Psych Motivators For Gamifying Sales: The Zeigarnik Effect

Adam Steele

Mar 22, 2023

Have you ever been so captivated by a cliffhanger in a TV show or a movie that you couldn't help but watch the next episode or sequel? This irresistible urge to see a task through to completion is no coincidence—it's the result of a psychological phenomenon known as the Zeigarnik Effect. In this article, we'll explore how this powerful mental quirk can be harnessed to improve sales performance and unlock the hidden potential within your sales team.

By understanding how the Zeigarnik Effect works, you can tap into a wellspring of motivation and engagement, propelling your sales team to new heights. Imagine a sales team driven by the same unyielding determination that a marathon runner exhibits in the final stretch of a race—this is the power of the Zeigarnik Effect at work.

Our objective in this article is to provide you with valuable insights on using the Zeigarnik Effect for gamification in sales. We'll dive into the science behind this fascinating psychological phenomenon and uncover practical tips for applying it to your sales strategies. So, let's embark on this exciting journey and learn how the Zeigarnik Effect can become your secret weapon in the world of sales.

How Does the Zeigarnik Effect Work? A Dive Into the Science Behind It

So, what exactly is the Zeigarnik Effect? Picture this: you're in the middle of a challenging puzzle, and you just can't seem to put the last few pieces together. Suddenly, it's as if your brain flips a switch, and you find yourself consumed with an irresistible urge to complete the task at hand. This is the Zeigarnik Effect in action—our innate desire to finish what we've started. But why does this happen?

The Zeigarnik Effect was first identified by psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik in the 1920s. She observed that waiters could remember unpaid orders with remarkable accuracy but quickly forgot the details once the bill was settled. Intrigued, Zeigarnik conducted a series of experiments and found that incomplete tasks create a state of tension in our minds, making them more memorable. This tension is only relieved when the task is completed, causing the urge to finish what we've started. According to Zeigarnik's research, participants were able to remember interrupted tasks about 90% more accurately than the ones they had completed without interruption. This suggests that the human desire to finish a task can lead to its retention in memory until it is completed, and the sense of finality in completion allows forgetting to occur.

This effect can be observed all over the place in everyday life once you're aware of it. For example, picture this: a golfer is on the 15th hole and she is on pace to beat her personal best. Suddenly, the round is suspended due to lightning in the area. As a result, she is left with a strong sense of unfinished business, as she was so close to achieving her goal. This is the Zeigarnik Effect kicking in, causing the golfer's mind to remain fixated on completing the task of finishing the round and achieving her personal best. This lingering tension will only be relieved when she is able to return to the course and finish the final holes. As a result, there is no way she is calling it a day or heading home and instead she'll wait out the weather in the clubhouse for hours. In this analogy, the Zeigarnik Effect illustrates the powerful drive to complete a task, even when external factors interrupt progress.

The Zeigarnik Effect and Sales: An Unstoppable Duo

Now that we've explored the science behind the Zeigarnik Effect, you might be wondering how it relates to sales performance. Well, consider this: What if you could harness the mental energy generated by the Zeigarnik Effect to motivate your sales team to push through challenges and achieve their targets? By leveraging this powerful psychological phenomenon, you can ignite a fire within your sales force, driving them to pursue their goals with unrelenting passion.

Sales is a competitive field that often requires perseverance and determination to succeed. In this high-pressure environment, sales professionals face numerous challenges, such as handling objections, managing time effectively, and staying motivated despite setbacks. By understanding and applying the Zeigarnik Effect, you can create an environment where your sales team is consistently motivated to achieve their goals and remain engaged in their work.

The Zeigarnik Effect can help sales professionals maintain focus on tasks and objectives, even when faced with obstacles or distractions. For example, imagine a salesperson who has been working diligently to close a high-stakes deal. As they near the finish line, they encounter unexpected complications or objections from the client. Instead of allowing these hurdles to derail their efforts you can utilize that feeling of unfinished business to fuel their determination to overcome these challenges and close the deal.

Furthermore, the Zeigarnik Effect can be instrumental in fostering a growth mindset among sales team members. This mindset, characterized by a belief in the ability to develop and improve through hard work and dedication, can make all the difference in achieving long-term success. By leveraging the Zeigarnik Effect, sales managers can encourage their team members to view setbacks and challenges as opportunities for growth and learning, rather than insurmountable obstacles, so long as they always feel like they are about to complete or accomplish something meaningful.

Finally, the Zeigarnik Effect can be used to enhance sales training and skill development. When sales professionals are encouraged to set and pursue specific learning goals, the Zeigarnik Effect can be leveraged to help maintain their focus and commitment to mastering new skills and strategies, ultimately enabling them to overcome challenges and excel in their roles.

Gamification in Sales: Boosting Performance with the Zeigarnik Effect

Gamification is the process of applying game-like elements to non-game contexts, like sales, to boost motivation, engagement, and performance. By incorporating elements such as competition, rewards, and progress tracking, gamification can transform the sales environment into a more engaging and enjoyable experience. But how can the Zeigarnik Effect take your sales gamification strategy to the next level?

