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What Does a Commissioned Salesman Do?

A commissioned salesman primarily sells products or services on behalf of a company, earning a percentage of each sale as their income. They build relationships with clients, identify their needs, and offer solutions that meet those needs. But how do they maintain these relationships over time?
Patti Kate
Patti Kate

A commissioned salesman is someone who sells a product or service and is paid for every sale that he completes. A commissioned salesman may work strictly on commission, which means that he is paid only for each product or service he sells. Alternately, a salesman may receive a salary in addition to being paid on commission. Commissioned salesmen may sell many types of products, ranging from clothing to health and beauty supplies. A commissioned salesman also typically sells services, such as automobile club memberships.

Many commissioned salesmen will have experience in retail selling. A commissioned salesman will typically be well dressed and well spoken, with a proven record in successful selling. Some individuals who are employed in a commissioned selling job will travel in their work. Outside sales on commission may involve something known as cold canvassing or cold selling.

A car salesman makes commission based upon the revenue they generate on the sale of a car.
A car salesman makes commission based upon the revenue they generate on the sale of a car.

Cold selling jobs generally pay on commission, and some offer salaries as well. A commissioned salesperson who does cold selling may rely on various techniques. Most often, the commissioned salesman will make a telephone call to a perspective client. This is generally done at random or from a list. Cold calling sales done on commission may also be done by selling door-to-door, typically by visiting homes.

A commissioned salesperson who does cold selling makes a telephone call to a perspective client.
A commissioned salesperson who does cold selling makes a telephone call to a perspective client.

A commissioned salesman will typically have to meet or exceed goals established by the company he works for. The salesman who works on commission is generally not limited in the amount of money he can earn. In most cases, commissioned salesmen will have the potential to earn unlimited income. He may set goals for himself based upon company requirements and his own required income.

A commissioned salesperson will typically have to meet or exceed sales goals set by the company for which she or he works.
A commissioned salesperson will typically have to meet or exceed sales goals set by the company for which she or he works.

Commissioned sales representatives may do cold calling to establishments such as bars, hotels, and restaurants. He may sell products such as glassware or utensils, or sell a service such as cleaning. In such a case, the commissioned salesman will generally assemble a portfolio with available product or service descriptions. He may also be an appointment-setter who works on commission.

Presentation is a crucial aspect in commissioned sales. The sales representative will generally establish an effective method for presenting his product or service. As part of his presentation, he may be required to memorize a speech, which is often referred to as a sales pitch. Closing the sale is probably the most important step the commissioned salesman has to complete. Additionally, he may be required to write a sales report for his boss after the completion of a sale.

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Discussion Comments


@lonelygod - You know, I really don't mind a commissioned salesman helping me out to choose a product. I feel that in general they are more knowledgeable about the products they are selling than most regular salespeople. Plus, with things like warranties that you can buy, you don't have to worry about buying a lemon. You can just take the product back.

I like that people earn more for actually doing real work. It seems to me that a lot of salespeople that aren't on commission are really disinterested in the products they sell. Or they have so many things to sell there is no way for them to really know about everything in their department.


I really dislike going into stores that have a commissioned salesman on duty. I really hate knowing that the only reason they are trying to push a product on me is so that they can line their own pockets.

There are stores now, for example electronic stores, that have done away with commissioned salesmen because they think it makes the help they give more authentic. For myself I totally agree with this kind of plan. I like to know a salesperson is recommending something to me because they have actually tried a product and like it, not just because they are paid to sell more of it.


I serve as a receptionist, secretary, and payroll lady at my job, so I see firsthand the amazing figures that the commissioned salespeople earn. It can vary greatly from person to person and from paycheck to paycheck, but it is always more than any of the other employees make.

The salespeople also receive quarterly bonuses for meeting certain goals set by previous records. Let’s just say that these bonuses are frequently followed by a large purchase, such as a new vehicle or expensive jewelry.

In addition to the money, the salesperson who earns the most for the company during the course of the year gets a paid vacation to the Bahamas. This is incentive for everyone to compete and try their best.


I worked at a small newspaper as a designer, and I befriended the three sales representatives there. They told me about their jobs, and though the money can be good at times, the stress that goes along with it means that they really go through a lot to earn it.

When times are tough and ad sales are low, the sales reps are the ones who shoulder the blame. Even in a down economy, the bosses lecture them about doing better, and they even threaten them with lowering their salary or eliminating them entirely.

However, when times are good and sales are up, the sales reps are the heroes of the office. They get treated to bonuses and even get to leave early on Fridays for making their goal.


My boyfriend works as a commissioned salesperson for an online advertising agency. Business is booming, and he is reaping the benefits.

The agency designs and distributes ads to a variety of websites. If a customer wants to advertise on a certain site, but they need an attractive ad developed to submit to this site, they use this agency.

They try to keep their rates reasonable, because competition in this field is high. However, they make a considerable amount of sales, so my boyfriend makes good money.

He keeps a client list, and he does most of his business through email. Some customers prefer to talk on the phone, but personal visits are rare, because people from all over the country use the service.


I have several friends who are commissioned salespeople, and their jobs can be quite lucrative. They have unlimited earning potential, so they try hard at their jobs.

They receive a low base salary in addition to commission. I think the low salary spurs them onward to make better sales.

Often, they send out mass emails to their clients whenever special discounts are available. They do visit customers in person, and they also make phone calls. I suspect that they rely on email a little more than their employers would like, but it seems to be working for them. Two of them recently bought new cars, and one bought a new house.


I’ve always been told that I have a way of charming people into doing what I want them to, even when I’m not trying.

