Incentive compensation plans that get you to your revenue goal.

Today’s post focuses on how to approach a commission-based plan to reward your best people. It’s difficult to grow revenue faster than your industry’s growth rate and faster than your competitors. The Revenue Growth Diagnostic interactive tool will help you determine if you are likely or unlikely to make your number.


Many companies often pay commissions too early, resulting in overpayment to ‘C’ players. This exhausts the variable sales compensation budget and leaves little for top performers. If you lose your best reps because they can make more money elsewhere, you can kiss next year’s goal goodbye.


Take the two examples below. Each rep has a $100K base, $100K incentive, and $1M target – a 20% cost of revenue (CoR) at plan. Look more closely at the yellow shaded boxes.


In figure 1, the first $500K in annual revenue costs the company 30%, including salary. If that individual fails to perform beyond 50% of the goal, the company is saddled with a high cost of sales for below average performance. Not to mention, the rep made $150K for batting below average. Want to keep your ‘C’ players happy? Mission accomplished.


Now look at figure 2. Here, the rep has to meet at least 50% of the annual quota before earning commissions. This cuts the cost of sales down to 20% for salary only.


The impact? The company now has $50K in variable compensation to allocate towards top performers.


If you turn your attention to the payouts for 150% quota attainment, you will see the top rep in figure 2 makes $325K, compared to $250K in figure 1.


Sales Compensation Commission Models


You may be thinking the 5% higher CoR in figure 2 disproves the model. There are 2 reasons why this is an incorrect assumption:


  1. By not paying your bottom performers, the overall CoR for the team will level itself out
  2. Paying a 1:1 commission ratio for performance above 100% in figure 1 reduces plan “excitement.” There is no incentive to sell past 100% commission if they can sandbag and start off next year with the same payout dollars


So now what?


Here’s the “net it out” action item you and your Sales Operations Manager can do immediately:


  • Review every sales rep’s % to quota YTD
  • Look at the incentive payout multiple between your #1 and bottom performer YTD
  • Add up all the dollars you’ve paid for below 50% quota attainment
  • Look at the impact of paying those dollars to your best performers


Fix your sales compensation models and turn your top performers into lifelong superstars for your company.  If you have any questions or need feedback, leave me a comment below.


Do you want to hear more about how world class companies are redesigning their sales incentive plans for next year? Consider participating in the research tour advertised below where we review case studies of sales compensation programs in action.


Have expectations gone up and left you wondering if you can make your number? Here is an interactive tool that will help you understand if you have a chance at success. Take the Revenue Growth Diagnostic test and rate yourself against SBI’s sales and marketing strategy to find out if:

  • Your revenue goal is realistic
  • You will earn your bonus
  • You will keep your job





Bill Turner

Works with clients to turn vision into strategy, strategy into executable roadmaps, and roadmaps into measurable results.

Bill joined SBI as a Senior Consultant to advance his practice as a sales & marketing effectiveness catalyst. In addition to his natural passion and creativity, he brings decades of experience in driving B2B sales performance, operational excellence, and the effective use of business intelligence and information technology in pursuit of productivity and profit.


In particular, Bill excels at facilitating the efforts of global and/or cross functional initiatives, always ensuring that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Applying the breadth of his expertise across multiple disciplines and cultures, he enables his clients to envision, design, and realize new and improved business models and processes.


He has a passionate commitment to ongoing professional education and is grateful to have learned from numerous mentors and business partners who he considers the source of his skills and expertise.


His diverse experience includes:

  • Large scale program management
  • High technology companies
  • Sales operations
  • Sales compensation
  • Financial reporting and analysis
  • Business analysis and process optimization
  • Systems design and implementation
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