By incorporating the Zeigarnik Effect into your sales gamification strategy, you can create a powerful combination that drives your sales team to new heights. By setting up clear, unfinished goals and milestones within the gamified environment, you can trigger the Zeigarnik Effect, causing your team to become more invested in the pursuit of their objectives. This combination of gamification and the Zeigarnik Effect can supercharge your sales team's motivation and performance.

Another way the Zeigarnik Effect can unlock a sales team's full potential is by promoting healthy competition and camaraderie among team members. Sales professionals are often driven by the desire to outperform their peers and achieve recognition for their accomplishments. By incorporating the Zeigarnik Effect into sales contests and leaderboards, sales managers can tap into this competitive spirit, motivating their team members to push themselves to achieve even greater levels of performance.

Practical Tips: How to Use the Zeigarnik Effect to Your Advantage in Sales

Ready to start harnessing the power of the Zeigarnik Effect in your sales strategy? Here are some actionable tips to help you get started. First, ensure that your sales goals are clear, achievable, and designed to create a sense of "unfinished business." By setting up objectives that activate the Zeigarnik Effect, you can motivate your sales team to push through challenges and pursue their targets with renewed vigor.

Tiered milestones

Many successful sales teams have effectively utilized the Zeigarnik Effect to boost their performance. For example, a top-performing sales organization might implement a gamified system that encourages salespeople to achieve a specific number of sales calls or close deals within a set timeframe. This could involve setting daily or weekly targets for each team member, along with tangible rewards for those who meet or exceed their goals.

To make this approach even more effective, sales managers could introduce tiered milestones that encourage continued progress. For instance, achieving 10 successful calls in a day might earn a salesperson a small reward, while reaching 20 calls could unlock a more substantial incentive. This system would create a sense of progression and accomplishment, compelling sales professionals to strive for the next level.

Time sensitivity

As the deadline approaches, the Zeigarnik Effect kicks in, motivating the sales team to complete their tasks and secure those final deals. To amplify this effect, managers could introduce countdown timers that create a sense of urgency and remind team members of their unfinished tasks. This visual representation of progress can help keep the Zeigarnik Effect at the forefront of sales professionals' minds, driving them to complete their objectives.

Progress trackers

Progress trackers are an excellent tool for leveraging the Zeigarnik Effect to improve sales performance. These trackers provide visual representations of goals and achievements, enabling sales professionals to see their progress in real-time. By illustrating the gap between their current status and the desired outcome, progress trackers can create a sense of unfinished business that fuels motivation and determination to complete tasks and achieve targets.

Here are some ways progress trackers use the Zeigarnik Effect to improve sales performance:

  1. Enhancing motivation: Progress trackers make it clear how much work has been done and how much is left to do, creating a sense of urgency to complete tasks. When sales professionals see the tasks that remain unfinished, the Zeigarnik Effect motivates them to take action and close the gap, pushing them to work harder and more efficiently.

  2. Encouraging consistency: Consistently updating and reviewing progress trackers can help maintain the Zeigarnik Effect's impact on motivation. By regularly checking their progress, sales professionals are reminded of their unfinished tasks, which keeps the sense of urgency and commitment to reaching their goals alive.

  3. Facilitating goal setting: Progress trackers can help sales professionals set realistic and achievable goals based on their past performance. By breaking down larger targets into smaller, more manageable tasks, progress trackers enable sales professionals to experience the satisfaction of completing tasks and the motivation provided by the Zeigarnik Effect more frequently.

  4. Fostering healthy competition: When progress trackers are shared among team members or displayed on a leaderboard, they can inspire healthy competition. Sales professionals can see how their performance compares to their peers, which may drive them to work harder to keep up or surpass their colleagues. The desire to outperform others and complete tasks can amplify the Zeigarnik Effect, leading to increased motivation and engagement.

  5. Boosting accountability: Progress trackers can also enhance accountability, as sales professionals can clearly see their progress and areas where they may be falling short. By making it more difficult to ignore or avoid unfinished tasks, the Zeigarnik Effect encourages sales professionals to take responsibility for their performance and strive for continuous improvement.

Sales homework

Another concrete example could involve leveraging the Zeigarnik Effect during sales training sessions. For instance, sales trainers could assign "homework" in the form of practical exercises or role-play scenarios that participants must complete before the next session. This technique would create a sense of unfinished business, prompting sales professionals to follow through on their learning and apply their newfound skills in real-world situations.

Final Thoughts

In this article, we've delved into the fascinating world of the Zeigarnik Effect and its potential to transform your sales team's performance. By understanding the psychological underpinnings of this powerful phenomenon, you can create a sales environment that fosters motivation, engagement, and determination to succeed. The combination of the Zeigarnik Effect and gamification can unlock the full potential of your sales team, driving them to achieve greater heights and conquer new challenges.

Take a queue from legendary swimmer Michael Phelps, "You can't put a limit on anything. The more you dream, the farther you get." Embrace the Zeigarnik Effect and inspire your sales team to break through their barriers, pushing themselves to achieve greatness.

Outfield is pioneering performance-based CRM with the industry's leading sales gamification software. Learn how our modern approach boosts output up to 3x.

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