Communicating the New Sales Comp Plan: Key Steps Part 3

Communications Points

This is the third in a three-part series. Click here to read: Part I: Start Strong, or Part 2: Craft the Change Story.

See the Organization’s View

Company culture plays a huge role in making change. Some cultures operate on stability and are naturally change averse, while others are change tolerant and even change seeking. It’s important to know the organization’s and individuals’ comfort level with change in order to message and manage well.

Assume that most people will see any change as potentially negative. This is particularly true when it comes to compensation. From a sales organization view, unless the current compensation plan is a complete disaster, they often assume the only reason to change the plan is to manage pay or improve the company’s financial position. If you have a sales program that allows people to make money, and you want to make a change to compensation plan, you have to be crisp and clear about what those changes mean. Otherwise, the immediate thought process of a salesperson is, ‘They’re trying to figure out how to take money out of my family’s life,’” says Jeff Schmidt, global head of business continuity, security, and governance for BT Global Services.

Beyond risk, resistance also comes from reluctance to alter routines. If the new incentive plan steers the organization toward new products or perhaps selling to new customers beyond their current accounts, that can be plain uncomfortable.

In our work, we see that about 20 percent of an organization are acceptors and embrace the new plan without argument. Another 50 percent are observers who will wait and see. If the plan is designed, communicated, and managed well, this group will usually join the first group of acceptors. But as much as 30 percent of the organization may resist the new plan. The resistors range from passive resistors to active resistors.

You may recognize some of the passive resistance behaviors, which include apparent confusion, hesitancy to act, and lack of urgency. On the aggressive side, behaviors might include outright opposition and involvement in trying to change the course of the implementation by demonstrating why the program will not work. The good news is that most resistors tend to be on the passive side, although they are not always easy to identify and engage. The key to working with passive resistors is to connect, sense, and communicate at the field level to understand their resistance points before the implementation. If ignored, their resistance can become contagious. As for active resistors, they’ll test leadership’s resolve for change, as we’ll describe shortly.

 

 Contact me at mark.donnolo@salesglobe.com with any questions.

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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.

From History to Opportunity: Five Quota Setting Methodologies

Quota Methodologies

Quota-setting methodologies vary based on the market and types of accounts. Approaches can range from one-size-fits-all, to a historic view to a forward-looking opportunity view.

  1. Flat quotas are simple and effective in the right situations. Organizations often start out this way or may use this approach in new markets it enters. Everybody gets the same quota because it is assumed that all opportunities and resources are equal. While this may seem like a primitive approach, it can be effective in environments with unconstrained opportunities where there is abundant sales potential and the capability of reps is similar. The flat quota approach is common in new business development situations where reps don’t have an existing base of business to manage and may have few boundaries to their sales opportunities. It’s survival of the fittest.
  2. Historic quotas are the most common in companies, yet they create some of the biggest issues by assuming that history is predictive of the future and of potential in a market. This approach creates quotas that recreate history. A majority of companies use a historic quota-setting process either primarily or in combination with other methods. While history is a good starting point, it should be enhanced by turning the attention to future opportunities.
  3. Market opportunity-driven quotas are developed by starting with historic information and building on it based on the characteristics of the market. Market opportunity might consider predictors of potential that indicate how much opportunity might reside in an account. For example, the number of employees at an account location may be correlated to revenue potential. Those indicators can become part of a larger predictive model that either estimates the potential of a territory or compares that territory with other territories to help allocate the goal correctly across those territories. This approach can be effective for a large number of accounts.
  4. Account opportunity-driven quotas consider characteristics of the accounts as well as the market. By looking at the sources of revenue retention, penetration, and new customer acquisition, and the existing and planned sales pipeline, a sales organization can build the account opportunity components, bottom-up. Those growth estimates can be compared with top-down intelligence on the overall market, and growth predictions. The company can also consider sales capacity and the capabilities of reps to capture that account opportunity.
  5. Account planning can be used for growth planning, coaching reps to the plan, and of course, setting quotas for the account. This process is effective in situations where there are a small number of large accounts. The account plan provides information on growth targets in the account as well as tactics the team will use to grow the customer relationship.

By considering and combining these methods the organization can develop a quota-setting approach that matches each type of account segment and can increase the opportunity to hit the company’s overall sales objective.

 

Next week I’ll begin a series about communicating the sales compensation plan and changes to the organization. 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 Sales Compensation Diamond Part 2: Linking Pay and Performance

Sales Comp Diamond

This is the second in a three-part series of The Sales Compensation Diamond – evaluating and designing a best-in-class sales compensation program. Click here for Part I: Framing the Plan.

Linking pay and performance actually begins with performance thresholds, which we covered last week. The next step is to develop the measures.

  1. Develop Measures and Priorities

Performance measures define the focus areas that are most important for each role. Each measure should represent the most significant pieces of the sales strategy that the role can control. A challenge for many organizations is determining which few of many possible measures should be included in the sales compensation plan, which should be part of the performance management program, and which should simply be core expectations of that job. Do the measures represent the top two or three financial and strategic priorities for each job? Has the message of the plan been diluted with too many measures, creating a buffet plan from which reps can pick and choose? Do reps have significant control over each measure in their plans?

  1. Set Levels and Timing

            For each measure, the organization must define the level at which that measure will be tracked for the plan. For example the organization may define a revenue measure for a sales rep at an individual level or a region level. Each measure will also be measured and paid on a certain timeframe, for example monthly or quarterly. The decisions around measurement levels and timing can have a direct impact on rep behavior. Measure too high and the rep may have little control. Measure too frequently and the cycle may be out of synch with a long sales process. Do our measurement levels match with reps’ ability to impact those measures? Does the frequency of our measurement and payment match the rhythm of the sales cycle or it unnaturally speeding or slowing the cycle?

