Communicating the New Sales Comp Plan: Key Steps Part 2

Communications Points

This is the second in a series. Click here to read Part I: Start Strong.

Craft the Change Story

Looking back on the Revenue Roadmap and the C-Level Goals established at the beginning of the process can help the management team explain why it decided to change the sales compensation plan this year. Usually, the organization will make a plan adjustment if there is a change in sales strategy, a change in how the organization goes to market with its sales resources and sales process, a need to respond to a competitive situation, or if the plan simply isn’t doing what the organization intended and needs some adjustment or redesign.

The change story can be told in a variety of forms, including planned messages from leadership and informal hallway conversations. In any situation, the story should be concise, consistent, and positive. The story tellers, from CEO to first line sales managers, should be well-versed in the key messages and the range of possible questions. The components of the story include:

  • Why the change is happening. Where is the organization now, and why is this change important?
  • What is changing. Is it an overall change to the organization or a tactical change to a component of the sales compensation plan?
  • Who will be affected. Will this impact certain groups or the organization overall?
  • Where the change will take place. Is it happening in certain geographies first or will it be introduced as a big bang?
  • When the change will take place. Will it happen this year? How long will it take?

To craft the change story, go back to the C-Level Goal areas of Customer, Product, Coverage, Financial, and Talent. Draw out the messages from each area that should be communicated to the sales organization and use them as the elements of the change story.

At CA Technologies, the CEO communicates the strategic vision to the entire company and then allows the sales compensation team to show how the new plan connects to his strategy. “The CEO gave us a platform upon which to make any of the changes we need to: organizational, sales model, sales compensation. We were overly transparent against the strategy and the objectives. Then we as sales leaders could literally take that and run with it for changing the organization, and it worked beautiful, absolutely beautifully,” says BJ Schaknowski, vice president of solution provider sales at CA Technologies.

It’s human nature to resist change, so positioning your change story is key to moving the organization in the right direction. Think about how you might tell the story in one of four ways. Each method can be described by its timeframe and orientation toward pain or gain as shown in Figure 8-1. Many organizations want to communicate an aspirational story that excites the team about changing to capture future opportunities (quadrant one). A sales manager or sales rep hearing this message might find it worthwhile to be part of the dream as long as it’s within the not-too-distant-future and doesn’t require too much near-term sacrifice to her lifestyle.

If a rep hears a story about avoiding risk or great pain in the future (quadrant two), that may capture a little more of her attention. For example, an executive a few years ago described her company’s situation to me, saying, “It’s all comfortable now, but our competitors are encroaching on us. We’re like the big ship in the harbor having a party, and all the little speed boats are coming in around us, and they’re going to eventually overtake and board us. People need to clearly understand where we’re heading on our current track.” Future risk can be more motivational than future vision alone if the organization can understand the eventual threat.

Gaining some benefit in a shorter timeframe (quadrant three) can be a positive motivator to make a change, especially if it’s tangible and achievable. If a rep can picture her family in a better position as her kids get to college age, she’s likely to be fully on board and put in the hard work necessary to support the plan.

The greatest motivator for change, of course, is alleviating near-term pain (quadrant four). If the company has attempted to tell a quadrant two, risk reduction story and the organization hasn’t listened, events may have transpired and the message now may be, “If we don’t make this happen by next year, this organization may have to downsize half of our people.” To a member of the sales organization, change doesn’t look quite as scary at that point because the alternatives are worse. In this case, the rep may not be fully on board but she’s also proactively looking for ways to help.

 

Next week I’ll write about how to see the organization’s view. Contact me at mark.donnolo@salesglobe.com with any questions.

Communicating the New Sales Comp Plan: Key Steps Part I

Communications Points

Whether changing the sales compensation plan or making a change further upstream in the Revenue Roadmap, a change management plan with a heavy focus on communication will increase the likelihood of acceptance, and mitigate confusion in the sales organization. Doug Holland, director of HR and compensation for Manpower Group North America, says, “If we’re making a big change that’s going to affect a lot of people, the first question our CEO will ask is, ‘Why? What is the rationale for the change?’ His sensitivity is, ‘What is it going to do for the performance in the field?’  He’ll say to me things like, ‘You know Doug, if you present a compensation change for HR, marketing, finance, or IT, and it’s a bit disruptive, it’s not going to bother me. I understand that. But if you introduce a change that’s disruptive, in a bad way, in the field, that is going to bother me.’ That plan could be the greatest plan in the world. It almost doesn’t matter if people don’t understand it, if people don’t know how they’re going to grow their pay,” says Holland. It’s tempting to make one announcement or send out an email describing the new plan and consider it done. But don’t assume that because the people who designed the new plan understand it, that anyone else will. Real understanding – and the questions that pop up along the way from the end users – takes days, weeks, or sometimes months. Begin your change plan by looking at the entire process from evaluation, to plan inception, to design, to implementation. Put yourself in the shoes of the sales organization, concerned with their livelihood and any possible disruption, and develop your change plan to drive the strategy with the sales team in mind. When making your next change, consider the following six steps:

  1. Start strong. Conduct your due diligence to make sure the program is bullet-proof and ready to go.
  2. Craft the change story. Be honest about the reasons for the change, and develop a clear message around the C-level goals.
  3. See the organization’s view. Expect some resistance, and identify who those resisters might be so you can get them on board.
  4. Get the change forecast. Know your organization’s readiness for the change and your team’s resolve to see it through.
  5. Leverage the learning modes. Use multiple methods to communicate with the organization to increase the impact of your message.
  6. Follow the process. Begin communication early and follow your approach until well after introduction.

Start Strong Make sure you cover a few important checkpoints so the plan is ready for introduction. First, enlist the opinion leaders for input at the start of the process. Bring together not only executive stakeholders, but also highly-regarded representatives from the field who have a tactical operating view on the business. These opinion leaders can provide valuable input and help communicate the right messages to their peers. Second, pressure test the plan during the design phase. When the team has arrived at a good set of design drafts, expose the plan to a select group of managers or even top-performing reps for a cold look. This group could also include the opinion leaders. Pressure testing is most easily done in a small group setting or one-on-one. The objectives are to get beyond the team to see how the end users will see the plan. Ask them to react to it, describe how they think the organization might interpret it, and ask them to try and outsmart it to find the loopholes or behaviors the company may not want to motivate. This process also gains additional buy-in from the group because they’ve taken a role in the plan design. The goal is not to negotiate with them or change the design on the fly but to gather intelligence as the plan is finalized. Third, financially test the plan under a range of performance scenarios. Modeling at a high level by looking at target incentive, revenue, and cost of sales tells only part of the story. Payouts and cost of sales can vary dramatically depending upon the organization’s overall attainment of quota and how many reps attain quota. That’s because a sales compensation program often includes payout curves that reward at accelerated rates for high levels of achievement, and incorporates multiple measures that may pay independently from the primary revenue measure, So, very simply, the organization could reach its goal in aggregate but pay more or less than the targeted cost of sales based on how the team reached its goal. If the team reaches its goal on average, but does it with a combination of very high and very low performers with few average performers, then the plan may trigger upside accelerators, increasing the cost of sale for those high performers, while low performers may not cover the cost of their base salaries – a perfect storm. Know every financial angle of your plan to minimize the potential for surprises.   Next week I’ll write about how to craft the change story. Contact me at mark.donnolo@salesglobe.com with any questions.

Ten Success Factors for Better Quotas: Part 2

Quota Risks

This is the second in a two-part series of Ten Success Factors for Better Quotas. Click here for Part I.

 Not setting effective quotas can critically injure even the best sales compensation plans, according to SalesGlobe research, including de-motivation, missing growth targets, and loss of high performers within the sales organization. Below are five additional steps to consider when designing quotas for your sales organization. (You can find the first 5 here.)

  1. Move Beyond History

Most organizations set quotas by looking backwards. Historic sales performance may be the primary driver of the quota, which is usually determined by taking a snapshot of the most recent year’s performance and applying a fairly standard growth rate on top of that performance. This historic approach is the source of most performance penalties that simply add a bigger expectation on top of a rep that had a great sales year. Historic quota-setting may also create a “porpoise pattern,” where sales and quota attainment leap up and then dive in alternating years. For example, a rep with great revenue performance (a leap) in year one resulting in an inflated quota in year two will often have low attainment of that inflated quota (a dive) in year two. Of course, this may then lead to a lower quota in year three followed by another leap in great performance over that low quota. And so the pattern continues. Challenge your team to acknowledge history but to lean toward forward-looking indicators of market opportunity.

  1. Balance Market Opportunity with Sales Capacity

Market opportunity should be a primary driver of the quota. More specifically, territory opportunity relative to other similar territories can give you a good indication of what portion of the total goal should be allocated to each territory.

Indicators of territory opportunity may be characteristics of accounts that correlate with revenue potential. For instance, a company in the bar-code scanning business determined that the square footage of a retail grocery store and the number of beds in a hospital were both metrics that were predictive of the potential annual sales for its scanning solutions. By applying a formula to all customers and prospects in a market or territory, the company got a relative sense of the sales potential across all markets or territories. But that indicator of market opportunity was only half of the answer. The other half was the practical physical ability, or capacity, of the sales force to close a certain amount of business. This sales capacity considers the number of hours each rep works in a year, the percentage of that time that is spent actually selling versus handling other operations and administrative activities, and the productivity of those selling hours given the time it takes to manage or close an account and close rates.

Fifteen years ago, Jeff Connor, chief growth officer for ARAMARK, had a sales force that was cut from 25 reps to 15, but the quota went up. “The executive for whom I was working at the time had some bold leadership traits. He walked into the meeting and said, ‘I’m doing away with quotas. I don’t know what the right number is. I know you guys are the best of the best and it’s a big market. Now, my number, is $100 million, and there are 15 of you. So you can all go figure it out if you want. But there are no quotas, and I’m not measuring to a quota. I want to see what we’re capable of as a team,” Connor describes.

“And guess what happened that year?  That team sold about $127 million. It was the best number ever – highest per person – and we never set a quota for anybody. The organization had a target and there were a certain number of people, but there were no incentives at the target. The compensation plan paid off of what they drove home for the business. To some extent he set the people free. It was a powerful enabler to say to your people, ‘You’re the best of the best, and I just don’t know how good you can be.’ He’s a motivator and a very good team builder, and kind of an impassioned leader. I don’t think everybody can get away with that,” says Connor.

By understanding and balancing the two sides of market opportunity and sales capacity, you can get a multi-dimensional view on how to allocate the quota.

  1. Fit the Methodology to the Account Type

One quota-setting approach does not fit all situations. While a more analytically-driven, standardized quota may work well for small accounts with a transactional sales process, a more bottom-up market opportunity approach might be better suited for a mid-sized account segment. Near the top of the account pyramid, national account quotas may be more accurately based on the information and strategies developed in an account plan. That account plan might provide input for quotas and also serve as a planning and coaching tool for sales managers to use with their account managers. Apply an appropriate approach for each type of segment or market.

  1. Make Your Approach Scalable

A telecommunications organization we worked with had reengineered and piloted its new quota process that incorporated top-down and bottom-up inputs, predictive market data, and precise steps for the entire team to work through the process. It all worked well during the pilot phase only for the company to find out after full introduction that the process was just too complicated, delicate, and unwieldy. The process that worked perfectly in a contained environment just couldn’t scale in the organization without coming apart at the seams. Further, it was creating workload demands to manually manage steps and exceptions that weren’t captured in a non-scaled environment. Err toward the side of simplicity. Accounting for every possibility may not be much more accurate but can certainly be much more manpower-intensive than using a simpler, streamlined approach.

  1. Don’t Over, Over-Allocate

A sales leader in a Fortune 100 transportation company recently asked me a very straightforward question: “Why is it that our CFO reported to Wall Street that we were on plan for revenue for the quarter, yet leadership is beating on us because we’re behind plan in the field?” As we examined the question, the answer became clear. It was a case of over, over-allocation of the quota.

Over-allocation refers to the approach of taking the sales goal for the business overall and, as it is allocated to the next level of management, adding a little extra to that goal. The sum of all unique, non-overlapping front line sales quotas compared to the company’s goal is a simple measure of quota over-allocation. For example, a company with a $1 billion corporate goal with a sum of all front line quotas of $1.05 billion has over-allocated its goal by five percent. Most organizations over-allocate quotas by about three percent to five percent from top goal to front line. That little extra allocation acts like an insurance policy. If the manager has a sales position that remains unfilled for a period of time with no one to effectively cover that territory, the over-allocation makes up for some of that loss. If a rep falls dramatically short on his quota, the over-allocation also makes up for some of that performance shortfall.

Over-allocation, within limits, can keep the organization on-track with its quota. However, when the quota is over-allocated too much at too many levels, it can lead to distortion on the front-line. In the case of the transportation company, the company had over-allocated its goal to a point where the C-level and the front line had two different realities. The sun was shining at the C-level while the front line saw only cloudy skies. Keep your quota allocation trim so that executives and reps all participate in the company’s success.

 

Next week I’ll write about 5 different quota-setting methodologies. Contact me at mark.donnolo@salesglobe.com with any questions.

The Six Dimensions of Sales Roles

6 Dimensions of Sales Roles

Defining sales roles has a direct connection to the sales compensation plan. When identifying those roles, consider six dimensions. A sales role (channel or job) is comprised of multiple factors that make it effective, yet can stretch its capabilities to a point that either maximizes or limits its effectiveness.  The factors below must be considered when structuring and managing sales roles. You can use these to define sales roles pretty specifically down to what you will need for the organization and for the compensation plan.

  1. Sales Strategy Responsibility

This dimension defines the type of customers the organization is targeting. Is the company retaining current customers? Is it penetrating current customers through either product penetration (selling more of the same products) or buyer penetration (getting additional buyers)? Is it pursuing customer acquisition? This combination of possibilities provides overall direction for the job.

  1. Product Responsibility

This dimension describes the products, services, and offers the job will bring to market. Does the rep sell one product, multiple products, or the whole portfolio? The more products each rep is asked to represent, the more his bandwidth is stretched. A product specialist, for example, should be focused and narrow. A rep selling the whole portfolio may need some overlay specialists for support, especially if it’s a complex offering.

  1. Market Segment and Channel Responsibility

For reps working directly with customers, this dimension identifies the groups and characteristics of those customers. Market segments can be defined as simply major accounts, key accounts, middle market accounts, and core accounts; or they might be defined by customers, values, or needs. Market segments may also be described vertically, such as healthcare or transportation, or a combination of these variables.

Channel responsibility refers to coverage and management of third party channels. An organization might use distributors, resellers, referral partners, or other types of third party businesses to help get to customers. In that case, it will usually use a role that works with its channel partners. In fact, it may need two roles: a channel acquisition role (someone to go out and acquire those relationships) and a channel management role (somebody to manage, cultivate and develop those relationships).

