What is

Commission Pay


Employees receive commissions from their sales, either as a percentage of a sale or a fixed amount per transaction. Read the full glossary definition.

Many industries use commissions to incentivize employee performance. In most cases, companies use this model to boost sales and add to the existing base salary that employees already receive. 

What Is Commission Pay?

Commission pay is a compensation model where an employee receives a portion of the revenue they generate. This can be for selling products or based on performance. This model contrasts with fixed salaries; these don’t change with the employee's productivity or how much revenue the company brings in.

Commission pay is particularly popular in industries like headhunting, real estate, B2B sales, and retail. 

How Does Commission Pay Work?

There are several ways in which companies calculate commission pay. In any case, an employment contract will typically set out the conditions for commission pay and structure. 

  • Sales performance metrics: Usually, the amount of commission pay correlates directly with specific performance metrics. This could include how many products and employee sells, the revenue they generated, or the number of clients they onboarded.
  • Commission rate: Companies also set a commission rate. This is normally calculated as either a commission percentage of generated sales or a lump sum. For example, if a person sells $10,000 worth of goods and the commission rate is 5%, they would earn $500.
  • Draw against commission: In some cases, especially for new hires or during slow sales periods, employers may offer a "draw against commission." This means employees receive a fixed amount as an advance on their future commissions. They will need to repay this once they start generating higher sales. 
  • Commission caps: To avoid overcompensating employees in cases of extraordinarily high sales, companies may set a cap on the maximum commission.

Benefits of Commission Pay

There are many reasons why certain industries and companies opt for a commission-based pay model. It can be of great benefit to boosting sales and motivating employees. For workers, it can also be a significant opportunity to increase earnings. 

Motivation and Performance
Commission-based compensation serves as a powerful motivator for employees. When you know that you’ll directly benefit from working really hard, it’s easy to go the extra mile. 

Cost-Effective for Employers
Companies employing commission pay can align their expenses with the revenue they generate. This ensures that compensation costs are directly linked to the performance and success of the business.

Attracting and Retaining Top Talent
Commission-based structures can attract highly skilled and ambitious professionals who are driven by the potential to earn higher incomes. Furthermore, successful employees are likely to remain with a company that offers lucrative commission plans.

Challenges of Commission Pay

Commission pay is an integral aspect of the compensation landscape, particularly in sales-driven industries. However, it does come with inherent challenges. As such, companies need to strike the right balance between motivating employees and maintaining a sustainable business approach.

Inconsistent Income
Commission pay can lead to fluctuating income levels, making financial planning challenging for some employees, especially during slower sales periods.

Pressure and Burnout

The drive to earn more commission might push employees to work longer hours and experience increased stress, potentially leading to burnout.

Focus on Short-Term Gains

Commission-based incentives may encourage employees to prioritize short-term gains over long-term customer relationships. This could impact customer loyalty and brand reputation.

Build Compliant Compensation Packages with Borderless 

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