10 Essentials: Commissions vs. Customer’s Success

The sixth in series of ten posts in a series titled: 10 Essential B2B Sales Rep Attributes (and their 10 Essential Opposites).


Great salespeople make great money. Many of them take a position in sales because it allows them to earn a compensation based (in part, at least) on their personal efforts and abilities. This compensation is almost always paid in the form of a commission or a bonus for production. Without using a calculator or a spreadsheet of any kind, most can tell you within a few dollars in one direction or another what their expected bonus is on a deal. Even though it’s not in fashion, nor is it popular to say, these individuals normally care about making money.

Great salespeople are able to create value for their company and for the customers they serve. Because they can create tremendous value, they know that they are entitled to capture some of the value they create–and so do their employers. But what if the salesperson did not care about earning commissions? Not always, but much of the time these salespeople don’t create enough value to know internally that they deserve commissions.

The dark side of this desire for money is when it it becomes the salesperson’s primary focus (and this is a really, really dark side).

Customer’s Success

The best salespeople understand that their commission is earned through helping customer’s succeed. Period. They have a strong desire to ensure that they deliver for their customers and clients, and they take responsibility for the client’s outcome after buying their products or service. When there customer has a serious problem or a  seemingly insurmountable challenge, the first call they make is to their salesperson. They call knowing that they have someone who will help to ensure that they get an outcome that helps them with their business results and their success.

Because they focus on their customer’s success, these salespeople build the trust and relationship that ensure lifetime customers. What if they didn’t care whether or not the customer succeeded? What if they didn’t care whether or not the customer got the desired outcome of their product or service? It’s been done, and I have seen it. These salespeople churn customers as fast as they gain them. Because they don’t care, the customer’s problems continue, often unaddressed. The customers leave, and they wait the few minutes it takes for another provider to show up with the same product or service. Then they ask enough questions to ensure that this new salesperson cares enough about them and their business to ensure they are successful.

The dark side here is that some salespeople turn into great customer service people. Their primary role is still to sell, and so they have to be able to orchestrate the efforts of their team on behalf of their client. (More about this in tomorrow’s post on Selling Outside vs. Selling Inside)


It isn’t possible to have two number one values. Only one of these can be first, and that decision will make the salesperson or it will undo them. If they put their commission first, that means that they will choose making a sale over making sure the customer succeeds. For a short time, they may make exceptional money. But their desire to put money first will eventually cost them more in client relationships, and ultimately, their earning potential.

By choosing their customer’s success as the highest value, they ensure that they keep their clients, they ensure repeat business, they build a long and credible list of references and the accompanying referrals, and they eventually earn more than the group who puts money first.

But make no mistake, both values are necessary!


  1. Answer honestly. Have you ever mentioned your commission or bonus on a sales call? If you answered in the affirmative, you have an issue that must be immediately resolved . . . you are putting money first and your prospect knows it.
  2. Are you too comfortable with the money you are making? Could you stand to improve your motivation for money and the accompanying motivation to get out and find prospects you can help to improve their results?
  3. Are so customer-focused that no problem is too small for your attention?
  4. Have you spent more time solving minor customer challenges instead of orchestrating the efforts of the team that your prospecting and sales pipeline are suffering?
  5. Are you certain that the time you spend with your existing customers is valuable for them, or is it more valuable to you because it makes you feel like you are doing client-related work?

Filed under: Sales 3.0

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