Sales Compensation

Develop a sales compensation framework to align with your business strategy

Sales compensation is a moving target — make sure you’re always on the mark

The right compensation and incentives motivate teams and attract the right type of talent. But too many companies offer sales compensation programs that are hard to understand or aren’t in sync with their strategic objectives on role design or sales function architecture.

You need to know how your sales compensation plans stack up against competitors—and be ready to change them when they’re not serving your purpose anymore. Your incentives should be cost-effective and link directly to your business goals without wasting budget. And your teams should understand exactly what they have to do, and why, to optimize their compensation.

Our consultants design comprehensive sales compensation models that meet the needs of your entire sales force. From expert assessment and benchmarking of existing strategies to creating and implementing game-changing sales compensation and incentive programs, we help leaders attract and retain key talent and build dynamic sales teams that deliver on your objectives and fill the talent pipeline.

How we help you

We help you match your incentives to your business strategy, motivate your teams to beat their targets, and attract top talent.

We assess your sales incentives plan to keep it competitive

We work closely with you to assess your sales compensation programs, ensuring that they are clearly communicated, fully aligned to organizational strategies, consistent with corporate culture - and designed to attract, retain and reward valuable employees.

We test for simplicity, differentiation, accountability and attainability, ensuring your sales compensation strategy attracts top sales professionals, recognizes the significant role they play in the company’s business, aligns pay opportunity with the business objectives of the company - and creates an ongoing dynamic synergy between the sales employee and the organization. In short, we’ll tell you how you can get your incentives working harder.

We design sales compensation plans. We draw on deep sales strategy and reward expertise and experience to design compensation plans that are shaped around your business strategy and sales goals. We look at six critical areas:

  • Job roles – We clearly define relevant job roles, incentive eligibility and critical success factors by role
  • Target pay levels – We set appropriate pay levels and bands through strategy and benchmarking
  • Mix and upside – We advise on the appropriate balance between fixed and variable pay.
  • Measures and weights – We identify the performance measures, and how much weight is placed on each
  • Mechanics and links – We properly establish the mechanics and links, ensuring that teams are clear on what they need to do to optimize their compensation
  • Quota setting and attainment - We use market potential, targets by job and performance-based factors to set quotas or targets

We benchmark your plan against competitors

When it comes to benchmarking our data is deep. We have unparalleled, comprehensive data on sales compensation and organizations – collected around the world and distributed across a wide range of industries and sectors including 10,000 compensation plans, 270,000 records on incentive payouts and sales headcount from over 16,000 organizations worldwide. We combine these insights with our consulting expertise to ensure you compensation plan is effective and competitive. So, you see the difference in your bottom line, hold on to high-performing sellers and raise your team’s engagement.

We get your plan running smoothly

It is hard to overestimate the value of a comprehensive communications strategy when it comes to successfully implementing a new sales compensation plan. Sales forces are typically resistant to change, meaning that every new plan needs to be “sold” to the field.

We offer comprehensive, end-to-end solutions aimed at smoothly implementing and clearly communicating changes in sales force compensation strategies. We work with leadership to define the objective, evaluate current level of understanding and develop and implement a smart communications plan that ensures your sales team are crystal clear on how your rewards work. The result is maximum buy-in and minimal disruption, leading to smooth transitions with bottom line benefit - and a positive impact on corporate culture.

Let us be part of your success story

Contact us and see how our consulting services can help you achieve your business goals.

Frequently asked questions for sales compensation

What is sales compensation?

Sales compensation is the payment a salesperson receives for their work. It usually includes a base salary, commission, and additional monetary incentives to motivate a sales representative.

Sales compensation is an important factor in motivating your sales team. This is why choosing a sales compensation model that is targeted to your sales reps’ expectations as well as aligned with your company’s goals is a number one priority if you are pursuing sales growth. 

What are the main challenges when designing effective sales compensation plans?

Companies looking to improve upon their sales compensation plans often struggle to answer many of the same questions and manage the following difficulties:

  • Is there an inconsistent reward strategy for the sales team?
  • Does the plan align to budget?
  • Do sales force incentives reward top sales performers?
  • Does the sales comp plan drive business initiatives?
  • Is the sales compensation plan attainable across all roles?
  • Are "windfalls" driving sales plan attainment?
  • Is there higher turnover among high performers?
  • Are the sales strategy and sales performance expectations misaligned?
  • Does the organization have inaccurate sales performance data?
  • Why do we need sales compensation plans?

How can you overcome these sales compensation plan challenges?

