A few days ago I bought a new cellphone at a retail outlet and thought I would share the experience since it highlights how not to design a comp plan (no need to mention the company).

The store rep was great, engaging me, asking questions, showing various different products and sharing facts and opinions on each. I might add, he successfully upsold me on a couple of items. Great service and a good sales for his company. After I had paid for the items he mentioned I would likely get a customer service call asking me to rate my buying experience. Straight forward so far. So he informs me that how I respond on this followup call is critical to him receiving any commission for this sale. He further explains that if I don’t use specific words in my response he would not be entitled to any commission at all. For example if I said the service was “great” but didn’t say “perfect” he would not secure any commission. And he expressed his opinion that this is just one of the ways that his employer tries to screw its sales staff – his words not mine.

This finish almost ruined a great buying experience for me and I blame the company not the rep.

First of all, when I buy something, I want to pay and go. I shouldn’t have to spend my time being coached on how to respond to a courtesy call or feel obliged to take the call at all.

Second, I shouldn’t have to hear about a reps comp plan and a company’s internal problems. None of this is my business and it should be transparent to me. It makes the company look bad.

Third, the company is being petty to be so strict about the way it comps its reps. Surely, I could say the rep was great and that I would buy there again and the rep should be entitled to a commission?!

This serves as a good reminder to all sales managers and employers to incent the sales staff to provide courteous and good quality service, *which includes* the staff feeling good about their compensation plan. If you are not sure if your reps feel the comp plan is fair ask them. And don’t assume they will tell you the truth, so find ways to ensure they feel their honesty will not be punished.


Eliot Burdett

CEO at Peak Sales Recruiting
Before Peak, Eliot spent more than 20 years building and leading companies, where he took the lead in recruiting and managing high performance sales teams. He co-founded Ventrada Systems (mobile applications) and GlobalX (e-commerce software). He was also Vice President of Sales for PointShot Wireless.

Eliot received his B. Comm. from Carleton University and has been honored as a Top 40 Under 40 Award winner.

He co-authored Sales Recruiting 2.0, How to Find Top Performing Sales People, Fast and provides regular insights on sales team management and hiring on the Peak Sales Recruiting Blog.

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