Last night I had a heated discussion with some folks at my gaming group on the subject of commission sales. The opinion there was pretty negative regarding both commissioned salespeople and the price flexibility they had and the folks were rather surprised that I would rather deal with a commissioned salesperson if given the opportunity. By and large salespeople have a pretty bad rap and commissioned ones even more so; I expect that there aren't very many people who actually want to get a commissioned salesperson to help them. I wouldn't argue that everyone should want the same as me but I would say that once you understand the industry from all angles you probably would agree with me.
Regardless of how they are paid there are plenty of really bad and really good salespeople. One of the people debating with me was a salaried salesperson with a dim view of commission and given his passion for his product, years of experience and obvious pride in giving good service I expect he gives customers a great experience. I feel like I did the same when I was selling. However, the plural of anecdote is not data so we must consider the general experience. In general I find that commissioned salespeople *can* be very good but tend towards being pushy and aggressive. In general I find that salaried salespeople *can* be very good but tend towards being uninterested and uninformed. It doesn't matter how they are paid if they are good at what they do and want the customer to be happy but if they aren't good then the experience is completely different.
Due to many years of selling I got pretty good at handling the situation of a salesperson who isn't wanted. I am comfortable telling someone who is being overly forward to shove off and negotiating price isn't an issue. What I can't stand is dealing with salespeople who don't know what they are talking about and who aren't concerned with finding me something that solves my problem. I don't want them to back off and 'give me space' or any such nonsense, I am interested in them getting information from me to find the product I need but don't know about yet. Once they do that I can grind them down on the price as necessary. If a salesperson just isn't interested in the process there is really nothing I can do to fix that situation though and so salaried salespeople trend towards being useless to me.
I am sure that a lot of the objection comes from people buying into the myth of fair value. There is no such thing though we spend much of our lives deluding ourselves into thinking that the listed price on an item somehow represents this illusory concept. It is much simpler to just go by the store's listed price and not try to work at figuring out what their cost is and how much of a discount you really can expect to get and so of course most of us most of the time just pay the asking price. This of course leads stores to abuse us with '50% off sale' and other such contrivances.
Simply put when dealing with salespeople you can get good or bad salespeople no matter what else is going on. You have a choice in what sort of bad you can expect though and I find it much easier to deal with 'pushy' bad then 'nonexistent' bad. I think in general the populace finds it the other way though which is why commissioned salespeople have such a bad reputation.