Can we actually expect salespeople to sell and meet quota just because we pay them to?

I recently read the book Drive by Daniel Pink written in 2010.  At first it was a slap in the face regarding everything I have learned and thought I knew about motivation, and in particular motivating salespeople.  It is a common known fact that to motivate salespeople to sell more, we must have juicy commission structures –the only reason salespeople sell is if they are going to get paid on the sale.  Well at least that is what I thought I knew.  Daniel Pink somewhat dispels the whole carrcarrot-stickot and stick approach and backs it up with scientific research.  How will the principles of autonomy, mastery, and purpose coincide within a sales organization?   Can we actually expect salespeople to sell and meet quota just because they want to, not only because they get paid if they sell?  It is hard to swallow.

At Braveheart Sales Performance, we are strong believers in using data-driven analysis to make decisions and that is why we use the sequence of sales assessments created by Objective Management Group.  The assessments recently added a more comprehensive analysis of what motivates the salesperson taking the assessment.  Not only does the assessment determine how motivated the individual is, it quantifies how extrinsically motivated he is or how intrinsically motivated he is.  Extrinsically refers to money, rewards and things, and intrinsically refers to satisfaction, mastery, enjoyment of selling, and fulfillment.

Recently, I had been noticing a trend that many candidates were showing higher levels of intrinsic motivation than extrinsic motivation.  It didn’t make sense to me, until I read this book Drive.  What I have learned is that exceptional salespeople come in all varieties.  Some are totally and completely motivated by money, while others are just as driven, but are motivated by the satisfaction of taking care of a client, or the pride in winning a piece of business.  What it illustrates for me, is that companies must understand what motivates their people and have the compensation plan and environment that rewards the sales team the way they will respond.  It all gets down to understanding your people.

We want to know what you think about this fascinating book. We welcome your comments, or you can email us at