  1. Design Mechanics

Mechanics create the connection between performance and pay. It’s the area most sales executives will jump to first rather than working through the previous steps. If your team is starting here, then they’ve missed half the process. While mechanics can seem complex with various rates, hurdles, gates, accelerators, and point systems, they can be divided into three types. A rate-based mechanic (also known as a commission) usually pays a certain percentage of revenue or gross profit, or a certain dollar amount per unit of sale. A quota-based mechanic typically pays a target incentive for reaching a specific quota or goal and may scale its payout above and below that performance level. A link creates a relationship and interdependency between two measures or mechanics. For example, attainment of a goal for a product mix measure may result in a multiplier that links and magnifies the payout of a total revenue commission. Are the plan mechanics easy to understand and calculate? Do they create an alignment to goal attainment or can a rep simply earn to a level where she’s comfortable? Are old commission rate structures causing the organization to work backwards by structuring territories (an upstream discipline) to manage pay levels (a downstream discipline)?

  1. Align the Team

            A full sales compensation program will include a range of sales, sales support, and management roles. To work together as a team, plan designs must interface as a complete system. This alignment point checks for how sellers will work together as teammates and peers in the sales process that may include business developers, account managers, field representatives, product and market specialists, sales support, and channel partners. This alignment point also checks for vertical integration from the front line up through each layer of management. Does the program promote teamwork or does it have points of potential conflict? Are managers and the front line operating with congruent measures or are there priorities not intersecting?

  1. Set Objectives and Quotas

Quotas are the linchpin between the sales compensation plan and performance. Objectives and quotas should be market based, representing the relative opportunity in each account assignment or territory, and be created with a process that’s well-understood by reps, optimally incorporating their input. Over time, quota processes for an organization will usually move from more internally or historically-based approaches to more market-based approaches as the market and organization become more developed. In early stage companies or in newer markets, an organization may allocate the same goal to each rep, with the assumption that each has similar market opportunity and sales capability. While this may hold true over a period of years for a new business developer with an un-bounded territory, usually the normal growth of accounts will accumulate to create an installed base of recurring or expected revenue for each rep that will vary by territory or account assignment. Reps with more established accounts may carry a larger installed revenue base than those with newer accounts.

For many companies, looking at historic performance and projecting a trend forward seems to work for a period of time. However, they quickly learn that they’re either saddling their highest performers with ever-increasing goals or they’re overpaying reps who manage large bases of slow growth recurring revenue while under rewarding the brave new business developers bringing in new customers. Does each rep own a portion of the total business plan that represents a stretch level of achievement? Are quotas forward-looking or steeped in history? Do reps understand and buy-in to the objective setting process?

 

Next week I’ll write about the final step in the sales compensation design process: operating for results. Contact me at mark.donnolo@salesglobe.com with any questions.

 

C-Level in Sales Comp: Getting Involved and Supporting the Program

In order for sales compensation to work, the C-level goals of the company have to be incorporated. But at what point should the C-level get involved to communicate those goals?

Certainly at the beginning of the process, to discuss strategic direction and short and long term goals. And in fact, 23 percent of C-levels participate periodically in design team meetings, according to a recent SalesGlobe survey. 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.

The head of sales compensation at a large software company limits the number of design options he shows the CEO, in order to prevent him from spending too much time on the details. “It works very well,” he said, because, “too much information and too many options can be confusing. But our CEO got involved this year at the end of the process. We were pretty much done with the plans, and then all of a sudden he wanted to take a look at them. He comes at it with a very different style. …We had to change the plans, and it took us another month and a half to get them approved, which made it interesting. He was definitely involved to a degree this year to where next year, we’ll integrate his expectations before starting the design.”

In our study, the more than 50 companies we examined that had a blend of C-level involvement had an average three-year compound annual growth rate of approximately 7.5 percent compared to the Fortune 500, which had growth of about half a percent and the Fortune 100 which had growth of  about 2 percent over the same period ending 2012.

While the right type of C-level involvement in incentive plans is certainly not the primary cause of higher growth, it is likely indicative of greater C-level involvement in the workings of the sales organization overall and the practical drivers of growth.

Join us for a complimentary webinar today, September 17, 2013, at 2:00 PM eastern, on making the C-level to street level connection through your sales compensation plan. Or, contact us at Mark.Donnolo@salesglobe.com for a recording of the webinar.

 

Mark Donnolo is the managing partner of SalesGlobe and author of What Your CEO Needs to Know About Sales Compensation. To learn more, visit SalesGlobe

C-Level in Sales Comp– Providing Strategic Direction

Picture1C-level executives (CEOs, COOs, CSOs, CMOs, and presidents,) get involved in various ways during the sales compensation process. Sometimes, as you may have seen in your own experiences, it’s not in the optimal way. Too much too late can wreak havoc on the 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 that high-value involvement peaks at the start of the process to provide strategic direction, at occasional review points to keep current and test the team, and again towards the end to review, approve, and support the plan from an executive level.

 From our research, 82 percent of C-level executives provide strategic direction on the priorities of the business relative to sales. These are the C-Level Goals described last week. Fifty-five percent also provide direction on how these strategies should be emphasized in the sales compensation plan.

Jeff Connor, chief growth officer for ARAMARK, describes his strategic involvement: “My role, at the end of the day, is for sales to function as a center of excellence.  I sit down with the people and make sure that we’re thoughtful about the strategy, the insights we’re building off of. I look at all the comp plans from a benchmark perspective and to try to help people understand whether they align with the strategy.

“Recently a business unit was looking at the Insight area, to use the Revenue Roadmap, and the strategic alignment,” Connor explains. “They built a model and straw person example. When I got involved my first role was to push and poke around the model to see if in fact it makes sense. Another thing I do, because I grew up here and was a direct seller for nine years, is to always put myself in the shoes of a sales executive. Do I understand it? Is it simple? Are the incentives things that I can control?”