  1. Sales Process Responsibility

This dimension refers to the breadth of the sales process the job will span. The sales process may be expansive covering lead generation, qualification, solution design, proposal development, deal closing, and even implementation.

If you ask a sales person to do all of those things – going from lead generation all the way through the close and the implementation – it stretches his bandwidth. That requires a broad set of skills, as compared to having some jobs that are lead generators or maybe – odd concept – marketing generating an abundance of leads. One role may pick up qualified leads, close them, and turn them over to an implementation specialist. Many organizations over-simplify what’s really required in the sales process.

  1. Marketing, Technical, and Operations Responsibilities

Some jobs will have dual responsibilities, performing disparate functions. Some jobs are contaminated with other operations roles and have been cobbled together over time. Moving non-selling roles to other functions out of sales can help clean up the sales job and increase its effectiveness.

  1. Management Responsibility

This dimension identifies roles the job may have in managing other people in addition to selling. The classic jobs affected by management responsibilities are the selling sales manager and the selling branch manager. These combination roles often appear in organizations with emerging management levels. Having a seller straddle both sales and management is sometimes a first step toward pure management jobs that allows the organization to still attach a unique quota to the job and align its cost with a revenue stream. The reality is sharing a dual selling and management role can create conflicting priorities. A pure management role, effectively defined and staffed, can provide a much greater revenue impact through leadership and development of multiple sellers.

The big concept concerning sales roles dimensions is that the more a job is asked to do, the more stretched it gets, the less effective the job becomes. This customer coverage discipline of job definition is important to understand to make the organization more effective and to have a solid foundation for the compensation program. Once you decide which breeds of dogs your organization needs and clarify their priorities, it’s time to begin compensation plan design.

 

Next week I’ll write about how to differentiate your top performers. Contact me at mark.donnolo@salesglobe.com with any questions.

The Three Strategies for Revenue Growth

RPN

When companies grow from year to year, they don’t grow in a straight line. They hold onto some revenue from current customers, they lose some revenue and customers, and they grow in other areas. Analyzing the ebb and flow of revenue and profit can help a company understand how it grows, plan for future growth, align sales roles, and motivate the right results in those roles.

The dimensions of buyers (both current customers and prospects) and offers (current and new products or services) describe a range of possible revenue flow opportunities. Among the possibilities are really just three basic strategies.

  1. An organization can retain the revenue from its current customers, which is called retention selling. While it may not actually lose any customer companies from one year to the next, an organization will usually lose some of its current revenue from current offers. It’s deceptive. The customer remains, but some of the business is lost. In fact, the average business-to-business sales organization retains only about 84 percent of its prior year revenue. So, to grow it has to find new revenue.
  2. A company can grow revenue from its current customers, which is called penetration selling. Penetration selling breaks into two different types of selling. Buyer penetration is gaining additional buyers for the same product or service. For example, a shipping company that focuses on ground transportation would try to get more buyers within the same large customer account to use their services instead of another carrier or shipping method. Product penetration is growing with additional products the customer may not be purchasing. So that same shipping company might capture more current customer growth by selling its air shipping service to a customer that’s already using the ground service.
  3. A company can create revenue through new customer selling, which also breaks into two types. New competitive wins provide growth through new customers who are already purchasing similar products from competitors. The shipping company may win a new contract of international shipping from a competitor who held that business last year. New market selling is developing a new opportunity with a new customer that hasn’t purchased that product before. For example, the shipping company may offer logistics services to a new customer to help them improve the operations of their warehouse facilities. Of course this strategy could ultimately result in the company winning the customer’s shipping business, too.

This is a good tool to plan coverage and sales roles and determine what breeds of seller the organization needs.

 

Next week I’ll write about the six dimensions of sales roles. Contact me at mark.donnolo@salesglobe.com with any questions or visit www.SalesGlobe.com. 

 

Training Without Coaching

A WSJ article once cited that, “With some studies suggesting that just 10% to 40% of training is ever used on the job, it is clear that a big chunk of the tens of billions of dollars organizations spend annually on staff development is going down the drain.”

Picture2Part of the problem – and, of course, the solution – lies in coaching.

When calculating the ROI of training, consider:

  • 25% of ROI comes from what you do before the event (the actual training).
  • 25% of ROI comes from the event itself.
  • 50% comes from activity after the event (coaching).

That’s half of the ROI, yet too few companies follow through with coaching. In a Sisyphean-like endeavor, sales organizations send folks through training, expect them to return transformed, and then watch as the organization inevitably returns to its old pre-training ways.

Not surprisingly, many companies (44%, according to a recent SalesGlobe survey) aren’t clear on the benefits of coaching and don’t measure the effectiveness of their sales coaching programs. Of those who do measure the effectiveness of coaching, the top benefits they see from their coaching programs are:

  • an increase in sales productivity per rep;
  • an increase in close rates;
  • an increase in their ability to cross sell or sell complex solutions or complex products;
  • an increase in revenue or profits.

In terms of ROI, about half of companies (48%) report that they get a return greater than their investment in coaching and development, or a return multiples greater than their investment. And an additional 32% of companies at least recover their costs from coaching.

So what’s your view on coaching? Necessary, unnecessary, or truly worthwhile?

Read an excerpt from our new book, “What Your CEO Needs to Know About Sales Compensation.” Or, to learn more, visit us at SalesGlobe.

Four Big Needs for Effective Sales

Go ahead and get excited about this.

When we talk about the Revenue Roadmap, people get excited. There’s a physical change in the room. People lean in, sit on the edges of their chairs, and put down phones.

I’m not kidding.

Revenue RoadmapWhenever we discuss the Revenue Roadmap, sales leaders instantly recognize a plan – a map – a well organized set of ideas that are crucial to effective sales. The ideas below are in top-to-bottom order, too. You need to have Insight on your customers and your business before you can move on to your Sales Strategy, and so on. We find that when sales organizations try to tackle one of the lower levels – Enablement, for example, which includes training and sales compensation – without carefully reviewing the upper disciplines, the solution won’t be as effective. It sounds obvious – you can’t have a great sales comp plan unless you understand the sales strategy, and you can’t have a great sales strategy unless you understand your customers’ needs – but you’d be surprised how many sales organizations operate without going through each of these disciplines.

So here they are. Let us know what you think.

 

Insight

The first layer of the Revenue Roadmap, insight, pertains to understanding the market and competitors and how the business is performing. Insight is the highest level competency: understanding the voice of the customer, the macro market, competitor moves, and the performance of the business. That insight will drive certain decisions to the next downstream level, which is sales strategy.

Listening to the voice of the customer is a critical starting point. Sales leaders must understand the needs and expectations of their customers and their performance relative to those expectations. That insight allows leaders to see any gaps and determine where they can improve value proposition, sales coverage, and sales process.

Sales leaders also need to consider what’s going on in the macro market environment, especially as it relates to their industry. Certain shifts in the economic environment can – over the long term – drive decisions about the sales strategy and how they might plan for where the market is going, as opposed to where they are right now.

It’s essential to know how competitors are performing from a growth and financial perspective. Sales leaders also have to understand their competitors’ offers to the market and how they are positioning their products and services.

Finally, sales leaders should look at the company’s historic and projected revenue and profit performance. This evaluation should consider whether growth has come through the retention of current customer revenue, the penetration of customers through increased usage or additional products, or the acquisition of new customers. By understanding the business performance they can see where they’ve been strong and where they’ve been weak, and they can adjust their sales strategy accordingly.

Sales Strategy

The second layer, sales strategy, defines the sales organization’s action plan to achieve its goal. The sales strategy will drive decisions concerning product and service focus, concentration on certain markets, value propositions, and the resulting approach to market.

First and foremost to the strategy, it’s critical to define the core and strategic products and services the business provides. In many companies these are developed based on the needs of certain customer segments. Too often however, products or services are internally driven and may not align naturally with customer needs, requiring a significant change in the offer or value proposition.

The organization determines how it will organize and prioritize customers and prospects through its segmentation and targeting. The most effective segmentation and targeting considers characteristics such as customer industry, sales potential, profitability, common needs, and overall fit with the sales organization’s business.

It’s important that segmentation and targeting flow into a plan that’s actionable by the sales organization. Simply defining the segment at a high level is not going to answer the sales rep’s question “Who do I go see on Monday morning?”

The value proposition goes beyond what the sales organization communicates to customers and articulates the organization’s understanding of the customer’s business and issues, what the organization can accomplish for the customer, and how the organization differentiates itself from the competition. The highest level value proposition is usually communicated at a company level. To be effective for sales however, the organization must convert its value proposition to sales messages that can be communicated at the segment level, customer level, and deal level to adapt to changing situations and customer needs.

When developing the approach to market, sales leaders should incorporate decisions about product, service, target segments, value propositions, and potential sales resources into a plan that can be executed by the sales organization. The customer coverage layer converts that plan into action..

Customer Coverage

Customer coverage, the third layer, defines how the organization will use its channels, roles, processes, and resources to go to market.

Sales channels outline the overall routes to market, whether they’re third party companies such as resellers, referral partners, retailers, or whether they’re part of the company sales force which could include a range of sales jobs. Sales leaders need to base the selection of their sales channel mix on factors like how the customer prefers to buy, how channel partners might improve the overall product offer, their ability to reach customers in different markets, and the financial efficiency of using lower cost channels to reach certain customers or conduct certain types of sales or service transactions.

Within sales roles and structure sales leaders must consider the types of sales and support jobs they’re going to use and how the organization is structured around those jobs. Sales jobs typically will align to customer segments and can range from global account management to field sales to inside sales. The structure may be developed around key segments – for example, the telecommunications industry or major accounts. It may also be defined around certain geographies, functional roles, or some combination.

Sales channels and sales roles integrate with the processes for working with customers. In fact, the best customer coverage models are built from the customer’s buying process with a sales process and roles that reflect how the customer prefers to work. Sales processes lay out the common approaches for how the sales team  identifies prospects, qualifies opportunities, develops solutions, manages the momentum, closes the sale, and implements the product or service for the customer. While sales processes vary widely even within a single sales organization it’s important to define the optimal or preferred sales process as a foundational point for the organization to manage and optimize performance.

Sales deployment maps the feet on the street and the level of sales resources needed for each of the sales roles by geographies, segments, or other forms of account assignment. Deployment is typically guided by a combination of sales capacity (available sales time and workload) to manage current accounts or sell to new accounts, sales role and customer alignments, and logistical factors like geography and travel patterns.

Enablement

Enablement, the final layer of the Revenue Roadmap, supports all of the upstream disciplines within Customer Coverage, Sales Strategy, and Insight. Enablement includes areas such as incentive compensation and quotas, which aligns sellers to the sales strategy. It includes recruiting and retention, which define the current inventory of talent and determine how the organization is going to attract and retain the right talent for the long term.  Training and development builds the capabilities of the organization for people currently in their jobs and in junior roles that will progress into key sales roles. Tools and technology provide leverage by enhancing the effectiveness of gaining insight and implementing the organization’s decisions around sales strategy, customer coverage, and enablement.

 

Please review our new book, What Your CEO Needs to Know About Sales Compensation, and let us know what you think! To learn more, visit us at SalesGlobe.

Your Revenue Roadmap: Driving Your Sales Strategy with Compensation

Revenue RoadmapOn a chilly morning in Sacramento, I sat perched on a vinyl bench seat, warily eyeing my rolling workplace for the day: an 18-wheeler, windows fogged from the cold, vibrating slightly as its engine idled. My tour guide, Cliff, was a driver sales rep for a major brewing company. Cliff climbed into the cab, slid over to the driver’s seat, and we pulled away from the distributor’s warehouse towards a 10-hour day of sales calls to convenience stores, supermarkets, bars, and restaurants.

As we drove, we talked about how Cliff sold beer. He had been with the company for a number of years and was very successful, but he explained that his role had changed. “Two years ago, I was selling cases of beer to store owners. Now, I’m trying to make the beer they already have move faster. I check the signs, inspect the coolers, and try to get our beer in the best position.” In addition to being a driver sales rep, Cliff had become a bit of a marketer, too, since the company had changed his objectives a short time ago.

In the parking lot of a convenience store in a gritty urban neighborhood, Cliff dragged down a hand truck and I followed him to the back of the store and into a huge cooler which held cases upon cases of light beer, regular beer, and premium beer in 12-ounce, 16-ounce, and quart containers. Cliff looked through the stacks, pulled the expired boxes, and loaded them into the truck. He then lugged beer from the truck and packed it into the cooler. As he did this he talked to the convenience store owner about what was selling and what was not. Then he detailed the cooler display at the front of the store, making sure the facings of cans and bottles were aligned and that the packaging and tags for the week’s specials were clearly displayed.

The brewery Cliff worked for had changed its sales strategy recently. The old approach was to sell as many cases of beer as possible, as often as possible, to as many retailers and restaurants as possible. Cliff and the other driver sales reps were paid cents per case commission to load more cases into the cooler, rotate the stock, and pull out old beer.

Eventually, the brewing company realized that pushing more bottles and cans into the backroom of a retailer wasn’t necessarily selling more beer to the customer. With competition at the point of sale increasing over the years, sales out was less driven by stocking the cooler and more driven by effective marketing. Strategically, what was important to the brewing company was selling beer to the end consumer. The company learned that the consumption of beer was driven by TV, radio, and social media advertising. Point of sale advertising, they discovered, was another driving force.

For years the company had missed the opportunity to mobilize the driver reps and had motivated them toward the wrong goal. It had mistakenly promoted a transactional model of selling into the backroom. Finally they realized what actually sold beer – product placement, use of signs and displays, and matching price points with competitors. But the question remained: how did that translate to the sales organization? How could this strategy convert to incentives meaningful to the driver sales reps?

The quest for that answer found me undercover in a convenience store cooler, wearing a starched uniform with “Mark” neatly scripted above my left shirt pocket. We worked with the company to determine how to motivate the sales organization with performance indicators that could ultimately steer consumer preference. The company moved their sales compensation plan off of a purely volume-based plan and connected it to the metrics and activities that drove beer consumption. They developed performance measures that were focused on merchandising such as the number of facings, the position of the product closest to the cooler handle, the placement of signage in the retailer, the positioning of large displays, and competitive matching. If their competitor’s malt liquor was in 32-ounce bottles, they made sure their 32-ounce bottles of malt liquor were positioned right next to them, hopefully with a larger number of facings.

By understanding what influenced the purchase of beer and connecting it to something that was important to the driver sales rep, the company was able to change the behaviors of the reps and get them to sell more beer. Now, Cliff talked to the store owner not only about how many cases of beer he wanted and yesterday’s baseball scores, but also how the beer was selling and ideas he had about improving the marketing of certain products. He talked about the positioning of the product and displays, and he had statistics on how much that could increase the volume. The store owner listened because he knew Cliff’s advice was in his best interest.

Because Cliff’s compensation changed, his conversations changed. Because his conversations changed, the results changed. This retailer had struggled with the sale of premium beer brands in this particular market, but had seen a dramatic improvement in those sales over the past 24 months because of Cliff’s marketing.

