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Sales Compensation

What is Sales Commission: The Basics

Aditya Singh Rajput
The Content Guy
Published On:
April 3, 2024

Sales commissions serve as the fuel that drives sales teams to go the extra mile. 

But what exactly are sales commissions and how do they work? 

In this beginner's guide, we'll cover everything you need to know about sales commissions including what they are, how they work, why they matter, typical commission rates, and factors that influence commission structures.  

What is Sales Commission?

Whether you're new to sales or a seasoned pro, understanding commissions is key to maximizing your earnings potential.

A sales commission is a performance-based monetary incentive provided to sales professionals as a reward for their successful efforts in selling products or services. 

It serves as a motivational tool, driving sales teams to achieve and exceed targets by tying their financial compensation directly to their sales performance.

Consider a scenario where a software sales representative earns a 10% commission on each software subscription sold. 

If they secure a deal with a client for a $10,000 annual subscription, their commission would be $1,000 (10% of $10,000). 

This direct correlation between the sale and the commission motivates the salesperson to actively pursue and close more deals to increase their earnings.

Why are Sales Commissions important?

Sales commissions are more than just a motivational tool for sales professionals. 

They serve as a fundamental element in aligning the interests and behavioral traits of sales personnel with the company's revenue goals. 

Here's a breakdown of why sales commissions are crucial:

Enhanced Motivation

Sales commissions serve as a powerful motivator for sales teams. The opportunity to earn additional income through commissions drives individuals to go the extra mile, putting in the effort required to meet and exceed sales targets.

This heightened motivation often results in increased productivity and improved performance across the entire sales force. 

According to a study on employee engagement, 58% of people say that they would feel more engaged if leaders gave recognition to the job they were doing.

Sales commissions provide a tangible form of recognition and motivation by directly tying earnings to sales achievements. This incentive structure creates a competitive yet collaborative environment where each team member strives to outperform and exceed their goals, leading to improved overall performance.

If you are looking for more in-depth knowledge about effective ways to motivate your sales team, check out our detailed blog, “How to Motivate Your Sales Team for Optimal Performance in 2024

Alignment with Business Goals

Sales commissions align the interests of sales professionals with the broader goals of the company. When compensation is linked to sales achievements, the entire team naturally works towards achieving the company's revenue objectives.

This alignment ensures that the efforts of the sales team directly contribute to the company's revenue objectives, creating a cohesive and collaborative work environment.

Attract and Retain Talent

Competitive commission structures can attract top sales talent and retain high performers by offering the potential for higher earnings. In industries with competitive commission structures, companies can attract top-tier talent by offering the potential for higher earnings.

Additionally, high-performing salespeople are more likely to stay with a company that recognizes and rewards their efforts through attractive commission plans. 

According to the 2019 Employee Engagement Report, 43% of sales reps say they would be willing to leave their organization for just a 10% salary increase. 

This highlights the importance of competitive compensation, including commissions, for retaining top talent.

Adaptability to Market Changes

The ability to adapt quickly to market changes is crucial. Sales commissions provide companies with a flexible tool to adjust incentives and reward structures in response to shifting market dynamics. 

For example, consider a SaaS company that traditionally targeted small and mid-sized businesses. But after several quarters of slowing sales, they decide to pivot their go-to-market strategy to focus on securing large enterprise deals instead.

To incentivize this shift, they adjust their commission structure to provide a 15% payout for landing a $500k+ enterprise deal, versus the standard 10% rate. 

This immediately aligns the sales team's efforts towards securing those complex, high-value enterprise deals in line with the new strategic direction.

This adaptability of sales commission structure ensures that the sales team remains focused on strategies that align with current business needs.

Enhanced Customer Focus

Commission-based compensation encourages a customer-centric approach among sales professionals. The direct correlation between earnings and customer satisfaction incentivizes sales teams to understand and meet the needs of clients. 

This, in turn, fosters positive customer relationships and can lead to repeat business and referrals.

Consider a salesperson working on commission in a retail environment. Their income directly depends on understanding and meeting the needs of customers. 

This fosters a customer-centric approach, ensuring that sales professionals prioritize customer satisfaction to drive sales and, consequently, commissions.

Revenue Growth and Profitability

Sales commissions act as a catalyst for revenue growth. When salespeople are incentivized through commissions, they are more likely to explore opportunities for upselling, cross-selling, and closing higher-value deals. 