How have you seen the C-Level successfully – or not – offer strategic direction in the sales comp plan?

Mark Donnolo is the managing partner of SalesGlobe and author of What Your CEO Needs to Know About Sales Compensation. To learn more, visit SalesGlobe.

 

 

 

C-Level Involvement in the Sales Compensation Process

Picture2As sales executives determine priorities for their sales compensation, they need to set their C-level goals. These will define the major priorities for the organization that will be converted to the sales compensation plan. Those priorities provide clarity for the behaviors the plan’s going to drive in the organization.

While the Revenue Roadmap defines all our possible destinations, the following dimensions help us to make the right strategic alignments and stay on track.

There are five C-level goal areas that can describe our strategy. Articulating these from the C-level to the organization helps to simplify the critical few from the trivial many.

Most organizations can concentrate on building programs that support these five major areas.

  1. Customer. The Customer dimension describes priorities in terms of buyer types and segments. Who are the right types of companies and buyers for our business?
  2. Product. The Product dimension identifies which offers will get the most focus. What products and services should be emphasized? Which are strategic and which are critical for cash flow? What are the priorities for cross selling?
  3. Coverage. The Coverage dimension articulates the major methods of matching sales resources to each customer segment. What are the routes to market? What is the role of third-party channels? What will the sales organization look like?
  4. Financial. The Financial dimension specifies monetary goals. What growth results are necessary for revenue, profit, and market share? How is the return on investment measured, with improvements in the organization and sales programs?
  5. Talent. The Talent dimension defines who the sales organization needs in its coverage roles to reach its goals. What types of skills will execute the strategy? What’s the talent inventory? Where does the organization need to build strength? Where do we need to source new talent?

Looking at the complexities of the growth plan, setting the priorities around the Customer, Product, Coverage, Financial, and Talent goals can provide clear direction for a range of sales effectiveness programs, including sales compensation.

Mark Donnolo is the managing partner of SalesGlobe and author of What Your CEO Needs to Know About Sales Compensation. To learn more, visit SalesGlobe

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.

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 Your CEO Needs to Know About Sales Comp

Our new book is out! Read an excerpt below and let us know what you think!

Book Cover 3The office lights flicker on at 7:00 Monday morning. The early risers arrive and the staff trickles in. The CEO, vice president of sales, CMO, and vice president of human resources sip their first cups of coffee, bleary-eyed from Sunday evening’s conference calls. The office chatter starts. In an hour the phones will begin to ring. A few miles away, manufacturing has been busy at the line for a couple of hours by now.

Despite the bustling activity, it will all come to a halt if the next sale isn’t made. “Sales” is the top line on nearly every income statement. Without it, the funding runs out, the stock doesn’t trade, the lights no longer burn, and the office chatter falls silent.

At the root of sales is a team of tenacious souls squeezed in middle seats without upgrades, walking the hallways of major corporations, making outbound calls to semi-qualified prospects, pacing customer reception areas waiting for a chance to have that critical conversation about the customer’s needs, and generally wearing out the soles of their Cole Haans. Each year on average, they experience eight to ten times more rejection than acceptance from their prospective customers. Yet they persevere – most with continued optimism – in pursuit of the close, the add-on sale, the contract renewal. Most of them are driven by a quest for three things: personal accomplishment, recognition, and compensation … sales compensation … commission … bonus … the deal that makes their year and the company’s year.

The sales compensation plan is one of the most significant drivers of performance in the sales organization and represents one of the single largest expenses a company will incur, commonly tens or hundreds of millions of dollars. It’s a thin but vital long distance line that keeps the daily connection between corporate growth and the rep on the street. It guides and motivates the actions of the sales organization more than any other single factor. It trumps leadership messages, sales strategies, sales management, and sales training. If there is a hard wire between the customer’s office and the corner office, sales compensation is it.

But if the plan’s message isn’t clear or to their liking, sales reps will interpret the plan in their own financial interest. As a corporate leader, you’ll get what you measure and what you pay for – and it may not always be what you expect.

While its impact can be direct, it’s a fine blend of art and science that has long been a point of conflict within companies. Everyone has an opinion about sales compensation and everyone is an expert, yet few agree on the best approach to drive performance toward the company’s objectives. Sales, sales operations, human resources, and finance regularly engage in battles over questions like:

  • Does the plan represent our business objectives?
  • Are our highest paid sales people actually our top performers?
  • Is the plan too expensive?
  • Can we better motivate our organization to pursue the sales strategy?
  • How can we promote more of a performance-oriented sales culture?
  • Can we make the plan simpler to understand?
  • Can we make the plan easier to administer?
  • Are sales quotas penalizing our best performers?
  • How can we set quotas that better represent the sales potential in our markets?

Too often these battles lead to sales compensation programs that are compromises between parties, ultimately leading to underperformance in the business. Above the fray, senior executives look on, often asking only the most general questions. Many of these senior executives, concerned about the next quarter and the remainder of the year, miss opportunities to use sales compensation as tool to drive growth.

What Your CEO Needs to Know About Sales Compensation is not a technical guide for designing a sales compensation plan. This is a book that tells the stories of how senior leaders in a company can understand the connection between their goals and sales performance to leverage sales compensation as a driver of real growth in their organizations. We’ll focus on the top challenges in companies today and offer logical leadership approaches for dealing with each of these issues.

What Your CEO Needs to Know About Sales Compensation, written by Mark Donnolo, managing partner of SalesGlobe, is available now on Amazon.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.

Coaching Is Important … But When Do I Do That, Again?

So we can all probably agree that coaching and development for the sales organization are important – even vitally important. But there tends to be so much confusion around it.

