6 Inspiring TED Talks to Motivate Sales Professionals in Under an Hour

Rob Danna
Rob Danna

The average American spends 25.4 minutes commuting to work each day. Collectively, that’s a mind-blowing 29.6 billion hours we spend fighting traffic or waiting for the bus each year.

And what do we do with that time? Not a whole lot. We drive, whistle along to the radio, stare listlessly out the window or try to beat our top Candy Crush score.

If you’re a sales leader, idle downtime like this—especially on the way to work—is the perfect time to build sales motivation among your team.

Watch these inspiring TED videos for a sales motivation boost, then click here to share this post with your team.

It might be the most productive hour you’ll have all day.

1. Don’t Eat the Marshmallow! (5:58)

For the four-year-old kids in this experiment, a marshmallow is the ultimate treat. But there’s a hook: they can have one marshmallow now or wait 15 minutes and get two.

In this talk, Joachim de Posada details how the marshmallow experiment has relevance in the world of sales, too. If a customer says, “I want that” and you give it to them with no back-and-forth, that’s eating the marshmallow. Years down the road, the kids that waited 15 minutes, de Posada finds, are met with greater success than the others.


Key quote:

“That child already, at four, understood the most important principle for success, which is the ability to delay gratification. Self-discipline: the most important factor for success.”

2. Success is a Continuous Journey (3:57)

Why do so many people reach success and then fail? As Richard St. John details, people fail because they stop doing the things that made them successful to begin with. Watch this talk to learn about the principles for success that can help you rebound from failure and keep going along the path of success.


Key quote:

“Why do so many people reach success and then fail? One of the big reasons is, we think success is a one-way street. So we do everything that leads up to success, but then we get there. We figure we've made it, we sit back in our comfort zone, and we actually stop doing everything that made us successful. And it doesn't take long to go downhill.”

3. How to Get Your Ideas to Spread (17:01)

Sometimes, marketing guru Seth Godin describes, bad or bizarre ideas are more successful than conventional ones. Why? Because people remember the ideas that stand out from the crowd. And, Godin says, in today’s marketplace, people who can spread ideas, regardless of what those ideas are, win.


Key quote:

Frank Gehry didn't just change a museum; he changed an entire city's economy by designing one building that people from all over the world went to see. Now, at countless meetings at, you know, the Portland City Council, or who knows where, they said, we need an architect—can we get Frank Gehry? Because he did something that was at the fringes.”

4. The Happy Secret to Better Work (12:20)

Positive psychology, argues researcher, author and speaker Shawn Achor, is the key to a successful career and better work. Raising positivity levels in the present yields an increase in intelligence, creativity and energy. “In fact,” Achor says, “We've found that every single business outcome improves.”


Key quote:

“I've traveled to 45 countries, working with schools and companies in the midst of an economic downturn. And I found that most companies and schools follow a formula for success, which is this: If I work harder, I'll be more successful. And if I'm more successful, then I'll be happier…[that idea is] scientifically broken and backwards.”

5. Build a Tower, Build a Team (6:51)

In this engaging talk, author and professor Tom Wujec discusses the “Marshmallow Challenge,” a creative exercise where he encourages teams to work on building structures from spaghetti, tape, string and marshmallows. What he discovers is fascinating, and it has deep ramifications for sales teams in all capacities.


Key quote:

“Design truly is a contact sport. It demands that we bring all of our senses to the task, and that we apply the very best of our thinking, our feeling and our doing to the challenge that we have at hand.”

6. Are You a Giver or a Taker? (13:28)

Organizational psychologist and professor Adam Grant argues that there are two kinds of people in the world—givers and takers. Givers offer their time and are ready at a moment’s notice to help, while takers focus on their own work. It turns out, however, that takers tend to be the highest performers. What does it take to build a culture where givers actually succeed? And how can companies promote a culture of generosity to keep self-serving employees from taking more than their share?


Key quote:

“Success is really more about contribution…I believe that the most meaningful way to succeed is to help other people succeed.”

No matter role or seniority, people need a little boost to reach their full potential. To keep your sales team competitive—and keep them engaged with your company’s goals—you need to offer the right incentives to keep them moving and building market share.

Keep the motivation levels high with this motivation checklist for leaders that move your employees in the right direction.

Rob Danna

Rob Danna

With a 25-year background in technology and sales management, Rob brings real-world performance improvement solutions to hundreds of large companies. As Vice President of Sales and Marketing at ITA Group, he prides himself by staying on the front lines of performance improvement technology and innovation.