Closing Time

Using the PRAISE Model to Retain and Motivate Sales Teams

If you’re a leader looking to retain and motivate sales teams, this is the episode for you. 

We all know company culture is the key to employee retention. But how do you motivate a sales team that stays, performs, and advocates in the post-Great Resignation era? Sales expert Todd Caponi would argue it involves maximizing intrinsic inspiration.

In this episode of Closing Time, he’ll discuss the six categories of motivation and inspiration (also referred to as the PRAISE model) and share actionable tips to help maximize them in any sales environment.

The six elements of the PRAISE model – Predictability, Recognition, Aim, Independence, Security, and Equitability – create incredible opportunities for organizations to make their workplaces more magnetic. Tune in to learn them all.

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Retaining Employees

As a sales leader, losing your best people can be a nightmare. However, there are certain elements that you can utilize to retain your sales team and keep them engaged. The science of intrinsic inspiration is a model that can optimize the factors that drive us to show up every day, do our best, stay, and recommend our workplace to others. By optimizing these factors, sales leaders can create an environment where turnover goes down, and performance goes up.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a case study in behavioral science, and it has been fascinating to watch how sales leaders have reacted. Initially, many sales leaders lost control and the ability to predict as they couldn’t see their salespeople on the sales floor. To compensate, some companies started doing twice-daily check-ins with their sales team, which turned into an exercise in salespeople figuring out how much they should go to impress their managers. Then we shifted to Zoom happy hours three nights a week, which initially was a great idea, but 18 months later, we were still doing it.

One area we’ve under-indexed is the PRAISE (Predictability, Recognition, Aim, Independence, Security, and Equitability) model of intrinsic inspiration, which creates incredible opportunities for organizations to make their workplaces more magnetic. By optimizing the factors that drive us to show up every day, sales leaders can create a work environment where their team wants to stay, do their best, and advocate to others how great it is to work there.

Predictability & Recognition

Todd Caponi - Quote

While many believe that monetary incentives are the key to keeping sales reps motivated, relying solely on compensation is unsustainable and ineffective in the long run.

The first component of the PRAISE model is predictability. Humans do their best work when they can predict what’s coming next. Sales leaders should be consistent and provide their teams with a clear understanding of what’s expected of them. Uncertainty can be stressful and lower IQ, so it’s essential to help sales reps feel secure and confident in their roles.

The second component of the PRAISE model is recognition. People are more motivated when they receive recognition for their efforts. Sales leaders should provide regular feedback, critique in private, and praise in public. Small contests and status symbols can also be effective in motivating sales reps, even more so than the promise of a big commission check.

Aim & Independence

The third component of the PRAISE model is aim. Aim or purpose is critical as it motivates people to do their best work beyond their quotas and paychecks. A company’s success depends on how united its employees are towards a shared mission. Companies that make a positive impact on their customers, customers can create a magnetic workplace that engages and retains employees. Sales leaders should ask their team whether their work matters and in what ways. This can help them find purpose in their work and make an impact beyond their quotas.

The fourth component of the PRAISE model is independence.  Salespeople are typically independent individuals who are driven to succeed on their own terms. Trusting them to do their job and giving them the autonomy and resources to do it is essential to retaining them. Micromanaging can lead to disengagement and demotivation. During remote work situations, leaders must find a balance between checking in on their team and giving them space to do their best work.

Security & Equitability

The fifth component of the PRAISE model is security. When we feel like other people have our back, we’re more likely to do our best work. Sales is not an individual sport, it is a team sport – and the most successful sales orgs will operate as a team. It’s crucial for sales leaders to ensure that their teams know they have their back, especially during times of remote work.

The last component of the PRAISE model is equitability. Compensation plays a role, but politics can drive disengagement. Are reps being paid for their effort, time, and resources? Are they being treated equally with others? Are benefits and recognition equally distributed?  

Predicting the Future

In the world of sales, the challenge of retaining sales teams has been a recurring one. While the current situation of the great resignation may seem daunting, history has shown us that this is just part of a cycle. High demand and low supply for salespeople can lead to a lot of voluntary turnover, followed by a period of high involuntary turnover. This can result in increased costs and inflation, which drives companies to focus on profitability rather than revenue at all costs.

However, there is hope for those who are proactive in their approach. By focusing on intrinsic inspiration, companies can sustain themselves through this period and potentially even outperform those who do not. Intrinsic inspiration is about creating a culture where employees feel valued and supported. This involves things like recognizing their efforts and creating a sense of security by having each other’s backs. It also means ensuring that compensation is equitable and that everyone is treated fairly.

