By Dave Kahle

Q.  Dave, I’m finding it difficult to manage my sales people in our straight commission environment. Any suggestions as to how I can get them to do what I want them do?

Here are some thoughts.  First, let me recommend you go to my website, and read the article entitled, “How to get ‘em to do what you want ‘em to.”

I’m not going to repeat that article here, but I do have some thoughts about the “straight commission environment.”

I spent much of my adult life as a sales person working on 100% commission.  I would not have had it any other way.  However, as a consultant and sales educator, I’m generally not in favor of 100% commission programs.    Here’s why:

  1. It is difficult to more finely direct a sales force when you pay them 100% commission.  You can ask them to do anything, but if it doesn’t allow them to make more money right away, it probably won’t get done.  For example, you can ask your sales people to prospect for new accounts.  They may nod their heads at you, but they will probably just continue to work in their current accounts where the business is easier to get.  You asked them to do something difficult, but you pay them to get the easiest business.  That’s frustrating for you and them.
  2. 100% commissioned programs are based on a false assumption.  The assumption is this: Most, if not all sales people, are primarily money motivated, and will continually try to earn more money.  The truth is that most sales people work up to an income level at which they are comfortable, and then level off at that level.  At some point, more money is not that important to them.  At least not enough to prompt them to work any harder or longer.  The most difficult sales force to manage is a group of experienced, successful and content sales people.

All this drives me to a conclusion.  The 100% commission environment will continually be frustrating for you.  If you are serious about wanting a more manageable sales force, do away with the 100% commission pay plan.  Revise your compensation plan to more accurately reflect your company’s strategies.

I have several articles that address these issues.  Feel free to tap into that resource.