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Those of us who sell, or are involved with administering the sales commission plans of, service based products such as SaaS software and/or Professional Services know them to be, well, unique (to say the least). Sales compensation plans for these product types always seem to vary from company to company and never seem to be as easy to manage as they should be.
To anyone who thinks that Sales Performance Management is only for the corporate world, think again. An article this week that caught our attention describes how Oklahoma City Girl Scout Katie Francis recently broke the world record in cookie sales by selling 18,107 boxes of cookies this past year.
The debate about whether Sales Ops should be on a sales comp plan can be quite lively. On one hand, sales operations can mean different things to different organizations and be the root of some deeply rooted opinions. Some Sales Ops roles may greatly influence sales results and outputs (i.e. setting quota’s or deal level opportunity identification) while others may have more of a focus on activities such as training or sales compensation administration. In short, it can get a bit confusing about what is the best way to approach this question. Simplifying this complex issue and adding some context and definition to the issue is the first step in making the right decision.
An interesting article was published recently by Adamson, Dickson & Tomas of CEB in the Harvard Business Review 'Why Individuals No Longer Rule on Sales Teams' which certainly got my attention.
Sales Performance Management is a term that has evolved over the past few years to describe the process of measuring and rewarding sales performance. In the past, similar industry terminology such as Sales Incentive Compensation Management (ICM), Enterprise Incentive Management (EIM), and many other acronyms were popularized by consultants and practitioners to describe the same fundamental process of measuring and rewarding sales achievement. Practitioners using the term Sales Performance Management typically refer to three keystone elements to the process;
Simplicity is a phrase that comes up often when discussing sales compensation. Phrases like "Plans need to be simple so they can be understood clearly", "keep the measures to less than three or four so it does not get too complicated" etc. are common for a reason. It is hard to focus on and do many things well. This philosophy transcends just talk of plan design and should impact your view your whole sales comp process. Execution of the entire process has to be as important as the elegance of a well designed sales compensation plan. To execute, it helps to narrow your focus to just a few items and do them well.
Improved Sales Performance Reporting (New Years Resolution #1) is a vital element of your Sales Performance communication strategy, but it is just one element of a broader effort. When you are dealing with a sales force that is spread out geographically, the quality of forethought that you put into your communication strategy can be the difference between success and failure.
One of the core SPM 'Best practices' that managers in sales, finance and HR should always remember when accessing the state of their Sales Compensation process is the proven value of being able to reward actions that are aligned with your sales and company goals as soon as possible once they occur. (click here for a more in depth discussion)
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