The company and Cliff had learned an important lesson about translating the new sales strategy to the front line. The customer learned an important lesson about how to improve the results for his business, and together the company and the customer saw significant improvement in results, demonstrating the power of sales compensation and its connection to the sales strategy.

Aligning to the Strategy

One of the first things our firm does when we look at sales compensation is understand the sales strategy. We ask: How should the priorities of the business be represented in the sales compensation plan?

One of the ironies of sales compensation is that while it’s a tactical program, it can churn up issues that are actually bigger sales effectiveness misalignments. For example, Cliff’s sales compensation plan paid him for generating pure sales volume, an activity that was out of alignment with the company’s strategy of positioning product competitively and playing an advisor role to help the retailer grow its business.  A transactional plan like this would ultimately cause a breakdown in the company’s ability to achieve its goals. Sales executives have to be able to distinguish between issues that are sales compensation related and those that are indicators of bigger strategic challenges. They have to know when they have a sales process issue that needs to be fixed.

Mike Kelly, former CEO and president of The Weather Channel Companies, began his career years ago at Fortune magazine. There, Kelly worked directly with the business customer – sometimes the CEO of the company – who would have a personal preference for a business magazine, whether it was Fortune or Forbes or Business Week. Because the decision maker was at a senior level in the organization, it was important to understand the corporate strategy. When Kelly took over the sales organization of a new magazine, Entertainment Weekly, he took that customer orientation with him.

Traditionally, a magazine would research target companies and try to prove to clients and agencies that their audience was the right audience, as opposed to trying to connect their customers and advertisers to the subject matter. But Kelly implemented a customized, consultative approach, connecting advertisers to entertainment marketing. Unfortunately, Kelly explains, “We over-customized it, and the organization had a hard time making money.”

Entertainment Weekly was scheduled to be profitable after two years, but by year five it was still losing money and Kelly was feeling some pressure. “We would always point to our growth. Our circulation growth was great, our revenue growth was great, and everybody assumed, ‘Okay, at some point or another we’re going to get to profitability.’”

Kelly enrolled himself in an executive education class at Columbia University where he met Professor Selden, who talked about an idea called customer segmentation. He told his class the best companies understand not only who their customer is but also what their customer’s needs are. They group their customers based on needs as opposed to what they want to sell them. By segmenting his customers Kelly could understand the profitability of each customer and each customer segment. Then he could align his resources against those customer segments that were most profitable.

“It was revolutionary for me,” says Kelly. “No one – and certainly no one in the magazine industry – thought that way. All revenue was good revenue. And we typically thought our biggest customers, our highest volume customers, were the most profitable customers.”

So Kelly took this idea back to Entertainment Weekly, and his team analyzed the profitability of all of the advertisers and all of their segments. They figured out that cable advertising was starting to explode. Networks wouldn’t let cable channels advertise on television because they thought they would steal viewers. Cable had to buy print advertising; it was the biggest, broadest reach they could get. Entertainment Weekly had a smattering of cable channel advertisers, but it hadn’t been a big focus. Kelly and his team had concentrated on what everybody else was concentrating on – automotive companies and health and beauty companies. They were big advertisers that had a lot of appeal but were price sensitive. Kelly, however, realized that the cable television advertisers were actually their most profitable advertisers because they paid full price; they were time sensitive – they had to be in certain issues in the magazine because the show was on a certain night – all the factors that compelled them to pay a premium.

Kelly completely changed how his organization thought about who their customer was, who their most profitable customers were, and how they should go after their customers. He realigned the sales force, putting more people on the most profitable categories with strong growth expectations and sales incentives and fewer resources against the customers for whom it was really just a price buy.

“We were supposed to lose money that year,” Kelly says. “We made money. And then we went on to have 30 percent CAGR [compound annual growth rate] for the next five years.

“I learned that sales is sales. But there are principles of finance that if you apply them to sales, including incentive plans, you can accelerate what you do. I’ve brought that to every other job I’ve had. We really try to understand who the customer is and what our value proposition is to that customer. Then we segment those customers so we understand who the most profitable ones are and who they aren’t. We put our resources behind that profit.

“If your compensation plan doesn’t align with the strategy and the segments you want to target, then you’re going to be working at cross purposes. It’s hard work to get an organization, any organization, to start to think differently. And in most companies, sales is product-focused or platform-focused. They’re going to go sell their product wherever they can. When a company becomes more customer focused, all of a sudden it starts to define the product mix based on what the customer needs are.”  The sales compensation program can either support that customer focus, run counter to that focus, or create confusion. In Kelly’s case, the priorities of the sales strategy were well-represented in the sales compensation plan, and it drove the desired behavior.

The Four Layers of the Revenue Roadmap: Connecting Your Sales Strategy and Compensation

When thinking about sales strategy and sales compensation, it’s critical to have a framework. “The comp plan is the caboose, not the engine,” says Doug Holland, director of human resources and compensation for Manpower Group North America, a global workforce solutions company. “Compensation should never be driving the strategy. The strategy drives the compensation. It’s incredible, especially in times of stress, how that message can kind of get lost.  Comp issues are often symptoms of bigger problems, and it’s the easiest, most tangible thing to look at. The challenge is, do we have the right job designs? Do we have the right people? Those are harder conversations. That’s often the struggle with comp plans.”

We developed the Revenue Roadmap from our decades of work with hundreds of high performing sales organizations. The Revenue Roadmap identifies four major layers, or competency areas, and 16 related disciplines that must connect for the organization to grow profitably.

To learn more about What Your CEO Needs to Know About Sales Compensation, visit the book’s website, or purchase a copy on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. To learn more about SalesGlobe, please visit us at www.SalesGlobe.com.

What’s Your ROI on Coaching?

We can all probably agree that coaching and development are important, but we can also probably agree that good coaching programs can be expensive.  So, in terms of a financial return, what can you expect for your investment?

In a recent SalesGlobe survey, about half of companies (48%) reported that they get a return greater than their investment in coaching and development, or a return multiples greater than their investment. And an additional 32% of companies at least recover their costs from coaching.

graphOn the “return” side of the ROI calculation, the outcome from coaching is not always clear or near-term. While productivity levels and close rates may appear to be clear metrics for coaching success, those metrics may be driven by other organization and market factors in addition to the coaching program. Improvements in sales capability can develop over time as well. For instance, learning more effective methods for developing the business case and value proposition for strategic accounts may yield results months later when those opportunities naturally present themselves over a long sales process. While the effect of coaching is there, its impact may be latent for some period of time.

But measuring ROI is not an exact science. Companies report several challenges in tracking this information. For example, on the “investment” side of the ROI calculation, coaching in many organizations is conducted informally at the manager level and is not practiced consistently in the field. This makes it difficult to measure the actual resources, both hard and soft dollars, invested in coaching. Also, coaching is often blended with other management roles and not clearly tracked by the organization.

What sort of financial returns should you expect on your coaching investment?

 

To learn more, visit us at SalesGlobe.

2013: Questions for a Lucky Year

Whether 2012 was a banner year for your sales organization or one preferably forgotten, it’s winding down. It’s time to start looking forward to 2013, that oh-so lucky sounding year.

But fear not. Even the most superstitious among us can make 2013 absolutely providential with a little planning. High performing sales organizations operate around four key areas: Sales Insight, Sales Strategy, Sales Coverage, and Sales Enablement. Together, this knowledge helps to create a clear strategy that will make sense on the front line, and drive productivity all year.

Sales Insight comes first, because it’s essential to really understand what’s happening in your market.  Without insight into your industry and competitors, it’s next to impossible to plan an effective strategy.

Take the time to consider these key Sales Insight questions before diving into sales strategy or coverage planning for 2013:

  1. First and foremost, what’s happening in our macro market? What’s happening in our economy overall?
  2. What about your market? Was 2012 really a banner year for your industry or a dismal one? Why?
  3. How did your competitors perform this year? Do you know what led to their successes or failures?
  4. What do your customers say about your sales organization? Did you meet, exceed, or fall short of their expectations this year? Do you truly understand the needs of your customers?
  5. Where did the revenue for your company come from this year? Did you retain current customers? Did you sell new products or services to those current customers? What percentage of revenue came from new customers?
  6. What were the major strengths and weaknesses of your sales organization in 2012?

What other ways can you gain insight that will help your planning, and make 2013 the “luckiest” year ever?

To learn more, visit us at SalesGlobe.

What’s So Great About Pay Mix?

According to the founder and CEO of a large, public communication company, incentives are everything. “The vast majority of people in companies work for two things: ego and money,” he has said. “What are we incented to do? How are we incented to behave? Incentives drive trained behavior. Period. We don’t spend enough time on getting it right in our company, and I guarantee not enough companies do. As a CEO, I have to hear my CFO and the finance department say, ‘Well you can’t do that because we can’t afford it. We can’t have that much incentive pay.’ That’s absolutely ludicrous. It’s not a question of affordability; it’s a question of sustainability.”

It’s a great point. The sales organization drives the bottom line, whether finance likes it or not (with respect to finance organizations everywhere). And sales people are motivated by their potential earnings. Would a great sales rep work just as hard and bring in as many deals if he were paid a flat salary? Yes, many of them would, but he or she would probably be looking for a new job at the same time.

So how can you responsibly incent, and pay, for the best sales teams out there? Through the correct pay mix and upside (We’ll talk about upside next week).

Pay mix, which refers to the portion of base salary and target incentive an individual in a job earns at quota, is usually the single most influential driver of behavior for a salesperson and the largest financial decision for the company. It establishes the company’s commitment to fixed (base salary) and variable (incentive pay) costs while setting the stage for upside payouts for high performers. A job may have a sizeable portion of pay or a modest portion of pay in target incentive, which reflects the desired role and, if designed correctly, will motivate the right types of behaviors.

Your company may have three job roles for example, new customer acquisition, current account penetration, and current account management which may earn the same amount of target total compensation for at-quota performance (let’s say $100,000), but they may earn that pay in different proportions. Those proportions of salary and incentive are affected by factors that include the sales role and sales process. But each type of job should have a pay mix that motivates the right type of behaviors for that job.

A new account acquisition role will usually have a relatively aggressive pay mix, say 50 percent salary and 50 percent target incentive. While their DNA will naturally drive the rep, significant pay at risk supports the types of hunting behaviors we want to encourage with this role. A more complex sales process will sometimes lower the percentage of pay at risk to enable the rep to work through the intricacies and duration of the process as well as multiple buying points in the case of global accounts or government accounts. As new customer acquisition is usually the most expensive type of sale, an aggressive pay mix also puts a large portion of pay in variable cost rather than fixed cost which lessens risk for the organization. However, with risk comes potential reward for the rep. Pay mix carries with it a corresponding amount of upside potential for top performers, usually in proportion to the pay at risk. Total incentive earnings for a top performer may be 200 percent, 300 percent, or more as a percentage of target incentive. If a person in this role earned $100,000 in a year, he would earn $50,000 in base salary and $50,000 in incentive pay. (We’ll discuss upside potential and differentiating top performers later.)

A current account penetration role is busy building relationships and may have a moderate pay mix with 70 percent of pay in salary and 30 percent in target incentive. We want to motivate performance but not typically with the level of risk and corresponding aggressiveness as the new account acquisition role. To maintain a balanced customer solution orientation and achievement orientation, most organizations will offer a pay mix somewhere between 70/30 and 80/20. If a person in this role earned $100,000 in a year, she would earn $70,000 in base salary and $30,000 in incentive pay. This role also receives upside potential relative to the pay she puts at risk.  

A sales role concentrating on customer service and revenue retention will usually have a relatively shallow pay mix, for example 90 percent salary and 10 percent target incentive. This minimal risk allows him to have the patience to work through customer challenges and strengthen relationships without the stress of trying to close the next sale. A role of this type with a more complex sales process will usually have a shallower mix than someone with a more transactional sales process, as the complexity will add to the time and patience required to work through creating the right customer experience. If we use a pay mix with too much incentive relative to base, we run the risk of creating a very anxious rep concerned more about attaining a sales result quickly than serving the customer correctly. If a person in this role earned $100,000 in a year, he would earn $90,000 in base salary and $10,000 in incentive pay.

More about incentive pay and upside next week.

To learn more, visit SalesGlobe.

For the C-Level

Late last fall, a group of senior sales leaders of a high-tech hardware company found themselves stuck. Their problems began 10 months earlier when the sales leaders embarked on their annual sales compensation review and design cycle. They went through the rounds of interviews and surveys with the sales organization, worked through alternatives for the plan, and arrived at a final set of compensation designs in early winter. The CEO, Edward, heard updates throughout the design phase and deferred to the executive steering committee. It was a long process that year because the company had shifted its focus slightly to include some additional software that complemented its hardware products. The sales leaders worked through the complexities with the executive steering committee and kept the sales compensation program relatively simple. The CEO continued to receive updates and defer to the executive steering committee.

As November passed, the sales leaders met with the executive steering committee for final review and approval of the new sales compensation program. The plan had been financially modeled for any imaginable situation, but it still had to be communicated to sales directors, sales managers, and opinion leaders in the field. All that remained was the formality of getting the CEO’s “nod.”

“What do they say about the best laid plans,” one of the SVPs of sales asked rhetorically. “We had the presentation down. It was very simple: a few pages, big diagrams, the strategy, where we are now, and what we’re going to change. Edward had already seen it all, in pieces, as we designed it. But we got a few pages into the presentation, and he started asking questions that sounded like he hadn’t seen the plans before.”

The other SVP chimed in. “The first question was about our planned mix of software and services by segment, and why we didn’t have an incentive measuring that for each rep. We talked about that a number of times with the executive steering committee months earlier and agreed to keep it at the sales management level and have them manage it during year one until we had some reliable numbers to set goals. Then Ed started digging into the financial modeling and challenging us about why the plan would pay more than the targeted cost of sales if we hit our company goal on average but had a lot of high performers. The team had agreed on the above-quota accelerators, and that’s what happens with accelerators. There were a bunch of other questions after that but I started to get a little irritated, because it was clear that Ed just wasn’t connected. We worked hard on keeping him informed, but when he finally locked in, we were at the end of the game. We ran this program by the field, we worked through all the details, and now it’s like we’re starting back in September and it’s practically December. So, we need to make some adjustments pretty quickly to keep the wheels on this thing for January.”

C-level executives get involved in various ways during the sales compensation process. Too much involvement too late can wreak havoc on the labor-intensive and time-consuming design process. It can also undermine the heavy lifting already done by the design team and the confidence the C-level has placed in the team. On the other hand, zero C-level involvement isn’t the right strategy, either. While the compensation design team may be brilliant, a brilliant sales compensation plan must line up with the vision for company-wide growth, which most often must come directly from the corner office.

We recently looked at C-level participation across a range of companies and found in 82% of companies high-value involvement peaks at the start of the process to provide strategic direction and 55% provide guidance on the priorities of the compensation plan.

