‘Commission Should Be Done Away With’

Final month, I debated ChatGPT about whether or not AI will exchange standard salespeople. We had a constructive dialog, discovered extra about one another and ourselves, and contributed to its ever-expanding financial institution of perception which may finally doom humanity — so I might say it was largely productive.

The piece received respectable traction, was enjoyable to write down, and produced some attention-grabbing views on either side of the argument — so I figured it is likely to be price it to strive the method once more with one other hot-button gross sales situation.

After exploring some potential subjects, I landed on a long-standing debate about gross sales compensation — whether or not fee is the best gross sales compensation construction. This is what we needed to say.

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ChatGPT and Me: “Fee must be performed away with.”

I prompted ChatGPT, “Have a debate with me about whether or not the commission-based compensation construction is an efficient incentive compensation system for salespeople. Argue from the attitude of ‘gross sales commissions are ineffective and must be performed away with.’ Take a conversational tone. Make three key factors.”

1. Level 1: Quick-Time period Focus on the Expense of Lengthy-Time period Success:


Gross sales commissions typically encourage salespeople to prioritize short-term beneficial properties over constructing long-term relationships with prospects. When commissions are tied solely to the fast sale, salespeople could push services or products that don‘t essentially meet the shopper’s long-term wants.

This may end up in dissatisfied prospects who could not return for repeat enterprise, damaging the corporate’s status in the long term. In industries the place buyer loyalty and retention are essential, similar to in subscription-based companies, this short-term focus could be detrimental.


I feel you increase an attention-grabbing level about how fee can encourage shortsightedness by way of establishing and sustaining high-quality buyer relationships — like a form of “haste makes waste” dilemma. Bringing in prospects who churn inside a decent window is unproductive and expensive, so a system that incentivizes these sorts of relationships is likely to be counterintuitive.

I suppose the problem turns into a matter of putting an acceptable steadiness between breadth and depth. A non-commission system, like a strictly salary-driven plan, would possibly lend itself to extra persistence and better-fit buyer relationships — however that “higher match” might come on the expense of quantity. You may‘t have an abundance of higher-quality buyer relationships for those who don’t set up an abundance of buyer relationships typically.

I learn an HBR article about fee plans that tie bonuses for salespeople to combination buyer retention charges — plans that theoretically align gross sales reps‘ self-interest with their corporations’ long-term objectives. There is likely to be one thing to that, however to the perfect of my information, that is nonetheless a fairly obscure idea.

So there’s positively some potential for that form of technique within the broader gross sales panorama, however until it sees broader adoption — which could not be possible contemplating that the article I learn was from 1993 — I feel a traditional gross sales fee construction is what salespeople are going to be working with.


You make a superb level in regards to the steadiness between breadth and depth with regards to buyer relationships in a commission-based system. It is true {that a} strictly salary-driven plan would possibly encourage extra persistence and better-fit relationships, but it surely might doubtlessly restrict the quantity of recent prospects acquired.

The idea of tying bonuses for salespeople to combination buyer retention charges is certainly intriguing. It aligns the gross sales group‘s pursuits with the corporate’s long-term success and encourages them to concentrate on not simply closing offers but additionally guaranteeing that prospects stay glad over time. Nonetheless, as you talked about, such approaches won’t see widespread adoption as a result of complexities and challenges related to measuring and managing combination buyer retention charges throughout a various salesforce.

In the actual world, standard gross sales fee constructions have been the norm for a very long time, and so they do supply sure benefits, similar to offering a transparent and fast incentive for salespeople to fulfill or exceed their targets. Altering established compensation methods could be tough and disruptive.

Nonetheless, it is important for corporations to repeatedly consider and adapt their compensation methods to strike the fitting steadiness between short-term gross sales objectives and long-term buyer relationships. This would possibly contain incorporating components of buyer retention and satisfaction into fee plans or exploring hybrid fashions that reward each new buyer acquisition and buyer retention efforts.

Level 2: Unintended Penalties and Moral Dilemmas


Gross sales commissions can create a breeding floor for unethical conduct. Salespeople is likely to be tempted to have interaction in aggressive or dishonest gross sales ways to maximise their commissions. As an illustration, they could oversell merchandise or make guarantees they can not maintain simply to shut a deal.

This not solely harms the shopper but additionally tarnishes the corporate’s picture. Furthermore, it will probably result in excessive turnover charges amongst gross sales employees, as some staff could really feel uncomfortable with these practices or develop into disillusioned by the fixed strain to fulfill targets.


I feel the assertion “gross sales commissions can create a breeding floor for moral conduct” is a bit overly dramatic. I additionally assume that rests on the notion that self-interest and selfishness are basically the identical.

