Leading Commission Sales Teams



As a sales leader, you have chosen to put your career success in the hands of those whom you lead.

That can be scary!  Especially when commission sales teams are traditionally difficult to lead and often seem to have ADHD.

I am no doctor, but I am reasonably sure that my bride has ADOS… (Attention Deficit… Oooooh! Shopping!)

Remember these 5 points when leading a team of commission only sales people.


Embrace Independence:

Commission only sales people tend to be extremely independent. They are not intentionally ignoring you so don’t take it personally – they are simply not focused on you or what you want to accomplish. Learn to love that independence rather than fight it. If you try to force them to do anything, you will really frustrate yourself – and totally annoy your team.  The first step in leading commission only sales people is accepting that independence and learning to work with it rather than against it.

Lead Charismatically:

Think of herding cats.  If you want to gather cats, you can’t yell them into a group. But if you hold up a beautiful fish and use the right tone of voice, they will circle around you easily. Charismatic leadership is an extremely valuable skill when leading commission only sales people. When a sales person is on salary you can make certain things happen just because you have their income as leverage. However, even in those situations that style of leadership is very weak and will never accomplish the type of results you want for your team. You have to create inspiration instead of perspiration. Commission sales people can be sold on what you want to accomplish and inspired to achieve greatness. But if you try to lead with pressure, just like with cats, you will find them scattering instead of coming together.


Micromanage The Novice – Lead The Skilled:

During the training period, the novice sales person must have their activity and skill development micromanaged. You must do so only until they demonstrate that they can do that for themselves independently. Micromanaging after that training period will frustrate, annoy and eventually cause the departure of good sales people. If you have to address performance issues after training, you can do some micromanaging at that point – but only for a specified period of time. Lead the skilled sales person as a mentor. Coach them on complex cases. Coach them on advanced skills. Ask for their help in achieving your organizational goals.


Leverage Skilled Team Members:

If you have successfully followed steps 1-3, you will now find that your skilled sales team members will respond to your requests for help. Involve them in leadership roles inside your team. Ask them to share best practices in meetings. Get them involved in ways that provide value to other team members and allow them to experience that feeling that comes with leadership and helping.


Gather Socially:

The type of chemistry that is needed for a sales team to achieve greatness is generated by what happens in three key areas; the accomplishments of the individuals, the accomplishments of the group and the strength of the relationships that develop between the team members. Social gatherings of your team members that are centered on fun team-building activities or simply fun family gatherings can really develop a special chemistry that doesn’t happen in other ways.


QUESTION:  How often do you gather with your team for social events?