This not only drives top-line revenue but also contributes to improved profitability as sales teams focus on maximizing the value of each transaction.

🔔 Also Read: Optimizing Your Revenue Operations Tech Stack: Top 10 Tools to Get Ahead in 2024

Sales commissions offer more than just financial rewards; they are strategic tools that drive motivation, align individual efforts with company goals, attract and retain top talent, enable adaptability, enhance customer relationships, and contribute to overall revenue growth and profitability.

What are Sales Commission Rates?

Sales commission rates represent the percentage, or fixed amount, that sales professionals earn as compensation for each successful sale. These rates vary across industries, companies, and even specific products or services. 

Understanding how to calculate these rates is crucial for both salespeople and businesses to ensure fair and motivating compensation structures.

Typical Sales Commission Rates

Typical sales commission rates are influenced by industry standards, company policies, and the nature of the products or services being sold. 

Here's a general overview of how typical commission rates are calculated:

  1. Percentage of Sale: The most common method is a percentage of the total sale amount. For example, if a salesperson has a 5% commission rate and closes a $1,000 deal, their commission would be $50 (5% of $1,000).

  2. Sliding Scale Based on Performance: Some commission structures offer a sliding scale, where the commission rate increases as the salesperson achieves higher sales volumes. This encourages salespeople to reach and exceed predefined performance levels.

  3. Variable Based on Targets or Objectives: Incentive-based commission structures tie rates to specific targets and objectives. Achieving certain milestones, such as meeting quarterly sales goals, could trigger an increase in the commission rate.

The different types of sales commission structures and how they work.

How to Calculate Sales Commissions

Consider a salesperson in the SaaS industry. 

The typical commission rate for SaaS sales might range from 10% to 20% of the Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR). 

If the salesperson closes a deal with an ARR of $100,000 and has a commission rate of 15%, their commission would be $15,000 (15% of $100,000).

Rates vary by industry, company, and product. Factors like sales cycle complexity and product value impact rate levels.

For details on SaaS commission rate calculations, see this guide: How to Calculate Sales Commissions for SaaS

Factors Influencing Commission Rates

  1. Industry Standards: Different industries have different norms for commission rates. For instance, technology sales may have higher rates compared to retail.

  2. Complexity of Sales Process: The more intricate the sales process, the higher the commission rates tend to be. This accounts for the additional effort and skill required.

  3. Product or Service Value: Higher-value products or services often warrant higher commission rates due to the increased impact of each sale on the company's revenue.

  4. Market Conditions: Commission rates can be influenced by market competitiveness. In a highly competitive market, companies may offer more attractive commission structures to attract top talent.

The different factors that influence sales commission rates.

Understanding typical commission rates and the factors influencing them is crucial for both sales professionals negotiating their compensation and businesses striving to create fair and motivating commission structures.

The Bigger Picture

Sales commissions are part of broader sales commission plans that outline the entire compensation structure.

They tie directly into sales commission structures, which determine the payout model calculation.

For everything you need to know about commissions, check out this detailed guide: All You Need to Know About Sales Commissions in 2024


By now, it's clear that sales commissions are far more than just extra income for reps. They are strategic tools that enable motivation, goal alignment, talent retention, and revenue growth. 

As the sales landscape evolves, commissions will continue playing a pivotal role. 

Staying up-to-date on compensation best practices will ensure you make the most of these performance-driving incentives.

Take the Headaches Out of Commission Management

Managing sales commissions doesn't have to be a complex headache. 

Visdum's commission software provides an easy way to:

  • Automate commission calculations for accuracy and transparency
  • Seamlessly integrate your HubSpot or Salesforce CRM and track deals
  • Track performance in real-time with calculation dashboards
  • Configure customized commission structures and rules
  • Ensure timely payouts with streamlined payment processing

Sign up for a demo today to simplify your commission management!


What do you mean by sales commission? 

A sales commission is performance-based compensation provided to salespeople as monetary incentive and reward for generating revenue through successful sales efforts.

What is the meaning of commission per sale? 

Commission per sale refers to the predetermined percentage of each transaction or fixed dollar amount a salesperson earns for closing a deal or sale.

What is a good commission rate for sales? 

A fair commission rate depends on factors like industry, product, sales cycle complexity, but 10-20% of the sale amount is a typical commission rate for many sales roles.

Is commission taxed more than salary? 

No, commissions are not taxed at a higher rate than regular wages. They are taxed as ordinary income based on your federal and state income tax brackets.

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