Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic Sales Motivation Factors - Aircall Blog

Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic Sales Motivation Factors & How to Ignite Them with Gamification

Illustration of two people talking in front of a roadmap chart
by
Sage Crawford

Do you know what really motivates your sales reps? You might think it’s an easy answer: money. But it’s not that simple. 

Sales reps generally fall into two categories—or somewhere in between. Understanding what motivates each of your sales reps is the key to unlocking their best performance.

The illustration below shows You-kai Cho’s interpretation of the Core Drives that influence whether motivation is extrinsically or intrinsically driven.

Diagram of left brain vs. right brain core drives

To visualize this, Cho has mapped the core drives relative to the two sides of the brain. This distinction doesn’t refer to brain geography in medical terms. It’s a simple way to conceptualize the core drives of employees who are intrinsically motivated versus extrinsically motivated.

In this sense, left-brain core drives are those that are associated with logical, higher-order analytic thinking or ownership. Whereas the right-brain drives are underpinned by creativity, curiosity, and social tendencies.

Extrinsic Sales Motivation Factors

Likely, your middle-performers are extrinsically driven. The main motivating factors for these sales reps are things like money, rewards, and other material recognition. Their best results occur in short, heavily incentivized sales cycles, and they love external rewards and status symbols such as having their conversion rate, win rate, and call data displayed on KPI dashboards around the office (like you can do with the Plecto and Aircall integration).

Ready to build better conversations?
Simple to set up. Easy to use. Powerful integrations.

These are reps who pull out all the stops to outperform their teammates during each sales cycle to grab the bonus.

Extrinsically motivated reps love to see their hard work translate into higher earnings. They equate effort with potential income, so it’s a safe bet they’ll work the phones and burn the midnight oil when there’s an opportunity to make more money.

Intrinsic Sales Motivation Factors

Contrary to what you might think, your top sales reps are likely to be intrinsically motivated by truly enjoying their work and achieving their personal goals—even more so than money.

Their main sales motivation factors are things like recognition, fulfillment, and their love of the job. They produce consistent results time and time again.

Intrinsically motivated reps are willing to invest the necessary time and effort needed to perform. They’ll often seek out licenses, certifications, and professional development courses to help them learn new skills and improve their sales techniques. You may not even notice, but they’ll be keeping a keen eye on how many calls they’ve made in Aircall, to see where (or if) their effort is lacking. They see themselves as their biggest competitor, and they’re always striving to be better.

“In a sales team, you need to understand what motivates people. Some people want to get a promotion, whereas others prefer recognition—and others focus on the money, a pat on the back, or any kind of reward. It depends, as it’s quite individual.”

Alen Mayer, Author of Selling Is Better Than Sex

Many companies design their incentive programs to cater solely to extrinsic motivators and later discover that employee motivation plummets when they remove the incentive—sometimes even diminishing lower than before the incentive was introduced.

That’s why it’s so important to understand how employees are stimulated. With this knowledge, you’ll know exactly how to motivate sales reps to achieve the best possible results over the long haul. 

How to Motivate Sales Reps—Regardless of Motivation Factors 

A little recon is the first step to motivating your sales reps. Your job as an effective leader is to figure out what motivates each person on your team.

Observe them and bring your observations to your one-to-one coaching sessions. Encourage each employee to share their thoughts and make sure to listen.

Some effective opening questions could be:

  • What do you enjoy about sales?
  • What’s your least favorite part of sales?
  • How would you like to be defined as a sales rep?
  • What are your personal and professional goals?
  • Tell me about your career aspirations

If they’re mainly driven by tangibles, motivate them with performance-based incentives, promotions, and raises. Nudge these employees by having regular conversations about their financial goals, sales targets, milestones, and rewards.

For sales reps who seem driven by things like pride or a sense of purpose, you’ll want to take a different approach.

To get the best out of these reps, you should try to publicly acknowledge their accomplishments, help them celebrate their wins, and ask them to spearhead special projects. Get the best out of your intrinsically motivated employees by discussing and setting career goals while pointing out how their efforts are contributing to the company’s overall success.

Setting a regular target and additional stretch goals with incentives that speak to each employee’s motivation factors can have a profound effect on their performance.

Consider making a list of appropriate and varied incentives (e.g., movie tickets, gift certificates, lunch with the CEO, “free” PTO) that each employee can choose from when they achieve varying levels of their quotas. Make sure to include options that will appeal to both extrinsic and intrinsic sales motivation factors. 

Sales Gamification—Your Secret Weapon

Once you understand what drives each member of your team, you’ll be able to coach them most effectively and incentivize them accordingly.

Autonomy, mastery, empowerment, and social influence are each powerful currencies, and gamification activates all of these.

The human brain craves the reward chemicals we release when we succeed. Serotonin, for example, is a mood-regulating chemical that’s released when we feel proud or important. Use instant notifications and gamification elements like badges and points to trigger the release of serotonin, boosting your employees’ moods and motivation—and ultimately, their performance. 

