The 8 Intrinsic Motivators That Really Inspire Salespeople

By: ITA Group
Colleagues smiling and sharing a high-five
Some people play sports for the opportunity to put a trophy on the shelf. Others do it for the love of the game.
Some people are into gardening because they love the ceaseless supply of veggies. Others do it because they love the satisfaction of cultivating something from seed to harvest—the food is just a perk.
Everyone pursues the things they love for unique reasons, and your salespeople are no different.
While money and non-monetary incentives are undoubtedly a major draw to the field of sales, it’s not the only one. Offering your salespeople intrinsic motivators alongside extrinsic ones can add some juice to your team.
Intrinsic motivation, simply put, is behavior driven by positive internal feelings. And it can be just as powerful as external motivation. We’re all unique, with different things that motivate us. 
Take a closer look at these eight intrinsic motivators. Which ones motivate your team?

1. Autonomy

No one likes to have a boss breathing down their neck. They like to have the ability to do things their own way.
And while you won’t be passing the torch entirely to one of your sales team members, permitting some autonomy in your team’s work is a great intrinsic motivator.

Try letting one of your salespeople manage the monthly team meeting as a reward for their hard work. Or, give your people an opportunity to focus on the lead or target that they feel is most beneficial.

When you offer a disciplined autonomy approach, you offer your team a real chance to flourish on their own.

2. Mastery

Everyone wants to get better at what they do—chefs want to make the best food, pilots want the smoothest landing and hockey players want to score a hat trick in every game.
The urge to get better at the things we’re passionate about is what mastery is all about. Olympic swimmers don’t always want to get up at 4 a.m. to practice, but they do, because they’re dedicated to being the best at what they do.
We all want to get better at something. And science shows that the best way to do that is through an incredible amount of consistent, focused practice.

3. Purpose

What’s your purpose? Why do you do what you do? Everyone’s answer to these questions is different.
Research attests that meaningful work can give a person a sense of “purpose, value and impact—of being involved in something bigger than themselves,” according to motivation expert and New York Times best-selling author, Dan Ariely. He goes on to say that, “We’re motivated by meaning and connection because their effects extend beyond ourselves, beyond our social circle, and maybe even beyond our existence.”

And that’s why purpose is a crucial factor that must be included when it comes to the intrinsic motivation of your people. We all want our work to be profitable and enjoyable, but we want it to serve something larger than ourselves.

Whatever that might mean for you, it’s a good idea to motivate people by targeting their intrinsic purpose.
Parents often work hard to invest in their children; and those without kids often help support aging parents or other relatives. Those without families often use their resources to support organizations they love in the community or their friends in times of need.
That’s the power of purpose.

4. Drive

Some people love video games. So much, in fact, they’ll stay up until 4 a.m. just to beat a level or defeat a boss.
While that might sound crazy to some, the same drive to achieve applies to many business leaders as well. Think about the sales leader coming in on a Saturday to knock out email and plot out objectives for next week.
In essence, they’re the same. They’re about drive—the innate motivation people have to achieve.
Ariely shares a similar view when talking about idea attachment. What brings you into the office early in the morning or makes you stay long after your coworkers have left is the drive to see your ideas come to fruition. You can hear more in the video below.
Related: Employee motivation is not one-size-fits-all. While you can’t force motivation, you can inspire it.

5. Belonging

No one wants to be left in the dugout while the team is playing. Everyone wants to feel like a part of the team, and that’s no different for salespeople. Belonging and feeling like a part of a team is a powerful intrinsic motivator.
Belonging is all about creating an environment where we all feel equal. We want to feel like we’re pushing together in the same direction. It’s a powerful intrinsic motivation that shouldn’t be ignored.
“The more a company can offer its employees opportunities for meaning and connection, the harder those employees are likely to work and the more enduring their loyalty is likely to be,” said Ariely.
Related: Find out how employers can foster belonging in the workplace so that employees are happier, more engaged and more productive at work.

6. Status

Think of things that are extrinsic status symbols: cars, houses, trophies. We gather and flaunt them as a celebration of our own success. It’s built into our DNA.
But we don’t just seek those material possessions. We seek the status that comes along with them—that we’re on an elite echelon that can afford a Rolex, a luxury vehicle or a big house in a gated community.

On your sales team, status is the way that team members see each other. It’s the perception bosses have of their team members, and the perception team members have with each other.

It’s a powerful motivator that underlies many of the decisions and actions that salespeople make.

7. Learning

Why do some self-starters manage to skate through life, and others immersive themselves in scientific studies, dissertations and binge-watching TED Talks? Some of them just love to learn.
Many world-class achievers—whether in business, sports or the arts—are committed to continual improvement and self-motivation. They understand that in order to succeed in an ever-changing world, they must always be learning and evolving.
In your office, there might be someone who is the first to jump at attending seminars and conferences to learn more about your industry or the latest in sales. Chances are, these folks are intrinsically motivated by learning. is a great resource to keep your education going and learn tips on leadership, management techniques, productivity, writing and more.

8. Social Contact

Generally speaking, salespeople love people, and they love getting opportunities to be around others. Accordingly, social contact is a powerful motivator.
When you offer chances for get-togethers—even as small as an after-work outing—you give people an opportunity to get to know each other better on a personal level. That builds engagement and creates an environment people love being a part of.
Intrinsic motivators aren’t a replacement for extrinsic motivators—rather, they work hand-in-hand to create powerful motivation that your people love. Read more about how motivation and engagement go hand-in-hand in our ebook, How to Scale Employee Motivation in Large Organizations.
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