November 10

What Selling Behaviors Would Change if You Worked Straight Commission?


I started in sales by working straight commission. It’s not an easy way to start but boy, do you start! No base salary drives a lot of good selling behaviors, even without any formal sales training, or prodding from a CEO or sales manager. Hungry salespeople tend to be motivated salespeople. 

Let me be clear. I’m not recommending that you read this blog and move every person on your sales team to straight commission. I AM recommending that you ask yourself or your sales team how their selling behaviors might change if working on straight commission. I guarantee it will provoke an interesting discussion. 

Here are a few answers you may hear.

Start time. No sleeping in or hitting the snooze button one more time when you work straight commission. You’re up at the crack of dawn so you can complete nonrevenue-producing work such as research, writing proposals and thank-you notes. When you work straight commission, you are HIGHLY aware of revenue time; 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. is used only for revenue-producing activities such as prospecting, follow up with clients, meeting referral partners and networking.  Revenue time is connecting time.     

Time to sales mastery. A new salesperson asked me how long it would/should take to get masterful at sales. I answered his question with a question:

“How long would it take you to get masterful at sales if you worked straight commission?” He laughed and replied, “Got it.”

When you work straight commission, you have to quickly get good at selling skills -- or, get used to being really skinny and broke! Straight commission salespeople know they don’t have two to three years to ramp up. So they focus, ask for advice, listen to audio books and practice, practice, practice. They do what it takes to get masterful at sales.    

Stop time. Straight commission salespeople understand they are rewarded only for results, not activity. They understand the difference between being busy and being productive. The clock may say 5 p.m., but if their sales pipeline says zero, they keep working. 

They make one more phone call, one more stop or reach out for one more referral.

Early in my sales career, after each long day of zigzagging across Nebraska, I just wanted to get home. However, if I had not achieved any results that day, straight commission sales taught me to make one more call. And here’s what’s interesting: More times than not, I would land some kind of business. Today, I understand that it probably was because I was the only salesperson showing up. My competitors had a base salary and already were home watching TV.

What selling behaviors would change if you worked straight commission? 


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