The incentive and selection roles of sales force compensation contracts

Desmond Lo, Mrinal Ghosh, Francine Lafontaine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


Designing compensation plans with an appropriate level of incentives is a key decision faced by managers of direct sales forces. The authors use data on individual salesperson compensation contracts to show that firms design their pay plans to both discriminatingly select (i.e., attract and retain) salespeople and provide them with the right level of incentives. Consistent with standard agency arguments, the authors find that firms use higher-powered incentives as the importance of agent effort increases. At the same time, the authors find strong support for the selection role of these contracts. Specifically, agents with greater selling ability and lower risk aversion are associated with jobs offering higherpowered incentives. Finally, consistent with prior findings on incentive contracts, the authors find no support for the insurance implication of the typical agency model. The authors rule out alternative explanations for this anomalous result and find that the selection role of contracts best explains the result in their context.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)781-798
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Marketing Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2011


  • Agency theory
  • Incentives
  • Retention
  • Sales force compensation
  • Selection
  • Survey research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Marketing


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