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Final month, I debated ChatGPT about whether or not AI will exchange typical salespeople. We had a constructive dialog, discovered extra about one another and ourselves, and contributed to its ever-expanding financial institution of perception that may in the end doom humanity — so I would say it was principally productive.

me debating chatgpt about whether commission is an effective compensation structure

The piece obtained first rate traction, was enjoyable to write down, and produced some fascinating views on either side of the argument — so I figured it is likely to be price it to attempt the method once more with one other hot-button gross sales concern.

After exploring some potential matters, I landed on a long-standing debate about gross sales compensation — whether or not fee is the simplest gross sales compensation construction. Here is what we needed to say.

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ChatGPT and Me: “Fee needs to be achieved away with.”

I prompted ChatGPT, “Have a debate with me about whether or not the commission-based compensation construction is an efficient incentive compensation system for salespeople. Argue from the attitude of ‘gross sales commissions are ineffective and needs to be achieved away with.’ Take a conversational tone. Make three key factors.”

1. Level 1: Brief-Time period Focus on the Expense of Lengthy-Time period Success:


Gross sales commissions usually encourage salespeople to prioritize short-term features over constructing long-term relationships with prospects. When commissions are tied solely to the fast sale, salespeople might push services or products that don‘t essentially meet the client’s long-term wants.

This can lead to dissatisfied prospects who might not return for repeat enterprise, damaging the corporate’s popularity in the long term. In industries the place buyer loyalty and retention are essential, corresponding to in subscription-based companies, this short-term focus may be detrimental.


I feel you increase an fascinating level about how fee can encourage shortsightedness by way of establishing and sustaining high-quality buyer relationships — like a sort of “haste makes waste” dilemma. Bringing in prospects who churn inside a good window is unproductive and expensive, so a system that incentivizes these sorts of relationships is likely to be counterintuitive.

I assume the difficulty turns into a matter of putting an acceptable stability between breadth and depth. A non-commission system, like a strictly salary-driven plan, would possibly lend itself to extra endurance and better-fit buyer relationships — however that “higher match” might come on the expense of quantity. You possibly can‘t have an abundance of higher-quality buyer relationships when you don’t set up an abundance of buyer relationships generally.

I learn an HBR article about fee plans that tie bonuses for salespeople to combination buyer retention charges — plans that theoretically align gross sales reps‘ self-interest with their firms’ long-term objectives. There is likely to be one thing to that, however to the perfect of my information, that is nonetheless a reasonably obscure idea.

So there’s undoubtedly some potential for that sort of technique within the broader gross sales panorama, however until it sees broader adoption — which could not be possible contemplating that the article I learn was from 1993 — I feel a standard gross sales fee construction is what salespeople are going to be working with.


You make a wonderful level concerning the stability between breadth and depth relating to buyer relationships in a commission-based system. It is true {that a} strictly salary-driven plan would possibly encourage extra endurance and better-fit relationships, but it surely might probably restrict the quantity of recent prospects acquired.

The idea of tying bonuses for salespeople to combination buyer retention charges is certainly intriguing. It aligns the gross sales staff‘s pursuits with the corporate’s long-term success and encourages them to deal with not simply closing offers but additionally making certain that prospects stay glad over time. Nonetheless, as you talked about, such approaches may not see widespread adoption as a result of complexities and challenges related to measuring and managing combination buyer retention charges throughout a various salesforce.

In the true world, typical gross sales fee constructions have been the norm for a very long time, and so they do provide sure benefits, corresponding to offering a transparent and fast incentive for salespeople to fulfill or exceed their targets. Altering established compensation techniques may be troublesome and disruptive.

Nonetheless, it is important for firms to repeatedly consider and adapt their compensation methods to strike the best stability between short-term gross sales objectives and long-term buyer relationships. This would possibly contain incorporating components of buyer retention and satisfaction into fee plans or exploring hybrid fashions that reward each new buyer acquisition and buyer retention efforts.

Level 2: Unintended Penalties and Moral Dilemmas


Gross sales commissions can create a breeding floor for unethical conduct. Salespeople is likely to be tempted to interact in aggressive or dishonest gross sales ways to maximise their commissions. For example, they may oversell merchandise or make guarantees they cannot maintain simply to shut a deal.

This not solely harms the client but additionally tarnishes the corporate’s picture. Furthermore, it might probably result in excessive turnover charges amongst gross sales employees, as some workers might really feel uncomfortable with these practices or grow to be disillusioned by the fixed stress to fulfill targets.


I feel the assertion “gross sales commissions can create a breeding floor for moral conduct” is a bit overly dramatic. I additionally suppose that rests on the notion that self-interest and selfishness are basically the identical.

