Changing Corporate Culture with Commissions

Preparing for C3 2016 is a lot of work when you’re part of the team staging the event. Much goes on behind the scenes, and the pace gets more intense right up until the opening keynote begins. But there are lots of great things about preparations for the event as well.

Changing culture with commissionsMy favorite part is getting to preview the presentations. We typically have at least one call with presenters to review content, presentations, structure and other elements of their sessions. Because our customer marketing team does a great job recruiting customer speakers who are innovative, that means I get to hear some very interesting stories.

During one of these calls, a speaker in one of our Commissions sessions did a fine job explaining the reasons his company needed compensation management software. The usual reasons came out: they needed to cut administrative costs, eliminate mistakes and conflicts, become more agile in their ability to modify plans, and other similar productivity-based drivers.

Then he dropped the bomb. “The real reason we need it is because we want to change our culture through the use of commissions.”

His objective is to use incentives to drive selling behaviors that go beyond simply closing the sale today and instead set the stage for future sales over a long customer relationship. In other words, commissions are the vehicle for a shift in the sales force’s thinking: stop thinking about today’s deal and think long-term. Think about the customer experience. Think about what customers really need from sales, and work to deliver it – not just to get a signature on a contract but to create a relationship that leads to many more signatures in the future.

And, of course, dear sales professional – we’ll pay you to change your thinking.

This concept mirrors closely what we’ve been saying for a while, and hearing it from a customer was very exciting. The speaker’s company gets it: sales as usual is coming to an end. The day of the salesperson as a subject matter expert – someone who adds value to the buyer’s decision-making process – is already here and it demands a rapid shift. And what do you do to get your sales force to do something different? You incentivize their behaviors.

Companies are constantly saying they want to be more customer-centric. They unfailingly claim that customer experience is a high priority – according to an Accenture study, 85 percent of executives say that customer experience is important to their companies’ strategic priorities. If that’s the case, why aren’t more of them putting mechanisms to change behaviors? Simply telling people to be more aware of the customer experience isn’t enough.

The commissions-driven cultural shift doesn’t have to be limited toward customer experience. Commissions can drive a greater use of technology, or toward selling certain products, or toward maximizing up-selling and cross-selling – in other words, it can drive whatever behaviors you wish to see in your organization. Keep reinforcing those behaviors, and eventually they become ingrained in the way your sales team works. When that happens, you can look for the next area of improvement – and change the incentives. If they were set up properly, they conferred benefits on the sales force that will persist even after compensation has changed, because they drive more revenue and greater commissions.

We have several Commissions customers lined up to speak at C3, including EMC, Vivint, Telus, Dreyfus Corporation and Sky UK. All of them have stories that show how powerful commissions can be when they’re used to drive behaviors rather than simply used as payroll for the sales team. If you understand the direction your sales organization needs to shift toward but don’t have a firm plan to make that shift happen, you owe it to yourself to go to C3 and learn how to drive cultural change with commissions.

By Chris Bucholtz | April 21st, 2016 | C3

About the Author: Chris Bucholtz

Chris Bucholtz

Chris Bucholtz is the content marketing director at CallidusCloud and writes on a host of topics, including sales, marketing and customer experience. The former editor of InsideCRM, his weekly column has run in CRM Buyer since 2009. When he's not pondering ways to acquire and keep customers, Chris is also an avid builder of scale model airplanes.