victory. This sense of shared success can also act as a powerful extrinsic motivator for sales teams. Working towards a common goal can foster a sense of unity and camaraderie, which in turn can boost individual performance.

Imagine a sales team achieving its quarterly target. The celebration that follows is not just about the bonuses or promotions; it's about the collective achievement. It's about knowing that everyone played a part in reaching the goal. This sense of collective success, much like the shared glory of a relay team, can act as a potent extrinsic motivator, driving individuals to perform for the sake of the team's success.

Having explored the parallels between relay races and sales teams, let's delve into behavioral psychology's realm to further understand the concept of extrinsic motivation and its implications in a sales context.

Decoding Extrinsic Motivation: A Foray into Behavioral Psychology

Just like understanding the rules of the game and the strategy of the coach can enhance a sports team's performance, deciphering the principles of behavioral psychology can equip us with the tools to harness extrinsic motivation in a sales environment more effectively. Picture behavioral psychology as a coach, offering insights to navigate the complex maze of human behavior and motivation. Let's delve into how this can revolutionize our approach to sales gamification.

The Power of Reinforcement

In the realm of behavioral psychology, reinforcement is a principle that states that a behavior is more likely to be repeated if it's followed by a rewarding consequence. Imagine an athlete training for a marathon. Each milestone achieved – be it running a longer distance or a faster time – brings a sense of accomplishment. That feeling is a powerful reinforcer, compelling the athlete to push their boundaries further.

Transposing this principle to sales, we can see how extrinsic rewards act as potent reinforcers. A successful sale, a well-executed presentation, or a productive client meeting followed by rewards like recognition, bonuses, or promotions can reinforce these behaviors. This, in turn, can drive salespeople to consistently strive for excellence. However, it's essential to remember that the value of a reward can differ from person to person. Therefore, understanding what motivates each individual is key to tailoring a successful reinforcement strategy.

The Domino Effect: Shaping Behavior Over Time

Behavioral psychology also introduces us to the concept of shaping – the gradual modification of behavior over time. It's akin to a coach training a novice athlete. The coach doesn't expect perfection from the get-go. They celebrate small victories, gradually raising the bar as the athlete improves. Over time, these small reinforcements shape the athlete's behavior, ultimately leading to the desired performance.

Similarly, in sales, we can shape behavior by rewarding improvements and milestones along the way. For instance, a salesperson might initially be rewarded for increasing their number of client calls. As they improve, the reward might be tied to the number of successful follow-ups or closed deals. This progressive approach can ensure sustained improvement, leading to the ultimate goal of optimal sales performance.

The Role of Expectancy in Motivation

Another significant aspect of behavioral psychology is expectancy theory, which suggests that people are motivated to act in certain ways based on their expected outcomes. It's somewhat like a chess player calculating their moves, anticipating the opponent's response. They're motivated to make a move that they expect will lead to a favorable outcome.

In the sales arena, expectancy plays a crucial role. If salespeople expect that their hard work and efforts will lead to desired rewards, they'll be more motivated to perform. Consequently, clear communication about the links between performance, rewards, and goal achievement becomes essential. This clarity can drive the expectancy that fuels motivation.

Having dived into behavioral psychology's sea, let's now turn our attention to the intriguing concept of sales gamification, where we'll apply these principles to create a vibrant, motivating sales environment.

The Game Changer: Exploring Sales Gamification

Just like a football team united by a common goal, sales teams, too, thrive on shared objectives. This sense of shared purpose can be significantly amplified by using the principles of gamification. Let's delve into how the intertwining of extrinsic motivation and sales gamification can transform the sales landscape.

The Dynamics of Gamified Sales: Leaderboards and Competitions

Consider a soccer game. The thrill, the adrenaline, and the palpable energy stem from a simple concept - scoring goals. Players are extrinsically motivated by the goal of seeing their team’s name climb the leaderboard, relishing the applause, and of course, the euphoria of winning. Similarly, in a sales context, leaderboards and competitions can serve as powerful motivators. Salespeople, like soccer players, often thrive on competition. A well-designed leaderboard that acknowledges and rewards top performers can stimulate a healthy competitive spirit, motivating salespeople to strive for the top spot.

However, it's not just about the competition. Just like a good coach ensures all players feel valued, effective sales gamification should ensure that everyone's contributions are recognized. For instance, you could have categories like 'Best Newcomer', 'Most Improved', or 'Best Team Player' to ensure a wider recognition base. This multi-tiered approach can help maintain motivation levels across the team and ensure everyone feels their efforts are acknowledged.

