Updated: May 29, 2019
Many direct sales agents are self-employed or work on a commission-only basis, and that can leave employers feeling unable to motivate their sales team through the usual bonuses and benefits you might offer to a permanent employee.
But this is no bad thing, as career salespeople – especially those with the self-motivation to take the self-employed route – don’t necessarily respond to the usual benefits in the way you might expect from other workers.
In many cases they instead want a degree of independence and to work under their own initiative, with fair remuneration for their achievements, all of which is inherent in commission-only self-employed sales roles anyway.
To keep your direct sales agents motivated on those terms, you need to be willing to trust them – which is why it is important to make sure you recruit talented salespeople in the first instance.
By doing so, you can put your brand reputation in the hands of your sales force – even when sending them unsupervised out into the field – and know that by working on commission, their interests are more closely aligned with those of your company when it comes to their desire to make a sale.
In an article for the Harvard Business Review in April 2015, Doug J Chung argued in favour of keeping it simple to reduce the temptation for sales agents to misreport the dates when they close deals – for example, to include a large order in their next month’s quota when it was really placed before the end of the current month.
Again though, this is a matter of trust, and by hiring through a reputable recruitment agency that vets candidates to ensure they are of the highest calibre, there should be little concern about any such inaccuracies slipping through the net.
Perhaps of more use is the suggestion to adopt a more personal approach in the rewards offered; for example, while self-employed sales agents might leave you with fewer options to offer a salary increase or quarterly wage bonus, you might find non-cash incentives like gift cards or even short breaks for very high performers work just as well.
Here there is a question of fairness, as offering a reward to one person but not to another can work well in terms of personalised incentives, but word can also get around the team during so-called ‘watercooler moments’.
Ultimately it is a question of understanding and appreciating your workforce, as different people are motivated by different influencing factors, and there may be no need to offer bonuses on top of the commission paid to your direct sales agents at all.
Especially in the Millennial generation, many people are motivated by a desire to work under their own supervision, with financial remuneration based on their own output and achievement rather than a fixed – and therefore limited – monthly income.
By offering this through self-employed direct sales agent positions, you essentially provide the motivation many Millennials need to thrive in the role, without needing to add further incentives on top.