September 19

Paying affiliates for phone orders?


Over the weekend I had a discussion with a pretty big name in our industry regarding paying affiliate marketers for phone order referrals. It wasn’t a heated debate by any means, but it’s one that I’ve dealt with for years! He was saying how it’s a big ‘no no’ in internet marketing to give out a phone number for affiliates to drive traffic to, and I was saying that companies should pay affiliates for phone sales.

The companies I’ve chosen to work with ( and have both heeded my advice and CREDIT AFFILIATES WITH PHONE SALES! I believe it’s the right thing to do…

But he (and many other companies) do not agree…

So I thought I’d ask you on which side of the argument you fall and give you some reasons that I’ve heard why companies don’t pay…


They Say: “Affiliates are there to drive traffic to the sales pages and lead offers, not to phone sales.” Affiliate marketing is web focused so therefore their efforts should stay web focused.

I Say: “WHY HAVE YOUR NUMBER OUT THERE AT ALL??” If you’re not going to pay affiliates for phone sales and affiliates are a major part of your marketing…why have a phone number at all? It’s a simple question that’s often answered with the reason of ‘support calls’ and/or ‘we do our own advertising’. Not a good enough excuse to not pay affiliates for driving traffic to your site, where you have a phone number clearly displayed!


They Say: “We can’t take up time to dig to find affiliate credit.” Makes sense. People get confused about how they heard about the offer, don’t remember the email, etc etc. You don’t want to bother them with ’20 questions’ and turn them off.

I Say: “Are affiliates not worth 5min of your time?” Honestly, properly trained support people can dig through the back-end quickly, ask easy questions, and find out if there is affiliate credit. You can’t tell me that if that person is in your system FROM AN AFFILIATE that the affiliate should not get credit.


They Say: “We have to pay customer support people hourly wages and (possibly) commissions for sales they take over the phone.” It’s a pretty easy argument to be honest, and makes some sense. They are paying for the phone support person and there is time and costs involved to generate that sale. So if they have to pay an affiliate 30% AND a phone support person 10-15% then they’re not making as much per sale.

I Say: “Are your margins so thin or your greed so great that you cannot credit affiliates for their efforts?” Affiliate marketers are spending their time, their effort, their site space to drive traffic to a site…do they not have expenses as well? Shouldn’t they receive credit for their efforts? Basically phone in sales cost a company more and instead of bearing the burdon themselves, they put it on the affiliate to lose all the money.

So before I tell you SOLUTIONS I want to hear from you!

Do you think it’s a good idea for companies like and to credit affiliates with phone sales?

I’ll be responding to all comments with your thoughts and reasons behind one side of the argument or the other.

All my best,

P.S. There are a lot of people reading my articles so when you publish your article make sure you put your site or affiliate url in your name so we can check out your affiliate program and site!


affiliate marketing, bigtrends affiliate sign-up, financial affiliate marketing, marketing advice, phone sales for affiliates, affiliate sign-up

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  • Good topic, Brad.

    I ABSOLUTELY believe that affiliates be paid on phone orders.

    A good internet marketing partner lives by the motto…”When in doubt, the affiliate wins.”

    The Affiliate is the life blood of cash flow in many internet market models (at most) and a great,
    resource for leads and cash at a great margin, at the least. In general, the margins are SO
    favorable when your business has even a small presence on the Internet, that preserving
    and nurturing pro-affiliate relationships and policies are a must, and just plain smart business.

    If affiliates see a product vendor as an affiliate-friendly partner, they will mail harder and
    with more frequency. That just IS.

    If a product vendor has a high cost structure when having to manually credit affiliates
    for phone orders, I would eat it and bear the cost… no cost to the affiliate. But if a vendor
    is eying costs with high scrutiny, then give the affiliate half or two-thirds of the commission
    on a phone order.. and make sure that the affiliate knows the procedure and why it works
    in his/her favor.

    Just my two cents.

    Stay our advocate, Brad!

    Norman Hallett, vendor AND affiliate

    • Thanks Norm! That’s why you’re far and away a leader in this industry. I’ve always been affiliate advocate and when the owner of a company (like YOU) sees the value affiliates have it just blows everyone else out of the water.

      If you’re reading this and don’t work with Norman, contact and tell him Brad sent you (this you will not regret)

  • Hi Brad-

    A phone number is a credibility component of any ecommerce site – so it needs to be there. Some sites have separate phone numbers for each promotion so they track that way. Others have click-to-call. In my experience, most sites are not set up with multiple phone numbers and click-to-call. So we ask. Or in many cases, an affiliate will call us and let us know that a certain person will be calling. Before investing in our product traders want to know that there’s a real person behind the Futures Trading Secrets course. You can’t argue with that.

    So yes, it takes extra time to field phone calls and trace affiliate credit, but we’d all be crazy to ignore the value of doing so.

    To your trading success!

    Bill McCready, Vendor and Affiliate
    35% Commission Affiliate Program

    • Good points about the multiple numbers, but you’re 100% right that it might be more work then just paying for all! Just good way to do business…and you’re right as well that it’s CRUCIAL for any ecommerce site to have their phone number out there for credibility! Solid call on paying for all.

