Sales Compensation and Stupid Human Tricks

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Feb 12, 2015 @ 07:02 AM

sales-compensation

Copyright: 123RF Stock Photo

OK, so we'll begin with something more along the lines of stupid pet tricks before we get to stupid human tricks.  There is a great TED talk about two monkeys that were unfairly compensated.  This is a must-see video!  With compensation - fair or unfair - in mind, I reviewed this year's 2015 Sales Compensation Survey Highlights by the Alexander Group and Sales Compensation Solutions.

The first finding that I noticed - we have seen this particular data point in nearly every white paper, report, survey, analysis, study and anecdotal story - is that only 50% of all reps made quota last year.  In surveys like this, a small number of large companies were involved and very often, when the companies are this large, the findings don't apply equally to your company and mine.  However, in this case, it's fair to say that this particular finding accurately represents the state of salespeople and quotas across the board.

The second finding that I noticed is that 60% of the companies will make mid-year adjustments to their quota.  In which direction do you suppose those quota adjustments will go?  The median quota was $2 Million USD.  Let's attempt to determine what the thinking was behind these quota adjustments:

Executive 1: "We will set the quota at $2M this year."
Executive 2, six months later: "Well, reps aren't hitting their quota.  Should we train our sales managers to become more effective at coaching their salespeople, train the salespeople better, evaluate the sales force to find out what's preventing them from being more successful, or all three?"
Executive 1: "Or we could simply lower their quota to show what great managers we are - they'll love us!"
Executive 2: "Yes!  That would be so much easier - we can complete that in an hour.  It could take months for those other 3 suggestions to kick-in!"

I have favorite blogs and newsletters too.  One of my favorites bloggers is Dr. William Campbell Douglass, a renegade MD who exposes the ties, lies and buys that take place between Big Pharma and our government.  I am borrowing a line from this article of his because the line describes what occurred in my imaginary, but very real discussion above.  Dr. Douglass said, "It’s like watching a lunatic argue with himself, and lose."

How else can you explain how quotas are set, missed and adjusted as often as the Boston Red Sox go from worst to first to worst and the New England Patriots go to the Super Bowl?  [Sorry - I had to get a sports analogy in there somehow.]

The Sales Compensation Survey also indicated that 64% of companies plan to increase base pay.  What should you do when your salespeople complain that their commissions aren't high enough?  That's right - they raise the base pay.  If you've been reading my blog since 2006 then you know how I feel about base pay versus commission.  It's not one size fits all and base pay is important to salespeople who are intrinsically motivated while commissions are important to salespeople who are extrinsically motivated.  If you have a plan that offers commissions, there is never, ever a reason to increase the base pay.  If commissioned salespeople want more money, all they have to do is sell more!  Even the CFO's of these companies should be able to figure that one out!  But the more likely scenario is that the same brilliant, large company Sales Leaders who were involved in the "set it, miss it, adjust it" quota goof, gave in to the demands of their large company entitlement-minded salespeople who would leave if they didn't get their raises.  I'm sorry, do they want their salespeople to fail?

The survey findings are good and important - the authors did a great job collecting and reporting on the information and I have nothing but praise for what they produced.  My issues are with the idiots who are running the companies that participated in the surveys!

In most cases, if these companies did a better job on selection - and that goes right to the Sales Leadership roles - all of their salespeople would hit and surpass quota, quota would go up each year, base pay would decrease, commissions would increase, and everybody would be thrilled.  Speaking of selection, there are a two upcoming events you might want to attend:

On February 19, I'll be presenting an online webinar hosted by TAB - The Alternative Board - on how to find, attract, assess, interview, select, hire and retain your next salesperson.  Register here.

On February 26, I will conduct a guided tour of the Magic in Objective Management Group's (OMG) Sales Candidate Assessments.  Register here.

The latest issue of Top Sales World's magazine is available here.  Be sure to check out my article on the best practices for onboarding new salespeople.

And from the "I can't believe it file", I was recently named to 3 more Top 100 lists:

Did you notice that each of these lists are related to Social Selling?  I'm flattered to be on their lists, but I don't consider myself an influencer in Social Selling as much as a participant and protagonist!  When I am influencing relative to social selling, it's usually that we need to spend more time on actual selling and less time pretending to be selling.  

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales compensation, sales commissions, social selling, Top Sales World

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Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader.  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog earned a medal for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for six consecutive years. This article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016, this one earned a Silver medal for 2017, and this article earned Silver for 2018. Read more about Dave.

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