Last week I wrote that optimally a sales manager should spend 30% to 40% of his or her time coaching her reps. But we all know that rarely happens. In fact, when we mention that optimal amount of time – 30% to 40% for coaching – we get a range of reactions, from puzzled to shocked, as managers think about all of their other responsibilities.

The reality is most sales managers spend less than 20% of their time coaching. That statistic illustrates a gap of about 60% between how much time managers should spend coaching their organizations and how much time they’re actually spending.

So what’s to blame? Many things, probably. For one, the mandate for coaching may not be getting through from executives to managers.

what preventsAnother issue – and one of the biggest challenges we see in both sales management jobs and sales jobs – is the time available to focus on their core responsibilities, whether they are still selling or purely managing.

A full 70% of companies say that sales managers are held back from coaching because they are too busy with aspects of their job that aren’t always related to sales or sales management. Oops. A deeper look reveals that many of these responsibilities are administrative or operational in nature – responsibilities that do not have a direct impact on either revenue growth or the development of the team that produces revenue.

Time constraints can take another form. Forty percent of companies said that sales managers just don’t make the time to effectively coach, meaning they are finding other things to do with their time. Perhaps they are even deliberately avoiding that ominous task.

We know from our research and our work at SalesGlobe that a big part of coaching comes down to the priorities of the organization. About one in seven companies (14%) do not require their sales managers to do any kind of coaching or development. If coaching is not a requirement of the organization, other responsibilities – whether they are selling or administration – will always take the front seat.

Beyond time, the other top barriers are around knowledge and importance. Forty-four percent of companies said managers do not know how to coach effectively. Therefore, even if they are given the time they do not know what to do with that time. Another 19% said they do not have a methodology for managers to use when they have time to coach.

With all the time constraints precluding managers from coaching it’s important to have a program in place. There is a right way and a wrong way to coach reps. (Hint: selling for them is a wrong way.)It’s important to 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.

To learn more visit us at SalesGlobe.

Time for Coaching Sales

Coaching is a critical role for sales managers. But consider your own organization: how many managers spend time each week coaching and developing their teams?

For the rest of us, it’s a struggle. Sales managers just don’t put the necessary time into coaching. Sometimes – often – it’s because they don’t have the time available or they really don’t understand how to coach.

If you’re thinking, “Each of our sales managers spends about 30% to 40% of their time coaching,” then congratulations. You are in a small but decidedly elite group.

But it’s not that sales managers don’t want to. In a recent survey conducted by SalesGlobe, 84% of companies perceive coaching as either “very important” or “one of the most important factors of sales success” for their organizations. And the reps are actually really interested in doing the work. Surprisingly, although sales people often take a cynical view of training, most are open-minded when it comes to coaching and development that contributes to their success. In fact, 75% of sales leaders see their organizations as receptive to coaching.

Balancing out the role between sales and sales management is crucial to allow bandwidth for coaching time, and setting priorities for sales managers is the first step.

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.

 

To learn how to make coaching a priority for your sales team in 2013, email Mark at MDonnolo@SalesGlobe.com, or 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.

To Cap or Not To Cap?

Now that the election is over and all those spirited Republican vs. Democrat office debates will start to cool down (maybe), here’s a fun idea: why not kick up some dust with a new fight? Should the sales compensation plan have a cap, or not?

This is a surefire way for some lively conversation.

A cap is an upper limit on incentive earnings. The benefits of caps include mitigating risk for the company. We’ve heard stories, and you probably have too, of a sales team or single rep hitting a mega-deal and raking in a seven-figure commission check. These stories scare the heck out of finance.

These stories also motivate the hell out of the sales organization, which brings us to the downside of caps: they can be very demoralizing. Even if the cap is way out in the stratosphere of potential earnings, its existence is felt. The sales organization knows there is a limit to their earnings, and they don’t like it. For the highest performing reps, they might ultimately look for a role in another company, one that doesn’t cap incentives.

While we don’t recommend caps, there are some legitimate reasons a company may employ them. For example, caps protect you against unexpected payouts resulting from mega-deals or bluebirds beyond the rep’s control, poorly set quotas, unreliable financial modeling, or production-constrained environments where demand may outpace supply or the company’s ability to maintain quality levels.

On the other hand, uncapping the plan requires good historic data and financial modeling. An uncapped plan must also be consistent with the sales culture of the organization, especially if reps may earn more than their managers or senior sales leaders, in some cases.

Caps are less about the math and more about the people and behaviors.

What’s your position in this spirited debate?

To learn more, please visit us at SalesGlobe.

Bus Accidents & Sales Comp: Thresholds

What do bus accidents and thresholds have in common? Well, a (pretend) bus accident is an important way to think about thresholds (we don’t actually want or advocate anyone getting hurt).

Within sales compensation, a threshold is the performance level at which the plan begins to pay incentive. For example, if a rep’s quota is to sell $1,000,000 in revenue annually, she might have a threshold of $400,000, or 40 percent of quota. If she sells less than that, she’ll only earn her base salary, without any incentive compensation. Once she sells that $400,000 – the threshold point – then her incentives kick in. She can earn these incentives up to her target incentive, which she would earn once she’d sold the full $1,000,000 of her quota. And of course, if she sells beyond $1,000,000, then she’s eligible for upside (the really good stuff).

But, are thresholds fair? To say a rep cannot earn incentive pay until she sells a certain amount could sound like she’s selling for nothing. But don’t forget, the company already pays a base salary for the core job responsibilities and minimal performance. So some companies believe paying incentive on top of that would be double-paying.  Thresholds also set a clear minimum performance expectation: performing below a certain percent of quota (or a certain dollar level) is unacceptable, and may ultimately find the rep looking for a new job. Withholding incentive is the first painful step but send a clear message that that level of performance is unacceptable in this company.