According to our survey, 23 percent of C-levels participate periodically in design team meetings. However, most C-levels and their teams give caution about getting too involved in the details. It pulls the C-level out of his area of strength and sometimes turns him into the bull in the China shop. About 36 percent of C-levels get involved in the details occasionally, but very few (about five percent) get involved in the details frequently. For the inquisitive, high-IQ CEO or president, it takes a certain level of self-control, and team reinforcement to prevent this from happening.

How can you determine the right involvement points for a C-level executive in your sales compensation design process? How do you ensure his or her engagement?

To learn more, visit SalesGlobe, email mark.donnolo@salesglobe.com, or read What Your CEO Needs to Know About Sales Compensation.

The Balancing Act

“All of America trusts us with their bugs, but we can’t get the right message through to our sales force,” the chief marketing and sales officer of a national pest control company recently mused. As an executive, he had cut his marketing teeth at many big consumer products companies. At his current company, he had worked for several years to improve sales productivity and had recently reached the level labeled “sales incentives” where he was charged with motivating the sales force. But there was a problem.

“For a long time we assumed we had a good sales incentive program. But we got all out of balance with profit and growth. We were rewarding for great profit margin, but poor growth,” he says.

President’s Club was a perfect example. Each year the company invites the top ten percent of sales people to President’s Club. It is part reward – usually a trip is involved – and part recognition as peers and upper management get a chance to congratulate the top performers.

But last year at President’s Club amid the festivities, he had already begun to play with measurement, and it wasn’t adding up. He looked at their branch level data and at the reps who were ranked at the top of the list. “What did we get from our top branches in the company? A lot of revenue, but zero growth.”

Zero growth.

“So the sales managers are running around wearing the fancy camel jackets that they just earned being the best branches, and they didn’t grow a single customer,” he says. “As a matter of fact, they actually had a net loss of customers because of intense competition. The only reason we kept our margins intact was the company had a pricing action, which was led by upper management and had no involvement from the branch level. They had lot of revenue at a high margin, but the bottom line was they had not grown the business.

“It was then we realized we had a real incentive alignment problem.”

Once this executive turned on the lights – in this case through measurement – the company could see the bugs in their sales compensation program begin to scatter.  By aligning the goals of the company – growing new customers – with the incentives for their sales team, the company could drive performance toward its goals.

He is one of the enlightened ones – a business leader who understands the connection between incentive pay and business goals and the power an effective incentive program can have. But too many senior executives worry about the cost without seeing the incredible return on their investment, if their strategic input is included.

How should the C-level get involved with sales compensation?

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

2012 Staffing Industry Sales Force Compensation Survey

 

We are pleased to announce the 2012 Staffing Industry Sales Force Compensation Survey, the exclusive benchmark of pay practices for the staffing industry, has launched! We invite you to participate.

This survey is a landmark study of sales compensation and job roles and is the only compensation benchmark exclusively for staffing firms. Last year 60 large, mid and small staffing firms participated in the survey, including Robert Half International, Randstad, and Adecco.

Please use the link below to access the survey:

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/2012SalesCompJobsSurvey

 Only survey participants will be able to see the final results. Staffing firms can use this report to benchmark their sales organizations.  The 2012 Staffing Industry Sales Force Compensation Survey covers major sales and recruiting roles, pay practices, and performance data for the industry’s leading companies. Topics include:

  • Key job roles for new customer acquisition, account management, and recruiting
  • Hybrid sales, operations, and branch management roles
  • Target and actual compensation levels
  • Pay ranges
  • Incentive levels and pay mix
  • Upside earning potential for high performers
  • Performance metrics and priorities
  • Commission and quota mechanics practices
  • Quota levels and practices
  • Productivity levels
  • Plan administration and challenges

Participants and Report

As a thank you for your participation, we will provide you with a complimentary copy of the Participants’ Survey Report for your use. This detailed report will include statistics on roles, pay levels, and performance levels by job type. All statistics are reported at a multiple company level and preserve the confidentiality of participating companies. The report also includes information on key challenges and trends around performance, compensation and year over year analysis.

The data you will need to complete this survey includes:

  • Basic information on company size and focus areas
  • Information on the roles of each major sales management and recruiting job. NOTE: Participants will only provide date for the job relevant to their company.
  • Most recent year’s compensation data for each role, which should include target and actual base salaries and incentives (highs, lows, midpoints, and averages for the people in each job role)
  • Information on the types of performance measures (e.g., revenue, gross profit, product mix) used in each compensation plan
  • Information on the types of mechanics (e.g., commission, bonus) used in each compensation plan
  • Information on approximate quota size for each job
  • Descriptions of any rewards and recognition programs used by your company
  • Description of how you administer the compensation plan    

 If you have your sales job and compensation data available, this survey should take about 60 to 90 minutes to complete. You may also save your work on the survey by selecting “save and continue,” and then finish the survey at a later time on the same computer.

I am happy to provide an Excel spreadsheet that matches the survey questions to help you gather and track the information needed to complete the survey. Please email me at cparker@salesglobe.com, or Eileen Gold at egold@salesglobe.com.

Please contact me at cparker@salesglobe.com if you have any questions or concerns regarding the 2012 Staffing Industry Sales Force Compensation Survey benchmark study.

Thank you for your participation!

 

 

 

CEOs and Incentive Compensation – Partners or Strangers?

Do CEOs become involved in the design of incentive compensation programs, or just pop their head into a meeting and ask, “Will this cost me more or less than it did last year?” Are there advantages to either approach?

Somewhat surprisingly, in a lot of large companies we see CEOs or presidents that are very involved in the compensation design process.  It doesn’t mean that they’re getting down to the details of the process – modeling numbers and trying to be creative about SPIFFs.  What it means is that they are giving strategic direction and staying informed throughout the process. 

We recently worked with a large telecom company whose CEO is really involved in the sales compensation design process – for thousands of employees and a lot of different job types. It’s an important message for the CEO to communicate, and it’s a positive reinforcement to the sales and sales operations organizations that there is indeed a connection between the c-suite and the front line: incentive compensation.

In our experience, a C-level executive generally asks questions about how the business priorities are represented in the compensation plan.  One key question is: are the problems associated with the comp plans really compensation issues or are they broader sales effectiveness issues? Sales compensation kind of has a magical quality. It’s a tactical program that churns up more strategic issues. For example, a problem that may first be blamed on a poorly designed sales compensation plan might really be the fault of vague and uncertain job roles.  Sales compensation demands specifics, and because of that it can quickly identify other issues – kind of like a circuit breaker that pops. 

So how do you get the C-level involved?  Some CEOs are naturally involved, some are not.  Often the CEOs who came up the organization through sales have more engagement. CEOs with a background in finance might be more interested in the cost rather than the potential to incent behavior.

It’s worth consideration. Several years ago we designed a new sales compensation program for a manufacturing company. Right before we were supposed to interview the CEO, the project leader, who was the head of sales, stopped us and said, “I’ve got to tell you that the CEO doesn’t know why we need to meet.”  I couldn’t believe that the leader of this organization really didn’t understand the importance of the program.  We had the meeting, and about half way through the CEO got it. Ever since he’s been very deeply involved. 

The CEO connection is critical for the sales organization, in terms of strategic involvement. Whether it comes naturally or has to be coerced, it’s a worthwhile partnership.

Please visit SalesGlobe for more information or email mark.donnolo@salesglobe.com. 

Sales Roles – Is Simplicity Possible?

It seems like a simple concept – the role of a sales rep – especially when we apply straightforward labels like “hunter” or “farmer;” or our favorites, “Dobermans,” “Retrievers,” and “Collies” (actually, we go on to include Service Dogs, Pointers, and my personal favorite, the Mutt. That’s a topic for another blog). These labels distinctly describe what the role will do.

But as we all know, humans are complex and tend to defy such pigeonholing. So we go beyond the label and design territories and customer segments. Which methods of clarifying the sales role will increase productivity?

We recently worked with a company who had to take five different sales organizations they had acquired over time and create one functional sales organization. Within that entire sales function there were 35 different job titles. They took several steps to simplify.

 

1. Clarifying the Role. Everybody sort of approaches this a little differently.  This company, a major retailer, began with a certain role, clear responsibilities, and a job title. They made everybody very clear on what their operating objectives were.

2. Matching Products and Customers. Then they made sure each role had the right products for the right customers. There are customers in their business that are very sophisticated, and ones who aren’t at all. At the time, this company was trying to move their organization from a transactional sale – “You can have this for a buck” – to somebody selling conceptually by saying, “This is an annual merchandising program where we are going to sell millions of those bottles of water.” Not just that item for that price.

3. Match Talent to Customers.  Another priority of this company was to increase the quality of their sales organization. You don’t want to put the wrong person with the wrong customer; for example, you certainly don’t want to take a person with a Harvard MBA and assign them to a Mom & Pop store that only wants to deal with item and price. Instead, you’d place that person – most likely a person that has tools, perspective, and strategy – with major retailers, because he or she would create business solutions.

Selling is coming down to solutions. Simplifying the role, where possible, to focus on matching the right customer with the right products and the right talented sales rep – the ones that understand the customer – will create points of difference for your organization.

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

Sales Roles and Productivity II: Data-Driven Boosts

Information technology and business are becoming inextricably interwoven. I don’t think anybody can talk meaningfully about one without the talking about the other. — Bill Gates

So what drives productivity in your organization? Is it a matter of management making the sales process easy for the reps? Is it about financial incentives?

We recently worked with an office supply company that tried the information-based approach. Knowledge is power, and while too much data can be overwhelming, especially if it’s unorganized or seemingly irrelevant, specific, pertinent information can increase efficiency. Or so the theory goes.

This company decided to look at customer composition and tried to understand what each customer would buy by product category. Then, they looked at how far that customer had been penetrated by certain product and service segments. The idea was to focus the sales organization on the clear paths of penetration.  

They were able to capture all of the data relative to what the customer was consuming. They were able to see the product details for each customer bought in the paper category, they bought in print/copy category, and in furniture. “Then the game is to maintain the spend, improve it, and get them to spend in categories that they haven’t spent in before,” said the former executive vice president for the business solutions division.

“The overall approach l was to look at the customer and map out their remaining potential. And for those who are pretty well penetrated, assign them to a different sales resource. You have to make sure your data is kept fresh; it’s a reflection of where your customer is today, not where they were three years ago, because things change quickly,” she said.

How do you use information to increase productivity in your sales organization?

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

Sales Roles and Productivity I: Follow Me

 

Let’s acknowledge that different sales roles have different definitions of productivity. For example; the transactional sales rep selling local advertising with a quota of two sales per week will have a very different schedule than a long-term consultative sales rep selling an expensive piece of technology.

Different types of sellers, different characteristics to their productivity. Demanding a rep with a sales cycle of two years to close deals more quickly probably won’t result in more sales. More likely, it will annoy the potential customers and send your rep looking for another job.

So how can you define productivity in your organization and differentiate it between sales roles?

We worked with a company that recently made a change to build more of an account management focused organization because so many of their people concentrated on just hunting.

But they were in a new market, and both management and the reps were a little disoriented. So, in order to help the reps, the managers temporarily took over the selling. They broke the market, did the major hunting, and passed it along to the reps for account management.

“We said, ‘We’ll go find the customers, we’ll develop the pattern, how they buy, what the customer looks like, persona, cycle,’ everything,” said the vice president of marketing for the company. “And we’ll train the salesman. We will get the first order, we’ll teach you how to do the second order, and then you’re on your own for the third order.”

“We built a war room down on the first floor and started going through this whole process of building this together. The reps wanted to know what we were doing in there, and we said, ‘You focus on the day job. Don’t try to create this new market. Because then, you’ll lose focus, you won’t make quota, and we will go broke as a company.’

“So, we said, ‘We’ll teach you how to do this and add it to your portfolio.’

“There were questions like, ‘Will I lose quota? Will you take business from me?’ So, we had to work through all of those territorial things that we as sales people like to hold on to.”

It was an interesting concept. This company, a major technology company, didn’t put the salesperson out and say, “Go develop the business in this particular area.” They prepared it for them. They went through the process with them, and then repeated it, and let them catch on that way.

“We knew that the first time we were going to get our nose bloodied. We had to understand how the deal happened,” he said. “There were things we didn’t understand when we got started. Our sales guys got chewed up. We figured out what the pattern was, and learned that we had to develop it, and then hand it off to that organization.”

How well would a practice like that work in your organization?

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

Sales Productivity Checklist

Sales productivity doesn’t exist in isolation. A sales organization can’t move forward (and in fact can spend lots of time moving in circles) unless its sales strategy, sales coverage model, and sales enablement methods are all well aligned. Before you start calling on customers, ensure the high-level picture is complete with the following checklist:

 1. Insight. The sales organization must understand what’s happening in the market, especially concerning their competitors and customers. Insight can be gathered through forensics on deals won or lost, and by analyzing what we might do better next time. This information is especially valuable if we uncover a pattern within the sales organization of not meeting customer needs or a gap between their expectations and our delivery.

 2. Sales capacity. Sales capacity refers to how efficient we are with the resources we have, and asks how we can maximize their capability through alignment, focus, and sales process. What are our job roles? One very effective method of increasing sales capacity is to decontaminate sales jobs and open up more sales time. Sales capacity is also improved through shifting and lifting jobs: moving some people to cover high priority customers with strategic selling while we ask other roles to focus on transactional selling.

 3. An actionable strategy. Sales strategy defines a clear plan for how the organization can achieve its sales goals. How do we convert our overall business strategy to the sales organization? How do we translate that strategy into day-to-day tactics, and help the reps understand what they’re supposed to do Monday morning when they go out and start  calling on customers? The most sophisticated strategy in the world won’t work unless it can function well on the front line.

 4. Account planning. Defining sales productivity also means understanding our actions that are counter-productive. It is not productive to spend a day (or several days) documenting facts, figures, and guesswork about customers and then shelving it for six months. Account plans that are not used in the daily or weekly management of customers are a waste of time. How can we turn our account plans into living account plans, and use them not only to record critical information but as a basis for coaching?

 5. Sales compensation. Incentive pay can certainly be used to motivate productivity in individuals. The opposite is true, too; people incented to do the wrong thing can lead to an unproductive sales organization as a best case scenario, all the way to a sales organization confidently charging in the wrong direction, as a worst case. Short term incentives including SPIFFs are another way to motivate productivity.

 6. Pipeline. Over the last few years, pipeline management has become much more efficient. This is in part due to the need for more effective lead management in a challenging environment and better application of CRM tools.

 Need help getting greater productivity from your sales organization? To learn more, visit SalesGlobe or email mark.donnolo@salesglobe.com. 

Managing a Multi-Generational Sales Force

For the first time in US history, four generations are working side by side, representing a 50-year age and experience span. On the upside, companies benefit from the range of experience and unique views those decades provide. On the downside, each generation has varying cultural and motivational expectations driving their work ethic and behavior.

