Rethink The Old Pay Plan For New Sales Hires

The days of 100% commission with a 90-day guarantee for new hires are long gone. To attract the best sellers, you must offer a compensation plan that offers more security -- that is, a plan that includes longer guarantees so that the hire has more time to develop business. And you have to commit fully to training.

As media companies struggle to be competitive in hiring top sales talent, it is crucial to understand what it will take to land and retain the quality sellers.

For many, that involves restructuring the compensation plan so that it provides new hires a level of security while they build their rosters of clients. They also need training, attention and the right tools to make it work.

The days of 100% commission for new hires, with a 90-day guarantee, are long gone. 

Think about the people you have hired on those terms in the past.

On day one, they are excited and pumped. On day 30, they have a better idea of what it will take to earn money. On day 60, they are getting nervous about covering their draw so they start looking for a new job. On day 90, they are gone or mentally checked out. You have wasted time and money and hurt your reputation as a good place to work.

To attract experienced sellers or marketers, you must offer a compensation plan that offers more security — that is, a plan that includes longer guarantees so that the seller has more time to develop business.


You must also consider the local market for sales talent. Identify businesses of all kinds — media and non-media — that employ your ideal sellers and then get an idea of what they are earning, how they are paid — 100% commission or base plus commission, salary plus bonus, etc. — and what their full earnings potential is. Structure your compensation accordingly.

Offering more attractive compensation doesn’t mean you have to lighten up on accountability.

Pay should still be dependent on meeting specific goals and standards that promote their success. Every time someone comes to me with the story of that new hire who was let go after 90 days, I wonder what kind of company would pay someone without concrete objectives.

Most managers feel that the proof is in the billing, but in the beginning, it can’t be about billing alone as the new hires are in training, building relationships and, in some cases, learning  a new business.

Consider including a Management By Objective plan with measurable goals to be discussed with their managers at least once a week. The goals should be designed to help them learn what it will take to be a success.

For instance, goals could include a number of ride-alongs with veteran sellers and an amount of time spent with each department head to truly understand their roles and how they interact with sales.

It’s a good idea for new hires should go out on calls with their manager, complete some initial appointments on their own and make presentations on why TV and why your station before the entire sales team so they can learn from the team.

Also, have the new seller complete online or in-person training and learn your systems, but be sure to follow up to gauge their understanding and comprehension.  Don’t wait until the end of their guarantee to check in.

If a seller doesn’t work out for whatever reason, it will be a waste of money for your company, a frustration to them and extremely harmful to future recruiting efforts.

Get your money’s worth by giving more hands-on attention and ensuring they are progressing as desired.

Laurie Kahn is founder and CEO of Media Staffing Network. She can be reached at [email protected] or 480-306-8930

Comments (9)

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Rey Chavez says:

September 23, 2015 at 9:03 am

Completely agree. Our industry has let the best and brightest land in other fields because we have been late to realize our compensation plans are out of step with the current climate.

Gregg Palermo says:

September 23, 2015 at 9:12 am

She gets her percentage no matter what.

Michelle Underwood says:

September 23, 2015 at 9:40 am

So says someone who spent her prior career as a buyer, not a seller.

    Jeff Godtland says:

    September 24, 2015 at 2:07 pm

    Laurie was a successful seller and sales manager and is absolutely top shelf. Do your research before making comments.

damilola olanrewaju says:

September 23, 2015 at 10:26 am

Now we know there is no truth behind TheVoiceof…check your facts before you disparage someone. You owe Ms Kahn an apology! Not only is she accomplished at what she has been doing the last 20 years, but a highly talented, successful, and industry recognized radio salesperson/manager for many years prior!

Brian Bussey says:

September 23, 2015 at 10:51 am

This is really a market specific issue. As I sit here, in the 5th richest TV market, a DMA the size of New Jersey, where I have single location furniture stores that give me what would be some smaller market AE’s total billing, compensation issues are totally different. Comp issues tend to be resolved rather quickly. Stations who don’t respect their salespeople end up with no salespeople. We have a saying here, “you should not be able to cross the street and pick up 50 grand.” Small market owners who buy into large markets tend to find this out the hard way. Spreadsheet managers are then forced to respond to why their strongest local relationship AE’s have moved across the street and are crushing their old station’s local revenue numbers based solely on the strength of their relationships. Here there is enough to go around. In small markets, the blinding focus on facebook likes has allowed a number of smaller media to siphon off steady advertisers.

Jayson Siler says:

September 24, 2015 at 7:49 am

Historically, local TV has been a demand driven business that required more “brokers” than pure sellers to drive station revenue. Now that consistent demand is no longer a reality, tons of stations have staffs that aren’t trained (or even inclined) to create new demand for their inventory. Savvy stations are adjusting their comp plans to reflect this new landscape and investing in the training (and re-training) it takes to get positive results.

Greg Johnson says:

September 24, 2015 at 5:54 pm

Laurie makes good points about a more competitive world. However, the training should be for the entire station. General Managers for the most part are not conversant enough on financial statements to know how to use them to build strategies. If sales managers are left to train salespeople, and those managers lack skills in value selling, prospecting, interpreting research, using CRM properly, what outcomes are expected of the training 30 days later. Broadcasting has never been fully committed to training and promoting a culture of learning. Trainers are not the answer, build a core competencies strategy for your salesforce and benchmark it against digital and other media sellers. When the day arrives when programmatic TV arrives, this will be a less significant issue. If you are in a small market, you need sales and marketing training because accounts don’t have big sophisticated agencies supporting them with specialists, but the challenges are the same. I don’t believe college graduates want to sell TV anymore, certainly not at a ridiculous offer of “eat what you kill.” You people don’t need training to say “NO.”

James Brierton says:

December 3, 2016 at 4:07 pm

How many stations paid their reps for POLITICAL ads this past cycle? Or were they IN HOUSE accounts to avoid paying the rep?