While the future may seem uncertain, it is important to remember that this is not the first time we have experienced such challenges. By learning from history and staying ahead of the curve, sales teams can weather the storm and come out stronger on the other side. As the old saying goes, “this too shall pass.”


It’s on everyone’s mind. Maintaining your sales team during the great resignation. It’s up next in this episode of Closing Time. Welcome to Closing Time, the show for go-to-market leaders. I’m Val Riley, head of content marketing at Insightly. Today I’m joined by Todd Caponi. He’s an author, a speaker in the sales field and a self-described transparency nerd.. Welcome to the show, Todd. Thank you for having me. I understand you were a part of the great resignation, so this conversation might really hit home. Yes, I was. And, you know,. I think it’s hard for people in revenue because it’s hard not to think if there might be something a little bit better out there for you, which was my story. So I want to talk to you about this because I understand that you may have seen it coming and you might have a different perspective based on your behavioral science background. Yeah. I mean, this is a case study in behavioral science. And I know we’re going to dig in a little bit to that. Here’s why I saw it coming. And I’m going to give you my perspective on why it’s happening. And maybe this will relate, but I don’t know about all of you but you know, for years we had cable TV here in our house, right? So you had your TVs. You had a box that was wired in from the floor, it had a DVR on it. So you recorded all your favorite shows on it. And every year, like we had a provider that every single year they would raise the price right. And it’s like $4 more a month, now it’s $9. And you just be like, I’m going to eat it because the physical cost of change was high. Right. Like, what’s the alternative? Get a satellite dish and wire in through the ceiling. Like, that’s a pain. The emotional cost of change was high because like, my kids we DVR their favorite episodes of their favorite shows, and there was no getting that data off. Like, I’d have to hire an I.T. expert to do it. Like, that wasn’t going to happen. So we just ate it. Well, finally, we get to a couple of years ago when the proliferation of streaming services and smart TVs had taken over that we finally were like, we don’t need this anymore. Got Roku, got streaming. TV, you know, signed up for like AT&T now or DirectTV Now or whatever the streaming provider was. Now, we stuck with them for probably 18 months. But here’s what happened. All of a sudden, we get an email from them saying, Hey, listen, cost of content’s gone up, and as a result, we’re raising your rate by 9.99 a month. We’re like, Oh, all right, cool. I’m telling you, within probably 20 minutes, we had changed providers. Now, that’s because there is almost zero physical cost to change. Right. All we got to do is cancel with you, sign up with you. There’s no emotional cost because not only do we not care about the DVR shows anymore. Every episode of every show is available for stream, right? So, like, you don’t even what’s the point of a DVR when I can just watch the shows on demand whenever I want? Now, so the kids don’t even care. They actually like this better. So literally, and then this happened again during March Madness, the NCAA tournament. We were with fubo. They don’t have TNT, TBS, or any of the channels that had the games on Literally 20 minutes later, I’m on YouTube TV. Now, the reason I say that, think about the think about the business world today. The physical cost of changing jobs is practically nonexistent, right? Your commute doesn’t change. Like you still walk from your bedroom down to your office. Maybe you get a pair of logo socks or something and maybe a new laptop. But that’s the physical cost. The emotional cost. We could pretend all day long that these virtual happy hours and all of this creates the same type of bonds that are created in human to human. But they don’t. Right? The bonds that you get from being in the office with somebody being shoulder to shoulder in the trenches, getting coffee with them, tending actual happy hours. That’s what creates the emotional bonds. And without that, the slightest trigger is driving people to change jobs. And from a sales perspective, it could be, hey, quotas are going up, territories are getting smaller. Oh, you lost a big deal. And you don’t really like your pipeline. Oh, you went to a party and your buddies are talking about how much fun they’re having in their sales job and how much money they’re making. And oh, by the way, there’s tons of jobs open. Click click. Just like you do your Internet streaming. And that’s why I could see it happening. Low physical cost. Low emotional cost means the trigger to change jobs practically non-existent. And as a result, with an economy where there was a lot more demand for salespeople than there was supply, it was a perfect storm that was going to create this great resignation. And sure enough, it did. So, you know, if you’re a sales leader and you’re sitting there and you’re thinking, oh, gosh, you know, I don’t want to start from scratch,. I don’t want to lose all my good people. You talk about a series of elements that you can tap into to get those people to maintain and stay in your organization. Can you talk us through that a little bit? Yeah, I mean, it’s a little nerdy, but. I’ll try to make it as simple as I can. from a bunch of the research that I had done. I’d kind of created a model for how to think about this thing that I call the science of intrinsic