October 3, 2011

My perspective on CSO INSIGHTS 2011 Sales Compensation and Performance Management – Key Trends Survey

Jim Dickie and Barry Trailer of CSO INSIGHTS do a great job every year of taking the pulse of sales leaders and sharing their survey results and opinions.  The 2011 Sales Compensation and Performance Management – Key Trends survey is another good read from Jim and Barry, and as we have come to expect, their insights and observations add a lot of value to the raw results.  

A copy of the survey results is available at   http://bit.ly/pbvNHG

As I was preparing for a conference presentation next month, I was re-reading the results and I was struck by one chart in particular.  When the question was asked – What aspects of your comp plan would you change, and in what order?   

The top three results were
  • Management’s ability to judge plan effectiveness
  • Management's visibility into sales performance
  • Ability to model plan revisions
The bottom three, in terms of priorities were
  • Managing credits, exceptions and adjustments
  • Minimize inquiries and disputes
  • Support compliance requirements

The complete list is good, and I am sure that anybody reviewing it could not disagree with it as a whole.  This list however, represents the perspective of sales leaders as it relates to compensation.  I wonder, if we asked CFOs, Compensation Teams, and HR leaders how they feel, would we get the same list and the same priorities.  My hunch is that while other groups wouldn’t disagree with any of the requested changes, they believe that the fast and accurate payment of commissions, and minimizing inquiries and disputes will increase sales job satisfaction and give the sales team more time to sell by reducing their administrative effort and shadow accounting efforts.  This could be argued as one of the biggest benefits of automating the commissions management process and therefore made the top priority for the compensation team.

I have often talked about the need for cross-functional organization alignment, around goals and priorities when implementing a Sales Performance Management System.  If the cross-functional team isn’t aligned as to what the short and long term goals and objectives are, then the projects are in risk of cost and time overruns and missing expectations of some group when it is delivered.   What this chart got me thinking is that it’s not enough to make sure that the list of goals is correct, but also that they are prioritized and agreed upon by the whole team.   Getting alignment from the start will save everyone a lot of time and effort in the long run.


Barry Trailer said...


Thanks for the shout out and kind remarks. You make an important point. With all the talk about sales & marketing alignment, we are amazed each year to see the huge percentage (58%)of firms that do not have a formally agreed upon definition of a qualified lead.

As you point out, there are likely similarly disconected priorities and objectives between sales & finance/hr around sales comp. Your suggestion of aligning these up front makes good sense!

Barry Trailer
Managing Partner
CSO Insights

Bernie Kassar said...

Great insights, Brian. Couldn't agree more. At Xactly, we've seen companies transform revenues simply when they give sales leaders and reps real-time visibility into their sales performance. Sales leaders definitely need to start developing success strategies for 2012. Good advice from Cygnal Group on designing effective sales compensation plans here: http://www.xactlycorp.com/media/2011/10/starting-2012-off-right-redesign-your-compensation-plan/