You might find some of these defining characteristics in your sales organization:

  • The Traditionalist (born between 1927 and 1945). Punctual and conservative, he survived the Great Depression and a world war and believes hard work is its own reward.
  • The Baby Boomer (born between 1946 and 1964). Well-established, loyal and work-centric, he values face time in the office rather than work/life balance.
  • The Generation X-er (born between 1965 and early 1980s). Witnessed the burnout of his parents; hardworking and ambitious, he prefers to set his own hours and values freedom, autonomy, and family time.
  • The Generation Y-er (born in 1980 or later). Smart, creative, optimistic and tech-savvy, she is a multi-tasker who prefers technology over face-to-face interactions. Don’t waste her time making her come to your office.

The challenge is, of course, to aligning these generations toward a common sales goal; and  motivating and retaining talent in each of the generational groups to give your company a talent and performance edge. 

It’s important to start with some insight:

  • Understand who’s in your sales organization.
  • Recognize the factors that matter most when managing the generations.
  • Prevent traditionalist, authoritative management from wreaking havoc on Gen Y achievements.
  • Enable each generation in a larger sales strategy context.
  • Recruit and retain the talent that you need.
  • Set expectations and create effective incentives for each generation.
  • Understand how coaching and development can help the generations to work together.

To learn more, visit SalesGlobe or email Mark.Donnolo@SalesGlobe.com. 

That Thing Starbucks Does…

Sales is no longer just about the product. It’s about the entire customer experience. Consider how companies like Starbucks and Apple have differentiated their brands: it’s not just the coffee; it’s the personalized service and welcoming environment. It’s not just the computers; it’s the opportunity to schedule an appointment with a concierge to learn about the latest and coolest technology. These interactions didn’t happen accidentally – they have been designed in a highly creative way.

Your organization, by plan or by default, creates a customer experience. Your customers, in turn, respond to that experience with their loyalty (retention revenue), growth (penetration revenue), and referral of new customers (acquisition revenue).

Methods we’ve studied include evaluating the current experiences of your customers, and implementing creative ways to improve those interactions and differentiate your organization, and advancing customer connections from Interaction, to Engagement, to Relationship.

 

Important considerations include:

 

  • Customer experience within a larger sales strategy context.
  • Understanding how customers see your organization.
  • Understanding how your customers respond to the experiences you currently create.
  • Identifying all of your customer touch points.
  • Building a set of planned interactions across all of those touch points.
  • Leveraging the creative process to create a distinct and differentiating environment for your customers. 
  • Customer experience within a larger sales strategy context.
  • Customer behavior assessment  – Understanding how customers value your organization by how they behave.
  • Clue analysis – Identifying critical clues to indicate how you might improve.
  • Designing the right customer experience.
  • Building a set of planned interactions across your key touch points.
  • Creating a consistent experience across your sales organization.
  • Leveraging the creative process to create a distinct and differentiating environment for your customers. 

 

To learn more about creating a customer experience, visit SalesGlobe or email mark.donnolo@salesglobe.com.

 

Coaching the Coaches

 

Sales training and development can make or break an organization. Whether auditing your existing program or designing something from scratch, it doesn’t have to be hard. We recommend the following five key points:

1. Leadership must make the mandate for coaching clear. If coaching is not a priority in the organization, it will only be conducted by those who are interested. Many of the top performing sales organizations around the world require that their managers spend target amounts of time weekly on coaching. To ingrain the process in the organization some companies will go as far as requiring managers to post their coaching time on a public calendar, making it visible to the organization. Like most business priorities, coaching has to be viewed as essential by leadership in order for managers to make it a priority in their own jobs.

 

2. Build a coaching program and methodology that fits your organization. Using a standard coaching program – one off the shelf or one being used by another company – is certain to fail. A program that is a good fit for one organization may be a poor fit for your organization. Determine the priorities for your coaching program. Understand from a customer perspective where your weak points are and engage your leadership team in developing the right program for your business.

 3.      Decontaminate your management roles and your sales roles. One of the greatest robbers of coaching effectiveness is lack of time. Define the top three to four critical roles for your sales managers. Make coaching one of those critical roles and determine the amount of time managers should spend on coaching. Identify any other roles – good or bad – that managers play or tasks that managers conduct and perform a value-added analysis on those tasks. For low value tasks for the manager, either eliminate those tasks or shift them to the right resource to make time available for coaching. Conduct the same type of decontamination process for sales roles to increase their available time to sell. The average organization spends 50% of time selling. Identify your actual performance and set an achievable improvement objective.

 

4.      Lead ongoing deal level coaching with the team to challenge thinking. Take coaching down to the micro level, developing strategies for key customer pursuits. Use the sales pipeline as more than a review tool and leverage it for coaching. This can provide new accountability for pipeline management and challenge thinking around specific deals. It is also effective for collaboration between the sales rep and the sales manager so that coaching has a purpose and an objective: to close the deal.

 

5.      Make the process transparent and measurable, including deal forensics, win/loss analysis, and living account planning. What gets measured gets accomplished. If you are not measuring the effectiveness of your coaching program, you risk missing some significant returns. Key to transparency and measurement are tools that provide customer responsive information to coach with. Deal forensics or win/loss analysis looks at major lost deals from the customer perspective and why we lost them. It helps us identify areas for improvement that can be used for coaching the sales team and making strategy changes in the organization as a whole. Living account planning takes the stagnant account plan off the shelf and assigns a process and goals to working the account plan on a weekly basis. The living account plan can be used by managers as a coaching tool to set objectives, track reps according to attainment of those objectives, and coach them to improve their results.

 

For guidance or help on building your coaching program or coaching your managers and reps to a higher level of sales performance, visit SalesGlobe or email mark.donnolo@salesglobe.com.

Targeting & Segmenting Customers

A former vice president at a major office supply company recently talked to us about targeting and segmenting her customers for the sales organization.

Below is some of her wisdom and advice:

“We tried to help our sales people understand where they could get the best return. It was pretty scientific actually.   We found a way to design potential by customer size, by territory.  Really, it’s sitting down there, and it’s not glamorous.  It’s a lot of sweat equity as you figure out what the territories need to look like and then actually measuring people against that potential.  You get people who say, ‘My potential is not very good.’ Too bad.  You’ve got to get people to understand where you are going. Then they can change and you manage according to potential. 

 

We took a look at the geography, understood the customer that was set within that geography, understood what the buying habits were of the potential customer set within that group and then applied that to territory design. 

 

“It also spoke to organizational design because we had overlay organizations.  Everybody was a generalist and we had to determine what levels of productivity we could see improve with some specialization.  There was a need to get some specialization in the organization – – people who could hunt, people who could farm, education people, government people where buying cycles and purchasing patterns are unique and procurement policies are different. 

 

“But you can take that too far, and I think that’s what happened.  I would caution people to try to step back every once in a while and look at the whole forest, because those trees get in there and get you kind of confused sometimes. Eventually we knew we had gone too far. It happened over time. We got away from a sales operating perspective.  We didn’t keep a focus on ensuring that it remained clean and pure, so we ended up with all of these overlay organizations. People would tell me, ‘This is my sales territory and I’m the business development manager of this territory and, oh by the way, here’s my partner from the education sector, my partner from the government sector, my partner from copy and print, etc.’  There became so many segments that it became diluted. The cost of sales needed to be examined more closely than what it was.”

 

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

Communicating Change to a Sales Team

Perhaps the hardest aspect of business communications is the timing. You’re always behind the 8-ball. So much of communication is formally announcing what people already know thanks to the rumor mill and the water cooler.

 So there’s a natural pause. “Do I really need to announce to my sales team that we’re redesigning territories? They already know it.” But avoiding that formal announcement is a mistake: it’s a missed opportunity to frame the change in positive language and directly address the natural fears associated with change.

 Before you talk yourself out directly communicating to your sales team what to expect with their new sales comp plan or job roles, consider making time for an “assessment phase” to do the following:

1. Send a clear message from leadership making a compelling case for why change is necessary now.

2. Gather input from the people who will be most affected by the new sales comp plan or territory redesign (or other change) through formal or informal interviews and/or mini-surveys.

Whether rumors have begun flying about an expected change, or you’ve just noticed a few fearful glances around the office, beginning effective communication early will usually garner a greater percentage of buy-in from people who feel they’ve been heard.

 

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

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. 

Part II: Sales Strategy Dimensions

This is the second of a three part series on Rapid Sales Comp Design. Read Part I here and Part III here.

 

When you go down to the next level, we get to the question about strategy. As we look at where the organization is going over the next year, the elements that may show up in the compensation plan tend to be the following:

 

  1. Customers. Determine the focus for certain markets or certain types of customers in terms of acquisition of new customers or penetration.
  2. Products. Determine which products or services are priorities for your organization.
  3. Channels. If you’re working in a multichannel environment, establish a balance between direct and indirect sales and how they work together.
  4. Financial. Clarify financial objectives, what you want to accomplish within the business and the financial parameters.
  5. Talent. There may be certain people objectives we want to accomplish in terms of certain types of talent, or retaining certain types of people or building out certain types of sales roles or parts of the business.

 

 

Those five elements – customers, products, channels, financial and talent – will tend to show up as big drivers to consider as part of the sales comp plan.

 This is the second of a three part series on Rapid Sales Comp Design. Read Part I here and Part III here.

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

Rapid Sales Comp Part I: Setting Limits on Change

This is the first in a three-part series. Read Part II here and Part III here. 

SalesGlobe recently conducted a panel discussion with several experienced compensation executives to explore last minute sales compensation design. Mark Donnolo, managing partner of SalesGlobe, facilitated.  In case you’re scrambling to put together a sales comp plan, or maybe your plan is complete and you’re curious what the procrastinators have in store, here are a few of the highlights around Step One: Setting Limits on Change.

MARK DONNOLO: How do you look at change at your company, and what drives any shifts in the plan?

PANELIST 1: That’s a good question. For us, we try to keep the North Star really around what the strategy is for the business. Our fiscal year starts October 1, so the whole process starts in January after the end of our Q1 or calendar Q4 end. There’s a nine month planning cycle, so a lot of time is spent with the CEO and his executive staff to really understand where the company is going in the marketplace, our strategy, and which customer segments we want to be in. Are we rolling out solutions? How do we want those solutions to mix with our existing strategy? From that we start to build what the coverage model looks like and how we are going to deploy resources. The sales comp plan really is one of the last things we talk about, even though it’s one of the first things that everybody likes to jump to. “How am I going to pay people? We hope to roll out a new product and I want to pay them more for this.”

 We have done a nice job of coaching the leaders that sales compensation is really the caboose; it’s not the engine. While it tends to be the solve-it-all solution for everybody, it’s really not, right? We need to solve how to run the business and drive the business first, understand how we want to go to market, and then let the sales compensation plan structure really be the vehicle for executing on the strategy. That’s important for us.

 MARK DONNOLO: You’re getting a head start then. I think nine months ahead is insightful, especially for a lot of organizations that will pop up at the last minute and say, “Hey, we have to look at the sales compensation plan.” It’s been talked about during the year, but it hasn’t really been part of an evaluation or planning process.

 PANELIST 1: Yes. And I’m not going to lie to you, because it sounds like, “Oh wow, you start nine months ahead. Everything must be perfect and everyone is aligned.” But just like in every company, the executives change their minds a lot. For example, recently we were hosting a call with the international and U.S. divisions, and finance and operations were saying, “We’re three weeks away from the launch of the new plan and the end of the year. Here are the critical changes that we are aligned on. Is everybody prepared for communications? Are we ready to start rolling out quotas next month?”

And a lot of the sales leaders started questioning some of the decisions that we had aligned on in July. “Is this the right decision? Should we maybe change the mechanics of the plan? Should we go to this third measure vs. this measure we took out?”  And you’re sitting here thinking, “We’ve got three weeks left. It’s not like it’s a quarter to go.”

But I think the planning process is continual until you actually communicate it. Because you might have someone from the product house say, “I told you I wanted to pay this product differently.” And maybe you structured the plan to have a separate measure or a multiplier or something. But what we find is that it’s very difficult to corral the leaders and have them stick to something. So we are going to be tweaking things almost up to the last minute, which I guess is appropriate for this topic. But I think the overall structure – we’ve done a very good job of keeping that consistent from the decisions made a couple of months ago. Even though the mechanics might change slightly with three weeks left to go in the year.

MARK DONNOLO: I know one question that comes up is: where do you stop? How do you put an end to it? Someone said recently, “It’s as if our sales leaders have free reign to continue to change things all the way up until the last minute.” We really need to end it at a certain point and move ahead. Is there a way you’ve found to do that?

PANELIST 1: I think you’ve got to be positioned well in the organization. I think the sales compensation function has to be seen as a leadership role that has authority to push back. If it’s not, I think it’s going to be much more difficult. The sales leaders or the others will run wild.

If you’re set up in your organization to have that leadership role, it’s just a matter of saying, “Guys and gals, it’s T minus three weeks, these are the decisions we aligned on. Here’s why we can’t make a change. Here are the cost implications. Here are the ramifications. We’re going to move forward. If it’s a tweak – change this accelerator, change this threshold level – you can do this until after the plan rolls out. But as far as large structural changes, we’ve made it clear.”  

I don’t know if you’ve ever seen that movie Armageddon where there’s an asteroid coming in and there’s a little plane on the computer, where, if the asteroid passes that point the earth will blow up. We sort of set that up for the sales compensation design changes. We have said, “Beyond this date it is not feasible to make structural changes because quotas can’t be set on time. You won’t be able to pay people on time because you’ve got to redo the structure of the Oracle or Callidus or Excel or however you’re calculating sales compensation.”

You lay out exactly what the implications are, right? So if the business says, “I value your opinion but we do want to make the changes.” Then you’ve got to make it very clear. “Ok, guess what? You’re not going to pay people accurately in month one; or quotas won’t be out until month two.” They can think through it and say, “What is the business rationale for the change? Are we willing to take that risk for the change we’ve requested?

 MARK DONNOLO: Good point. So the wheels start coming off at a certain point, if we go beyond that.

 PANELIST 1: Correct.

SGF Member: We definitely have this problem. We have constant change. We just recently went through a pretty large change and we’re just trying to get our arms around some things. We definitely had that issue ongoing.

 MARK DONNOLO: It seems, and you described it well, that having the authority to push back and let people know what the implications are, that things really do start to fall out. Have you been successful in being able to push back effectively?

SGF Member: Yes. One of the key things I think you hit on is making sure that we have leadership buy-in. If we don’t have leadership buy-in, it’s very difficult for us to limit the process. And a lot of times we’ve noticed what you’ve mentioned before, where we are trying to do the compensation plan as the forerunner rather than trying to support what the sales strategy is. I think sometimes we get it backwards. We try to flip flop that to indicate we need to know what the strategy is and we’re really here to help set the behavior vs. drive that behavior. I think that’s something that’s really important. But I think at this point the success we’re seeing is making sure we’re getting executive buy-in. If we don’t have that it makes it really difficult.

