What Salespeople Want: The Drivers of Intrinsic Inspiration

Jan 30, 2023 | Blog

What Salespeople Want: The Drivers of Intrinsic Inspiration & the PRAISE Model

I am not a neuroscientist.

However, as a revenue leader, I was always drawn to the research; reading about it, making sense of it, and trying to apply it to the world of selling – and revenue leadership.

Why? Because the science community has put it’s finger on how we, as human beings, engage, prioritize, make decisions, and ultimately take action. Those elements dramatically impact everything we do in sales, and leadership!

One key omission from the world of revenue and sales leadership? It starts with this old phrase, still heard often:

“Salespeople are coin-operated”.

Is that true? The answer is yes, if we’re doing it wrong.

What’s “it”? It is leadership.

Because the best performance comes from the best teams. AND, the best teams are NOT always the most talented.

The best teams are often the ones who consistently put in the effort, never stop learning & growing, come together as a team, and feel as though they are on a mission.

So, how do we get teams to come together, consistently put in the effort, and find an unquenchable thirst for learning? Found in the pages of the behavioral science, we can uncover the true drivers of “intrinsic inspiration”; a state where you are inspired to be fully engaged and put in discretionary effort by things found inside you (intrinsic), versus things found outside of you (extrinsic) like rewards or punishments. 

But, where in the sales leadership curriculum is this nerdy stuff taught? I have yet to see it! Revenue leaders learn how to maximize sustainable revenue. What kind of advantage would sales and revenue leaders have if they knew how to build teams that consistently stay, bring their best every day, perform, and become advocates?

I believe that everyone wins when we create environments where variable compensation is the REWARD for doing work they love to do instead of the reason they do it.

A huge opportunity. Use behavioral science for good, not evil.

Through my readings, research and application, I’ve found models out there…but none of them spoke to me as being great for those who care about driving revenue. I kept studying, and ended up with a whiteboard full of intrinsic drivers. The result? I created a model…a model that, when internalized, can be your guide to driving teams who drive your business beyond their number and a paycheck.

I call it, the P.R.A.I.S.E. Model of Intrinsic Inspiration.

The PRAISE Model of Intrinsic Inspiration

There are six primary categories of motivators. Understand them. Internalize them. Write them on a notecard and keep them by your desk. I dedicated an entire section of my latest book, The Transparent Sales Leader, to diving into each – giving you ideas and ways to establish, grow and maximize each element. Here they are:

Predictability: We, as human beings, do best in situations or environments where there is a predictable expectation. Individuals tend to be less productive when they have feelings of uncertainty, inconsistency and instability.

Example: You walk into the office (back when we used to do that sort of thing), and see your boss walking towards you. Your boss has her head down, doesn’t make eye contact, and doesn’t acknowledge you. Your brain goes into survival mode – “Wow, she must hate me! I must have done something wrong. Wow, I’m in trouble.” Maybe she just has something on her mind…but our brains are wired to think the worst.

There’s a meeting taking place where your peers are participating, and you weren’t invited. “Wow, they must not value my opinion.” Maybe they’re planning your birthday party. Maybe those individuals are getting reprimanded for not being as awesome as you. Again – it’s our brain’s protection mechanism, instantly thinking the worst.

Your manager seems angry. “I’m in trouble. What did I do? Ugh, I wonder if my job is at risk.” It could be that he closed his garage door on his car that morning, found a hole in his favorite underwear or he simply woke up with a headache – all of which have nothing to do with you, but again, our brains are wired to protect against the worst.

Moral: Are you creating an environment where, when your team goes to bed at night, they can predict what tomorrow will bring? With layoffs abound, have you even addressed it? Or, are they thinking the execution could come in the morning, harming their sleep, performance and creativity? Are you consistent as a leader? Do they know what version of you will be there to greet them tomorrow?

Recognition: We, as human beings, do best when performance recognition, status and feedback are available. Individuals tend to work less and for shorter periods when they feel their efforts are not acknowledged and validated.

Example: Three years ago, while holding ten $100 bills, I walked into the area where all of our corporate (inside) sellers were located. I told the team that, for the next ten deals that close where the annual recurring revenue is over $10,000, I will walk out and hand the sales rep one of the $100 bills.

We closed ten deals over $10,000 in annual recurring revenue in a faster period of time than we had ever accomplished as an organization.

Mind you, the average commission on such a deal for the rep was 8.5%. The average deal size of those ten deals was $21,000. So, the average commission a rep received for closing said deal was $1,785.

