Does Your Sales Compensation Plan Create “ Commission Junkies”?

by Mark Allen Roberts


For as long as I have been in sales and sales leadership I have heard  true sales velocity is about carefully balancing the carrot and the stick to manage your salespeople. If your sales compensation program relies on unrealistic goals and heavily weighted sales compensation plan based on a carrot too far away or too big…you are creating “Commission Junkies”.

Commission Junkies are slapping their cell phones and typing follow up “where’s my order” emails as fast as their fingers can move hoping to find their next fix.

Let me ask you….Who would you prefer to help you buy something? Would you prefer someone who takes the time to truly understand your problem to be solved and understands the costs associated with that problem? Or someone who is obviously all about making his sales number” and “making his commission”? Do you want a professional sales person asking questions to understand your needs, or someone so focused on closing the sale they seem desperate? You might say;

“Mark that’s a dumb question…I want a sales consultant who helps me solve my problem, who understands my problem to be solved as if it were their own”.

(Quick look at your sales compensation program, and ask is that what you are rewarding?) …Really?

There is an old Native American saying: “the wolf we feed is the one that grows.”

What behaviors does your current sales compensation program feed?

OK….then why do so many sales compensation programs create what I call “Commission Junkies” who are desperately chasing that next fix of commission because their total compensation is heavily weighted on objectives that do not match your (published) culture?

Poor sales compensation models create bad behaviors in the field that can result in Brand Damage for your overall product offering.

So how do you know if your sales plan is poorly designed?

  • sales rep goals do not align with corporate overall strategy
  • your reps feel the goals are unobtainable
  • your reps feel the activities to hit their goals are out of their control
  • too many goals
  • a commission plan that requires a CPA to understand it
  • “commission claw backs”
  • commissions are not weighted based on corporate objectives
  • sales goals built from the board room and sent down to sales team to “make it happen
  • it is the same plan you have used for the past 2 years
  • the variable portion of total sales compensation is weighted too high
  • goals that change frequently
  • you have a targeted compensation plan with a commission cap

As I shared in my last post, leading salespeople is not as complicated as we often make it. The very essence of most salespeople is to take the path of least resistance that drives their desired income. Put another way, we have a high Utilitarian characteristic that makes us wired to want the maximum return on our efforts in the shortest amount of time. .Salespeople are competitive and welcome stretch goals that are obtainable.

Sales Goals created with Market Opportunity Profiles drive results and the sales behaviors you want in your market.

The wrong sales compensation plan creates “Commission Junkies” only out to make their next fix… their next commission. They become so about the next commission and who can create the next order the fastest they often fail to execute the sales plan. As I shared in a previous post, nothing drives CEO’s more nuts than finding out the sales plan is not being executed six months into the year.

A few questions for you….

How are your sales to plan Year to date?

Are you at your targeted sales and profit goals?

Is your sales team meeting and achieving their new product sales?

Are you opening the targeted new accounts you forecasted (needed to) open this year?

With has high as 50%- 70% of sales people not meeting plan this year, if you answered “no” to any of the above you are not alone. Last year alone the average sales team had 50-60% of salespeople not meeting plan and their goals this year went up on average 33%. Knowing you are not alone does not solve the problem or make you, your boss, owner, and or investors happy. Far too often a leading reason sale execution fails is due to your sales compensation program creating commission junkies and not consultative sales partners.

Do you want to quickly assess if you have sales consultants creating great experiences with your brand or Commission Junkies causing Brand Damage?

Ask your buyers if they believe your salesperson understands the problem to be solved and is in the process of presenting a total solution.

If you find some of your team are Commission Junkies there is still time to rehabilitate them by creating Market Opportunity Profiles. You can find a good article about creating sales compensation plans here if this is an area you plan to work on.

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