This is the first in a three-part series. Read Part II here and Part III here To learn more visit SalesGlobe or email mark.donnolo@salesglobe.com. 

 

 

The Revenue Roadmap

The Revenue Roadmap model is something that we put together after working with hundreds of companies and asking, “What is the difference between high performing sales organizations and the average (or lower than average) organizations?” It really comes down to four major competency areas: Insight, Sales Strategy, Customer Coverage, and Enablement. These four disciplines, and their relationship to each other, provide a context for any driver of sales effectiveness – especially compensation and quotas.

1. Insight: Insight refers to how much we know about what’s happening in our market and understanding what’s happening with our competitors and our customers. If we don’t have our finger on the pulse of the macro market, we can’t develop our strategies with any degree of precision.

2. Sales strategy is an action plan to achieve a sales goal. The strategy converts high level (often financial goals) down to the front line that we can take to market. So it involves the types of services and products that we’re going to offer, our customer segments and our target customers. We have to have a solid value proposition for those products and services that translates well into a message sales reps can take to the customer.

 

3. Customer coverage: Customer coverage refers to how we align to our customers in a very practical, tangible way. What types of sales channels are we using? Direct sales organizations or other types of third party channels outside the organization, such as resellers, distributors, or other partners that help us during the sales process. The sales roles and the structure define how our organization lines up to the customer. Are we using different types of account managers, and are they focused on different segments? Do we have major account managers? Do we have new business developers?

The sales process itself should simplify customer coverage by outlining how the organization moves from the generation of an opportunity through the close and implementation. (And one of the pitfalls of simplifying the sales process is putting too many parts of the process on one sales role.)

4. Enablement: Once we’ve answered all upstream questions – Insight, Strategy, and Coverage – we finally get to the level of enablement. Sales compensation, quotas, recruiting and development of people and all the other support programs live here. But none of these programs – or the people they were designed for – can succeed without a solid foundation of Insight, Strategy and Coverage.

 

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

How to Set Bad Quotas and Destroy Your Comp Plan

If quotas are so critical to the performance of a business, why are they set with so little thought or methodology (with apologies to those who put in the thought and methodology)? Typically, a team spends months designing a compensation plan, and then hurriedly sets goal numbers based on financial information handed down by CFOs. Poorly designed quotas can significantly weaken sales comp plans. If quotas don’t represent true market potential, the sales comp plan itself will break down. And if the plan doesn’t perform as designed, ultimately the business could be at risk.  

So here are the top five ways to set bad quotas and accidentally sabotage your business:

1. Set quotas using historic information. According to a recent SalesGlobe survey, the top quota setting challenge companies are facing today is that quotas are driven by historic information; they don’t represent real opportunities in the market. Instead, quotas are set looking in the rear view mirror; we’re not looking at market potential – at both those positive opportunities and the places where prospects have dried up.

2. Don’t bother to have your quotas ready by month one. In about 30% of companies, quotas are not ready in the first month of a new comp plan. In fact, quotas actually may not be ready in the first quarter of the year. It happens because a lot of times the numbers aren’t ready until the end of the year, and the quota setting process can’t get started until those numbers are ready.

3. Adjust quotas mid-year. Because quotas aren’t ready by month one (and a few other reasons – legitimate and not) about half of companies will adjust quotas during the year – legitimate reasons and not. (Of course, when adjusting quotas, it’s really essential to have policies for why you would make those adjustments.)

4. Punish your best reps by giving them a higher quota every year. Companies that don’t have an effective quota setting process inadvertently create a performance penalty. The highest performing reps are rewarded with a higher quota each year, often in the same increasingly saturated territory.

5. Make the quota setting process top secret. About 29% of companies we surveyed said the process wasn’t transparent. People don’t have any idea how their quotas were set. And about 29% said they don’t believe in the process. Inequitable quotas weaken the effectiveness of the sales comp plan and raise questions about the accuracy of the information.

There’s a pattern in these bad practices, which I think is really fascinating. The top issue is about information: quotas don’t reflect market opportunity. So quotas are not good because they’re not representative of what the sales reps can do. But the other challenges are around people and around process. I think that’s a key point: is that as much as you get into the idea of the quota being a number, it’s very much about the process and abut the people.

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

 

Top Comp Challenges — What’s Yours?

Every year, SalesGlobe conducts a survey to find the top sales compensation challenges. And as varied as businesses are, as unique as some industries are, so often sales compensation problems unite them all. Below are a few of the top challenges that plague sales organizations large and small.

1. Setting effective quotas. Almost every year the top sales compensation challenge is actually setting effective quotas. And arguably, quotas aren’t even part of the compensation plan. Quotas are typically set after the compensation plan is designed. But quotas are the linchpin between the compensation plan and performance. You could have a very effective compensation plan, but ineffective quotas can derail the compensation plan. Quota setting, obviously, is critical.

2. Differentiating top performers. Too often in companies, it’s easy to make a good living with a mediocre performance and very difficult to make a great living, even if you knock your quota out of the park. How we do we take the top people and differentiate them significantly from the mid range or the lower performers? We call the solution the Reverse Robin Hood Principle: take the performance pay from the lower performers and provide that to the higher performers with the objective of being able to recruit and retain the best talent.

3. Supporting the sales strategy and sales roles. One of the first steps in designing a sales compensation plan is to make sure we understand the direction of the business. How do you connect the corner office to the front line? The vision of that C-level whether it’s the CEO, CSO or COO, has to flow through in the compensation plan. It’s amazing the number of times we see a disconnect between the priorities of the business and what’s actually being paid for.

4. Driving solution selling. How do we make sure that we’re enabling solution selling through the sales compensation plan and that solution selling is also being supported through other elements of the growth management system? Solution selling itself cannot be driven by paying people multipliers for different sets of products. Product mix is actually a surrogate for solutions. Effective solution selling starts with the strategy and understanding directionally where we’re going. Enable people to sell solutions and have the right offer. Then compensation can come into play and make sure we can motivate people in the right direction.

5. Keeping the organization engaged.  This was a bigger issue in the past couple of years than it is at the moment.  But over the last couple of years it’s been a big question: how do we keep the organization involved when they’re not hitting their quotas and they’re not in the money on their sales compensation? If we have people floating down around 80%-85% of quota, how do we keep them from riding out the storm and waiting for the year to pass? Are there other types of reward and recognition, or are there adjustments we can make to the plan?

6.  Plan complexity. Plan complexity tends to be an underlying issue and an underlying challenge in most organizations. We see this in particularly complex organizations or organizations that are oriented around multiple products or services. When we try to represent too many things in the sales comp plan we create complexity. Then two things happen. First, the message of what the sales comp plan is telling the organization to do starts to break down. And second, we increase the complexity and the difficulty of administering the plan.

Of these six challenges, what is the biggest problem for your organization? Or is there another challenge not on this list?

 

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

Quota Setting: Historic Based vs. Market Based

Effective quota setting is a combination of art and science. While too many companies set quotas based on historical information, quotas based on the real market potential is a much better approach. Consider the following:

1. Flat Quotas. Flat quotas are usually used when companies have unconstrained market environments. You might have wide open markets where reps could go anywhere in the country; or the markets have unconstrained potential and the reps have relatively equal capability. In this situation it could make sense to set flat quotas; for example everybody gets a $5 million number.

2. Historic Quotas. For better or for worse, most organizations use historic quotas: they take what people achieved last year and add a projected increase.  The risk is that history does not necessarily represent the future potential of the business.

3. Market Based Quotas. Moving toward a quota-setting process that is driven by market opportunity or account opportunity requires taking your historic numbers and modifying them based on relative market opportunity (e.g., relative growth rate of the market, relative growth rate by product, relative potential, competitive environment). Moving to an opportunity driven approach can incorporate market level data, account level data (customers and prospects), or a combination.

How to Get There

Most companies move toward opportunity-driven quotas in steps over time, starting with a market level hybrid solution and eventually progressing to account driven goals that are formed in a bottom-up, top-down process. Improving the quota process can be a challenge for organizations because it requires the cooperation of several different roles. Many sales organizations also have to battle the legacy factor: if quotas have been set by the finance organization using historical data for decades, it may have become a sacred process – even if it’s a bad process – and will be difficult to change.

But there are risks to maintaining those bad processes. According to a survey by SalesGlobe, 84% of sales organizations say poorly-set quotas put the motivation of their sales force at risk; 59% say that not fixing the process contributes to missed targets for the business, and one in three companies said high sales turnover was a potential consequence of poor quotas.

The End Result

The ultimate goal for most companies is account opportunity driven quotas. Account-driven quotas go down to the account level – our customers and our prospects – and find indicators or predictors of sales potential, apply those out to our entire base of customers and prospects, and use that information for quota setting. Initially, as the organization begins on the path towards account opportunity quotas, they collect this information and use it for territory design and deployment. Once they are comfortable with the data, hot spots of opportunities and markets become apparent, and they can set quotas that are much more opportunity-based.

It is critical to make sure the quota setting process works correctly because it is so closely tied to both the motivation of the sales organization and to the attainment of the company’s objectives. Over the long term, a broken quota-setting process can erode the sales performance and put the business at a disadvantage. It’s imperative that companies examine their quota setting process and develop their case for change around the kind of risks it presents for them and the potential positive impact that can be gained from making an improvement. Setting and allocating quotas effectively will ensure the sales compensation plan is motivational, help us more effectively align sales costs and revenue, and increase the predictability of the company meeting its business objectives.

If you have questions or require assistance please contact Mark Donnolo at mark.donnolo@salesglobe.com, visit us at SalesGlobe, or call (770) 337-9897.

Pay vs. Performance: Do you know what your plan is paying for?

It’s almost September. Do you know what your plan is paying for?

It might sound obvious (we’re paying reps to sell our product/service!) but a quick analysis of pay versus performance can be revealing.

So what’s pay and what’s performance? ‘Performance’ looks at different types of performance measures. We might look at revenue, bookings, revenue growth, year-to-year change, performance to quota, or other measures. What’s ‘pay’? Pay may be total pay, total compensation, total incentive pay, or maybe  just incentive pay for that particular measure. Basically, once we recognize what the big priorities are in the business, we want to understand what the plan is paying for and make sure it matches our larger strategic objectives.

We recently worked with a company that said achievement of quota was the most important objective of the sales organization. So we looked at the correlation between attainment of quota and incentive pay. But we discovered, however, the company was actually paying for total bookings (or total revenue) for the company. There was a much tighter correlation between what they were paying and total revenue for the company, than there was for attainment of quota.

So we told them, “Guess what? You’re not paying for quota attainment. You’re actually paying for bookings. If quota attainment is still your strategy, you may want to change what you’re doing.”

It’s a simple examination of some facts that, within a little compare and contrast graph, can uncover huge potential pitfalls.

Key Considerations

  • Are the most important business measures well correlated to pay?
  • Are the top earners the top performers?
  • Are there aberrations in pay relative to performance?

Components

  • Pay Components – Total compensation, total incentive, incentive by measure.
  • Performance Components – Bookings, revenue, profit, net growth, quota attainment in total or by measure

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

The Quagmire: Where Performance Measures Get Messy — A Roundtable Discussion

Mark Donnolo is managing partner of SalesGlobe.

 

Companies that have long sales cycles often use leading indicators to pay those sales reps – after all, they’re working long hard hours but the revenue might not come in for a year or more. Leading indicators can work very effectively when the standards are clear – a design win, for example – but what if your industry lacks clear indicators?

Members of the SalesGlobe Forum met recently to discuss this performance measure potential quagmire.

SGF Member: Can you consider the pipeline a leading indicator?

MARK DONNOLO: I know a couple firms in particular in professional services – very large professional services firms – that will actually pay their business developers on the pipeline, which is actually kind of hard to believe. It’s very, very unusual. Now, I’ll say it’s a combination of partners and sellers and these people are highly trusted. If there’s a violation of that trust that person’s probably not going to be around for another year. So there’s a code of conduct. In a lot of sales organizations you can’t do that. I wouldn’t recommend that at home. But potentially, with leading indicators, you could go that far.

SGF Member: If you use a leading indicator – like a contract signed, for example – we’ll do something like that for a long sales cycle. We’ll pay an upfront bonus based on the potential value of that. But that merchant has to be boarded already so we have a chance to make some revenue.

But we also have a policy that says, if we don’t earn the revenue the rep says we’re going to earn according to the sales contract we have the right to take it back from a person. That can get a little risky, I think, because it’s sort of like a de-motivator, right?  That’s tricky, when you get a year down the road and you say, “Oh well, we didn’t earn this revenue so we’re now in a
position to take money back from you.” That’s tough. But I don’t know of any better way.

SGF Member 2: But it’s better than waiting until the money came in.

SGF Member 3: We do the same thing, paying people on bookings rather than billings.

SGF Member 4: Sometimes it’s how you position it. We position it as advance.

SGF Member 5: We did it as a recoverable draw.

SGF Member: Do they have to earn it back?

SGF Member 5: Yes. We paid them at the beginning of the month. They had a draw, based on two measures: revenue and margin. And it was typically between six and eight weeks, and quarterly we measured up. If you were on plan, here’s your bonus. Your paycheck could vary, but the rep always knew if the customer didn’t pay his bill.

SGF Member 2: Do you keep out a portion of that, when you pay up front? Do you pay only a portion of what the commission was and then pay the rest on actuals?

SGF Member 5: It’s not a draw like that. This is sort of in addition to what they’re going to earn over time. It’s like a signing bonus. We have a recurring revenue stream and we pay them for a certain period of time on that, but that period of time may not start for 9-12 months from the time in which they make the sale. So we can’t wait until 9-12 months later, we’ve got to give them something now. But we don’t take it as a draw against anything in the future. They’ll still earn what the comp plan says they’re going to earn.

 

MARK DONNOLO: I have a couple of thoughts, because we run into this a lot.

The first is, when you have a long sales cycle, you still want to have a ‘pop’ – some payment to the rep – to recognize the event when it happens. That’s important because it creates excitement. One thing I like to do is understand what the actual risk of take-back is. A lot of that is going to be a question of policy – whether you want to forgive those advances or whether you want to actually take the money back.

If you look historically at the pull-through on those kinds of deals, you can get a sense of if and when that will work in your organization. You can also get a feel for the amount you’re paying. Sometimes when we do an upfront bookings bonus, we’ll discount. For example, if we’re going to pay on the value of the first year’s bookings we may discount that back a certain percentage. We may say, “We’re going to pay 60% of the first year’s bookings because we know on average 60% of that revenue actually comes through, so we’re fairly safe. So we discount it back.” The idea is they’re definitely getting something up front for that ‘pop.’

