Psych Motivators For Gamifying Sales: The Endowment Effect

Adam Steele

Mar 28, 2023

Welcome to the fascinating world of sales, where understanding human psychology plays a crucial role in driving results. In this article, the second in our series on psych motivators, we'll explore the concept of gamification and its role in sales, and delve into an intriguing aspect of behavioral psychology: the endowment effect. In short, the endowment effect refers to the psychological phenomenon where people place a higher value on objects they own, or perceive to own, compared to similar objects that they don't own. This cognitive bias influences decision-making and can be a powerful tool for driving sales.

Our goal is to provide you with a deeper understanding of how the endowment effect can be applied in sales gamification to boost performance. To make our exploration more concrete, we'll also be using examples from the world of NHL hockey throughout the article.

Ready to lace up your skates? Let's begin!

Understanding the Endowment Effect in Behavioral Psychology

Before we can discuss how to apply the endowment effect in sales gamification, we must first understand its origins and implications in behavioral psychology. The endowment effect, as mentioned earlier, is a cognitive bias that causes people to value items they own or perceive to own more than similar items they do not own. This phenomenon can be observed in various situations, such as when people are reluctant to part with possessions they have acquired or when they overestimate the value of items they own.

So, how does the endowment effect work? Research suggests that the endowment effect is driven by a combination of loss aversion and psychological ownership. Loss aversion refers to the tendency for people to prefer avoiding losses to acquiring equivalent gains. In the context of the endowment effect, this means that people are more likely to experience a sense of loss when parting with an object they own or perceive to own, even if they receive a fair value for it. Psychological ownership, on the other hand, is the feeling that an object is "mine" or "ours," regardless of legal ownership. This feeling of ownership can increase the perceived value of an item, further amplifying the endowment effect.

The Endowment Effect and Decision-Making

The endowment effect can have a significant impact on decision-making. It can cause people to make irrational choices, such as holding onto possessions they no longer need or use, or overvaluing items simply because they own them. Understanding the endowment effect can help us recognize these cognitive biases in our own decision-making and work to overcome them.

The endowment effect can also be seen in sports fans' reactions to trades or free-agent signings. When a beloved player is traded to another team, fans may feel a sense of loss and betrayal, even if the trade is beneficial for the team in the long run. The endowment effect can cause fans to overvalue the contributions of the departing player and undervalue the potential contributions of the incoming player, leading to irrational assessments of the trade's impact on the team's performance.

Understanding the endowment effect and its influence on decision-making is essential for leveraging this cognitive bias in sales and gamification strategies. By recognizing the power of ownership and emotional attachment, we can develop creative and effective ways to harness the endowment effect in sales gamification, ultimately driving better performance and results.

The Power of Ownership: How the Endowment Effect Can Boost Sales

Now that we have a solid understanding of the endowment effect and how it influences decision-making, let's dive into how this cognitive bias can be harnessed to boost sales performance. One of the key factors in leveraging the endowment effect in sales is creating a sense of ownership for customers. This feeling of ownership can increase the perceived value of a product or service, making customers more likely to purchase and less likely to return or exchange it.

Creating a Sense of Ownership in Sales

There are several strategies that can be used to create a sense of ownership in sales, many of which can be applied in the context of sales gamification. For example, product customization and personalization can give customers a feeling of ownership over their purchases, making them more likely to value the product and less likely to return it. Offering trial periods, where customers can use a product or service for a limited time before committing to a purchase, can also foster a sense of ownership, as customers have the opportunity to experience the benefits of the product firsthand.

Furthermore, the company Significant Objects tested the effectiveness of the endowment effect in an even more extreme way. They ingeniously leveraged the endowment effect to sell seemingly ordinary items on eBay at a higher price. The company's approach involved the following steps:

  1. Collecting inexpensive, seemingly insignificant objects from thrift stores, garage sales, and other sources.

  2. Pairing each object with a talented writer who would create a fictional, yet emotionally engaging story about the object, thereby infusing the object with emotional and narrative value.

