Rats can be trained to do amazing things. By providing food rewards and/or mild electric shocks scientists have conditioned rats to use a litter box, recognize different languages, and even sniff out Tuberculosis. Have companies trained their employees to behave like rats? When I think of commissioned sales I can't help thinking about those rats. "Be nice to the next person who calls and I'll give you a treat!" What ever happened to the notion of: "Do a good job for the company because...it's your JOB..., because you take pride in your work..., because you're not a rat"? The cynic will say: "Behavior modification works." Sure it works. But with humans the rewards and punishment don't have to be immediate. Paying fair salaries, praising good work, and respecting the opinions of the people you work with goes a long way. Promoting and giving raises to people who've earned them, and dismissing those who don't meet expectations establishes a much stronger, forward looking culture. There are tangible benefits to this type of system as well:
- It doesn't generate fights over who gets the credit. It may be annoying when a co-worker claims credit for one of your good ideas, but not nearly so much as if it takes money out of your next paycheck. Well run companies know who their stars are and aren't fooled by the pretenders.
- It doesn't provide incentive to cheat the system. Every company with a commissioned sales force can give a long list of frauds employees have perpetrated to make a buck.
- It doesn't require the company to create elaborate mechanisms to prevent 1 & 2.
- It keeps folks focused on what's best for the company. For example, consider the hostility with which commissioned sales folks greeted websites and in-store kiosks.
- It recognizes that there is such a thing as a bad sale: whether it's signing a client who has unrealistic goals, or selling too much computer to a senior citizen who just wants email. The short term benefits are vastly outweighed by the long term consequences to your brand.
- Like MBO goals in general: what's right for the company isn't always factored into the goals and usually can't be. The "right" thing isn't always cut and dry, and often changes depending on the circumstances. How many times have you seen companies role out unprofitable promotions at the end of a fiscal quarter just to hit some bogus top line goal? Stupid, but very common.
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