Was it the $100 that drove the additional motivation extrinsically? Or, was it the pageantry of the delivery of the $100 bills and their name on the board as one of the ten?

Moral: Are you regularly pointing out the efforts, achievements and successes of each team member? Are they getting feedback to understand where they’re excelling, and where there’s opportunity to excel? Are there ways to create opportunities to inspire recognition amongst the team?

Aim: We, as human beings do best in situations or environments where there is satisfaction in purpose, mission, helping others, or making an impact beyond just themselves. Individuals are less likely to do their best when they feel as they are just a number with a number (i.e., a quota), and their work doesn’t matter beyond their forecast.

Example: When I was the Chief Revenue Officer for PowerReviews, we sold ratings and reviews technology for retailers and brands. Who cares?

The end consumer cares, who leverages those ratings and reviews to make smart decisions with their limited incomes to make their lives better for themselves and their families.

One of my clients sells accounting software. Who cares?

The Chief Financial Officer and her staff cares, because their technology helps those accountants get their weekends back to spend with their friends and families, versus having to work around the clock each quarter closing their books on time.

Moral: Does your team know what their work means to you, your customers, and their customers? Figure it out and share it often.

Independence: We, as human beings, perform best when having control over ourselves and our environment. Individuals are less driven in environments where they lack autonomy, the trust of others, and the resources to succeed. In other words, performance suffers when we’re micro-managed.

Example: Now that we’re all hybrid-remote, you may be having daily check-ins with your boss, who’s asking you what you’re working on. So, each day, you spend a half-hour coming up with your story as to what you’re going to tell your boss you’re working on so they’ll leave you alone until tomorrow.

In my first sales role, selling overnight shipping for Airborne Express, I was required to write down every single cold call I made – needing to make 250 per week. I didn’t last. I wasn’t inspired. I spent an hour a day padding my stats and data to keep my job, instead of performing my best.

Moral: Are you giving your team the tools, resources, and training to do their best work with the least amount of supervision?

Security: We, as human beings, do best in situations or environments where we feel association safety, and where we are part of a pack. Individuals are less likely to stay and perform their best when they feel alone, at risk, and/or where they feel as though others do not have their back.

Example: When the world shut down for Covid, the connection we had to one another in a remote environment eroded along with it. The solution? Zoom happy hours. Lots of them! When layoffs coincided with being alone, it was like being in a forest full of bears by yourself at night. A connection had to be re-established! Teams outperform individuals.

Moral: Do your team members feel like they’re connected, and that others “have their back”? Would your team members hang out with each other if they weren’t connected by their job? How many of your team members have a best friend at work?

Equitability: We, as human beings, do our best when the reward (which may include the P.R.A.I.S.E. elements above or an extrinsic reward) is perceived to be fair. Individuals do less when they feel as though the “juice isn’t worth the squeeze”, or when others are receiving a different level of reward for a similar effort.

Example: Think of any situation where you see others who are doing less, performing less, or less talented than you perceive yourself to be as being paid more, recognized more, promoted more, or in general, getting rewards that you aren’t. Quick path to disengagement, right? Politics should be kept in government, not the world of selling.

Moral: Cards-face-up leadership. Ensure everyone feels like the rewards they get for their time and effort are worth it. Eliminate favoritism, and when you suspect their may be perceived instances of someone “getting paid more for the same job”, address it. If it’s true, fix it. If it’s not, embrace it and share it.

Once you internalize the six elements, you can begin to see where you fall short, what opportunities you have to enhance the environment, build the team’s spirit, and see discretionary effort rise.


Praise them! They show up, perform, stay and advocate – higher performance, lower turnover, faster time to hire of great people.

I speak and teach revenue organizations on how to leverage transparency and decision science to maximize their revenue capacity.

It’s what I do…teach sellers, their leaders, and really entire revenue organizations the how we as human beings make decisions, then how to use that knowledge for good (not evil) in their messaging (informal and formal), negotiations and revenue leadership. I wrote a 3x award-winning book (𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘛𝘳𝘢𝘯𝘴𝘱𝘢𝘳𝘦𝘯𝘤𝘺 𝘚𝘢𝘭𝘦), and have a newish book out (𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘛𝘳𝘢𝘯𝘴𝘱𝘢𝘳𝘦𝘯𝘵 𝘚𝘢𝘭𝘦𝘴 𝘓𝘦𝘢𝘥𝘦𝘳) now that just won its first award!

Reach out if you want to discuss The Transparency Sale sales methodology, or really…anything else (sales kickoffs, workshopskeynotes, the economy, history, etc.)! Email info@toddcaponi.com or call 847-999-0420.

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