inspiration. But essentially it’s the things that drive us to show up every day, to do our best, to stay, and to advocate to others about how great it is, where we are. Like if you can optimize all of those as a sales leader, then you’re going to create an environment where turnover goes down and performance goes up. And like I said, it’s been funny to me to watch this whole situation happen because it’s been a bit of a case study in behavioral science, meaning that when it first happened, right? Like when COVID first happened in March of 2020, we sent everybody home. What happened? Well, sales leaders lost some control. They lost some ability to predict because they’re looking out at their sales floor. But wait, they’re in their house, their sales floor is their kitchen, and there’s nobody they’re like,. What are my sales people doing? And so they started to lose control. And as a result, they overcompensated by in many cases, I saw companies that were doing twice daily check ins with their sales team right in the morning. We’re going to do a check in and just see how you’re doing and we’re going to get everybody together. Maybe we’ll do a fun icebreaker, but we’re going to see what you’re going to try to accomplish today. And at the end of the day, we’re going to do another check in where we’re going to see what you accomplished, how it went and what you’re going to do tomorrow. Right. And like that became this exercise in salespeople figuring out how much B.S. they should go to. Right? Like, I don’t want to sound like a brown nose, but I want to impress my manager. That’s the morning conversation. The afternoon conversation turns out to be, what can I say that’s going to appease my manager? Because, like,. I didn’t really do much today. Right. And so, like, that became this whole thing. We then shifted again to, oh, no, we as human beings, we need to be part of packs. We do our best work when we’re connected, when we’re part of a group. And as a result, we’re all alone and we got to make sure that people feel like they’re a part of something. So zoom happy hours three nights a week, right? And like so we overcompensated on that. When I say overcompensated,. I mean, initially it was a great idea. But when I look 18 months later and we were still doing it. Like, all right, I believe there is a couple of areas and we’ll talk a little bit about this here in a second. It’s something I like to call the praise model of intrinsic inspiration, but there’s a couple of those elements that I think we’ve under indexed on that create incredible opportunity for organizations to make their workplaces more magnetic. Yeah, that’s so true. You know, I think that morning check in was like, did they brush their teeth? Did they do their hair? Are they showered? You know, and then the afternoon check in was, you know, are they still alive? Are they are they coming back for more the next day? So really, so much less about a team unity and so much more about just like worry and control, which really has made those sales leaders have to make a big shift. And exactly. Let’s go ahead and break down that praise model. Well, yeah. So, you know, there was this old axiom growing up in sales, right, that sales reps are coin operated Well, they are if you’re doing it wrong, right? If you’re using compensation as the motivator that drives your reps it might work in the short term, but it’s not sustainable. And especially in a market where there’s a proliferation, like there’s so many more jobs available than there are people that that’s not a strategy that’s going to win and you’re not going to win the battle of paying more anyway. Right. From a profitability perspective, it’s a bad idea. So I was looking through all the science around what drives us intrinsically, what is intrinsic inspiration and what are the components that make it up. And conveniently, it makes out the word praise. So I’ll take you through that. The first one is predictability, meaning we as human beings, we do our best work when we can predict, right. Like when we can see into the future. When we go to bed at night, we sleep our best when we know what we think. We’re going to be getting into that next morning. Uncertainty is a crazy maker for our brains. And it actually lowers our IQ when we’re in it. Sales leaders. Are you consistent and are you helping your teams to predict? That’s the first one. The second one. So the R is recognition, meaning we do our best work when we’re recognized for our efforts, when we get status, when we get feedback, right, that people see the good work that we’re doing. In many cases, it was the small little contests that we would run at work that drove behavior even bigger than the idea that they were going to make a big commission check when they close the deal. Right. Like we were giving out hundred dollar bills once for deals that are giving them $2,000 plus in commission. And they were crowing over each other for these ten $100 bills, this little contest that we had. So recognition, leaders think through this idea of am I recognizing my team for the effort? Am I giving them praise in public?. Am I critiquing in private? Are we doing regular feedback? Is their status available? Right. That’s number two. The third one the A. is what is my aim? What is my mission? What is my purpose? We do our best work when our work matters beyond our quote and our paycheck. Right? We do charity work. We do all kinds of things where we feel like we’re a part of something and if not, has to do with the comp plans. Right. The companies that I’ve been in that have been the most successful, we would run through a brick wall for each other because