Part III: Aligning Comp with Sales Roles

This is the third installment of a blog series on Rapid Sales Comp Design. Read Part I here and Part II here.

MARK DONNOLO: I’d like to spend a few minutes on the aligning of the sales roles and some practical thoughts on that. We do a lot of work with companies that have multiple sales roles and multiple groups for the sales compensation plan. We recently worked with a company that had 57 sales roles. I’d say they probably represented the 50th or 60th percentile in terms of complexity – certainly I’ve seen them with more than this. But this company is a good example of an organization with unnecessary complexity and too many mechanics to measure the plan.

This company had 57 unique roles and unique definitions and alarmingly unique compensation plans. You look at a situation like this and you think, “Wow. How do we make some sense out of this? Are there really 57 roles? Do we really need 57 different compensation plans?”

Sales roles and compensation plans are like tree roots. Uncontrolled they’ll branch out and organically multiply. So we took these 57 roles and sorted them by looking at their strategies and the responsibilities around the sales process and markets. That group of 57 actually sorts out into about eight different job families.

For an organization trying to manage compensation plans in this range, they become unwieldy. Each of those 57 plans had multiple measures, more than three – in some cases five or six measures. It can become really a nightmare in terms of communication and administration. It also raises questions about whether it’s really supporting the business as best as it can. Simplifying to eight job families makes a big difference.

How do you get a handle on something like this from a comp design standpoint?

PANELIST 2: I really try to keep it simple when I’m dealing with the sales leadership and even the operations leadership. I ask, “What of this is core critical?” So if we agree on
the account manager structure, in principle we try to keep it straightforward and consistent across the globe. Of course, I can see here how this actually translates into the plans that we have to operate on. We’ve got multiple variations for different reasons and nuances that each person gets approved for the exception.

I think what I try to do is to keep it as close to the core that’s been approved.  Identify why we have a nuance. We’ve done some interesting things in the matrix that we use to line up the systems we need. I try to make it as straightforward and simple for our operations teams and sales leadership as possible. “Here is what we’re using; this is the core.” We try to keep it to a select group that can manage through that and understand how that translates when you’re talking about 300+ plans.

MARK DONNOLO: Wow, so 300. That’s quite a number to manage. Do you manage that to a smaller number?

PANELIST 2: We usually start off the year with 35 different core plans, from your top management plan down to your inside sales specialist or your technical role. The reasons we’ve got so many permeations – and I’m sure a lot of other people struggle with this same thing – how the information flows determines how we design our compensation system to make that core plan work.

It doesn’t originally start off as 300. I would say we have 35 really core plans that we have designed with our leadership and have rolled out globally, and then there are variations that happen over the year. This year we’re probably closer to 200. But that’s how it happens.

MARK DONNOLO: How do you sort those out? We tend to sort it into different sales strategies: new customer selling or current account management, for example. Or, are they covering a range of products or single products? Are they specialized? Are they focused on certain segments? Do they cover a certain piece of the sales process or the whole sales process? Do they have certain technical knowledge or even management responsibility? Are they selling sales managers?

We tend to group by dimensions like that. Do you use a process to sort down to the true core roles?

PANELIST 2: Yes. It’s pretty easy once you become familiar with it. It’s sorted by management role. Usually we define it as the general management of the field, channel management, and technical management.

We’ve really got this definition of a front line vs. non-front line role. Then you’ll see which ones are more of your generalist that will receive credit for all variations. Then you’ll get into your specialists roles. So I’d say over the last couple of years we’ve gotten to the point where it’s very intuitive as to what that role will receive and what their responsibilities are. The
number of variations is voluminous, and that’s where we get lots of questions. “Why do you have to have lots of nuances?” I won’t bore you with all of the reasons why. It’s pretty intuitive. We separate it out by responsibility and then all of the unique specialty type roles we try to keep clustered as a group so we can identify the product specialty or service specialty.

Read Part I here and Part II here.

To learn more visit SalesGlobe or email mark.donnolo@salesglobe.com. 

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