Upfront payments also drive certain behaviors. A lot of times if you pay a lot up front, when the deal closes the rep is off to the next deal. So if you want them off to the next deal, pay them in full because they’ll be gone. If you want them to stay involved, pay them very little, because they’ll stay involved and pull the rest of the deal through. The bad news is they’ll be hanging around the hoop – they’ll probably turn into more of an account manager role as they try to bring in the rest of the deal. You may say, “Well just get out of here and go sell the new thing.”

You have to find the right balance between the amount of money and the role of the rep.

 

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

Gauging Greatness: Which Performance Measures are Worth Tracking?

 

You have the perfect sales strategy and some pretty awesome products. Now it’s time for  your sales organization to make the sales. But not just any sales, the right products to the right customers to make the company a lot of money.

The sales compensation plan is the perfect way to motivate the sales organization. And peformance measures can track success or failure. Less is more here. The fewer – and the smarter – your performance measures are, the more success the rep and the company will have with the compensation plan and the overall strategy of the business. There’s a whole swamp of possible performance measures, and it’s helpful to have a few basic structures to frame your thinking.

1. Financial measures are the most important. These are the bank measures, the things that you see on the income statement: revenue, sales, bookings, profit, income or even units, depending on what type of business you are. If you had a compensation plan that measured only one thing, you’d want to have financial measures because they produce results for the business.

2. Strategic measures are second in our hierarchy. They can steer the performance of the sales organization’s strategy. They say, “We want to sell more but we want to do it in certain ways.” We want to sell certain types of products, or we have a certain type of product mix. Or we want to sell to certain types of customers.  We want a certain contract length, so we want to sell more three- and five-year contracts than one-year contracts. Or, back to customer type. We want to do a better job of retention or managing our churn rate of current customer revenue.  Or we want to do more in terms of customer acquisition. We tend to live off of our current customer accounts.

Strategic measures say, “Sell more but do it in certain ways.” If I had space in a plan for two measures, I would want a financial measure and I want a strategic measure, and that would be it.

3. Leading indicator. Some sales organizations are in a really long sales cycle, and the reps may not actually see revenue for a period of time. Or, the organization has new business developers out there building a base that will take some time to evolve, but we can’t pay them on revenue because it doesn’t really exist yet. So what do you do there?

Some industries — for example automotive and semiconductors — use leading indicators in their plan. They’ll find customer recognized types of measures that they can put in the plan to lead up to revenue.

In the automotive industry they’ll use a bench prototype as a leading indicator. For an auto part components company, a bench prototype would mean the customer is interested enough to ask for a prototype; and they’re probably going to be buying from you. So that’s a leading indicator we might actually pay the rep for.

What are the best performance measures you’ve used?

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

Strategically Speaking …

 

Sales compensation is first and foremost about strategy – the path to the larger goals of the entire company. It’s the foundation for the whole thing. If the strategy isn’t clear, the sales comp plan – no matter how good it is – can’t move the organization in the right direction. In this sales comp design season, before the calculators come out, make sure the objectives are clear. Consider the priorities of the business and acknowledge which ones sales comp can affect.

We recently worked with a company who outlined their top priorities for the business for that year. Those priorities became our north star for designing a new sales compensation program; we knew what we needed to accomplish. And as usually happens, when we got down deep into the compensation work, people start saying, “Well, do we really want to do that?” and “Finance is not going to support that.”

We responded, “Look, here’s what you want to accomplish as a business. And we’re going to have a hard time going back to the CEO and saying we missed a couple points that you said were important.” Clear priorities helped us to articulate where we were going and to drive change in the organization.

There are several different dimensions of strategy that can help guide you when aligning the overall strategy with the sales compensation plan.

1. The customer dimension. As you look at sales jobs, what customers do we want to focus on? Do we want to penetrate current customers or acquire new customers?

2. What market segments should we focus on: small, mid-market, or large? Should we focus on certain industries or certain needs-based segments?

3. What products will we offer?

4. What channels will we use? Will it be a third party channel? Will it be a channel manager that’s covering that third party channel or a direct role?

5. What do we want to accomplish financially, especially in terms of the ROI of the sales comp plan?

As we break apart this sales strategy question it helps to have some structures to be able to look at and say, “Ok, here’s what we want to accomplish: we want to go after customer penetration this year within the financial services segment, and we want to add more product services to our core products. We want to leverage our third party partners more so we
don’t want to try to sell everything ourselves, and we want to do it within certain financial parameters.”

You can start to make some statements about what we want to accomplish from a sales strategy standpoint. Why is that useful? Because we can translate that down to the sales roles, and we can translate that down to the plans themselves.

It sets the stage for a good structural approach.

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

A Better Way to Set Quotas

Too many companies set quotas based on last year’s sales. It’s the wrong way, and we hear it all the time:

“How else would we set quotas if we didn’t just take historic results and project ahead 10%? Can we improve how we do it?”

The answer is yes, and it’s crucial to do so. Quota setting must be a cross-functional process, and sales reps need to see a clear connection between their pay and their performance.

Cross-functional cooperation. Ironically, quota setting is very often controlled by those with the least visibility to the market: for example, the finance team, the folks who love the science of it but don’t know the market and customer. The goal comes down from on high, from the top of the organization, driven by investor expectations or senior management requirements. It then cascades through the organization – an often inequitable division of the pain. This process does not look at market opportunity as much as a sales or marketing-led process would because senior leadership does not have as much visibility into the market. Quota setting should be a cross-functional process that pulls together several different functions including sales, sales operations, finance, and even product management.

Pay and performance connection. Effective quotas demonstrate a connection between pay and performance. Our research and consulting experience tell us that about 60% of companies have at least 40% of reps at or above quota in a normal year. And high performing sales organizations have between 50% and 70% of reps at quota in a typical year. Two years ago, 2009, was an exceptionally tough year for quota attainment. Only 30% of companies had at least 40% of reps at or above quota in 2009.

Reps above quota hit the “excellence level” – usually the 90th percentile level of performance – which should link to the upside accelerators in the plan. The threshold group represents the low performers who are usually at the 10th percentile and below.

Some plans will run a straight line payout from 1% of quota to 100% of quota. Others, which often represent a more performance-oriented culture, will use either a hard threshold or a ramped payout that pays less up to the threshold. This decision often relies on the culture of the organization and the characteristics of the sale and revenue flow for each type of sales role.

The important questions are:

  • How do we set a reasonable stretch goal for the organization based on the market?
  • How do we equitably allocate that goal as quotas to the organization?
  • What portion of our organization do we expect to hit quota?
  • How do we build the sales compensation program to drive performance to those goals?

These questions point us toward a better way to set quotas.

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

The Many Wrong Ways to Set Quotas

Believe it or not, over 30% of companies do not have quotas ready by the first month of their fiscal year, and some companies often delay several additional months. Sales reps are left to figure out what they are supposed to be doing on their own. Companies assume reps are working toward the same goal they had last year, plus x percent; but reps often claim they don’t know what they are supposed to be doing. Even after quotas have been set and allocated, 50% of companies continue to make adjustments during the year.

We hear several recurring questions around quota setting:

1. Should we set quotas on historical performance or market opportunity? Most quotas do not reflect actual market or account opportunity; many quotas actually weaken the sales compensation plan, and many put business performance at risk.

2. Are we actually penalizing our best reps with our quota process? We sometimes put our best reps at a disadvantage with a “performance penalty.”  Reps who do well in the organization get rewarded next year with a bigger quota based on the current year’s performance.

In future years we may penalize them even further. By continuing to give the highest performing reps the biggest quotas, we increase their goals as their market share increases and their penetration of that market increases; but, over time, their potential untapped market opportunity decreases.

3. Is the issue performance or is it the quota? Often companies will look at quota performance – the number of reps hitting quota – and determine the organization is not doing well in terms of quota setting. This is only part of the story and may be a symptom of a larger sales effectiveness problem. The issue could actually be sales performance.

4. How can we incorporate forward-looking metrics? If looking in the rear view mirror at historic results is putting us at a disadvantage, how can we do a better job of looking ahead? Considering factors such as total market opportunity, account level sales potential, relative growth rates, and rep capability may reveal an answer.

There are many explanations for why companies continue to have issues with quota setting. One reason is company legacy: “We’ve always done it this way over the years, and we’ve never really looked at other ways of doing it.” Another reason is that the organization runs out of time and resources.  Consider how much time is put into designing and evaluating the sales compensation plan during the year. If we are on a calendar year fiscal, we might start in August, work up through November and finish designing the compensation plan in
December. And then someone will say, “Next week we’re going to set quotas.” People will go off into an obscure, smoke-filled conference room and somehow produce magic numbers. By the time quota-setting comes around, we have exhausted our time and resources, and we don’t have enough of either to properly determine quotas.

Quota setting can also be a challenge if we don’t have good data, or we don’t have a good methodology. This begs the question: How else would we set quotas if we didn’t just take historic results and project ahead 10%? Can we improve how we do it?

 

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

The Art & Science of Quota Setting

Sales compensation is one of the biggest motivators of performance, but it is not without obstacles. One of the top challenges we see is actually not a compensation issue, but a quota issue: how to set effective quotas. Successfully setting quotas is part science: part process and numbers-driven. It’s also part art: part human and thought-driven. So what’s the right balance between these two, and how can companies continually and effectively set quotas?

Check out our report The Art & Science of Quota Setting, which features a panel discussion of best practices for quota setting with a team of experienced sales operations executives.

If you have questions or require assistance in addressing these topics or other sales effectiveness challenges in your organization, please contact us at  SalesGlobe or mark.donnolo@salesglobe.com.

Top Comp Challenges I: Plan Complexity

It’s sales comp design season (yay!), which means long days, frequent meetings, and calculators.

It also means facing some of the same old compensation demons, who resurface every year to throw a wrench in comp plans with even the best of intentions. Let’s take a look at a few, and how to slay them.

1. Plan Complexity. One of the first is the complexity of the plan. For any organization that’s been around for more than a year or two or has complex products or services, the plan itself tends to get complex as well. It just happens naturally over time.

But often, people at these companies don’t understand the compensation plan. It really happens at two levels: people don’t understand the compensation plan; and the plan itself is too complex to administer as a business. We’re trying to track – and pay people – on multiple measures. Or, we’ve got mechanics in the plan that are creating complexity because we’ve got hurdles, or thresholds, or gates, or multipliers that make the plan a lot more complex.

You might even have a plan that has just two or three measures. We hear, “It’s a simple plan. It’s only got three measures.” But once you really look, each measure has different gates in it which makes it hard for the rep to understand how they’re going to get paid.

Look at line of sight. Does the rep know when they close a sale what they’re going to make, or how it’s going to contribute to their quota? If the answer is no, the plan is too complex.

Simple enough.

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

The Creative Quotient Part II: Steps for Breaking the Boring Mold

This is the second in a two-part series. Read Part I here.

The philosophy of “We’ve always done it this way before” is way too popular for its own good, especially when it comes to account planning. The same stale plans, the same stagnant process, probably yield the same results.

What would happen if you injected some real creativity into your sales accounts?

Using innovation wins deals and helps the customer. Over several decades of working in both the sales effectiveness disciplines and creative disciplines with major corporations, we’ve learned that the Creative Quotient drives growth. The idea is to challenge a sales team’s thinking and then leverage their creative and quantitative sides to develop solutions that differentiate the company from competitors.

1. Define customer or sales challenge. Start by defining your specific sales challenge and your objectives for the outcome. A major staffing company we recently worked with (let’s call them Acme Resources) had a large prospective customer, a manufacturer that used a competitor to staff hundreds of light industrial personnel on its assembly lines. The customer’s challenges were that their temporary personnel had high turnover, the company had numerous safety violations, and the business had incurred high costs to continuously replace headcount. Stealing this account from the competitor would be a big win for Acme Resources but the competition was fierce.

2. Determine parameters. Each challenge has parameters for its solution. The most creative solutions come from within some limitations, rather than from complete freedom. For Acme, their parameters were the customer’s cost and resource limitations. For many sales teams, their immediate response would be to find a way to cut costs and price to win the sale – a sure path to a bad solution.

3. Create first generation approaches. With a clear challenge and parameters, we put the initial ideas on the table – the first generation approaches. These are the typical solutions. Acknowledge them, and put them aside. Although one of those ideas could be part of the answer, most will block our thinking. Acme’s team brainstormed its first generation list and cataloged it for future reference.

4. Destroy false assumptions. The next step is to destroy false assumptions. For the Acme team, their environment was full of assumptions, many based on “the way we’ve always done it.” Identify every assumption about how we address the challenge, rate their validity, and remove the ones that don’t hold absolutely true. Then question these true assumptions again as you move ahead.

5. Combine horizontal possibilities. This is where things get exciting. It’s been said that there are no new ideas. While this could be true (or a false assumption), an abundance of innovation today comes from combinations of ideas and applications of existing ideas to new challenges. One of Henry Ford’s innovations, the moving assembly line, was actually the improvement of an existing approach for a new business challenge. In sales, the application of existing technologies for telecommunications and the web has opened a new world of methods for working with customers, from telesales to social media for sales. Draw upon sources such as parallel examples from other businesses and industries, examples from history – even unrelated situations might spark new thinking.

6. Walk away (temporarily). After intense sales process innovation, briefly moving to other business will allow the team’s subconscious to digest this work and generate additional solutions. Ever wonder why your best ideas spontaneously come to mind in the shower?  It’s your subconscious at work, and it will produce the same results with sales process innovation.

7. Develop solutions vertically. With a range of horizontal possibilities developed, the Acme team scored each one and then developed the top three vertically. Vertical development entails going deep and building out the solution. Acme then took its top choices, tested them, and proposed them to the prospective customer. The solutions included new methods for forecasting attendance, gaining feedback from temporary workers, improving the work environment, and enhancing safety processes that would reduce turnover
and costs.

It might seem like a lot of work, but while Acme employed its Creative Quotient process its competitors proposed lower rates in an attempt to “buy the business.” For its hard fought sales process innovation, Acme won the business, and earned a place as a partner who crafted a new solution for the customer rather than a supplier who facilitated a historic problem. Acme applied the Creative Quotient to unleash its sales team’s power.

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

People and Politics of Sales Compensation II

This is the second in a two-part series. Read Part I here.

While the group of folks charged with designing a sales compensation plan can put the “fun” in dysfunction, the group can also work beautifully together. After all, they share a common goal — to create a comp plan than harnesses all that power behind the sales force, and make everyone some money.

Consider your current mix of people and the following key points when creating the sales compensation design team.

1. Listen to the sales organization. As participants in the plan, this group can offer insight into how well the plan works, as well as any challenges. Interview sales managers, survey front line sales reps and be receptive to feedback throughout the year.

2. Include a cross-section of leadership in the planning and design process. Leaders from the major functions involved with sales and sales compensation should be
included during when making major decisions. Involving executives from sales leadership, financial leadership, administration leadership and human resources leadership ensures each organization has a voice at the table.

