Sales Commission Survival.

By Chris Lott | Sales | 12841 Views | 8 Comments    

The reality of working for a company with a 100% sales commission plan (non-salary) is that it can be lucrative. Seriously lucrative. It also can be extremely frustrating with the highs and lows of an unpredictable income. To succeed takes a certain type of personality and support system. This is not theory for me. I worked a 100% commission plan for over 10 years and raised a young family of 6 on it. Not only can I sympathize but empathize with those doing the same or similar. So how did my family and I survive with such an unpredictable income?


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1. Personal Confidence
You better have loads of it. I liken it to when your sweet children become teenagers. Having your self-esteem intact is mandatory. To stay in a commissioned environment day after day, month after month, year after year takes a kind of faith in yourself. You really need to believe in not only your abilities but that successes will come. You need to know that the efforts invested will eventually come to fruition. Soothsayers need to be ignored. Doubts need to be overcome. Feeling low or depressed from time to time is natural but has to be put aside quickly.

“Anyone can sell something… Do it day in and day out for years… successfully… then you can honestly hold the title of salesperson”

2. Support at the Home Front
Some of you have the luxury of a second income to help. Obviously this can take the “edge” off the straight commission challenge. With 4 children… daycare costs were too expensive for my wife to work out of the home. This didn’t stop her from being a tremendous support however.

With working long hours to get things rolling she would keep my girls up for me so I could have some time with them. She took on small “work at home” opportunities to help with vacations and holidays. She had complete trust in me morally and ethically. There was no doubt in my mind that she had my back and supported me. I have never taken this for granted or given her reason for concern.

I could focus on the task at hand… building a career. Commissioned positions take time and tremendous effort. With that said…There were times I would be reminded of what was most important… family. And you know what… that was a good thing. Kept me balanced and less prone to burnout. My wife was, and is, my partner in success.

3. An A B C Plan for Finances
In the early days of selling on commission there truly wasn’t any income stability. With time that became better, of course. However, I always found it interesting when parents, friends, and clergy would counsel to save for a rainy day. Under normal circumstances sound advice. Almost all of the counsel came from salaried employees. None had any idea, one… why I would have chosen a non salaried position and, two… what it was like to go from nothing to thousands in income randomly throughout the year. Saving was always tough especially with a family.

We had issues with getting our arms around the seesaw income of commission selling at first. Sometimes the cupboards were bare. Sometimes we were eating steak and lobster. After multiple bad months to have a great income month was celebration time! Pay back bills… spend some “reward” money on objects wanted… and well… we felt that there would be more great months! Kind of a bi-polar affect… depressed to euphoria. “We’ll save next month” was our misguided thought process. Hero to zero became the Lott’s income motto. Something had to change.

We started the A B C plan. It was simple.

A) Pay bills (more than minimum – or payoff) and save – invest.
B) Pay minimal on bills… tap into savings if necessary.
C) Survive

Our ultimate goal was to never hit C!

Accountants would cringe on what we did but it was simple and worked for us. The key element was that we would let our family know what level (A B C) we were at and how that was going to affect them. Grumbles were heard many times but ultimately they understood. My wife and children would ask how my sales were going… daily. They helped “motivate” me in down times.

The holiday season can be a tough time as well. Every November December we found ourselves holding our breath that a certain deal would come through. Unfortunately this would dictate whether the gifts would be plentiful or lean. My wife suggested a Christmas Club savings. What a lifesaver. We put our nickels and dimes in this account all year long. I knew that no matter how November December ended the holidays would be great. Definitely took a load off my back and kept my attitude positive. I recommend highly.

Someone entering the sales career field will many times find themselves with 100% commission opportunities as their only choice. After successfully proving their abilities finding a salaried based position is much easier. Some sales professionals like the 100% commission as their commission percentage is usually much higher. In either case with a little planning and a dose of confidence a 100% commission position can be a lucrative positive experience for not only yourself but your family.

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Chris Lott has this crazy creative side that motivates him to design websites and write articles. He's a disruptive technologist and is passionate about sales, family, and anything related to technology. See what others are saying about his work!.


8 thoughts on “Sales Commission Survival.

  1. Chris, how does one find a financial coach who specializes in budgeting for families on straight commission?

    • Not sure but if they have never dealt with straight commission clients they won’t fully understand the needs and concerns.

  2. I just turn 9 years as a insurance agent. But the last 2 year I got hit pretty hard with the economy, family death and credit card bills. I’m currently paying my college education since I graduate from 2006. Still owe alot of money to the irs. I’m just hit the bottom c. I really need help. I have a huge book of business and it hard to let go for a 9 to 5 job. I need help. At least from the government. I behind in my car payment, light, and phone bills. The only bill that it is always current is my heath insurance, because of the Obama care. Please advice me what can I do.