So for what types of jobs are thresholds appropriate? That decision is largely based on the job’s sales strategy and type of sale. This is where the (pretend) bus accident comes into play. Ask the question: “If at the beginning of the year the rep was hit by a bus, what percent of his annual quota would come in without him there?” If the answer is, “All or most of it,” because a large portion of his revenue is recurring, then you might want to consider a threshold for that role.

If your answer to the (pretend) bus accident question is, “None of it,” because the rep is focused on new customer selling or working with current customers that have little recurring revenue, then each new sale may simply not exist without the rep. If that rep has a high degree of influence for each sale, then plan should have little or no threshold.

The (pretend) bus accident question is a great tool to cut through the arguments about thresholds with some straight logic and cross-industry practices. The actual level of the threshold, in terms of percent of quota, is usually set either mathematically or through management expertise. Using the mathematical approach, the organization should look at quota attainment historically at the 10th percentile, and use that as an estimate of a reasonable threshold. The management expertise approach answers the question, “Below what point would it simply not be acceptable to pay incentives?” Most executives will have an immediate answer to this question.

Once the threshold point is set, beware of changing it from year to year just because the performance distributions change. Expect variability and keep a steady hand over time unless the market, nature of the sale, or job role change significantly.

How do you determine whether or not to set thresholds? Do you think they’re fair?

To learn more, visit us at SalesGlobe.

 

Making More than the Boss: Sales Incentive Pay

How much cash should a top sales person potentially earn in a given year? More than her manager? More than the head of sales? More than the CEO? The answer to this question is indicative of an organization’s pay philosophy and its ability to attract and retain the best talent in the industry. We recently surveyed C-level executives in top companies around the country, and nearly all agreed that a top sales person could earn more cash in a year than the head of sales. While that high earning rep may be a different person each year, and that earnings level may not be attained every year, the event would not be unheard of in the organization. In fact, many C-level executives said that these events would be motivational to the organization.

 

As for earning more than the CEO, many C-level executives philosophically agreed that this wouldn’t be an issue given the right level of sales production, but it’s not usually realistic. Nevertheless, “sky’s the limit” potential is inspiring to reps who see no limits to their capabilities.

 

Organizations that know how to use the Reverse Robin Hood Principle typically set the pace with the leaders in their industries. One director of compensation told us, their top performer made $4.5 million in one year. “We had another person who made $2 million, another who made $2.5 million and then we had about 10 to 15 people that made over $1 million,” he said. “That’s probably eight to 10 times their target. So, there’s no question; we have a very aggressive comp plan that pays well. The incentive plan is a motivator. That’s the bottom line.”

 

How much can top performers earn at your company? More than the head of sales? More than the CEO?

 

To learn more, visit us at SalesGlobe.

Sales Comp & Merry Men in Tights

Let’s just pick up where we left off last week: the case for upside potential. You want to reward those top performers, not just pay them. You want to incent them to repeat their performance next year. And you want to engender loyalty to your company by ensuring they feel like the critical contributors that they are, through recognition and financial compensation.

 

But finance will ask, “Where does all this money for upside come from?”

 

Our old friend Robin Hood has inspired the answer. While that merry fellow worked (robbed) to promote less division between the high end and the low end of the village, we suggest that when it comes to sales compensation, the reverse should be true.

The Reverse Robin Hood Principle states that an organization doesn’t overpay the low performers but instead significantly rewards the high performers. Instead of paying low performers below threshold, the organization uses those funds to reward the top. Perhaps surprisingly, this can be a big challenge. Some companies simply are uncomfortable with a huge disparity among members of the sales organization. The Reverse Robin Hood could upset the company culture, or the way it’s always been done in the past.

But, if the outcome is rewarding, celebrating, and retaining the top performers, perhaps at the expense of the bottom 10 percent, perhaps a meritocracy isn’t so bad, after all.

What are the potential risks and rewards you see with the Reverse Robin Hood?

To learn more, visit us at www.SalesGlobe.com.

Sales Comp & Big Money

Let’s look at one of the most exciting components of the sales compensation plan. (No your eyes have not failed you. I said “exciting” and “sales compensation” in the same sentence.) It’s the part that can sustain or destroy the sales culture, and it lets top performers know whether (or not) they can earn big money. Upside potential is the incentive pay, above target incentive, that a sales person can earn if she exceeds quota and reaches the higher levels of performance in the sales organization.

 

Let’s say, for example, a rep had a total target compensation set for $100,000, and had a 50/50 pay mix (so he would earn $50,000 in base salary, and assuming he met his quota, he would earn an additional $50,000 in incentive pay). But then, this rep just kept going. He kept selling. He went above his quota. His company knew he was capable of this extra effort and had a plan in place to reward him. It’s called upside. (As a side note: a top performer is usually a person at the 90th percentile of performance or above in the company, and the upside potential earnings is usually set as a multiple of pay at risk.)

 
For example, a plan may have the potential to pay 200 percent of target incentive to a 90th percentile performer. So, in our example, the rep’s target incentive is $50,000, so the plan would have upside potential of an additional $50,000 (paying 200% of target incentive to the 90th percentile performer). So now, our rep earns his $50,000 base salary for showing up at work and playing nicely; he earns another $50,000 for selling to his quota; and now he earns an additional $50,000 for being a top performer. Some plans pay 300% of target incentive it’s up to the company to decide, but the amount of upside potential is usually determined by the competitiveness of the market to attract and retain top performers and the margins of the business to sustain a certain level of pay for top performance.

 
To me, this is what makes upside potential so interesting: Without the upside potential, the incentive compensation plan favors the company, because it only pays up to quota. The risk is all assumed by the rep; if she doesn’t make her quota, she won’t earn her total target compensation. But if she knocks her quota out of the park, she’s not rewarded much more. Upside potential balances out the risk and reward equation for the rep, making it worthwhile for the rep to put that pay at risk rather than just take a flat salary.

