Sales compensation is a common roadblock for CEOs and business owners of B2B companies that are struggling to grow. Their salespeople have been paid in ways that do not support the CEO’s need to increase sales.
In this article, we’ll ask questions to help you define your company’s growth objectives. Once those are defined, we’ll outline how to include the objectives in a sales compensation plan that supports them.
Define Your Sales Objectives
What are the specific sales goals at your organization? Here are some common ones:
- Increase revenue (by how much?)
- Expand market share (by how much?)
- Win new accounts (how many?)
- Expand key accounts (how much additional revenue per account?)
- Win back lost customers (which ones are worth the effort?)
- Improve account management and customer service (what are the key performance metrics?)
- Reward sales process activities (how?)
- Introduce new products (when and how?)
The 4 Parts Of A Winning Sales Compensation Plan
Now that you know the overall and specific goals for your sales team, how can your sales compensation plan help to make them achievable? Here are the four essential components to consider when designing your plan.
If you pay your sales reps a base salary, keep it low enough to allow room for sufficient incentives and motivation but high enough to give your reps some “breathing room” in meeting ongoing financial obligations.
Ideally, the base salary should range between 25% and 50% of anticipated total compensation. Obviously, this is a sliding scale. As the salesperson gains more incented sales, the ratio of salary to total compensation will fall.
One option for a sales compensation plan is to forego salary and instead pay the salesperson a straight commission. Certainly, it can be tempting to base compensation on the results of the salesperson’s efforts. But be aware that straight commission compensation could be a disincentive that might keep potentially outstanding sales reps from joining your organization.
Whatever portion of the total compensation package is comprised of commissions, you can structure those commissions based on sales or gross profit. Be careful to avoid basing commissions on sales whenever the sales rep has any control over pricing. Why? Sales reps are human, and basing commissions on flexible pricing only invites price reductions to make the sale.
A commission could also be in the form of a draw or recoverable draw. On many occasions, it is appropriate to pay commissions prior to when a sales rep “earns” the commission. This is most often applicable in the early stages of a rep’s career while building their pipeline. The decision to make the draw “recoverable” revolves around your desire to collect commissions paid if they are not “earned” within a particular time frame.
Adding a bonus structure to a sales compensation plan can incent the salesperson to aim even higher and reach new levels of success. Normally, bonuses should be paid after the end of the year for meeting or exceeding sales goals. The key benefit to an annual bonus is that you are paying this additional sum after your desired performance is already attained.
4) Other Incentives
Other incentives are generally non-monetary compensation, such as trips or gifts. These are often associated with sales contests, but they can also be a strategic and attractive part of a sales compensation plan. While incentives like these are best used for achieving short-term results, they should be significant enough to get the sales reps “revved up.”
The Bottom Line
Along with baseline company benefits, an effective sales compensation plan can provide balance between financial needs and desires. They reward the salesperson for meeting or exceeding goals, but they also provide a safety net when conditions make it more challenging to close sales.
Effective compensation plans are thoughtfully structured, with the right proportion of salary, commission, bonus and other incentives. They should also be designed so that they are easily understood, implemented and managed. Most of all, they create a “win-win” for the sales rep and the company.