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Sales organizations are under constant pressure to maximize their potential. To accomplish this they need to integrate their people and processes with those of the finance and operations groups and have access to all available information and useful technology. This is particularly true in the area of sales compensation, which when managed properly recognizes accomplishments, rewards success and motivates people. However, we find that few sales organizations take a comprehensive approach to sales compensation management.
Sales needs a well-developed compensation strategy that utilizes incentives and rewards to motivate sales talent. To optimize sales compensation strategies and processes requires access to all relevant information about quotas, territories, forecasts and bookings. Organizations have invested in technology for sales force automation (SFA), enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM), but these systems are not designed to manage sales compensation.
Our recent benchmark research on sales compensation management reveals key indicators on the state of this critical sales activity and best practices and key insights that can help organizations improve. It is no surprise that nearly all research participants said sales compensation is very important (for 73%) or important (22%) to the success of a sales organization. An effective sales compensation requires efficiently running processes automated through software to manage data, models used to calculate commissions and workflow and communication with sales professionals.
Our analysis of the performance of organizations in sales compensation places fewer than one in five (17%) at the highest Innovative level. Each succeeding lower level tallied a larger percentage; the largest percentage (37%) rank at the lowest Tactical level of performance. Further analysis by industry and size of organization and sales team shows that the largest organizations manage sales compensation best. When measured by overall revenue, the very large have the greatest percentage (47%) at the Innovative level, significantly more than other sizes of organization. Our analysis also finds that larger organizations have both more sales people to manage and more resources to apply to sales compensation.
In addition, we find that more than one-third (34%) have impediments that are motivating management to consider further investments in sales compensation. The most common impediments are inconsistent execution in sales (61%), lack of sales effectiveness (48%), limited alignment of sales and strategy (45%) and scattered sales information (41%). Almost two-thirds of organizations with few or no impediments are satisfied with their current process, substantially more often than others. for the research finds that organizations that have impediments often have obstructions to making technology investments, primarily no budget (for 42%), low priority (38%), a business case that is not strong enough (37%), lack of resources (37%) and lack of awareness (28%).
On the positive side, we see positive results from such investments. Two-thirds of those that use dedicated sales compensation software have improved the outcomes of their sales activities and processes significantly (38%) or slightly (30%). One of the benefits of a dedicated approach is that commissions can be processed faster and more accurately: More than half (57%) of such organizations process them in less than a week. Another, more sophisticated benefit is that the sales force is aligned to business strategy and goals, which 43 percent ranked first, more than any other. Other benefits cited are better management and tracking of the progress of product and sales initiatives (by 30%), improved communications to Sales on the status of compensation (26%) and improved auditing and compliance of sales forecasts to goals and targets (25%). Among those planning to adopt dedicated sales compensation the highest-ranked expected benefits are to increase revenue and grow the business in terms of net new customers.
Improving outcomes also requires metrics that are aligned to sales objectives. In our research the most common metrics to measure overall sales performance are quota attainment (65%), revenue attainment (63%) and customer revenue (51%). Each of these metrics can be tied to compensation, rewards and incentives. Organizations should make sure that the sales compensation software they use facilitates creating, tracking and reporting on metrics, which is essential to examining overall sales performance of which commissions earned are only a component.
Managing and improving sales performance must include a focus on the efficiency of processes for compensation and commissions, and it often involves more functions than sales force management. Sales Operations should assess its own efforts, as should Finance, which increasingly (in 31% of organizations) sponsors and funds investment and influences and wants to improve process or wants to access information for improving performance. Finance increasingly has a key role in calculating and processing commissions: In about 40 percent of very large organizations Finance performs these tasks, and Sales Operations performs it in about half of organizations. We conclude that sales compensation requires teamwork to ensure that the process, information and supporting software are managed optimally. As well as an organizational commitment to ensuring proper management, a dedicated approach to sales compensation can save time and resources while providing more accurate and timely payment of commissions. If your organization has questions in managing sales compensation, our research and expertise can provide guidance in making a detailed assessment.
CEO and Chief Research Officer
It is more important than ever for businesses to attract and retain the best talent, and managing compensation effectively is an essential tool for doing so. Obviously companies must pay well to compete, but managing salary, merit pay, variable pay and incentives for employees, tracking their hiring anniversaries and conducting accurate performance appraisals make total compensation management a complex process. All of this must be managed within budget and policy guidelines. As organizations grow and require more employees, the challenges multiply and the difficulty increases. Our benchmark research finds that inconsistent execution is the top impediment to effective compensation management for nearly half (47%) of organizations. Software designed for this purpose can help.
Beqom, which has offered compensation management software since 2009 and previously was known as Excentive International, has advanced its applications to meet these challenges for all business units and especially Human Resources, which typically manages this process. It supports a range of compensation types from salary, merit and bonus pay to long-term incentives and stock options.
Beqom is rated a Hot Vendor in our 2014 Value Index for Total Compensation Management. Each Value Index methodically assesses vendors across seven evaluation categories covering the products and the vendors. Beqom ranks high in several evaluation areas; in particular it tops the list in Capability and ranks second in Manageability. The software’s flexibility in modeling can address all aspects of compensation, including sales compensation, in one application. For example, its ability to handle the variety of crediting from accounts and territories is effective for sales operations teams. In addition its ability to make compensation visually engaging in management of employees and hierarchies and tracking of budgets is simple and engaging. Its ability to define and apply rules and calculation helps support a range of compensation and incentive plans. Its compensation dashboard and reporting simplify oversight and management of compensation. The application has been designed to enable HR and operations professionals to administer and manage compensation processes with minimal IT involvement, which is one reason why it rated so high in Manageability. While beqom does not provide much public information on its advancements from one release to another, and I believe it should do more, it does bring out iterative improvements quarterly through feature packs and makes major new releases annually.
Since the publication of our Value Index, beqom has taken steps to demonstrate its total cost of ownership (TCO), which we found lacking. One unique aspect in which it has invested is to take the complexity of implementation and maintenance costs out of customers’ migration to its software. The company charges a single annual fee to migrate, implement and deploy. Most organizations do not assess costs beyond the use of the software and are surprised by extra fees for migration and implementation. Even in cloud computing there is no magic to migrate a company to a new application environment. Unlike many vendors beqom addresses these issues in procuring software by building in the services needed.
It also is different from others in the market that have integrated compensation management with their talent management suites. While there is value in a unified approach, many organizations don’t want to replace other talent management applications (such as recruiting and performance management) to acquire compensation management through a suite, and beqom’s stand-alone package suits this preference. Even so beqom has integrated its software with talent management applications in customer deployments and can help share compensation information with them.
Our compensation management research finds opportunity for vendors in replacing spreadsheets used for this purpose, which remain prevalent. A large majority (71%) of organizations have found some type of errors in payment that had to be fixed before payment or had to be corrected after the fact. Such problems create challenges in financial accuracy, employee trust and the ability to govern compensation. This is a factor in more finance organizations getting involved to help improve compensation processes; our research finds that in almost one-third of organizations Finance is stepping up to influence improvements. Almost one-fourth of finance departments want direct access to this information for financial planning and analysis. Software such as beqom’s can help organizations replace spreadsheets and more importantly reach the primary goals of compensation management: improvement of efficiency, alignment and performance, which are important to about nine out of 10 participants in our research. Closing the gaps in compensation policies and practices is critical, and managing it effectively and transparently can build confidence and trust among employees.
Seeing is believing with beqom. If you are assessing your current approach and considering changes to simplify compensation management, it is worthwhile to view a demonstration of what it can do.
CEO and Chief Research Officer