3. Follow a design guide and establish a decision making procedure. A design guide outlines the process – soup to nuts – of evaluating and creating a sales compensation plan that is aligned to the goals of the business. A guide keeps people on track and focused on the strategic goals of the plan, and prevents individual functions from getting sidetracked by a separate agenda. Make sure the guide outlines how decisions will be made within the group to prevent disagreements from becoming stalemates.

4. Gauge and then respect your CEO’s level of interest in the design process. While some CEOs like to be involved as the compensation plan is designed, others just like to hear the final number.

We’d love to hear who is involved in your organization’s sales comp design team and how it works — or doesn’t.

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

 

The People and Politics of Sales Compensation

This is the first in a two-part series. Read Part II here.

The people and the politics of sales compensation is about the softer side of sales compensation – who’s behind the scenes collaborating (or not); the steps in the process; how well the process works; how people work together; commonalities between the various functions involved; and solutions for challenges.

The human element touches sales compensation throughout the entire process. It happens during the year – asking sales managers to participate in the plan and convey how the plan is working; asking sales operations and HR to communicate and evaluate the plan. The human element assembles the compensation design team and establishes the principles for how the team will make decisions – who will crunch the numbers; who will evaluate the finished product and finalize the compensation plan. The human element determines the variety of perspectives included to make sure there is a well-rounded representation from the company. How they interact keeps it interesting.

Here are a few of the usual suspects:

1. The C-Suite. The C-level is almost always involved to some degree. Very often we see the C-level person – perhaps the CEO – pop his head in the room to ask, “Is this going to cost me the same or less than it did last year?” Other times we’ll have CEOs actually at the table and involved in the process. CEOs have very different levels of involvement in the compensation process, ultimately because CEOS, based on their personal preferences, have different degrees of comfort with sales compensation.

2.  Sales. Sales, obviously, is at the table, and they’re always asking for something (more money) often in the form of a bigger accelerator. They may grumble that HR doesn’t understand sales or what sales needs.

3. Sales Operations. Sales operations sometimes drives the process and other times responds to the process by trying to keep meetings organized and trying to devise a system that makes sense. Depending on where sales operations resides in the organization, these people can have different points of view. Sales ops most typically will be within the sales organization, but sometimes will be within finance or even HR. Where they sit, very often, determines their point of view.

4. Finance. Finance is typically at the table, either at the C-level or someone on the project team. They have an Interesting negotiating position. This perspective often brings some old cliché’s about sales: sales is overpaid; they have no value. Finance wants to negotiate: “If we have an accelerator on the plan, what are we going to take away on the downside so we can pay for the accelerator?”

5. Human Resources. Very often HR drives the process; and if they’re not driving the process they are certainly a partner. Their role is to looking at what’s happening in the market and make sure everybody is aligned with the market; try to bring some discipline to the process; and offer some expertise if that doesn’t reside on the team already.

6. Marketing. Marketing is not always involved in sales compensation, but sometimes they have an agenda, like sales. In a multiproduct or multiservice organization sometimes marketing tries to get a lever in the plan for each of the different products they represent, which can add complexity to the plan.

While all these interactions take place designing the compensation plan, the field sits and waits, knowing they will most likely get a bigger quota – often for a lower percentage increase in compensation. The sales compensation design process brings together many competing points of view and potentially competing priorities. It quickly, as we say, puts the “fun” in “dysfunction” in organizations.

Who are the people involved in your sales compensation design?

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

 

Rapid Sales Comp

We all know time can get away from us; and sometimes the consequences are bigger than others. When it comes to designing a sales compensation plan, it helps to have months of input and design meetings. However, it can be done quickly if need be. We can abridge the process for efficiency and still retain its power.

Consider these five points when designing a sales comp plan – even if you’ve run out of time.

1. Clearly define the sales strategy and roles, and align your compensation plan. Sales strategy and sales roles provide the foundation for the direction and actions of the business. Sales compensation should align with the sales strategy and motivate the sales organization.

2. Differentiate top performers. Make sure your plan rewards top performers competitively with the industry and significantly differentiates them from the average and low performers. Don’t over pay for low performance; instead, use those funds to invest in attracting and retaining the right talent.

3. Keep your plan simple and clear. Pay for three or fewer performance measures that match the strategy, and don’t put any less than 10% of target incentive on any one measure. Use plan mechanics (e.g., commission or quota bonus structures) that are simple and clear with minimal use of modifiers such as hurdles, gates, and links.

4. Formalize the solution selling process and use sales compensation to support it. Beyond the headlines of solution selling, define what it means to your organization, the sales process, and how the organization should work with customers. Don’t hard-wire sales compensation to solution selling unless the process and skills are well developed and
opportunities exist in all markets.

5. Develop a market opportunity driven quota setting process. Quotas are the lynchpin between pay and performance. A well-designed sales compensation plan can be rendered ineffective with poor quota setting. Make sure your quotas represent the growth opportunities in each market rather than a future projection from historic performance.

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

Strategy and Sales Comp Part II: Putting it in Action

With all the power sales compensation can wield, it pays to invest the time to connect sales comp with the strategy of the business. Below is the second installment of nine important factors to consider when designing a sales comp plan that will drive more revenue. Read the first five in Strategy and Sales Comp Part 1: Making the Connection.

4. Reduce the complexity of the sales compensation plan. Often, the more technical an organization is – or the more engineering-oriented an organization is – the more complex the sales compensation plans will be. There’s a temptation to include everything even remotely important in the compensation plan. The key, however, is to include the two or three things that are most important to maintain clarity of message.

5. Manage the crediting and compensation costsMake sure you’re crediting the appropriate amount to people involved in the sales process without over-crediting. It’s a balance. We don’t want a single credit in a team sale or a complex sales process, nor do we want to over-credit. If you have too few credits people run to the opportunity and then run away very quickly once they realize somebody else has grabbed the credit. If you give too many credits, too many people belly up to the chuck wagon, and it motivates the wrong behaviors.

6. Increase sales productivity. The right daily actions of a sales person increase the overall activity of the organization. Sales compensation can be a powerful tool to motivate the right actions. Use sales compensation as a lever to drive productivity and to create the right motivations in the organization.

7. Control channel conflict.
In a multichannel environment with a direct sales organization and indirect channels, getting those resources to align to the customer is essential for success. Get these parties to work together without competing with each other or degrading your value proposition in front of the customer.

8.  Build a sales culture. The sales culture is an unspoken but powerful force in the organization. But assessing it is fairly subjective. A lot of organizations will say, “We’re over the top in sales culture.” Others will say, “We need to move in the direction of being sales-oriented but we don’t want to destroy the culture that we have. That’s very important to us.” As you make changes in sales programs and sales compensation programs, ask how those changes are going to support the culture. Also question the degree of change the organization can handle to make sure that we don’t push it in the wrong direction.

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

Strategy and Sales Comp Part I: Making the Connection

Sales compensation is a major driver of behavior and performance in a sales organization, and therefore a major force behind growing revenue. It’s is one of the best tools a company has, yet too often it’s not given enough careful consideration during the design, implementation or communication phases.

Without connecting the plan into a strategy or a clear design process, issues arise. Too often people dump all the problems on the table and try to figure how to approach them. In those situations, the best thing you can do is understand the challenges and start to bring some logical approaches to them, one by one.

We see a number of sales compensation challenges that are consistent across organizations. Many of these challenges, however, are not all truly sales comp related but difficulties in other parts of the organization that trickle down to sales comp and require attention.

1. Differentiating top performers. How do you make sure the top people are actually paid the most and you’re not overpaying the lower performers? Making sure there’s a significant difference in target and actual pay for the true performers is critical for attracting and retaining the top talent.

2. Solution selling. Many companies focus on selling products and services, but as the markets become more competitive customers demand more. We see selling a solution as a way to manage those customer needs, a more effective way to be able to offer our product, and a path to differentiating our company. So how do we represent that in a sales compensation plan?

3. Keeping the organization engaged. During challenging economies it is critical to keep the organization engaged. In the most recent downturn there was a 10% shift back in the number of reps at quota or above compared to a normal year. That year begged the question: “How do we keep the organization in the game rather than having them ride the storm out and just get through the year?” If people are missing the marks with their sales compensation, how can we use the plan or other programs to keep people pushing ahead? If we have a lot of people at 85% performance or 90% performance to quota, how do we get them up a couple of points incrementally?

4. Reducing the complexity of the sales compensation plan. Often, the more technical an organization is – or the more engineering-oriented an organization is – the more complex the sales compensation plans will be. The temptation is to include everything that’s important in the compensation plan. The key, however, is to include the two or three things that are most important to maintain clarity of message.

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

Sales Comp ROI Best Practices

When determining the ROI you can expect from your sales compensation plan consider several drivers around ROI, and some ways to dis-aggregate the important questions.

1. Determine your strategy and the business objectives you are trying to achieve.

Understanding, for example, that you want to grow a certain product group or develop a certain market may change the way you look at ROI. You may be willing to invest a bit more to develop this market than you would on average or in your traditional markets. Isolate and evaluate ROI uniquely for that market.

2. Define how the sales compensation plan can help drive that strategy, and where its limits are.

The sales compensation plan doesn’t control everything. If you were going to sell a strategic product you know that the sales compensation plan can motivate people to sell it, but there are other factors such as availability of that product, targeting the right markets, the right sales messages, having the skill in the sales organization to do that, and having the right sales processes. A lot of other factors will play into whether you can actually accomplish that objective, in addition to the sales compensation plan. When you attribute success to the sales compensation plan because it helped you achieve certain objectives, often you have to understand that sales comp was just one piece of it.

3. Determine who you will pay.
You might look at ROI a little bit differently this way as well. Consider certain sales groups that were able to help you achieve that growth objective, versus the whole population. You can then look at the ROI on them.

4. Decide how much to spend.
We recently worked with a media company that traditionally sold TV advertising, and they wanted to increase their cross selling of online advertising. That’s a sales strategy; that’s an objective. What could the plan do? They wanted the plan to help them get a 10% average attach rate to their core product. Their television advertising will have a 10% attach rate of online advertising. They stated what they wanted to happen; next they examined who would do it and who would bring in the return on their investment.

They looked at the TV sales organization. They would be selling that online inventory cross-platform. So now they knew who they were going after. What were they going to pay? They expected an incremental spend of about 15% of the first year’s contracted program revenue. So this company basically took that idea and converted it into a statement.

We find it very useful to move any focus away from the number, much like in quota setting. Take the focus – and the argument – away from the number and break down the components driving that number; then, the conversation is simply a lot more productive.

Check out our report What’s Your Sales Comp ROI, which features a panel discussion of experienced sales executives on evaluating the return on sales compensation.

If you have questions or require assistance in addressing these topics or other sales effectiveness challenges in your organization, please contact us at SalesGlobe, (770) 337-9897, or mark.donnolo@salesglobe.com.

Sales Comp ROI Challenges

Sales compensation can motivate the sales force in the right direction and bring revenue to the company. But it can be expensive. Sometimes, the best justification for a big budget sales comp plan is the promise of a nice ROI.

It’s not always inevitable, though. In our work with companies, several challenges surface again and again:

1. What return should we expect from the sales compensation investment, and how should we look at that return? Is it a flat dollar return, or a flat dollar amount that we pay?

2. What strategic changes are driving our investment? This is a challenge for companies that have had some changes in the organization and are pursuing new strategies that require them to make additional investments.

3. What are the right metrics to use for ROI?

4. How long should we wait to actually see an ROI? How you measure ROI on a job that’s producing zero revenue if it’s a multi-year sales process, but we know they’re doing the right thing? How do we justify that from a financial perspective?

5. How do we get everybody to speak the same language? This is one of the trickier questions. It’s a multi-functional problem, involving sales, HR, sales operations, and finance working together for a return on the sales compensation plan.

 

If you have questions or require assistance in addressing these topics or other sales effectiveness challenges in your organization, please contact us at SalesGlobe, or email Mark Donnolo at mark.donnolo@salesglobe.com. 

Designing Sales Comp for ROI

Almost everyone involved in the sales compensation plan, at one time or another, asks about the ROI of the plan. In order to answer that question, we have to evaluate how the sales compensation plan is designed. Luckily, sales compensation design follows a predictable process. We begin by defining sales roles and clearly articulating the sales strategy, and from that foundation we build out the components for the plan, including answers to these fundamental questions:

  • What kind of pay are we going to deliver to a particular job to be market competitive? How are we going to develop that pay mix in terms of the base salary and incentive ratio at target? (The pay mix will vary by the sales process and the sales strategy.)
  • How much upside should somebody earn for top performance?
  • How much downside should they earn for lower performance?
  • What types of measures should we put in the plan to connect performance and pay? Should we measure revenue, profitability, etc.?
  • How do we build an effective plan without overloading it? How do we keep the message simple, and stick to the rule of three or fewer measures, with no measure less than 10% weight of target incentive?

Once we’ve answered these questions around sales roles and strategy, we can look at the mechanics of the plan. All too often people jump to the mechanics of the plan first, before defining the roles and strategies. Calculators come out, and people start adjusting commission rates. But that’s actually several steps into the process, when we start talking about the specifications to connect those pieces together.

It’s also important to look at quota setting and objectives, as well as governance – how we operate and evaluate the plan on an ongoing basis.

Looking at sales compensation as the sum of all of these elements, we can see several hot buttons in terms of what might drive ROI:

  • The amount that we’re going to pay in the market.
  • The pay mix: the amount that we’re going to pay in fixed versus variable costs. Some CFOs debate how much money they actually want to commit versus tie to performance. Another common debate between CFOs and sales is why we can’t put more pay at risk and have less fixed pay.
  • The upside and threshold. How much are we going to pay our top people and how little are we going to pay our bottom people? Do we employ the Reverse Robin Hood Theory, which takes from the underperformers to pay the over performers?
  • The mechanics. Accelerators are a driver of costs and ROI.
  • How we set our objectives and goals, relative to target pay, and how we allocate those goals out to the organization. What we expect back is a big driver of ROI.

Check out our report  What’s Your Sales Comp ROI, which features a panel discussion of experienced sales executives on evaluating the return on sales compensation.

 If you have questions or require assistance in addressing these topics or other sales effectiveness challenges in your organization, please contact us at www.SalesGlobe.com, (770) 337-9897, or email Mark Donnolo at mark.donnolo@salesglobe.com.

What’s Your Sales Comp ROI?

Return on investment is a topic that invariably arises when discussing sales compensation. Executives in sales, sales operations and especially finance want answers to three questions:

How much is the sales compensation plan going to cost us?

Is this a good investment of our money?

What should we expect back?

Check out our report,  What’s Your Sales Comp ROI, which features a panel discussion of experienced sales executives on evaluating the return on sales compensation.

 

We believe the findings in this report will provide valuable insight for your business. If you have questions or require assistance in addressing these topics or other sales effectiveness challenges in your organization, please contact us at  www.SalesGlobe.com or mark.donnolo@salesglobe.com.

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