Instant notifications and sales competitions reignite waning enthusiasm when your sales reps face the stale and repetitive tasks of cold-calling, following up, repeating the same pitch, and chasing leads that seem to have disappeared.

These sales gamification tools make daily tasks fun and rewarding, which helps people stay motivated and engaged in their work. 

Research shows that sales gamification provides a sense of belonging and improves job satisfaction and employee performance by making employees feel more productive at work. Sales reps working in gamified environments finish their tasks more quickly. They also say that gamification makes them feel happier at work.

With an endorsement like that, why not harness the power of gamification to motivate your sales force? 

“At Pipedrive, we use SPIFFs gamification contests on a weekly basis. Our contest focuses on honoring effective activity-based behavior such as calls or demos with potential customers. It has proved to push our team to do their everyday work even better on a global scale, and in the long run, it helps align the company’s targets with sales targets.”

— Jens Oberbeck, VP of Sales at Pipedrive

Boost Sales Motivation with Sales Gamification

Gamification, a way of recognizing and rewarding success using sales competitions and instant notifications, is one of the most powerful tools in your management arsenal. It’s a method of positive reinforcement, and it’s an excellent solution for motivating sales reps.

Gamification is everywhere from fitness apps to social media feeds. Incorporating game-like elements into non-gaming environments has become part of our daily lives.

Most sales reps are inherently go-getters who love recognition. So reward them a little bit every day. You can drive incremental performance with leaderboards and instant notifications to alert whenever someone logs a call in Aircall, books a meeting, avoids churn, upsells, closes a sale, or meets a goal.

On a larger scale, you can create quarterly or monthly sales contests or sales competitions to entice, engage, and incentivize your reps.

3 Sales Contests Ideas

Sales contests are a favorite among managers and sales reps alike. Extrinsically motivated sales reps enjoy the competitive aspect, and managers love the results. Start with these three sales contest ideas.

1. Head-to-Head Sales Contests

In head-to-head sales contests, one team member challenges another to a duel. This could be based on a KPIfor example, who books the most meetings. Remember that rewards don’t always have to be material. Prizes like getting to leave early on Fridays for a month or dibs on the best parking spot can also be fun and effective motivators.

Visualization of top performers based on most meetings booked

2. Team Sales Contests

In team sales contests, all team members compete against each other. Here you can see the agents competing based on how many leads they generate during the month. The use of conditional colors clearly shows who has reached their targets and makes it easy for everyone else to see how far they have to go before they catch up.

Visualization of top performers by the number of leads created

3. Team Versus Team Sales Contests 

Team versus team sales contests challenge teams to compete across locations or departments. In this example, teams in Denmark, France, and the United States are competing to achieve the highest value of sales. Display it in a podium format to motivate employees to reach the top spot. 

Visualization of sales team regional results

4. Award Points and Badges

Intrinsically motivated people love recognition. As a result, using points and badges can be a fun and economical way to recognize and celebrate their achievements. 

This example uses Plecto’s gamification software to display a star badge for any team member who reaches their monthly meetings target, a dollar icon when a rep hits their value of won deals target, and a champions cup badge for any rep who hits their performance agreement goal. 

To do this in your own organization, simply determine which KPIs are important to your team. From there, you can set the badges accordingly.

Visualization of sales team leaderboard

5. Set Up Instant Notifications

Give immediate kudos by displaying instant notifications on TV screens, smartphones, and computers whenever someone reaches a milestone. By doing so, you fuel your reps’ competitive nature, fulfill their need for recognition, and allow everyone to celebrate each other’s successes.

Hot Tip: Less is more with instant notifications—too many alerts can reduce their impact, so choose your notification KPIs wisely and sparingly.

Visualization of a Plecto notification alert

“The psychology of a salesperson is actually pretty simple. They want to do well. They want to excel in what they do. They’re competitive by nature and they want to beat all the others. That’s why, for example, I think the gamification aspects of Plecto’s platform are excellent.”

— Gopal RajGuru, Managing Director at Innovate+Grow

Give your new tools a test drive

Knowing how to motivate sales reps to outperform their targets is your first step in building a high-performance sales team. By talking with each of your reps, you can start to identify who is intrinsically and extrinsically motivated.

If you want more exclusive ideas on using gamification to improve your team’s performance, download Plecto’s free guide, VCC: The News Sales Performance Formula.

With contributions from 13 sales experts, it’s chock-full of inspiring insights and real-world examples from industry-leading organizations. You will learn exactly how to build a performance-driven culture in your sales organization using our tried-and-tested 3-step VCC Model.


This article was produced in partnership with Plecto, one of Aircall’s integration partners. You can learn more about the Plecto integration on Aircall’s App Marketplace.

The phone system for modern business