An interesting question was recently brought to my attention: Should we resurrect the 100% commission sales position?
This topic has long been the subject of heated debate within the sales profession. On one side, there are those who believe that full commission positions are not only alive and kicking, but that companies should make them more appealing to hesitant sales pros by offering enhanced incentives and showcasing the income of top sales people to demonstrate earning potential.
Others, like me, are more divided on the subject. While 100% commission positions do have their place in sales, they aren’t always a good option for either the company or the sales professional. Certainly A Players can be wildly successful in 100% commission positions, but finding them is a major challenge. For many companies, these positions are recruitment and retention nightmares that result in low sales and high turnover.
While there are high caliber sales professionals who have the entrepreneurial spirit and drive necessary to make a 100% commission position work for themselves and the company, you have to dig very deep to find them. Too often, whether it’s justified or not, top sales pros perceive the companies offering commission-only positions as less-than-reputable.
The other problem with commission-only positions is that they haven’t kept up with the changes to the sales profession. Sales is far more than simply selling a widget and moving on. Today’s most successful sales organizations have recognized that success requires adopting a consultative, partnership approach that results in long-term client relationships.
By offering a base plus commission, hiring managers are acknowledging that they value sales people with much higher levels of education and experience than ever before – qualities that are neither cheap nor easy to find.
That is why I always encourage my clients to rethink their stance on commission-only positions. However, if they are insistent, I urge them to at least offer some level of draw against commissions and some type of guarantee. This demonstrates to prospective hires that the company is seeking a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship with their sales team. It shows good faith, which ultimately leads to higher caliber sales professionals and lower turnover.