I’ve got to say that this is probably true, although it is largely unintentional in all honesty. I guess I just have that way about me.

Regardless, I’ve been offered many commission sales jobs as a result. In particular, many commissioned sales jobs have come my way. The problem is that I’m afraid of these kinds of jobs.

There are a number of reasons for this fear. First of all, although I apparently can convince people to do things, I am honest to a fault. I could never sale someone something they didn’t need or want purely for profit even though I probably have the ability.

Also, it seems like an iffy job to take. What if something happens and people just don’t respond? What if the economy turns even worse and people can’t afford to buy what you’re selling, even when they would otherwise?

It’s just an all-around scary proposition to me. I commend those who are able to master it.


Commissioned sales have got to be a hard job, particularly if you aren’t a natural born salesman.

As a result, sometimes consumers get the nicest salespeople in the world, whether they are getting commission or not.

Then, however, you get the one guy calling you up trying to sale you something who isn’t very good at his job and doesn’t appear to like it very much either. Then you get to feel his wrath.

I had this happen not very long ago when these folks who shall remain nameless called me at home to try and get me to go and do one of their vacation deals.

My husband and I were interested at first, but after I looked up reviews for the company online, we changed our mind.

They widely are known for being rude, giving bad service and at times even ripping people off. There were even replies from the people of this company to online reviews that demonstrated all that the complaints implied.

Regardless, we told the people politely that we were no longer interested. This man kept calling night and day for weeks, from his work phone, cell phone and even blocked numbers pushing us to take the bait anyway.

A good salesman wouldn't have wasted his time, and would have seen 'over kill' written all over the effort.


A good friend of mine has worked as a commissioned car salesman for a long time. The only money he makes is when he sells a car. I know he has gotten used to this since he has done it for so long, but I think it would be very hard.

He is a very good salesman and doesn't seem to have trouble making sales, but it sure keeps him motivated to stay on his toes.

I think it takes a good balance between being a good salesman and not being too pushy. That is the first thing that drives me away if someone is trying to sell me something.

I have a lot of respect for anyone who makes their living as a commissioned salesman. It would be one of those jobs that you either loved or hated - probably depending on if you were very good at it or not.


My son has worked as a commissioned salesman for many years. Most of this work has been in the insurance industry. It would be hard for me to make a living in any kind of sales job, but he loves it.

When you are first starting out, a lot of companies will pay you a salary during your training period. Once you are trained, you may receive an hourly wage or lower salary in addition to your sales commission for a certain time period.

This is very helpful when you are becoming familiar with the product and the company. After a period of 6 months or so though, you might be totally on commission.

In order for this to work, you have to be good at managing your money and not spending everything that comes in. You need to set some money aside for the slow times that come in any sales job.


@amysamp - I have heard of employees in restaurants in resort areas filing for unemployment in the winter months, but I am not sure how they did this, if the restaurant had to fire them and then hire them back or if there was some other way.

Either way, each state has different unemployment benefits and standards, I would check out your states definition of unemployed.


Can someone who works in one of the many commission sales jobs receive unemployment if they go for longer than a month and do not receive any sales and therefore have not made a paycheck?

The economy can be tough sometimes and I did not know if unemployment worked in any way to help out those in commission sales.


In my book commission sales jobs get a bad rap. I had always thought of them as harassing people to get them to buy what you were selling, and who were mostly concerned with money as opposed to the product or people they were selling to.

But then I met my husband who has been a part of commission selling in both selling musical instruments and equipment at a music store, managing workers who are commission salesmen, and who is now a realtor which of course in a common commission salesman!

From seeing him at his work I realize now that not all salesmen or people in commission sales are trying to make you buy their product. There are many people that do what they do because they truly believe in the product, and I think this is an important part to commission selling - because if you truly believe in and strongly believe in the product or service you are selling then it makes it a little easier to take all those rejections.

But what I find interesting, is that while my husband can handle a "no thank you" that even after all these years he is still bothered by people who are just plain rude. But I guess that is true for anyone in the customer service or retail industry.


@Comfyshoes - I think that it must be really difficult to work in a commission only environment because if you don’t sell anything you really don’t earn anything either.

It must be hard not to think about that when you are trying to sell something. I know that customers can tell also sense when you are not comfortable. I personally prefer offering customer service support because I need the steady paycheck and I would not work well in a commission only environment.

I know that many people that are successful in commissioned sales make a lot of money, but I couldn’t do it.


I wanted to add that I had a friend that was in a commissioned sales job and he was constantly calling on prospects. He had a list of warm leads which were a list of companies that this firm did business with in the past. He also bought marketing leads and tried to qualify as many of these customers as possible. I think you really have to be able to let rejections roll off your back in a commission sales job and people that are successful in this field generally do.

My friend was telling me that for every hundred calls he made he could get about ten appointments and of those appointments he usually was able to get about two sales. Knowing his statistics like this really allowed him to plan his workload because he knew how much he needed to sell to make his goal. He did really well and enjoyed the challenges of the job.

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    • A car salesman makes commission based upon the revenue they generate on the sale of a car.
      By: ikonoklast_hh
      A car salesman makes commission based upon the revenue they generate on the sale of a car.
    • A commissioned salesperson who does cold selling makes a telephone call to a perspective client.
      By: Wrangler
      A commissioned salesperson who does cold selling makes a telephone call to a perspective client.
    • A commissioned salesperson will typically have to meet or exceed sales goals set by the company for which she or he works.
      By: DragonImages
      A commissioned salesperson will typically have to meet or exceed sales goals set by the company for which she or he works.