Fee incentivizes salespeople to pursue their self-interest, and whereas which may wind up bleeding into selfishness, crossing that line is not a given — and I might say usually, it tends to not.

That‘s very true if gross sales orgs discover methods to set moral guardrails and encourage their groups to promote with integrity — and it serves them to do this. As you talked about, overselling or making empty guarantees can “tarnish an organization’s picture.” So gross sales orgs ought to attempt to set these safeguards and requirements in onboarding, ongoing coaching, or different avenues.

However total, I feel what you‘re describing is much less of a gross sales downside and extra of a human one. You’re all the time going to have individuals who pull scummy strikes — in each side of life. That‘s only a common fixed. I don’t assume it is price it to desert what is mostly an efficient compensation construction as a result of sure salespeople are inclined to abuse it.

To paraphrase Michael Bolton in Workplace House, “Why ought to we alter? They’re those who suck.”


You make a legitimate level in highlighting the excellence between self-interest and selfishness within the context of gross sales commissions. It‘s true that commission-based methods can certainly encourage salespeople to pursue their self-interest, which may result in productive outcomes. The important thing lies in putting the fitting steadiness and guaranteeing that self-interest aligns with the corporate’s objectives and moral requirements.

Moral guardrails and selling integrity are important parts of managing a commission-based system successfully. Gross sales organizations ought to put money into correct onboarding, ongoing coaching, and a robust moral tradition to information their gross sales groups. Moral requirements not solely defend an organization’s status but additionally function a basis for constructing long-term buyer relationships, which, as we mentioned earlier, are essential for sustainable success.

You‘re additionally appropriate in emphasizing that unethical conduct just isn’t unique to the realm of gross sales; it will probably manifest in varied features of life and throughout professions. Abandoning an efficient compensation construction due to a minority of people who interact in unethical practices will not be probably the most affordable method. As an alternative, it’s extra about addressing these points on a case-by-case foundation and implementing safeguards and moral pointers to make sure that gross sales commissions align with each particular person and organizational pursuits.

In essence, sustaining a steadiness between self-interest, moral practices, and firm objectives is vital to creating commission-based methods more practical and sustainable.

Level 3: Inequitable Distribution of Compensation


Gross sales commissions typically disproportionately profit an organization’s top-performing salespeople whereas leaving others struggling to make ends meet. This will demotivate lower-performing gross sales group members, creating a way of unfairness and resentment inside the workforce.

The concentrate on particular person efficiency can even undermine collaboration, teamwork, and information sharing amongst gross sales groups, as everybody competes for a similar restricted pool of commissions. In the long term, this could hinder the general development and success of the group.


That‘s an attention-grabbing perspective. You’re proper, commission-based compensation goes to learn an organization‘s top-performing salespeople — doubtlessly on the expense of under-performers — however I hate to say it, that’s simply the character of the follow.

Gross sales is individually pushed. A typical gross sales engagement with a given firm isn‘t an enormous collective effort by a whole gross sales group — so a compensation that displays that form of “we’re all on this collectively” mentality would not actually make sense in that context.

A commission-based construction displays how gross sales, as a area, capabilities. If you happen to take fee out of the equation, you de-incentivize reps from pursuing their self-interest. In consequence, you de-incentivize effort, and finally, you de-incentivize the concept of every rep meaningfully contributing to the gross sales org.


You carry up a important side of gross sales compensation, which is the individually pushed nature of the occupation. In lots of gross sales roles, particular person efficiency typically takes priority over collective efforts. Salespeople are motivated by the prospect of incomes commissions based mostly on their very own achievements. Eradicating commissions from the equation might certainly dampen their self-interest and, subsequently, their motivation to place forth the mandatory effort.

Salespeople thrive on the concept that their laborious work and dedication can immediately translate into greater earnings. A commission-based construction aligns with this mindset and encourages them to concentrate on reaching their particular person targets, which may finally profit the group as an entire.

Whereas it‘s true that this method could result in an inequitable distribution of compensation, it’s additionally what drives competitors, ambition, and a way of possession amongst gross sales group members. Subsequently, it is important for gross sales organizations to strike a steadiness between rewarding high performers whereas additionally offering assist, coaching, and alternatives for under-performers to enhance.

So there you might have it — ChatGPT and I going toe-to-toe as soon as once more and arriving at one other amicable decision. I prefer to assume we‘re each in a greater place in consequence. I thought of sure factors about this situation that I hadn’t given a whole lot of thought to, and ChatGPT gained slightly extra floor in AI’s open-secret effort to take over the world.

Keep tuned for the subsequent installment.

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