The Three Types of Sales Motivation

Posted: February 25, 2020 | By: Craig Eggleton

Rethink the one-size-fits-all approach to sales motivation.

In sales, motivation and coaching go hand-in-hand. It's pivotal for sales leaders to understand what drives people to succeed and be productive every single day.

And yet - all too often - sales organizations hire reps without learning what makes them passionate. No two sales reps are wired the same way. You need to dig beneath the surface to learn the true DNA of a sales hire. 

Why should you care about how your salespeople are motivated? Through assessing close to 2 million sales men and women over the last 30+  years we know there is a direct correlation between motivation and "sales effectiveness".  Dave Kurlan wrote a fantastic piece about this a few months ago here.

The Three Types of Sales Motivation

How do you get people to consistently perform key behaviors in your organization? Hint: It's not by applying a one-size-fits-all approach.

You're money motivated? That's great. But what makes you passionate and driven? There's a difference between surface-level desires and the deeper self. Sales leaders should look for specific examples of true passion and lifelong calling from their potential hires. 

Some great question to ask are, "Do you love to win or hate to lose more?" "What do you do when you lose?" The answers to these questions will help you understand people's true motivational wiring.

Beyond asking good questions, Objective Management Group’s free Sales Hiring Assessment offers a simple, yet highly-effective breakdown of sales motivation into 3 categories: extrinsic motivation, intrinsic motivation, and altruistic motivation.

Here’s a look at how they shake out. 

Sales Motivation Type #1. Extrinsic Motivation

Extrinsically-motivated sales reps are motivated by "stuff". Bonuses, bank account balances, mansions, watches, flashy cars. Essentially the abundant lifestyle and toys that come with a high number on your W-2.

Eighteen years ago, extrinsic motivation made a huge impression on me as a newly-minted sales professional. In my very first sales role, my manager pulled pulled a move straight out of Glengarry Glen Ross. He pulled out his previous year’s W-2, shoving it in front of me with his right hand, his wrist brandishing a brand-new Rolex.

“You see this, Craig? This can be your W-2 if you work hard and follow my coaching.” What my manager lacked in subtlety, he made up for in directness. The meeting made an impact. The younger 'me' wanted the mansion, the big car, the watch ... that was the end-all-be-all. 

Sales Motivation Type #2. Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsically motivated people are characterized by a drive for mastery. They are driven by accomplishment, goals, the thrill of the hunt, and so forth. Interestingly, the data shows that millennial sales reps are much more intrinsically motivated than prior generations of sales reps. 

  • 47% are intrinsically motivated (satisfaction, love of what they do, mastery, something bigger than themselves)
  • 25% are extrinsically motivated (commissions, money, rewards and materialistic things)
  • 13% are altruistic (being of service to others)

The remaining 15% are somewhat balanced between 2 or 3 of the styles.

What motivates these people? It's not the big pot o' gold at the end of the rainbow. It's the sense of mastery. An inner-drive to achieve. There's an important insight here - which is that sales leaders tend to overemphasize extrinsic motivation with sales contests, compensation plans, and incentives.

If you're not careful, you can demotivate intrinsically-motivated and altruistic people by only offering extrinsic motivation. To learn more about intrinsic motivation, I highly recommend the book Drive by Daniel Pink.

Sales Motivation Type #3. Altruistic Motivation

Altruistically motivated people are motivated by helping others, and are significantly less money motivated than those who are extrinsically motivated. They are more motivated by serving others. 

sales motivation

It’s rare to see an A+ sales rep motivated altruistically. Typically, we don't recommend altruistic people for a true B2B sales role. Where these people tend to excel is in customer service roles.

The Power of Positive Sales Motivation

How do you quantify the impact of a positive-thinking, highly-motivated sales force? According to renowned psychologist Shawn Anchor, your brain performs significantly better at ‘positive’ than at negative, neutral, or stressed. 

Anchor’s research shows that a positive mindset has direct, tangible impact on the sales profession, making a salesperson 37% better at the key components of sales.

Take Our Free Sales Hiring Assessment

Do yourself a favor. Take this free Sales Hiring Assessment or contact me directly to learn how we help sales leaders understand and maximize their sales team to achieve their highest potential.

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