Recently published research led by Alan Benson applies a rigorous academic lens to this question. And Alan’s answer is that there is evidence that sales managers just below their own quotas may retain poor performers for just this reason.
If you’re interested in more detail AND have a taste for the analytically rigorous, have a look at the full paper here: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/Delivery.cfm/SSRN_ID2235922_code1634437.pdf?abstractid=2235922&mirid=1
Alan Benson is Assistant Professor at the Carlson School of Management.
Donya Rose, CSCP, is Managing Principal of The Cygnal Group. She is a recognized expert in sales compensation plan design, regularly speaking at conferences and writing published articles. She serves clients from F500 to growth-stage businesses, and advises WorldatWork on sales compensation hot topics and best practices.