Incentive compensation plans that get you to your revenue goal.

Imagine a compensation approach where you pay the stars by starving the dogs.  One of our clients adopted our recommended approach and six months later many of their ‘C’ players had switched jerseys and were bogging down the top competitors. A competitor may have done this to you in the past. Leverage the How to Make Your Number in 2018 Workbook to access a revenue growth methodology to hit your number quarter after quarter, and year after year.


It’s common to hear sales leaders voice a desire to have On Target Earnings (OTE) in line with industry peers. Paying a competitive mix of base salary and variable is critical to attracting top sales talent. The problem is many companies don’t go beyond assessing total earnings. Purchasing compensation data from Radford, PayScale or is only the first step in determining if your pay levels are comparable with world class, but it doesn’t tell you how to pay your sales reps. If the base-variable mix isn’t right, your best people will leave and your worst people will stay forever.


Compensation plans are often too complex, and other times they are too simplistic. As your company evolves its strategy and you evolve your sales strategy, the compensation program needs to keep up. Old compensation concepts are both a blessing and a curse. Stick to the way you have always done things and you are sure to miss your revenue targets but over-rotate to the new concepts, and you will push talented reps out the door. It is imperative to refresh the incentive compensation program at least once per year if you want to hit the revenue target.


The downstream effect of paying the wrong mix of base and variable is threefold:


  1. Can’t attract ‘A’ players
  2. Can’t keep ‘B’ players
  3. Can’t shake ‘C’ players


‘A’ Players


The Problem: The best sales reps want the best compensation plans. If your sales compensation model doesn’t allow your top performers to make a killing for world class performance, ‘A’ players won’t be interested.


The Fix: Make sure the leveraged component of your compensation model rewards your ‘A’ players. Your top performers should make 3X to 4X your bottom performers.


‘B’ Players


The Problem: ‘B’ players are your developmental bench to become future stars. If your plan doesn’t allow them to earn a living while climbing their way to the top, they will grow impatient and leave.


The Fix: Test your current sales compensation model to determine the excitement level of the plan (see chart). At what point does the leveraged component begin paying for performance in a way that will create excitement for your ‘B’ players.


Sales Compensation Model resized 600


The example shown here illustrates an issue your compensation model may have in driving excitement as your reps near 100% of their goal. If I continue to improve my performance, yet the upside is relatively small, I’m not motivated to keep pushing for the next level of success.


‘C’ Players


The Problem: If your sales compensation model has a healthy base salary, you might think this is the key to attracting ‘A’ players to your organization. Wrong. ‘A’ players want an attractive OTE and are willing to put more at risk for a bigger upside. Big base salaries attract ‘C’ players who live off their paychecks and don’t sell for your organization.


The Fix: Review your sales compensation model to determine if your OTE is at the 60th percentile of your industry peer group. From there, determine if the base-variable mix is in line. Fund the 3X compensation for the ‘A’ players by starving your ‘Cs.’ The ‘Cs’ will leave and go work for your competitors.


Want to stop paying your ‘C’ players for poor results?  Play chess when it comes to Compensation Planning. As a guide to go deeper, download our 10th annual workbook, How to Make Your Number in 2017 and turn to the Compensation Planning phase on pages 308 to 313 of the PDF workbook.  


How to make your number




Matt Sharrers

Leads the firm's focus on the CEO’s role in accelerating revenue growth by embracing emerging best practices to grow revenue faster than the industry and competitors. 

Matt Sharrers is the CEO of SBI, a management consulting firm specialized in sales and marketing that is dedicated to helping you Make Your Number. Forbes recognizes SBI as one of The Best Management Consulting Firms in 2017.


Over the course of nearly a decade at SBI, Matt Sharrers was an instrumental early partner guiding SBI as the Senior Partner. Matt’s functional responsibilities included acting as the head of sales where he led SBI’s double-digit revenue growth, and was responsible for the hiring function to build SBI’s team of revenue generation experts.


Prior to joining SBI in 2009, Matt spent eleven years leading sales and marketing teams as a Vice President of Sales. Matt has “lived in the field.” As a result, he is the foremost expert in the art of separating fact from fiction as it relates to revenue growth best practices. CEOs and Private equity investors turn to Matt’s team at SBI when they need to unlock trapped growth inside of their companies.



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