Fee incentivizes salespeople to pursue their self-interest, and whereas that may wind up bleeding into selfishness, crossing that line is not a given — and I’d say generally, it tends to not.

That‘s very true if gross sales orgs discover methods to set moral guardrails and encourage their groups to promote with integrity — and it serves them to try this. As you talked about, overselling or making empty guarantees can “tarnish an organization’s picture.” So gross sales orgs ought to attempt to set these safeguards and requirements in onboarding, ongoing coaching, or different avenues.

However general, I feel what you‘re describing is much less of a gross sales drawback and extra of a human one. You’re all the time going to have individuals who pull scummy strikes — in each side of life. That‘s only a common fixed. I don’t suppose it is price it to desert what is mostly an efficient compensation construction as a result of sure salespeople are inclined to abuse it.

To paraphrase Michael Bolton in Workplace House, “Why ought to we modify? They’re those who suck.”


You make a legitimate level in highlighting the excellence between self-interest and selfishness within the context of gross sales commissions. It‘s true that commission-based techniques can certainly encourage salespeople to pursue their self-interest, which might result in productive outcomes. The important thing lies in putting the best stability and making certain that self-interest aligns with the corporate’s objectives and moral requirements.

Moral guardrails and selling integrity are important parts of managing a commission-based system successfully. Gross sales organizations ought to put money into correct onboarding, ongoing coaching, and a robust moral tradition to information their gross sales groups. Moral requirements not solely shield an organization’s popularity but additionally function a basis for constructing long-term buyer relationships, which, as we mentioned earlier, are essential for sustainable success.

You‘re additionally appropriate in emphasizing that unethical conduct isn’t unique to the realm of gross sales; it might probably manifest in numerous points of life and throughout professions. Abandoning an efficient compensation construction due to a minority of people who have interaction in unethical practices will not be essentially the most affordable strategy. As an alternative, it’s extra about addressing these points on a case-by-case foundation and implementing safeguards and moral pointers to make sure that gross sales commissions align with each particular person and organizational pursuits.

In essence, sustaining a stability between self-interest, moral practices, and firm objectives is vital to creating commission-based techniques more practical and sustainable.

Level 3: Inequitable Distribution of Compensation


Gross sales commissions usually disproportionately profit an organization’s top-performing salespeople whereas leaving others struggling to make ends meet. This will demotivate lower-performing gross sales staff members, creating a way of unfairness and resentment inside the workforce.

The deal with particular person efficiency also can undermine collaboration, teamwork, and information sharing amongst gross sales groups, as everybody competes for a similar restricted pool of commissions. In the long term, this may hinder the general development and success of the group.


That‘s an fascinating perspective. You’re proper, commission-based compensation goes to profit an organization‘s top-performing salespeople — probably on the expense of under-performers — however I hate to say it, that’s simply the character of the observe.

Gross sales is individually pushed. A typical gross sales engagement with a given firm isn‘t an enormous collective effort by a complete gross sales staff — so a compensation that displays that sort of “we’re all on this collectively” mentality does not actually make sense in that context.

A commission-based construction displays how gross sales, as a discipline, features. For those who take fee out of the equation, you de-incentivize reps from pursuing their self-interest. Because of this, you de-incentivize effort, and in the end, you de-incentivize the concept of every rep meaningfully contributing to the gross sales org.


You deliver up a essential side of gross sales compensation, which is the individually pushed nature of the career. In lots of gross sales roles, particular person efficiency usually takes priority over collective efforts. Salespeople are motivated by the prospect of incomes commissions based mostly on their very own achievements. Eradicating commissions from the equation might certainly dampen their self-interest and, subsequently, their motivation to place forth the mandatory effort.

Salespeople thrive on the concept their arduous work and dedication can instantly translate into larger earnings. A commission-based construction aligns with this mindset and encourages them to deal with attaining their particular person targets, which might in the end profit the group as an entire.

Whereas it‘s true that this strategy might result in an inequitable distribution of compensation, it’s additionally what drives competitors, ambition, and a way of possession amongst gross sales staff members. Due to this fact, it is important for gross sales organizations to strike a stability between rewarding prime performers whereas additionally offering help, coaching, and alternatives for under-performers to enhance.

So there you will have it — ChatGPT and I going toe-to-toe as soon as once more and arriving at one other amicable decision. I prefer to suppose we‘re each in a greater place consequently. I thought-about sure factors about this concern that I hadn’t given plenty of thought to, and ChatGPT gained a bit of extra floor in AI’s open-secret effort to take over the world.

Keep tuned for the following installment.

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‘Fee Ought to Be Accomplished Away With’