These struggles are not unique but must be addressed to achieve effective sales management that supports the underlying business goals for the organization. This starts with sales departmental calibration and tightly aligning the objectives of sales management:

  • Coordinate targets: Though it seems simple, we often find one of the most important first steps of a well-executed sales compensation model is to ensure sales targets align with the goals of the earning plan.
  • Consistent conversations: Create a unified and consistent message with upper and middle management in the sales organization to get them "talking the talk and walking the walk" when it comes to sales compensation plans; motivate them to take advantage of the incentives offered to bolster winning behaviors.
  • Equitable treatment: Effective sales management means a level playing field that includes fair and balanced incentive programs, supporting appropriate rewards for everyone.
  • Maintain great talent: Keeping the best sellers at your company is a key objective for sales management. This type of talent retention comes from a well-articulated, smartly implemented and fair sales compensation plan.

What are the key steps to developing effective sales compensation plans?

In our experience working with thousands of large, successful global companies, we've discovered that these three approaches often lead to the most effective sales compensation design:

1. Create transparency when designing sales compensation plans

  • Challenge: Sales compensation plans are often too complex for the sales force to understand, resulting in excessive "shadow accounting" and payout disputes.
  • Action: One of the objectives for sales management in this process is to distill down key metrics and align to business imperatives with clear "If-Then" calculations.
  • Impact: By removing multiple hurdles and qualifiers, the plan becomes more readily accepted and trusted by the sales organization, reducing payout disputes while simplifying the understanding of payout calculations. Sales leaders are actually able to plan, and salespeople are clearly motivated by the easy-to-understand incentive track.

2.    Streamline sales compensation plans

  • Challenge: The company has too many role-based compensation structures, leading to an excessive total number of sales compensation plans. This individualization results in complexities, delays and potential errors in administration.
  • Action: Develop clear role definitions with a streamlined blueprint for sales compensation design for each grouping. The larger the sales organization, the more complex the roles within your sales compensation design. Typically, for an organization with fewer than 300 sellers, we establish 2-3 role definitions; for larger organizations, we may design a compensation plan featuring 5 or more roles. The goal is to make the plan less complex, which makes it easier for sellers to understand and for companies to administer.
  • Impact: Sellers benefit from clear guidance on how they earn their compensation, and sales compensation plans become easier to administer, resulting in improved on-time performance of payouts and accuracy of disbursements.

3.    Optimize current sales compensation plans

  • Challenge: Your company invested in effective sales management by creating and implementing a sales compensation plan that coordinates targets, clearly communicates goals to salespeople, achieves equity across the organization and structures your organization so it maintains the right talent. So why aren't things working? If the sales compensation plan fails to drive the desired sales behaviors, it is time to evaluate it for weaknesses and make sure it aligns to corporate objectives. Updating sales compensation plans runs a high risk--people leave when you get it wrong.
  • Action: Assess compensation plans to ensure they align effectively with overall corporate strategy. Most organizations struggle with talent and messaging--as they fix these issues, it's critical to make sure that compensation aligns to these goals and drive the right behaviors. Companies also need to use the right data to feed good sales compensation design by measuring what truly drives an impact on corporate goals as part of evaluation criteria.
  • Impact: Organizations improve alignment to corporate or marketing objectives by tying behavior to incentive achievements, ultimately resulting in overall performance improvements. 


How do you successfully implement a new sales compensation program?

Once an organization decides it wants to move forward with a new or updated sales compensation design, they must follow a three-step process to support successful adoption and utilization:

Step 1: Assessment

We begin by collecting documentation around all sales strategy, sales process, compensation plans and verticals to establish the current objectives of sales management. By understanding your current practices, we can begin to shape recommendations for a go-forward strategy. Next, we conduct interviews with key stakeholders (leadership, sales, customers) while simultaneously reviewing past performance data to further understand the current efficacy of your sales compensation design. This often involves conducting a remuneration benchmark, a pay and performance analysis and assessing legal requirements for the organization.

Step 2: Validation

Once the data point collection concludes, we validate all information against market trends and practices to identify opportunities for change and agree on the new objectives of sales management that will drive your sales compensation design. Through this validation process, many organizations revise their sales compensation plan to include changes such as: aligning to new roles and buyer journeys; leveraging leading and lagging KPIs that measure performance; and emphasizing that top performers in the new environment will be recognized.

Step 3: Implementation

The implementation strategy for a new or revised sales compensation plan anchors a rollout strategy that includes a clear communication plan. Key tenets of that communication address, "What's in it for me?" for the individual salesperson. To sustain change to the sales compensation plan over time, organizations will monitor key metrics, regularly solicit feedback and modify or adjust as needed.