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Sales Management Myths: Straight Commission
By Dave Kahle, The Growth Coach®

It's the unfortunate truth that, except for the five percenters of the world, straight commission is not the most desirable compensation strategy.

I had just hung up from a phone conversation with one of my clients. He was commiserating with me on the sorry state of his sales force. He had a group of seasoned, experienced salespeople, each of whom was making a good income on a 100% commission compensation plan. The problem was he couldn't get them to promote new products or seek new customers. They were content to stay within their comfort zones of established customers and familiar products.

That contentment is more typical than most of us are willing to admit. Many distributor sales managers and principals continue to strive under the myth that sales people are forever motivated to sell ever larger quantities. And we attribute much of that motivation to the 100% commission compensation plan.

Unfortunately, straight commission plans rarely motivate an established sales force to sell more!

The problem is that there is a bit of truth in the idea that 100% commission pay plans motivate sales people. Straight commission plans do encourage new salespeople to strive for greater sales. Until, that is, they reach a level of income at which they are comfortable. Then the incredible power of ingrained habit and the allure of comfort take over, and most of them plateau.

And, straight commission programs do reward certain salespeople -- the top 5% of any workforce -- to continually press for greater levels of achievement. But these are salespeople who are driven by the need to achieve. They will seek higher levels of performance no matter what the compensation plan.

Having just identified the exceptions, I'm convinced that the rule is the problem. And the rule is this: For all but the new and the internally driven salespeople, straight commission plans merely reward the content sales person to maintain the status quo.

Upon a little reflection, you will probably agree with this. Just look around at your sales force. If you are paying them 100% commission, you'll have a significant majority of them who have become content and complacent at their income levels.

These 100% commission plans also generate certain other additional problems. There is the issue of "directability" for example. "Directability" is that characteristic of a sales force such that, when you give them a direction, they can be reliably counted on to follow it.

We, of course, expect

Dave Kahle ( ) is a consultant and trainer who helps his clients increase their sales and improve their sales productivity. He speaks from real world experience, having been the number one salesperson in the country for two companies in two distinct industries. Dave has trained thousands of salespeople to be more successful in the Information Age economy. He's the author of over 500 articles, a weekly ezine, and five books. His latest is 10 Secrets of Time Management for Salespeople.

He has a gift for creating powerful training events that get audiences thinking differently about sales.  Dave Kahle's "Thinking About Sales" Ezine features content-filled motivating articles, practical tips for immediate improvements, and helpful tips to help increase sales. Join on-line at

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