sales commission roles

Straight Commission: How To Do It Right

3 Ways To Keep Top-tier Talent Motivated…Without A Salary

What would you say if I told you it was possible to attract quality salespeople to your team, get them to sell like crazy, and keep them motivated…all without paying them a base salary?!

It is possible, but you have to know how to do it the right way.

Over the past decade, we’ve taught thousands of salespeople the techniques, tools, and methods they need to be successful sales professionals and sales managers. And we’ve found that the best and most consistent performers are those who apply and implement these proven strategies every day.

I’m talking about the secret formula for a sales culture where people want to come to work….something that lets top-performers blaze their own career paths, all while bringing in bucket loads of revenue for you.

Our straight commission approach, developed over the past ten years of helping business owners create wildly effective sales teams, is one of the most powerful and successful ways to attract and keep top-tier talent.

Sales vs. Salary: What is straight commission?

Straight commission (sometimes called sales commission without salary) means your earnings are based solely on the sales you generate. This is the easiest sales salary structure to understand, and it makes sense….if you sell, you make money!

Straight commissions are earned when the company pays a certain amount for every sale generated. It could be a percentage of each sale or a flat fee. Either way, the salespeople get paid a specific amount based on how much revenue they bring in.

It is a popular sales salary structure, and for good reason! Follow these three simple steps to set your business and sales team up to have a successful straight commission sales salary structure.

Recognize that you’re hiring them into your brand, and train them accordingly.

If you aren’t going to pay them with money or a base salary, understand and be willing to pay them in other ways (besides just commissions).

They will be an ambassador for your brand and your business, so be certain they represent you well out in the world. Give them the tools and training they need to be successful at selling for your unique business!

Sales commissions without a salary are only attractive if you add in some “perks” like these:

  • Give them the tools and training they need to be successful. 
  • Onboard them properly. It is important to train them to sell your product or service to the right audience. 
  • You need to be certain that they understand the different types of customers. They should be able to speak to different people about the product or service you sell. Again, it goes back to the training they receive on sales processes and how to confidently close deals.
  • The freedom and flexibility to make their own hours/appointments (as long as they are meeting their revenue quotas).

Often, sales jobs with no base salary are very appealing to recent graduates…they will come into your business with minimal “real world” sales experience, and you have the chance to help shape them into the ideal sales team member for you! It can be a win-win for you both.

There is a lot of risk on the part of a new employee when they accept this type of payment arrangement…be sure you’re doing all that you can to make it an attractive option for them.

Speak to what your sales team wants out of the salary arrangement.

The only salespeople that are interested in a 100% commission-based sales salary structure are those who know they can earn money working under this model.

They’re usually the best of the best: the most motivated, eager, and excited to sell sales superstars!

The truth about commission-based compensation is that no other type of salary structure allows salespeople to make as much money. There are many reasons why this is so. One of the most important ones is that there is an added incentive to sell, which results in more sales being made. With straight commission, salespeople are rewarded for making sales.

With salaries, salespeople are paid for their work and are not given additional incentives. This can sometimes lead to complacency, inertia, and lower sales.

Finally, salespeople that are attracted to this model love the leeway and liberty that comes with it…as the business owner, you have to be prepared to allow them that freedom as long as they’re making sales.  Therefore, you need to know how to manage them differently. 

This brings us to perhaps the most important part of our 3-step process… 

Hire those who are actively interested in improving.

A straight sales commission position is no place for someone who lacks the desire (and willingness!) to improve their skill set.

As a sales recruiter (and former trainer), the worst salespeople I’ve ever worked with were the ones that didn’t want to improve themselves or their skills. They simply accepted their paychecks and called it quits. These people could sell, but they weren’t motivated to improve because they didn’t see any value in it.

These types of “sales professionals” simply can’t handle the freedom, responsibility, and potential of working within a 100% commission-based sales salary structure. While we always encourage you to look for a growth mindset in your candidates, it is an absolute must in a sales job with no base salary.


To keep top-tier sales talent motivated, you need to provide them with a clear sense of purpose, give them autonomy and freedom, and reward them when they accomplish their sales goals.

You may find that a commission-based sales salary structure meets their needs…and yours!

Give your sales team the tools they need to succeed, welcome them to your brand, keep them motivated, and watch them succeed.

Discover how to get the most out of your team (without paying them a base salary)! Contact us today for your free hiring analysis! In just 30 minutes we can help you get on the right path to hiring the type of sales superstars who will have an outsized impact on your bottom line…and you may not even HAVE to pay them anything – they’ll earn it themselves. 

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