  • I agree with Brad as well, affiliates should always be paid for phone sales. If you’re a legitimate company and in this for the long term, you should make sure you pay out every dollar you owe your affiliates because the better their ROI is from promoting you, the more eager they will be to promote you in the future.

    Back when I was Marketing Director for a different company and created their first affiliate program in 2007, I remember spending quite a bit of time each month making sure every phone sale was correctly credited to affiliates by searching through email, name and phone number records. Now with the new Trading Concepts program, I plan on doing the same thing, though I think the process will be a lot quicker now with InfusionSoft than with what I have used before.

    Thank you,
    David J. Kosmider
    Trading Concepts Affiliate Manager

    • That hard work is exactly what sets you guys apart and makes your affiliate program a real winner! I do the same thing with BigTrends and TheGoldandOilGuy as it’s really the best thing to do. Little more work for us…but WELL WORTH IT!

  • This might not be the BEST way to go about phone sales, but I try to whenever possible walk people through the buying process over the phone and have them purchase directly from my site. This helps keep the affiliate tracking automated and SO much easier. If there is a case when I do take a direct phone sale, I will always ask how they found us and give that affiliate credit when credit is deserved. Affiliates work hard to drive traffic to my site, and I always say that our mutually beneficial agreement is no longer “mutually” beneficial if I am not giving them credit for each and every sale they send my way.

  • So I guess the question/joke is, “When is a lead, not a lead?” Apparently when it is driven through some other medium besides the internet. You know Brad, I think you could take this one step further and ask yourself…would you credit an affiliate with a sale if the customer told you they heard about your product through Word of Mouth.

    I mean lets make sure that we don’t lose focus of the bigger picture here. Its not about how the lead comes to you, its the fact THAT the lead is coming to you. This means people are talking about you, your product and your company out in the marketplace…isn’t this what we all aspire to have happen. The cost component should not even enter into the equation.

    Now regarding the first arguement where you state that Affiliate marketing is an online and web focused. Well thats true, but the simple fact of the matter is, that Affiliate marketers had better take the blinders off, because that one-way narrow market / marketing focus is only going to limit your revenue potential. Affiliate Marketing is not a new practice…in fact its been around for quite a long time, it has just been called different things. Anyone ever heard of a Car Dealership? You cant go directly and buy cars from the Manufacturer, you have to buy them through a 3rd party dealership…an independant sales group. This group can work with just (1) OEM or multiple…that model has been around for 100 years…and you know what…they learned that they had to stretch beyond local TV or Radio advertising and into the internet, print, guerrilla marketing, etc etc if they were going to survive…

    Just my two sense, but if people are really serious about affiliate marketing, they need not put qualifiers around it and open themselves up to all sorts of marketing mediums…and of course pay for it. After all, work is work and leads are leads.

    Good Stuff Brad. Keep it coming.

    • I think it’s not a matter of the phone support spending 45min asking questions, it’s about just checking for the affiliates’ connection. If the customer said ‘oh yeah heard about it from a buddy etc etc’ then clearly there’s no affiliate credit due.

      I think taking off blinders might in fact limit their revenues…especially if they THINK they’re getting credit for phone sales when in fact they’re not.

      I had a discussion with Skip Shean on my facebook that I think brings a LOT of light to this…
      Skip Shean OK…just for argument’s sake, i will. Why pay for something if you can negotiate a deal that doesn’t require you to?
      Yesterday at 10:11am · LikeUnlike
      Brad Stafford
      There ya go Skip…and you guys are on popular side of the argument!

      Why: Because affiliates have become a life blood not only for leads and sales, but overall credibility. If they feel slighted in anyway that google search that has nothing …but top affiliates singing praises, will turn to crap.

      Now its 100% possible that as part of being an affiliate with a company phone orders are not paid to affiliates…as long as the affiliate KNOWS ABOUT IT! That’s the key.

      90-95% of affiliate marketers ASSUME they’re getting credit for phone sales…when in fact the company just might not be mentioning this part of the deal.

      Boils down to doing right by affiliates and being honest with them. If you don’t pay for phone sales, so be it. But let them know so they know what their options are.See More
      Yesterday at 10:16am · LikeUnlike
      Skip Shean
      That was exactly my point. The problem really only comes if the affiliate finds out about the non-payment AFTER the fact.

      If it was a negotiated point in the contract (for example, higher than typical payout on direct or online sales in e…xchange for non-payment on phone orders), then it’s 100% fine. Everything’s negotiable.See More
      Yesterday at 10:26am · LikeUnlike
      Brad Stafford Very very true. If it’s something affiliates know about, understand, and agree to then it’s 100% good. Affiliates are sub-contractors who can work with/for whoever they want and can leave or not promote at any point. If they don’t like the deal, they can leave…that simple.

  • Hey Brad,
    Interesting post.

    While I’m not a vendor in the finance niche, only an affiliate, I know from my other niches that I want my affiliates to make as much money as possible. They will work harder for me in the future. It’s that simple.

    In regards to phone orders, my job as an affiliate is to pre-sell the lead, it’s the job of the vendor to close the sale and I shouldn’t care how they do it.

    I believe that Commission Junction has some functionality where they track phone orders by showing a different number for each affiliate. I don’t know what this kind of set-up requires but it solves the trouble of the phone support finding out from the customer which affiliate sent him over.


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