Sales Commission

Updated on June 25, 2024
Article byAaron Crowe
Edited byAshish Kumar Srivastav
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

What is Sales Commission?

Sales commission is a monetary reward to the sales representatives who have managed to achieve their sales target. It is an incentive geared towards producing more sales and rewarding the performers while simultaneously recognizing their efforts. A sales commission agreement is signed to agree on the terms and conditions set for eligibility to earn a commission.

Sales Commission

You are free to use this image on your website, templates, etc, Please provide us with an attribution linkHow to Provide Attribution?Article Link to be Hyperlinked
For eg:
Source: Sales Commission (wallstreetmojo.com)

Sales representatives earn their commission based on the sales commission agreement between them and their company. Some reps earn 100% through these commissions, while some get a base salary and added commission for sales above their basic target. A general rate of commission ranges between 20-30%, depending on the type of product or service and the sector of the same.

Key Takeaways

  • A sales commission is an incentive awarded to the employees and contractual reps for achieving sales targets.
  • A sales commission agreement is signed to agree on the terms and conditions set for eligibility to earn a commission.
  • Different companies have different commission structures depending on their setup.
  • The average commission rate is dependent on the company. Most salaried reps will earn around 5% of their sales as commission.

Sales Commission Explained

Sales commission is variable compensation for a sales representative. These commissions are a part of the profit earned by the employer and given as incentives or salary to the sales representative who helped them sell the product or service.

Some representatives earn 100% of their income through commissions. On the other hand, some representatives earn a fixed salary for a certain amount of sale and get an additional commission for every unit sold beyond their target sale amount. The format for the sale commission percentage is pre-determined through a contract between the sales representative and the company. Based on industry standards, the product or service, and the level of competition in the market, these commissions are decided.


Let us understand the sales commission percentage by first understanding the structure and its flow. The discussion below explains this aspect of the concept in detail.

The Sales Commission structure is an important area in the company. How sales reps are paid affects how the company retains top talent. It also helps its profitability.

There are several options a company can consider while setting a sales commission structure. They include:

#1 – 100% Commission

Also referred to as a straight commission, this type of structured income comes solely from the commissions as there are no salaries involved. It usually involves independent or outsourced contractors. For example, if John sells an item at $1000, and the agreement was he gets 10% of the sales, then John will earn $100. This commission is a higher risk for the salesperson due to the absence of a salary. However, a silver lining is available with the sales rep compensating for the risk.

Sales reps have the freedom to work extra hours to generate more business. The more business they make, the more commission they can take home; highly talented and experienced reps are suited for this structure. In addition, companies using this structure can save money on recruiting new staff.

#2 – Base Salary Plus Commission

Base salary plus commission offers a base salary and commission. The basic salary contains a fixed amount, while the bonus earnings depend solely upon the sales rep’s performance. There are various methods to arrive at the appropriate ratio of the two. For basic pay, companies look at an hourly rate pegged on a rate per hour as the base. Many companies in the United States go for the 60:40 ratio of salary to commission.

The good thing about this model is both the sales rep and the company are responsible for playing their parts. The model allows you to reap two benefits. As the sales rep, you get rewarded with a salary, regardless of performance, and additional compensation for the sales.

Having a fixed salary with the possibility of making bonuses ensures motivation for the reps. This sector is brimming with high-performing sales reps; companies would need to spend a lot to retain them.

#3 – Tiered Commission

Tiered Commission works with tiers, and one can make more commission here after they’ve fulfilled a set target number. For example, earning it 10% of all your sales revenue. The contract says that your commission rates will improve once you have scored the target.

Once you hit the milestone, the commission rate will get revised to a higher number, like 20%. This keeps the sales rep amply motivated and gets creative as they upsell and cross-sell to achieve higher sales.

#4 – Revenue Commission

Calculations are simple for this particular one. Whatever revenue sales rep makes, the value is multiplied by the commission rate, which gives the commission amount. It is easy in that if you sell a $2,000 product, you get 10%, which is $200.

#5 – Gross Margin Level

From the name itself, it can be estimated that the commission will be charged on an amount after some deductions. Like revenue commission, the amount will be based on sales revenue after deducting the expenses.

In simple words, the gross commission is offered on the profit, which is acquired after deducting the cost incurred for the sales target from the revenue generated. Thus, selling $10,000 worth of a product with expenses worth $6,000, the earnings would be calculated from the difference, which is $4,000. If there is a loss, the rep will not be paid.

#6 – Commission Draw

A little complicated. Advance payment is involved here against which the commission calculations are conducted. The sales rep earns a fixed amount of pay regardless of whether they meet the target. So, if your draw is $1000 and you earn $700 as commission, you keep the whole amount plus the remaining $300. In case you want to earn a higher amount than the draw value, you’d need to increase your sales number.

#7 – Base Rate

Instead of earning a commission, you are paid using an hourly rate or earn a salary. Since there is no reward for motivation, productivity is low, and team members are not motivated.

Accounting for Financial Analyst (16+ Hours Video Series)

–>> p.s. – Want to take your financial analysis to the next level? Consider our “Accounting for Financial Analyst” course, featuring in-depth case studies of McDonald’s and Colgate, and over 16 hours of video tutorials. Sharpen your skills and gain valuable insights to make smarter investment decisions.

How to Calculate?

The commission is calculated as a percentage based on the sales commission agreement.

Thus, Commission = Rate*Sales.

You multiply the rate with the sales after converting the rate into a decimal.

For Example;

George is a salesman who receives a 10% commission for every motorbike he sells. Calculate his commission for a motorbike whose cost is $40,000.

Let C be commission and R rate.

  • R=10% and as a decimal 10/100, which is 0.1.
  • Thus, c=0.1*40000
  • C=4000
  • John will receive a commission of $4000

Agreement Format

Let us understand the format of sales commission agreement with the help the discussion below.

  • Most sales agreements bear the company name at the beginning. They will then stipulate the profit margins required for you to earn a commission.
  • The next part shows when the commission is due for payment and the criteria for payment.
  • The next part usually states the validity of the commission, usually 30 days. If you disagree with the amount, then you raise your concerns here.
  • Finally, the sales rep signs the agreement, which means they agree with the terms and conditions stipulated.

Average Commission Rates

It is vital to be fair with the sales team when determining their rates. There are factors to consider before making that decision. It is important to note that where a company offers a large salary, commissions are low, and vice versa. The starting point has to be estimating the expected sales amount. Based on that, think of an amount you are willing to spend on the sales rep.

The industry usually sees, that the basic sales commission percentages are not less than 5% for the reps with a good salary. The average commission rate hovers between 20%-30%. Some companies offer a handsome rate ranging from 40%-50% to high-performing reps who aren’t taking a salary home.

This has been a guide to what is a Sales Commission. Here we explain its structure, rates, and format along with calculations. You may also have a look at the following articles to learn more –