The Role of Progress Bars and Levels

Think of a video game where players unlock new levels or earn badges as they progress. This system of levels and progress bars provides tangible evidence of their advancement, acting as a continual source of extrinsic motivation. Similarly, in sales, setting up tiered levels of achievement, each with its own set of rewards, can significantly boost motivation. Salespeople can 'level up' by achieving specific goals or milestones, with each level bringing increased recognition and rewards. Moreover, visible progress bars can provide a constant reminder of their journey towards their goals, keeping motivation high.

Balancing Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation in Gamification

While we're focusing on extrinsic motivation, it's important to remember that it doesn't operate in isolation. Picture a tennis player. While the trophies and applause (extrinsic motivators) are undoubtedly compelling, their love for the game, the joy of improving their skills, and the satisfaction of a well-played match (intrinsic motivators) are equally important. Similarly, while sales gamification largely harnesses extrinsic motivators, intrinsic motivation should not be overlooked.

In sales, intrinsic motivation might come from the satisfaction of solving a client's problem, the intellectual challenge of mastering a new product, or the joy of developing relationships with clients. To strike a balance, the design of the gamified sales program should also create opportunities for salespeople to experience these intrinsic motivators. This could mean providing opportunities for learning and growth, fostering a team-oriented culture, or acknowledging not just the outcomes (sales) but also the process (effort, creativity, customer service).

As we transition from the realm of sales gamification, let's put these concepts into action, exploring how to design a gamified sales environment that effectively leverages extrinsic motivation.

Designing a Motivational Ecosystem: From Theory to Practice

Now that we've explored the principles of extrinsic motivation and sales gamification, the question arises: how can these concepts be put into practice? This section will offer a practical guide on designing a gamified sales environment that will motivate and engage your sales team.

Step 1: Define Clear Goals and Milestones

Like setting the rules of a game, defining clear, achievable goals is the first step in a gamified sales environment. These goals should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Whether it's closing a certain number of deals, reaching a sales target, or improving customer satisfaction scores, having clear goals gives salespeople a target to aim for.

Once the goals are set, break them down into smaller milestones. This allows for immediate and incremental recognition of effort and keeps motivation high. Think of it like a video game where each level or stage achieved is celebrated, even though the ultimate goal is to complete the entire game.

Step 2: Design a Balanced Reward System

The reward system is the heart of sales gamification. Rewards serve as the extrinsic motivators that fuel the competitive spirit and drive performance. However, it's essential to balance competitiveness with collaboration. While top performers should be acknowledged, don't overlook the efforts of the rest of the team. Diverse categories of recognition can ensure a more inclusive and motivating environment.

Also, while financial incentives are common in sales, consider incorporating non-monetary rewards such as recognition, professional development opportunities, or additional responsibilities. This diversity in rewards can appeal to a broader range of motivations and foster a more holistic approach to performance.

Step 3: Foster a Positive, Supportive Environment

Just like a sports team thrives in a supportive atmosphere, a positive environment is crucial in a gamified sales setting. The competition should be friendly, not cutthroat. Encourage salespeople to support each other, share tips and strategies, and celebrate each other's victories. This camaraderie can contribute to a more engaged, motivated team and a healthier workplace culture.

Remember, the goal of gamification is not just to drive sales, but to make the sales process more enjoyable and engaging for your salespeople. After all, a motivated, satisfied salesperson is likely to be a more effective one. So, as we prepare to wrap up our exploration of extrinsic motivation in sales, let's remember: it's not just about the numbers. It's about creating a motivational ecosystem that recognizes and rewards effort, fosters a spirit of friendly competition, and above all, makes sales a more engaging, satisfying process.

Final Thoughts

Extrinsic motivation plays a pivotal role in shaping sales performance. The power of sales gamification, when employed thoughtfully, can transform an ordinary sales environment into a dynamic, engaging and highly productive ecosystem. By setting clear goals, designing a balanced reward system, and fostering a positive, supportive environment, we can create a workspace that not only drives sales but also ensures job satisfaction and personal growth for the team members.

However, it's essential to remember that while sales gamification is a powerful tool, it isn't a magic bullet. It's a component of a more comprehensive motivational strategy that should also consider intrinsic motivation and the individual needs, aspirations, and personalities of your salespeople. The objective is to create an environment that acknowledges and respects individual differences, fosters collaboration and competition, and ultimately, drives performance.

In the words of the legendary baseball player and manager, Yogi Berra, "Baseball is 90% mental. The other half is physical." Like baseball, sales too is a mind game, and understanding the mind of your salespeople and leveraging it the right way is the key to winning.

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