That is a question our sales training clients in Edmonton, Calgary, Victoria and Vancouver often ask.  Most companies create pay incentives for their Salespeople.  At least some form of commission payment has been an industry standard for decades.  Some companies are starting to adopt a salary only payment structure.  They claim that commissions are influencing Salespeople into losing their objectivity with customers.  Is this really the case?

Three Forms of Pay Structure

For the past 30 years, I’ve been employed in the Sales Industry either as a Salesperson, Sales Manager or Sales Trainer.  I’ve seen three basic forms of pay structure all based on company goals and beliefs.  Many pay structure hybrids can exist, as each company determines its proper sales culture and attempts to attract the right caliber of individual.

Full Commission

The Salesperson receives a healthy commission for completing a sale.  If no sales are made, no commissions or monthly wages are paid.  This attracts seasoned Sales Professionals that have proven sales experience and the ability to be virtually self-employed in business for themselves.

Full Commission Salespeople are almost always classified as Outside Salespeople.  They have to proactively call on potential customers and entice them to buy their product or service.  Realtors, Media Salespeople and Direct Salespeople (door to door) are employed in this category.  Full Commissioned Salespeople can represent both the highest and lowest paid in the industry.

Well established Salespeople with many consistent clients can make incredible incomes in excess of $100,000 per year and even higher.  Full Commissioned Salespeople just starting out can be the lowest paid, as it can take a long time to build business.

Commission with Salary

While the salary range will vary by industry and company, this payment structure allows for a base income per year with the incentive for commission based on sales made.  Most Professional Salespeople are employed in this category.

Inside Salespeople, approached by potential customers by phone, internet or walk-in, attempt to convince people to buy their product or service.  This includes the automotive industry, technology and retail in general.

Many of these Salespeople are happy to have the incentive of adding to their income with the stability of having a consistent monthly paycheck.  Incomes will have a wide range based on skill level and experience, yet not as diverse as Full Commission.

In the lower level, the salary will cover the basic necessities of life.  High income individuals can be paid quite well, yet those truly motivated by earning potential will be attracted to full commission.

Salaried Salespeople

These Professional Salespeople tend to be employed in highly technical fields or by employers who feel that the concept of commission and personal incentive causes Salespeople to lose their objectivity in focusing on their customers’ needs.

These companies are revenue based.  They find that paying Salespeople a commission causes them to  potentially lose objectivity on the needs of their customers; that Commissioned Salespeople by nature, may focus on meeting targets, earn large paychecks and sometimes create a corrosive work atmosphere.

Companies employing a salary-only pay plan feel they have far less turnover, as Salespeople are more comfortable working in that environment.  There is less internal competition on the sales floor and the focus tends to be customer driven with education and satisfaction being vital.

No Commission?  That’s blasphemy!

This is how many Professional Salespeople who have made a career in the industry feel.  A recent article in the Globe and Mail, “For Some, paying sales commissions no longer makes sense” gives you the specific reasons why some companies have abandoned commission for salary.  Many companies that feel the need to pay Salespeople commissions rest their case on two ways of thinking.

  1. We are a revenue based company.  We want our Salespeople to be paid on sales performance.
  2. If we didn’t pay commissions, we would lose our top performers to companies that do.

Frankly, it’s hard not to feel that way.  In my opinion, Professional Salespeople work hard to complete sales transactions and should be paid based on their performance and work ethic.  I have been working Full Commission for over 25 years, even as a Sales Manager.


When my Salespeople did well, I wanted to do well as a Sales Manager.  When they hurt financially, I wanted to feel the pain on my paycheck as their leader.  Nothing was more motivating than being in it with my troops.  To me, as a Professional in the Sales Industry nothing was more boring than SALARY.

I will always want a direct connection between my talent, skills, work ethic and performance to my personal monthly paycheck.  Would I have left if my employer abandoned commission for salary?

Mostly definitely.  Chances are I would have landed up at the competition who would have been happy to have me.

The Problem is not Compensation – It’s Culture

Your company should be looking for Full Commission Professional Salespeople who believe in integrity and ethics.  High paid 100% commissioned Salespeople get their repeat business and referrals ONLY because of their great reputation.  Character is what determines your company’s sales culture.

Your company needs to employ Sales Managers who reinforce this philosophy.  When training commissioned Salespeople as a Sales Manager, I had a strong message to every new employee.

You’d better be thinking of renewal each time you make an initial presentation.  What’s the one word you want to be known for with your clients?  What do you want them to say about you when you leave the room?

When interviewing great candidates for your next sales opening, ask them if they have ever walked away from a sale.  Ask for an example.  You’re looking for successful Professional Salespeople who want to earn high incomes by working hard and earning the respect of their clients.

The goal is sourcing out, educating and helping people buy the right product or service. 

Your income is nothing more than the scorecard of that ability.

That’s how you build a winning sales culture.

 Pro Sales Guy




Pro Sales Guy