Posts belonging to Category Compensation

The Color of Money! – Know How You Get Paid!

The most important aspect of a sales job is getting paid.  In the end it is about that paper! I am not talking about the money type of paper; I am talking about the written remuneration or compensation plan.  That is the most important paper out there.  Getting paid is important; as it is one way to keep score, yet it is also the way we eat and keep our families happy.


The objective of this post is to give those who need to know a basis to understand the basic remuneration systems in an easy, no nonsense way.  What is more important is that you learn your company’s system and “work the hell” out of it.

Remember, it is your right to work the system, yet also, it is good policy on your part to keep your activities in the spirit of the system as well.  Working the system is not cheating, and if you are within the spirit of the system, and you will still get your reward.

An important note for all remuneration/compensation stakeholders is that whenever commissions are involved, care must be taken to realize the volatility that can exist.  Sometimes this uncertainty is beneficial (higher earnings), and sometimes it can be detrimental.  In the end, as I said, it’s about the paper, but also the confidence you have in the company’s products and your own abilities.

7 Major Types of Compensation Methods

Companies have the right to do whatever is legal and makes sales happen.  They can put together a variety of different types of plans that stimulate gross sales, retain sales professionals, promote particular products, develops territories, etc.  There are significant numbers of Black sales professionals in each of these type of arrangements with many prospering.  Your ability to take downside risk will determine how you feel about these.

Having been involved in the design and approval of compensation plans from a company standpoint, much thought goes into them, as once they are out there, they you are stuck with them for the prescribed term.

Here are examples of the most popular and widely used plans:

Salary – You have a simple formula to operate under, yet no incentive to excel other than a performance review.  Salary is safe and secure with no upside.

Straight Commission – No base salary, no upside limit, and the downside can be “$0 dollars”.  The risk is with you, yet if you excel, and you must to work under this system, the “force” is with you.

Draw Against Commission - In this one, you have some subsistence in the form of a ‘draw’ providing an advance of commissions with an agreement to pay it back if you do not ‘earn’ it.  The employer is essentially loaning you money against your commission income.  You get the benefit of some subsistence but still have the risk of an downside and the benefit of an upside.

Salary Plus Bonus – A pay system sought after by many professionals as it provides a solid floor, while providing significant upside earnings paid periodically, often quarterly as a bonus.  Often using the components of a straight commission system to help determine the bonus amount.

Base Plus Commission – Similar to above, this is a popular method, tried and proven.  Fixed base salary with commissions paid on the system quarterly or more often.  Commissions are usually based on percentages of dollars sold.

Variable Commission – These are straight commission schemes that have percentages that vary with product, size of the sale, attainment of goals, etc.  Much depends on what the company is trying to promote.

Residual Commission – Commissions that are paid based on customer longevity once initiated.  Aggregate residual commissions can form a solid ‘base’ which provides a good income, and some stability.

There may be other methods of compensation, but usually it is based on some variation of one of these arrangements.  In almost all cases the compensation plan is in writing, and available to all sales professionals for study.  Don’t forget to study this item and even have discussion with some of the more experienced sales professionals in your sales unit.  You will want to know the nuances of this plan that makes for higher earnings.

How Much Guts Do You Have?

Obviously these different arrangements involve different risks.  Hands down the straight commission set-up involves the most risk and highest instability.  It is sales compensation in its purest sense.  You sell and you get paid! I never worked nor managed in a system like this, and recognize that many of you do.

There are combinations of these elements that make for remuneration systems that need the ability to emphasize particular objectives.

Example 1. A salary + bonus system that wants to reward customer longevity attaches a component which uses residual commissions to strengthen the bonus.

Example 2. A variable commission changes your percentage on sales of a certain product based on reaching a certain level of sales.  Let’s say you receive 8% commission on the first $100,000 of sales of widgets, which increases to 12% for all sales thereafter.  Once you reach the 100,000, you are rewarded with more from your great work.

Yes, It’s About that Paper!

I would make the suggestion that you get your organization’s sales compensation plan in front of you and study it.  Do the brief interview with your sales comrades to determine how to maximize it.

There are times that the organization’s objectives, and the compensation or remuneration plan are not in concert.  Rewarding the sales of products that are not profitable, or are in low supply are examples.

Know the plan and formulate your objectives and you can work efficiently and effectively by maximizing your efforts and your income.

Be effective! Your comments are welcome. You can meet me at

Getting Paid: A Practical Guide to Getting My Money Part 2

Dollar Sign

I think you deserve to get paid!  Read this post, as well as the post at the bottom of the page to find out how.  Don’t get a new job and be regretful about the major reason that you are there….your money!


On the last edition of Black Sales Journal we discussed “knowing the landscape” as you prepare to negotiate your salary for a new job (that post is at the bottom of this page).  The objective was to have all of the homework done so that a target can be achieved, and there is likelihood of success.