  3. Listing the object on eBay, along with the fictional story (being transparent with the buyer that it's fictional), and observing the impact of the added emotional value on the bidding process and the final sale price.

When potential buyers read the compelling fictional narratives associated with the objects, they surprisingly still became emotionally invested in the items. As a result, they perceived the objects as more valuable than they objectively were, leading to increased bidding activity and higher sale prices. Remember, the buyers know the narratives associated with the objects are fake, and yet they still perceive more value and pay more...a lot more in some cases. For example, a 50 cent thrift store fork sold for $26.01, a 99 cent snow globe sold for $59.00, and a 3 dollar monkey puppet sold for $47.20! All it took was some clever storytelling about someone's dead wife, a heist from grandpa's treasure chest, and the inspiration for a Franz Kafka novel called "Metamorphosis II: Monkey Puppet." 

Let's return to our NHL hockey analogy to further illustrate the importance of creating a sense of ownership in sales. Think about the way fans invest in team merchandise, such as customized jerseys with their favorite player's name and number. This personalization creates a sense of ownership and attachment to the item, making the fan more likely to value it and less likely to return or exchange it. Similarly, when a fan attends a game and experiences the excitement and camaraderie of cheering on their team in person, they are more likely to feel a sense of ownership and attachment to the team and its success.

Can you imagine the impact of creating a similar sense of ownership in your sales process? The possibilities are endless.

Practical Strategies for Implementing the Endowment Effect in Sales Gamification

In this section, we will explore some specific strategies and examples of how you might incorporate the endowment effect into your sales gamification initiatives. By understanding these techniques, you can create a more effective and engaging gamified sales experience that leverages the power of the endowment effect to drive results.

Personalized Avatars

One effective way to harness the endowment effect in sales gamification is by allowing your salespeople or customers to create personalized avatars. By giving them the ability to customize their virtual representation, you tap into their sense of ownership, making them more invested in their progress and achievements. In the world of NHL hockey, this is akin to fans proudly wearing their favorite team's jerseys, customized with their names and chosen numbers. These personalized jerseys make fans feel more connected to their team, enhancing their overall experience and loyalty.

Progress Tracking

Another strategy for implementing the endowment effect in sales gamification is through progress tracking. By providing your sales team or customers with a clear view of their accomplishments and milestones, you can create a sense of ownership and pride in their achievements. This is similar to the way NHL teams and fans track their team's progress throughout the season, taking pride in each win and milestone reached. Like an NHL team's playoff push, progressing in a gamified sales experience can foster excitement, engagement, and motivation to continue achieving.

Exclusive Rewards

Offering exclusive rewards is another practical strategy for incorporating the endowment effect into your sales gamification efforts. By providing unique rewards or benefits that are only attainable through the gamified experience, you tap into their desire for ownership and exclusivity. Think of it as the equivalent of NHL teams offering limited edition merchandise or experiences to their most dedicated fans. These exclusive rewards can create a strong sense of attachment and loyalty, driving people to strive for success within your gamified sales program.

Implementing the endowment effect in sales gamification is like constructing a well-coached NHL team: the players, or customers, need to feel invested and valued to perform at their best. Similarly, your employees and customers need to be aware of and become invested in the story and various narratives of your team members, company, products, and services. 

Final Thoughts

Throughout this article, we have explored the endowment effect and its powerful influence on human behavior. By understanding its roots in cognitive psychology and how it has been applied in various fields, we can learn valuable lessons for leveraging the endowment effect in sales and sales gamification.

Just as the NHL has demonstrated the endowment effect's impact on fans' attachment to their favorite teams, businesses can use this psychological principle to their advantage in the world of sales. By implementing gamification strategies that tap into a sense of ownership for your salespeople and customers, businesses can foster greater engagement, motivation, and loyalty, ultimately driving sales performance and revenue growth. As you embark on your journey to develop and implement these gamified sales techniques, remember the words of the legendary hockey coach Herb Brooks: "Great moments are born from great opportunities." Seize the opportunity to embrace the endowment effect in your sales gamification strategies, and watch engagement and loyalty soar.

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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