    • Christian… keep the job (for now) and seek professional help for your monetary and IRS issues/relief. Life’s problems can seem insurmountable from time to time and seem the worst before they get better. If you’re spiritual seek the Lords guidance through prayer and most importantly do what the Spirit guides you to do. Turn to those that love you… swallow your pride… and ask for help. Make the sacrifices necessary and focus on what truly is important in your life. I have been weighed down with problems from time to time that seem too much to bare. Ultimately I did get through them, not necessarily unscathed, but typically a better person with a brighter future. Hang in there.

  3. Hi Chris:

    Just came across your site. Been 100% straight commission since 1988. Proud to say during that time, never was I on anyone’s “payroll”. I am 54 now and have never looked back.Have my own company now (Just myself) Would not change it for the world. Have a supportive family. Putting one son through college another starting in a couple of years. Wife works in Medical Admin, but “sales” drives our engine. I wake up everyday thinking this could be “the big day”. More times than not it is. Success is not always measured by results, sometimes it is the process that makes it exciting. Thanks for listening. We are a rare breed my friend.

  4. Great post, Chris. I am also 100% commission and have been for nearly 10 years. We are also a single-income family with my wife now homeschooling our 2 boys. Although, there have been and I’m sure will continue to be some stressful times…I wouldn’t change it for the world. The personal satisfaction and flexibility that comes with being a 100% commissioned sales rep (in my experience and opinion) far outweighs the down side.

    A couple of notes, I’d like to make…

    1) My ability to be successful in a 100% commission sales position has hinged very heavily on the staff that supports what I sell. If I didn’t have 100% confidence and trust in their skills and abilities to follow through on my promises…I would have hung up my hat along time ago.

    2) Having a personal financial plan and sticking to it is HUGE! Personally, I’m a huge fan and supporter of Dave Ramsey and his “Baby Steps” to financial freedom.

    Anyway, thanks again for sharing your thoughts and experiences with us.

  5. Now this is a good topic, one that I’ve addressed in front of the mirror and accross the table from new hires many, many times. I’ll comment on some of the points that you have brought up.

    1. Personal Confidence
    One thing that you will learn in commission sales is that the folks who receive an Academy Award once a year in Hollywood are “amateurs’ when compared to the performance that commissioned salespersons are required to give every 100% of the time, day in and day out. Not only do you have to do everything else right in the sales process but you m ust present yourself in with the attitude that not making the sale is “no big deal” in the sense that you are primarily there to help the prospect irregardless of the outcome of the visit. Whether you have a nickle in the bank or not, you cannot appear “hungry” to the customer. A confident. self-assured attitude allows this to happen naturally and more easily than any other means. I have adopted the attitude of “some will, some won’t….so what….next call” as I have realized that the more “no’s” you get, the closer you are to making a good sale. Of course, you can’t just rush through a presentation or fact-finder just to rack up numbers, either.

    The way I fight depression or lows is to change gears when it hits. By that I mean that if I’m really down on myself for whatever reason I need to spend just a little time doing something I’m really good at besides work. This is in order to experience some success when you really need some. I normally either work in the garden or take a quick jaunt down to the Boise River to catch a couple of trout real quick to clear my mind and experience some peace or the “rush” that fishing gives me. Just don’t spend too much time at this sort of thing though. You may like trout but you’ll never enjoy poverty.

    There is another thing that instills and maintains a great level of confidence. That is the level of education that you have attained to. Don’t stop at high school. EVER! There are three constants in life, death, taxes and CHANGE. You cannot do anything about the first. You can mitigate the second to varrying degrees but you are in a great deal of control how the third affects you. You need to maintain a good, solid and consistent work ethic. You cannnot develop the “Union Mentality” that you are only good for one thing professionally in your life and that without that “thing’ you cannot make a living. And, lastly, you need to manage your debt to an almost nonexistent level, especially early in your career.

    2. Support at the Home Front.
    I vividly remember the first time some idiot asked me why my wife didn’t work outside of our home. “Doesn’t your wife have any self-esteem?” I exercised another Academy Award performance in self-control that time. The primary reason I chose sales was so that my wife wouldn’t be forced into making that decision to the possible detriment of our children. Oh yes, we had 7 of the “little darlings”…..2 sets of twins in the mix. Anyway, I have discovered in the career choosing process, the “buy in” of the spouse is at least as critical to the success of the commissioned salesperson as is talent or any other trait that may lead to success. In the hiring process I have always invited the spouse to my office to discuss the ups and down of commissioned based incomes. I never pulled punches, either. If I was hiring a woman that consideration was moot as the decision had already been made if she was married.

    I will NEVER forget how supportive my wife has been in my career. I’d best not tell you of the “small” (menial to some) income-producing activities that she was involved in at times when we were “broke”. Actually, those thoughts bring some pretty powerful emotions to the forefront. Her support of me in “good times and bad”, for “richer or poorer”, in “sickness and health” has been incredible.

    There’s much more but perhaps we should collaborate on a book.

    • Kent… powerful comment! Thanks for sharing. Support at home is crucial. Nothing dishonorable with a supportive work at home spouse. A book could definitely be an option.

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