Each year, Sales or HR professionals pay for benchmark compensation data. For many, the information is nearly the same each time. Some fractional movement in the average rates is announced. There’s a nagging sense of dissatisfaction. Is it worth the cost to learn so little? HR leaders want to know what the competition is paying.  The benchmark doesn’t really answer the question – it feels like a waste of money.


The benchmark is routinely funded in the HR budget. So the annual tradition continues. This is the year to shake things up. Competitive intelligence is the key.


This post is for HR and Sales leaders who want more. It describes how to get the competitive intelligence you really seek. It also includes a Competitive Compensation Analyzer to help identify your unique situation.  For a deeper dive, review all Sales Compensation emerging best practices in the “How to Make Your Number in 2018” Workbook or our interactive tool.  


By doing these things, you will:


  • Learn the emerging best practices of the brightest sales people in your industry
  • Discover tactical solutions to get the most out of your incentive compensation dollars


Poor Compensation Drives Turnover


In today’s environment, “A” player sales talent is more informed than ever. They know the income-generating potential for their skills and experience. Decisions to stay or change jobs are based on information easily accessible online. Social media provides more insights that are increasingly influential. It’s easy for top sales talent to remain informed about how much they should expect to earn. This is the start of turnover; a very expensive problem to fix.


To compete for and retain “A” Player sales talent, leaders must know what the market is paying. It’s essential to know reasonable salary ranges for the positions in your company. The traditional way to stay informed has been the Sales Compensation Benchmark. But for sales roles, it’s not enough to know “market” conditions. Competitors can have a direct and damaging impact. Knowing the income ranges for each job description is important data. But effective compensation planning requires competitive intelligence.  


Compensation Benchmark Basics


How can you tell if traditional compensation benchmark is sufficient? The benchmark is data gathered by compensation specialists from participating employers. It’s a useful guideline but does not answer the following questions:


  • How much is the competition paying for sales talent?
  • What is the future direction of competitive pay levels?
  • How do competitors structure incentive payouts?


Market Conditions vs. Competitive Threat

The Competitive Compensation Analyzer can help. The benchmark provides data, but little insight. It describes the general market. But a sudden competitive threat can make your pay less attractive – even if market conditions remain the same. Recognizing this requires competitive intelligence – a benchmark falls short.  


Think about the many ways you monitor internal performance: forecasts, pipeline reports and dashboards. Now compare this with how you monitor external industry activity. Is your outward-looking analysis as robust as your internal performance metrics? Most sales organizations lack the insight to factor competitive threats into compensation planning. Yet, the most dramatic threats and opportunities come from the outside.


Wanted: Competitive Intelligence


Competitive intelligence is more than salary data.  It includes insights from sales reps, potential job candidates, sales budgets and recently departed employees. It also includes triangulating these data points into a complete picture. For most firms, this information is not readily available from internal sources. It requires dedicated evidence-gathering.


Social media is a key tool. For example, LinkedIn aids investigators in locating former employees of competitors. Research builds a network of data sources, broadening across the competitive landscape.  Interviews, web research with resources like Glass Door and fact-finding all play a role. Aggregated, the investigative results provide a level of insight beyond tables and charts.


What You Should Do Now


  1. Download the Competitive Compensation Analyzer tool.
  2. Decide if a compensation benchmark will provide all the information your situation requires
  3. Determine if you need competitive intelligence to understand current and future threats
  4. Allocate your benchmark funds to produce the most effective insight
  5. Review all Sales Compensation emerging best practices in the “How to Make Your Number in 2018” Workbook or our interactive tool. 


Start work today on future compensation plans. There’s still enough time to complete the research to make the best decisions. Compensation is the key to attracting, retaining and motivating your “A” players. They are the engine that will enable you to Make the Number next year.  Contact us if you would like to explorer our Compensation Planning services.


Sales Revenue Growth


Andrew Urteaga

Helps motivate clients to design and implement new sales and marketing strategies so that they stay on track to make their number.

Clients describe Andrew as an industry thought leader. He has deep experience as an executive, having served in multiple positions as a sales leader, with a track record of outstanding performance in F500 companies.


Prior to joining SBI, Andrew held the position of VP of Sales at Avis Budget Group where he was responsible for sales and marketing leadership. He also held a variety of positions with Cintas Corporation, a Fortune 500 multi-national company, including key quota carrying positions in the sales force from sales rep through to executive leadership.


Andrew’s work has included everything from lead generation, campaign planning and sales process to designing complete sales management coaching programs and new compensation plans.

Read full bio >