Sales compensation is a realm of apples and oranges. If you’re in the process of evaluating your employees’ compensation packages, here are a few pitfalls to avoid. To go deeper, leverage the Sales Compensation phase of the How to Make Your Number in 2018 Workbook. Turn to page 395 of the Sales Strategy section to review emerging best practices for compensation planning.


Sales Comp Pitfalls to Avoid


Misjudging Quota to Compensation Level:

The first element you need to consider is the quota to compensation level, because it helps you understand whether or not it’s sustainable. Say you pay a sales professional a base of $200,000 per year plus a variable. The compensation level is within the average range for similar roles in the industry, but the sales quota is $1 million, yielding a quota-to-compensation ratio of 5 to 1. That’s a terrible margin where costs can’t be sustained by revenue. Ideally the ratio should be 10 or 12 to 1.


Compensation planning is shy of rocket science, but not too shy. Beware of Complex Incentives:

Sometimes management takes a balanced compensation plan and loads on three or four incentive metrics, adding layers of complexity to compensation calculations.


Any incentive plan that reeks of complexity will result in paralysis and nonincentivized behavior. When it becomes too complex to perform the right activities, people get frustrated and leave. The purpose of incentive compensation is to incentivize one, or at most, two behaviors. The key is to determine what one or two incentives align best with your overall business objectives.


Don’t Fall Into a Benchmarking Survey Trap:

When planning compensation, make sure it’s the norm for the role (and its activities), the geography, and the industry. But beware of making comparisons against data generated by compensation benchmarking surveys. Oftentimes, there are no systems in place to ensure survey data is accurate or applicable. And many respondents misreport numbers — what competitive sales professional wants to admit that his or her compensation might be less than the next rep?


The most useful compensation data is generated through competitive intelligence. The process involves hiring a firm (like us) to acquire the compensation plans of whomever you compete with for talent. Through competitive intelligence, you generate highly valuable, useful planning data rather than the random, unreliable sales comp data points benchmarking firms provide.


Compensation planning is shy of rocket science, but not too shy. It requires compensation and performance management systems with relevant data and effective coaching at the center. These systems provide deep, meaningful insights into how people are recruited, compensated, and placed within territories. It’s an often-overlooked strategy that heightens your competitive edge.

To dive deeper, leverage the Sales Compensation phase of SBI’s How to Make Your Number in 2018 Workbook or use our interactive tool. Turn to page 395 of the Sales Strategy section to review emerging best practices for compensation planning.


Sales Revenue Growth


Mike Drapeau

Makes data and analysis come alive so clients can understand the “what” and “why” and design solutions that fit the environment.
Mike has led every function at SBI – Delivery, Sales, Talent, and Technology. Now he is a leader for Account Management, Private Equity Partnership, and long-term business development at SBI.


He has personally led over 100 projects for SBI over his decade+ time since its founding in 2006.


This starts by earning trust – of clients, of PE firms, of prospects. Mike obtains this by leveraging deep domain expertise, with more than 25 years in sales, competitive intelligence, sales management, marketing enablement, product management, pre-sales and sales operations. Mike relishes the idea of living in the field. So he does.


As a founding partner, Mike built out SBI’s library of emerging best practices for sales and marketing, which leads to evidence-based solutions, custom-fit to each client. Mike built himself many of the solutions now part of the Revenue Growth Methodology. And whatever he touches gets adopted. This is part of his commitment to making it happen in the field.
Read full bio >