 

Believe it or not, some companies have very little to offer reps above quota. There’s minimal incentive to reach beyond their goals. In the case of our earlier example, the employee seeks a job with a company willing to pay her upside.

 
Let me know if you’ve seen examples of upside well used — or a company that doesn’t believe in it.

 

 

To learn more, please visit 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.

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. 

Using Customer Insight to Become More Productive

 

We all want to please our customers. But how many of us regularly ask them exactly what they want, versus assuming we know how to please them and proceed about our merry way?

Several years ago SalesGlobe hosted a panel discussion about selling to strategic accounts, and one panelist, who had sold to a major grocery chain for years, recalled the impact of hearing the following sentence:

“You know Tom, it’s great when you sell to us how you want to sell to us. But it’s even better when you sell to us how we want to buy.”

 Simple, yet transformative.

How do you evaluate customers and understand what they are looking for? The goal is to use customer information to become a more productive sales organization. How do you look at the market and where it’s headed for competitors? Are there ways of getting insider information that can improve business results, either in terms of the metrics we’re looking at or what we’re hearing back from customers?

Of course, the more we can partner with our customers the more we can drive productivity together. Partnerships and productivity gains are interwoven. At every front, to listen to the customer – logistics, processing, procurement, billing. Partnering in any way possible to create solutions together will improve our productivity and continue to provide great service. Opening up the entire organization from every functional expert to become more efficient for your customer will help you be successful together.

A client we worked with recently held a partner conference to better understand the needs of their customers. They gathered the CIOs of their top 13 customers into one city for two days. The goal was to listen to their customers and understand not only what the sales people are hearing the market, but why they’re hearing it.

Many companies get voice of the customer in pieces and parts, but we have to amass that information. Once amassed, analyze it for patterns and movements in terms of what we’re missing relative to customer expectations. Why are we losing deals and why are we winning deals?

What practical methods have you found for gathering customer insight and using it to drive productivity?

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. 

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.

It’s Good For You: Coaching and Development

Sales training and development can be a little bit like eating your vegetables. Or exercising. You know it’s the right thing to do, but the excuses are so easy and there’s never enough time.

But as the year kicks off there’s really no better way for sales organizations to achieve goals than through coaching.

It’s a critical role for sales managers. Despite its importance, however, it’s under-practiced in many organizations. Sales managers don’t coach for one of two reasons; they don’t have the time, or they don’t know how to do it. But balancing out the role between sales and sales management is crucial to allow bandwidth for coaching time, and setting priorities for sales managers is the first step.

Most companies realize how important sales coaching is. In a recent survey conducted by The Sales Leadership Forum, 84% of companies perceive coaching as either “very important” or “one of the most important factors of sales success” for their organizations. But are sales organizations really interested in doing the work? Surprisingly, although sales people often take a cynical view of training, most sales people are open-minded when it comes to coaching and development that contributes to their success. In fact, 75% of sales leaders see their organizations as receptive to coaching.

If coaching and development are important, what are the benefits? Many of these same companies (44%) aren’t clear on the benefits 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. 

Companies report several challenges in measuring the return on investment in their coaching programs. 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. 

On 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.

How much should a sales manager focus on sales coaching? When we ask managers about how much time they spend on coaching versus other activities in their role, we often get a puzzled look as they think about their range of responsibilities. The fact is spending time on coaching is a challenge for most managers. From the sales executive perspective most leaders (63%) think their sales managers should spend between 30% and 40% of their time on coaching.

But the reality is most sales managers spend less than 20% of their time coaching. That statistic illustrates a gap of about 60% between how much time managers should spend coaching their organizations and how much time they’re actually spending. Such a large disparity may indicate that the message isn’t getting through from executives to managers.

That gap leads to the question of why managers spend so little time actually coaching. One of the biggest challenges we see in both sales management jobs and sales jobs is the time available to focus on their core responsibilities, whether they are selling or sales management. If coaching is a major priority for sales managers, then a premium portion of their time should be dedicated to coaching. That’s not the case. In fact, the top reason companies cite for sales managers not spending more time coaching their teams is they have other management responsibilities that take too much of their time.

A full 70% of companies say that sales managers are held back from coaching because they are too busy with other aspects of their job not always related to sales or sales management. A deeper look reveals that many of these responsibilities are administrative or operational in nature – responsibilities that do not have a direct impact on either revenue growth or development of the team that produces revenue.

 

Forty-seven percent of companies say that managers are not able to coach because other sales responsibilities take too much time. While more productive than administrative or operations activities, this indicates that many sales managers are actually selling rather than coaching. A clearly defined “selling sales manager” job may indeed have both management and selling responsibilities – a hybrid role used occasionally that is typically not as effective as a true sales manager. This allocation of sales manager time begs the question: What is the role of the sales manager? Is it managing or is it selling? High performing sales organizations understand that they gain a greater revenue impact from managers focused on coaching their teams to sell than from sales managers selling directly.

 

Time constraints can take another form. Forty percent of companies said that sales managers just do not make the time to effectively coach, meaning they are finding other things to do with their time. Perhaps they are even deliberately avoiding that ominous task.

 

We know from our research and our work  that a big part of coaching comes down to the priorities of the organization. About one in seven companies (14%) do not require their sales managers to do any kind of coaching or development. If coaching is not a requirement of the organization, other responsibilities – whether they are selling or administration – will always take the front seat.

 

Beyond time, the other top barriers are around knowledge and importance. Forty-four percent of companies said managers do not know how to coach effectively. Therefore, even if they are given the time they do not know what to do with that time. Another 19% said they do not have a methodology for managers to use when they have time to coach.

 

To learn more 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. 

Every Customer Happy Every Time?

