Is the 100% Commission Sales Rep a Thing of the Past?

Author’s Note: I know what you’re thinking, that this post is a thing of the past and not even a question, but if you’re reading this, then you’re interested in hiring 100% commission-based sales reps. So Read on.

The answer: yes…and no.

Hiring top sales performers on a base salary + commission OTE plan is hard enough for companies, but hiring 100% commission sales reps who are talented, confident, and can see the big picture of a pure commission-based salary is even harder…if not impossible.

The base salary versus 100% commission debate stems from veteran sales professionals who did not have the luxury of having a base salary plan to support them when they started out. Hence the generational stigma around millennials not having what it takes to be in sales (but that’s another myth buster blog).

The “Yes” response is a result of many salespeople unable to “afford” taking a sales role that is 100% commission. Literally, the possibility of not receiving a paycheck for weeks or even months is a scary thought, even for the most competitive salesperson. And when it’s a job seeker’s market (which it is) that means job seekers can selectively search for a new opportunity and employers are the ones competing to hire top talent.

Hence, moving away from pure 100% commission sales jobs.

The “No” response is that the 100% commission sales rep is alive and well but on a newly-defined playing field. The 100% commission role has evolved just like the rest of the sales landscape. Just as job seekers are hesitant to accept a 100% commission role, employers see risk in hiring a salesperson and paying them a large base salary when they do not perform, leading to employee turnover and costing the company money.

What works in some B2B or B2C sales industries around commission plans will not work in others.

So if the 100% commission sales rep is still viable, how should companies be hiring these sales reps?

 Here are 10 steps to hire 100% commission sales reps in today’s job market:

1. Know your commission structure

*Important note: First things first, don’t equate hiring 100% commission reps with “free.”

You should be very serious about growing revenue, building a sales team, and paying your sales reps.

Understand how the commission structure will work. That means understanding your:

  • Average deal size
  • Sales cycle
  • Quota
  • Sales approach
  • Audience

Having a firm grasp on how you plan to scale sales is essential when hiring salespeople.

{Free Guide: Sales Characteristics of Top Performers}
2. Have a professional and updated website

Whether this is your first sales hire or you are growing an existing team, having an updated website is a must! This is the first place any sales candidate interested in your job opportunity will go. It’s also where your customers are going to do their research.

There are plenty of paid and free resources out there {check out Wix} to help you make a beautiful and functional website. Make it a priority as you look to grow.

3. Have a recruiting and onboarding process that works

If you don’t have a recruiting process in place, create one or consult with a sales recruiting firm on how you should look to hire and onboard your new hire(s). If you don’t yet have this in place, you will likely target the wrong type of salesperson and end up hiring the wrong fit. Most companies even with salaried jobs will fail to hire successfully when they have an ineffective hiring process.

{A Complete Recruiting Guide: How to Find, Interview, and Hire Sales Reps With Metrics That Matter}

4. Expect to pay when recruiting

Myth: Sales recruiting is free.

If you cut corners, you will see it in your results when you realize you made a hiring mistake. Whether you are posting jobs or spending hours searching resumes, you are spending either your time or you money. Be ready to invest.

{See how we helped one company hire 13 100% commission-based sales reps}

5. Hire multiple sales reps at the same time

When looking to hire 100% commission sales reps, consider hiring more than one at the same time. This not only makes it easier to train multiple sales reps at once, but it also helps you weed out the A-Players from the C-Players.

Anticipate that not every sales rep will make it and that employees will turn over.

6. Have an award-winning sales training program

This is key when it comes to recruiting and retaining sales reps. Have a 30, 60, 90 day sales training plan in place with goals and metrics. Set up your new hires for success with attainable quotas. Understand how they get their leads.

Do not leave them hanging with no direction and expect them to grow the business. Yes, you want entrepreneurial people on your team, but you need to give them the ongoing support to hit their numbers.

7. Be 100% honest and transparent with candidates

Explain how and when they make their money. Just as candidates are putting their trust in you to support them, you need to set accurate expectations and address concerns. Be very clear and articulate what their objectives are.

Too often, 100% commission sales jobs are presented as pyramid schemes. They tell you all the great things, even though no one on the sales team is hitting quota, and that you can make money once you hit your goals and become a manager. Be honest and truthful and understand the challenges you face.

8. Show them that there is real money to be made

If you already have an existing 100% commission-based sales team in place, let sales candidates meet current team members during the interview process.

Be sure to talk about team members that are top performers and what they are doing to be successful.

9. Consider ramping up new sales hires with a draw

Paying your new sales reps is not a requirement and you can still get your hires, but by offering a small ramp up stipend you will be able to pick from a larger pool of sales candidates and increase quality of applicants. If you would like to see more traffic with stronger candidates then consider offering a recoverable or non-recoverable draw.

{Free Guide: How to Hire Salespeople}

10. Provide a career path 

As long as your sales process is real and the business is growing, then your 100% commission sales reps are proving their ability and closing deals. Have a growth plan in place to promote your top performers. It’s important to have growth opportunities and a career path for top reps. Retain top performers and continue to reward their performance.

Hiring salespeople who have the experience, passion, and drive to succeed is no easy feat. Understand that there will be challenges, and remember to be real about paying your sales reps. Be serious about paying your sales reps based on performance.

If you need help recruiting sales reps or consultation around hiring, connect with Treeline, Inc.!

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