ASI’s 2023 Sales Compensation Survey Reveals Shifts In Promo Industry Dynamics

Distributors driven to reevaluate commission structures as reps demand better benefits amid drooping job satisfaction.

TREVOSE, PA – December 21, 2023

The 2023 ASI Sales Compensation Survey released this week by the Advertising Specialty Institute® (ASI) shows rising operating costs are prompting promotional products distributors to take a bigger cut of sales reps’ commissions. At the same time, intense competition in the job market is propelling sales reps to increasingly demand better benefits and amenities.

ASI’s 2023 Sales Compensation Survey Reveals Shifts in Promo Industry Dynamics

Significantly, the number of “very satisfied” sales reps has dropped each year since 2018, from 61% to 41% in ASI’s most recent survey. With more clients moving from job to job, making it difficult to build lasting relationships that lead to bigger sales, frustrated reps often find they need to offer even greater time-consuming service levels and provide extra value to meet changing client expectations.

“Promo businesses continue to evolve, and this year’s Sales Compensation Survey captures the significant changes happening with rep compensation plans, employee benefits and overhead costs,” said C.J. Mittica, Editor-in-Chief of ASI Media, the research and reporting arm of ASI – the leading technology, marketing and information provider in the $25.8 billion North American promo industry. “I hope distributors use this year’s study as a catalyst to examine their own businesses and determine what’s right for both ownership and their employees.”

The survey identifies five compelling trends shaping the landscape of promo product sales compensation in 2024 and beyond:

Job Satisfaction Decline: The number of “very satisfied” promo sales reps has dropped from 61% in 2018 to 41% in 2023. In contrast, according to the not-for-profit Conference Board, 62% of American workers report being satisfied with their job. “This is a fun industry, but we’re dealing with so many changes in the world and it wears on us,” Dominique Volker, executive director of enterprise sales and a 2023 ASI Media Distributor Salesperson Finalist told ASI.

Endangered 50/50 Split: Driven by bigger bills, distributors are reevaluating the traditional 50/50 commission split (where reps and companies each get half). While straight commission remains more common, accounting for 35% of the five different compensation plans, its prevalence has decreased since 2017.

Compensation on the Rise: Median compensation has been on the uptick since at least 2015, reaching $75,000 in 2022. Further, more than half of surveyed reps expected their full-year 2023 compensation to increase.

Boosted Benefits: A tight job market is compelling many distributors to add or beef up benefits like paid time off, health insurance and 401ks, while perks like on-site gyms and more flexible work hours are becoming integral in attracting and retaining talent.

Desired vs. Actual Compensation Plans: Although straight commission remains prevalent, both managers and reps express a preference for a comprehensive model, combining salary, commission, and bonus structures.

“The post-Covid workplace has undergone significant change, extending well beyond just remote work,” said Nate Kucsma, study author and ASI’s senior executive director of research. “For one, job satisfaction has declined, despite increased compensation and heightened expectations for more. Distributors, irrespective of size, should leverage these findings to inform strategic decisions for their future business plans.”

For more information on the Sales Compensation survey, contact Editor-In-Chief C.J. Mittica at [email protected]. Nate Kucsma can be reached at [email protected]. Michele Bell is vice president of ASI editorial, education and special events.

About ASI
The Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI® serves a network of 25,000 suppliers, distributors and decorators in the $25.8 billion promotional products industry. ASI’s flagship product, the technology platform ESP®, manages the industry’s entire supply and marketing chain. ASI also produces award-winning digital and print content, live events and educational programs that enable companies in 53 countries to be more efficient, productive and profitable. ASI’s media and research operation provides the most authoritative business content in the industry, and the ASI Certification Program features 200+ live and online education courses for industry professionals. The company, family-owned and -operated since 1962, is proud to have been consistently ranked among the “Best Places to Work” in Philadelphia and Bucks County, PA.