Once upon a time a woman went to work for a new company. As she walked around the halls she noticed posters everywhere that read “Every Customer Happy Every Time.”

 So she went to the CEO. “What’s with all of these posters?” she asked.

 “Aren’t they great?” said the CEO with a proud grin.

 “No,” said the woman. “Every customer is not a good customer. We have to take them down. We have to take them down now.”

 It’s a common misperception. Since we all want more customers, it’s natural to assume all customers are good customers and therefore we should do everything we can to make them happy. But it’s also a way to dig yourself into a losing situation.

 One way to prevent a relationship with a losing customer through targeting or segmentation.

 Targeting customers is a practical way to look at customers differently, and can help us to concentrate in some better places.  If we’re going to line our resources up in a place, how do you know where to put them?  It’s about understanding a new market and finding the right customers in that market.  The product or service you are offering is the same, but the customer’s needs might be different. Understand what that customer’s business problem is, how they’re thinking about the problem and how you can address it. 

Do you agree or disagree that “Every Customer Every Time” is a bad idea?

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. 

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. 

Lead Busters Part II

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

Sales pipelines bloated with low quality leads can throw off organization sales forecasts, inflate rep quotas, and lead to missed expectations. Poor lead qualification can also rob the organization of valuable sales headcount by misdirecting thousands of hours of sales time a year toward no-win opportunities. To improve lead qualification and enhance sales force effectiveness, high-performing sales organizations use some of these best practices.

Sell to the right location. Many sellers find out too late that they’re pursuing a lead from a non-buying location. For companies selling to major accounts with multiple buying points, one key is to correctly identify the roles each location plays in the decision. There are essentially three models that most strategic accounts use to make buying decisions that can be matched against each lead. First, headquarters makes a company-wide buying decision that is mandated to all locations, which suggests that most quality leads will reside at that level. Second, headquarters selects preferred vendors the local locations may use. Under this “hunting license” model, the successful sales organization may find a quality lead at both the headquarters and local levels. Third, headquarters allows local locations to make the full buying decision. In this case, the quality lead will reside with each location. Matching the lead location with the decision model identifies potential dead end leads.

Manage to the metrics. Most sales organizations have a wealth of information on past sales processes that can provide them with metrics to manage leads. Two key statistics, expected value and lead age, can act as effective lead management metrics to churn out low quality funnel fodder. Expected value is the product of the budgeted sale and the probably of the close, which, over a large number of accounts provides an accurate sales estimate. Lead age is the total number of days the lead has existed in the funnel. While these metrics are not new, their value is in using historical data on actual probabilities and actual average days to close by customer segment, to force out low quality leads. As a rule of thumb, leads that are one standard deviation older than the average days-to-close for that segment are subject to automatic review and those that are older than two standard deviations are removed from the funnel and forecast.

Build the business case for better lead management. Organizations that are effective at lead qualification and lead management typically drive the change by understanding the cost of their current practices. Sales leads are typically used as a basis for sales forecasts, especially monthly or quarterly forecast adjustments that are within the timeframe of a typical sales cycle. Poor lead qualification can directly affect company sales forecasts and result in visible gaps that create costly market and investor reactions. Just as costly are the direct SG&A dollars spent on low quality leads. For a typical sales force that spends 50% of its time selling with 10% of that spent on no-win leads, recapturing that low quality lead time through better qualification can add the equivalent of one new rep for every four currently employed. This equates to a 25% increase in sales capacity without adding headcount. This is a compelling case for making a systematic improvement to the organization’s lead management capability.

 

Before After
For each sales person: For the sales organization:
2,000 hours worked per year Recapturing 10% time or 200
hours per year per rep
x 50% selling time (10%
poor leads)
x 4 reps
1,000 hours selling time 800 hours or the equivalent
of one new rep’s sales capacity
800 hours quality leads
200 hours poor leads

 

Make lead busting a team practice. Critically managing leads as an individual seller can be a challenging process. Many companies find it more effective to instill a process of team lead busting in which sales teams share funnels on a regular basis and rigorously question top opportunities using basic qualification metrics. In addition to helping each rep objectively evaluate his funnel, the lead busting process often produces team ideas for moving key opportunities ahead.

Create a systemic process for managing leads throughout the organization and aggressively audit lead flow and lead quality. Making lead management an organization discipline can convert sales funnels and sales forecasts from works of fiction to reliable planning tools. Effective lead management can directly increase forecast accuracy, highlight weak points and redirect sales resource time toward productive high probability opportunities.

 

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

Lead Busters: Building a Stronger Sales Funnel Part I

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

Sales people are traditionally quantitative people. Give a rep a new compensation plan and, within five minutes, she’ll tell you how to earn the most with it. However, give a rep a sales funnel and she’ll become fogged by the same optimism that drives her. Most sales people find comfort in a full sales funnel. It looks good to management and creates a personal sense of abundant opportunity. However, funnels bloated with low quality leads can throw off organization sales forecasts, inflate rep quotas, and lead to missed expectations. Poor lead qualification can also rob the organization of valuable sales headcount by misdirecting thousands of hours of sales time a year toward no-win opportunities. To improve lead qualification and enhance sales force effectiveness, high-performing sales organizations use some of these best practices.

Start with rigorous targeting. A quality lead starts with a quality target customer. Since most leads are generated by sales and marketing, this puts the onus on them to select the most attractive customers or potential customers at the outset. The most effective method to select target leads is to translate the organization’s target customer segment definition to clear criteria that sales and marketing can act upon. This includes company characteristics, typical buyer titles, and attractive opportunity types. To test the effectiveness of your targeting, select a good sample of reps and match their target customer and prospect account lists with the company’s target segment definitions. Does the sales organization’s tactical action align with its strategic segment targeting? Do reps self-select their target accounts based on personal preference or comfort level? Targeting prospects that have a poor fit with the company’s objectives dramatically lowers the potential for quality leads.