it was like this purpose. Like we had a purpose, and that purpose could be as extreme as hey and our solutions help save lives. Right? But the purpose could also be, hey, we’re making a real impact on our customers, customers. So for you, here’s the question that I want you to ask yourselves. Ask your customers and make sure that your team knows it’s does my work matter, does my reps work matter? And in what ways? To me, as a leader, to my customers and to my customers, customers. Why me selling this solution is helping my customers, customers can become an aim right away, right? It can become a purpose. It can have an impact beyond your quota. And that’s one of those opportunities that gives you the idea that we can actually create a magnetic workplace. The next one is the I, the I is independence, right? Like the opposite of which would be micromanagement would be two daily check in calls, right? We do our best work when we’re trusted, when we’re given autonomy, when we’re given the resources to do our work ourselves. Right? I mean, they didn’t go into sales if they couldn’t work independently. Right. I think sometimes sales leaders forget that it it attracts those independent people. So that micromanaging is just not going to be fit. Well, exactly. And that’s one of the concerns that we had in March of 2020. Right. Which was, gosh, I can’t see these reps. I’m used to just looking out of my office and I can see them all there wow. I got to make sure that they’re working.. No, right? There’s got to be a balance. Reps do want some of those other elements, but they also want to be trusted and given the resources to do that best work. The next one is S. Security, right? Safety. We do our best work when we’re a part of a pack when we feel like other people have our back. Do you feel like your teams know that you have their back? that each other has their back? That’s one of the areas, again, that. I think we overindexed on a little bit because we we’re all alone, right? We’re just in our homes all by ourselves. We don’t know that. And that’s why. I think we overcompensated on it. But there’s a good balance there. Then the last one is E, which is equitability meaning is the juice worth the squeeze? Right. And the juice is partially pay. Sure. Like, certainly compensation plays a role, but politics are the quickest way to drive disengagement that you can possibly find. Right. Meaning equitable. Am I getting paid for the effort, for my time, for the resource, but am I also getting paid equally with others? Am I being treated equally as others? All those other elements of the praise model, that’s the equitability. Is the juice worth the squeeze here? And I think if we all, just as leaders, write down praise and then think through those things and make sure that we’re optimizing and balancing those, it’s a great opportunity for us to start to quell that turnover, that great resignation, and get people to stay and there’s going to, without question, be elements of that that you’re under indexing right now and those create great opportunities for you. So I’ll ask you to look into your crystal ball. Since you feel like you predicted the great resignation, is this just the way we’re going to have to live for the rest of our lives? Or will this time period come to an end in some way? Well, I don’t want to ring the hear ye, hear ye the end is near bell. But, you know, we as a profession have stepped on the same rig quite a few times. And throughout history, when you look at times where there’s been a high demand, low supply for salespeople, and all of a sudden you see a lot of voluntary turnover, that’s typically been followed by a period of high involuntary turnover, I hate to say it,. I think we’re going to find a balance because what ends up happening is that your costs per go up, you have to find ways to pass those costs along. It drives inflation. FYI we’re seeing high inflation right now. And typically what that’s followed by is a period of contraction and companies that start to see that profitability is a better beacon versus revenue at all costs. And so they start to come down and go, let’s do this the right way. We’re going to see this pendulum swing. We’ve seen it for a million years. As a matter of fact, there’s something that. I’ve got a podcast I just do for fun called the sales History Podcast. But one of my episodes talks about something called the great sales resignation of 1922, where we saw levels that were as high as 85% involuntary turnover, meaning organizations that were practically purging their entire sales organizations when two years earlier, 1920 looked a lot like it does today. So it’s just something to keep in mind. Again, I’m not, I’m not sounding an alarm, but we just have to recognize it’s probably not sustainable this way, but for the time being we got to compete, we’ve got to grow and if you can get ahead of it and think through intrinsic inspiration, you’re going to be the ones that sustain what could potentially be a downturn inevitably, which has always happened, better than any other organization that’s not. Right. And you know, if we stick around long enough, there’ll be another upswing, right? So it’s always, always worth it to learn the methodology Todd, thank you so much for joining us. Really appreciate your time. Yeah, thanks for having me. This is so much fun to talk about and I appreciate you having me. That’s going to do it for this episode of Closing Time, the show for go-to-market leaders. Be sure to subscribe and hit that bell for notifications so you don’t miss a thing. We’ll see you next time.

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