How to Motivate Salespeople Without the Money?

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You could agree that sales managers can talk about motivation for hours – but probably most of them will not figure out anything new. But are you sure? Is motivation all about bonuses and money-centric incentives? Are company cars, benefit cards and large bonuses the only and effective way to motivate salespeople? Let’s see how things are going…

What will you learn from this article?

  • One of the fundamental non-financial motivation theories
  • How you can apply it in context of gamification

Motivation in theory

The theory of David McClelland, a psychologist at Harvard University, is extremely important when trying to understand the motivators of salespeople. Although it was developed almost 60 years ago, it is still pretty accurate. According to the theory, people are driven by 3 psychological needs: achievement, power and affiliation.

The theory also has its applications in context of gamification, but more on that in a moment. Let’s first have a look at the way McClelland described the three key needs. It is worth noting that one is driven by those three needs to a certain extent, but you can meet people who have one of them developed so that you can see it at first glance.

The Need for Achievement

First of all, people who are driven by the need of achievement to the greatest extent are characterized by a readiness to take decisive actions and a willingness to take responsibility for their results. Even if these results are not ultimately the best, they want to know the truth and are ready to face even the harshest feedback.

Secondly, their goal is not only to fulfill their intentions, but to do it in the most effective and by the way most spectacular way. They are not afraid to take the risk. What’s more they are really great at calculating the risk and choosing ambitious goals, which in their opinion are possible to achieve.

The Need for Power

The strongly developed need for power is a kind of double-edged sword.

The need for social power can be very useful for the team and the whole organization. Leaders with such need are able to properly motivate their team, imposing tough requirements and thus striving to fulfill the goals. It also triggers collective effort, so valuable from the perspective of team’s functioning.

The need for power may, however, have a different, more egoistic variation. People with such need can be difficult collaborators, because they put personal success first, they are eager to take independent actions, but also have a deep desire to influence other team members.

The Need for Affiliation

People with such a need are less likely to become leaders. They like teamwork, especially if it provides them with approvals related to the activities they undertake and the general acceptance of their behavior. They are most productive when they have the opportunity to act collectively. They are a good support for other team members, but it is better not to put them before making decisions with high responsibility.

Motivation and Games

As I mentioned earlier, McClelland’s theory has its applications in the world of games. In the work of salespeople also. As a result of combining these two facts, we can try many mechanisms that will help us motivate our team and achieve outcomes such as:

  • Increase sales activity and quality
  • Increase motivation to take routine actions
  • Effortlessly make the team cooperate and coordinate actions of team members
  • Motivate salespeople to undertake bonus actions
  • Increase the loyalty of sales representatives
  • Product education

But… how?

Each and every need of sales reps – players – has its reflection in the virtual world of games. There are several mechanisms that can be used to drive sustainable behavior change. We use most of them in the Sales Pistols PRO app.

The need for achievement? There’s nothing easier. Rankings, quests, challenges, quizzes, virtual badges. That’s what a typical achievement-driven salesman needs: they need achievements, which can be easily provided within those mechanisms.

The need for power? Players with such need love to be recognized as important. As managers, we can mention them in the newsfeed, giving a moment of glory. Rankings also influence their self-esteem. Being the best does no harm. What’s more: people with the need for power love to be the owners of projects or leaders in specific team objectives. Why not let them?

The need for affiliation? Such players will definitely find the group rankings more attractive than individual. They want positive feedback – and that’s why you can give them thumbs up or comment their activity. The social networking part of every gamification is a must-have.

Eventually, it doesn’t matter what app, tool or scenario you are going to use to utilize non-financial motivation mechanisms. Top international companies are aware of the fact that the competitive advantage is not to have money to motivate salespeople, but to know how to motivate them without the money.


Kajetan Iżycki

Head of Marketing in Sales Pistols with over 2 years of experience in implementing gamification projects. He not only writes about gamification, but also carries out research on implementing game mechanisms in sales.

Kajetan IżyckiHow to Motivate Salespeople Without the Money?

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