Map the customer’s buying process. Knowing where the lead is within the customer’s organization can help the rep to improve or write-off the opportunity. It is essential to know the complete buying organization in terms of its decision-making process and criteria. Relationship sellers often rely too heavily on a single close contact to pull through a sale and therefore overrate lead quality. A good place to start is to understand how customers within certain target segments typically make their decisions by mapping the steps, players, criteria and interactions using a number of historic sales processes both won and lost. Consolidate these actual buying process maps and use them to test assumptions on the quality of specific live leads for the same customer segment. Knowing your true position helps you better qualify your opportunities.

 

Read Part II here. To learn more, visit SalesGlobe or email mark.donnolo@salesglobe.com.

Top 5 Ways to Make Culture and Compensation Sync

Consider your current sales culture and the following points when evaluating and designing a compensation plan.

1. Understand the factors that define culture in your organization. What are the assumptions that surround decision making? Are these flexible or hard-lined? Identify the sacred cows in your organization, and gauge whether they are healthy or not. If your sacred cows are unhealthy, what are the gradual steps that can be taken to remove the sacristy and shift toward beneficial cultural elements?

2. Acknowledge how well your organization adapts to change. Whether change is a welcome part of your business or is avoided at all costs, few organizations can survive without some degree of evolution. Understanding your organization’s tolerance for change will suggest ways to manage necessary changes in compensation that may affect the entire business.

3. Align the goals of the sales compensation plan with the goals of finance. When properly aligned, both sales and finance are happy, even within a dysfunctional culture.

4. Healthy cultures enjoy transparency. Crystal-clear financial objectives help to create simple compensation mechanics that motivate the sales people in the right direction. Visibility across the many functions that are involved in sales compensation limits the confusion that can muddy the waters.

5. Make your culture a competitive advantage. What does your ideal culture look like?  Add procedures and processes where chaos rules and release the grip of authority where decisions can be made lower down the ladder.

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

Compensation and Culture: Subtle — and Strong — Powers

 

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

A company’s culture and its sales compensation plan are related by one element: power. Both have the ability to dictate the direction, speed, and effectiveness of an organization. When we work with companies who want to dramatically change their sales compensation plans, we immediately look at their culture.

Consider these questions:

  • Is our organization closer to a Cisco or a Georgia Power?
  • Can our culture sustain change?
  • How difficult will this change be?
  • Do we encourage ideas from the front line or are we a top-down driven organization?
  • When was the last time we implemented a change in our compensation plan, and how well was it received? (Usually the longer the current comp plan has been in place, the more resistance the current culture will be to any changes in incentive pay.)

There are several factors to take into account when evaluating your culture:

1. Urgent versus laissez-faire. Company culture can affect the level of urgency. For example, sometimes an organization might say they want to step up the level of pressure in the sales organization; the leadership doesn’t feel people are really pushing. At one company people were taking vacations at the end of the year rather than trying to close business. The culture permitted lackadaisical behavior and lacked urgency.

2. Visionary vs. reactionary. Many organizations are trying to move toward a visionary culture; a more solutions-oriented culture versus a transactional culture. Most companies are familiar with the complementary/contradictory relationship of hunters and farmers and the differences in the culture they pose, in terms of how your sales organization is oriented.

3. Team-oriented versus individually-oriented. Some companies prefer people to collaborate, while others prefer each man for himself.

These factors act as a foundation when we begin to look at sales compensation. How a company defines culture offers important hints about the priorities of the business, which are the starting points for any well-designed sales compensation program.

 

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.

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.

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. 

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 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. 

The Deal You Can’t Afford to Lose

Maybe your rep just got lucky. She landed an appointment with the CEO of one of your major customers. She had what it takes to get in the door. Now does she have what it takes to close the deal?

Positioning at the C-level in your customer can get your business the visibility and consideration you might not otherwise get. It can differentiate you enough to land the deal you can’t afford to lose while your competitors are scrapping at the middle management level or better yet, negotiating with the procurement department. Develop a sales strategy that aligns to these senior level buyers, which includes understanding what their business issues are and the type of value and messages we need to communicate to capture their attention. One of the biggest complaints CEOs cite is that sellers don’t understand the customer’s business and, more specifically, don’t understand what’s really on the CEO’s mind. Provide meaningful input that addresses how the CEO looks at the business. Talking about product features and benefits to a C-level buyer usually misses the mark. Understanding the concerns of that C-level buyer and where they intersect your offering is a key to successfully navigating the C-suite.

Your organization must also be structured and designed effectively for C-suite selling. Specific sales roles such as major account management, supplemented by experts in the company’s products and applications can combine to provide a business oriented solution with the depth to deliver.

Look at your current inventory of talent and how their capabilities match up to working at the senior level of the customer.

  • Do they have the executive presence to roam the thick carpets of the C-suite?
  • Can they think like the C-level buyer and understand what’s important, or are they simply focused on offering your company’s products?
  • Do they have the creative capability to take your company’s products and meld them with an offering that matches needs of the C-suite?

Some critical points to know about C-suite selling:

1. The referral your account manager received to the senior buyer is perishable. It literally lasts minutes into the first sales call. He or she must be able to convert that reference to credibility very quickly.

2. C-suite buyers need to recognize that your seller knows what’s important to them; your seller understands their business; your seller can develop solutions that will address their needs; and your seller will be effective and efficient with their time, which is a valuable commodity.

3. While relationships matter, they have to be robust, not shallow. More contact time doesn’t necessary mean a better relationship with a CEO. Less contact time and higher impact equals a higher value relationship.

Once you’ve established the relationship and proven to be a valuable partner, the C-level relationship, well-cultivated, can provide an ongoing advantage in your major customers.

 

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

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