In this edition of Black Sales Journal, we will spend a little time dealing with the actual negotiations themselves.  This includes receiving and responding to an offer(s).  This is far from a science, and is probably best classified as an art.  The art of how to get what you need in a dignified manner, while maintaining the deportment necessary to keep respect.

Remember, if you are sales professional, it is not unlikely that your prospective employer expects you to do some negotiation.  They won’t be offended by it, yet it should be done correctly.

The Golden Rule – The One With the Most Options has the Most Power!

Power is important in negotiations.  It does not need to be displayed; yet it defines the activities that either side employs.  Knowledge is important as well.  That is why we spent time last week on being firmly aware of “the landscape”.  You would feel totally different about your current or past salary numbers if you knew what all of your colleagues were being paid.  You might be satisfied, happy, or dismayed, but probably would feel totally different.

Options are important.  When I mention options, I speak of viable alternatives to an action.  If you have five job offers, and all are in the field you want and have robust salary offers, you have an amazing number of options. No matter what you ask for from any one of these potential employers, you can be steadfast in getting a good deal.  You have five viable options, and you have “the juice” (power).

However, if your prospective employer has 5 candidates, and although they are not identical (of course they could not be), they each are strong and would make solid sales professionals.  The prospective employer, in this case, has the power.  They have options and will use their “superior” position to their advantage.

There is nothing nefarious about any of this; it is the use of options resulting in the position of power in a negotiating relationship.

Power for the Black Sales Professional

This is a sensitive subject, yet relevant.  As a Black sales professional can you transform what has historically been to a disadvantage to an advantage?  Can you take advantage of the relatively low number of proven Black sales professionals in your quest for this next job?  The answer is solid “maybe.”

Most larger operations are looking for accomplished Black sales professionals.  The numbers are just not that large, and accomplished Black Sales professionals are still a small subset of all accomplished sales professionals.  You won’t know enough about the organization, or the candidates you compete against to be able to use any gambits to enhance your positioning.  I suggest that if you are the best candidate in the competition, and negotiate well, then you have done all you can do to get the job.

Remember, as I have mentioned in Black Sales Journal on several instances, you are being made an offer by an individual, not a corporation.  Realize the importance of that statement.  Someone (the hiring manager) will make the decision, with the guidance of Human Resources and company guidelines as to what the range is.  You are trying to get the most out of that salary range from the negotiating manager.

Some Useful Techniques

These are simple, and can be remembered.  Always try to negotiate salary by itself, apart from all other work benefits.  It may not be possible, yet it is advisable.   The natural progression of the process is as follows:

Step 1. Evaluate the offer

Step 2. Give a suitable response (note below)

Step 3. Deliver a counter offer or receive a counter offer

Step 4. Make a decision

Here are some things that remember.

  • Always remember what you stated as your salary expectation in your application process.  It can come back to haunt you.
  • Know the landscape before the application process.  Use the tools and your intuition before giving a salary expectation.
  • Give your salary expectation, as well as your discussions in the form of a range and use the term “…depending on the accompanying conditions and benefits.”  This allows you some flexibility.  Example: “I would expect between $60,000 and $75,000 depending on the nature of the bonus plan.”  The bonus plan represents a variable, and you don’t know enough about it, for the most part to be concrete.  This gives you the flexibility.
  • Know the number you want!  Use your tools and experience to have that number.  Have a solid idea, but stay flexible.
  • When the offer is made, always advise you will get back to them and mull it over.  This is an important decision.

As you evaluate the offer, and it comes up well short of your number, your response should be respectfully done.  I suggest: “I was hoping for a stronger salary number.” Or you could say, “This is a wonderful opportunity, yet the salary number is disappointing.” Now, here is where having options is important.  But, if you have no options, you should still say it.  If they don’t give up any of their negotiating room, you can still say, “I will take the job!”  Their answer would likely be either:

  • We will take a look at it.
  • This is the best we can do!
  • What are you thinking about? Be realistic in your expectation.

One way or another, their objective will be to keep salary parity with other sales professionals.  If they started low, estimating that you will “come back”, you will get their final offer.  If they won’t negotiate, and it is a good offer, then you should accept.

Negotiating the “Other” Things

These items are easier, and more palpable.  Know what you want and ask early.  Get them to thinking about your needs.  If you will lose a car from you other job, they should know coming in that you are expecting a company vehicle, or an allowance.  Human Resources can help you with some of these items early on.  Ask them about the transportation and the benefit issues, and ask the hiring manager about other important work issues.

Remember, if you don’t have agreement before you say “yes”, you will have little chance of getting it in the end.

Also remember, your salary is not as important as your total compensation package.  Believe in yourself!

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