One of the most startling interviews I’ve done with a comp plan manager came last summer when a manager admitted that, at her previous company, half of her time was spent resolving disputes with members of the sales force. The first four hours of every day was committed to dispute resolution—being confronted by unhappy salespeople, trying to research disputes, explaining that research to the salespeople, and hopefully reaching a resolution. Not only was this exhausting—and as clear a path to comp plan manager burnout as there could be—but it prevented her from acting on the ideas and information she gleaned from her work during the second half of the day. There’s a lot of talk about how disputes sap selling time, but they also waste the comp plan manager’s time, too. Comp plan managers are smart people—they have to be to do their jobs. But saddling them with onerous tasks like dispute resolution and then not giving them the tools to automate the drudge work of their jobs is more than cruel. It keeps them from being able to use their talents fully to make the commissions plans they manage deliver the best results possible. Comp plan managers shouldn’t serve as the sales commissions complaint department—they should be doing higher-value things that can boost sales performance. What sorts of things? You could ask them directly, which is the best route. Or you can read below and get an inkling of the additional value these professionals can add to your business if they’re given the tools to let them succeed. Here are five things that comp plan managers can do that deliver greater value than dispute resolution:
Collaborating with Management to Improve Incentives
Sales leadership sets up comp plans, but they’re not the ones who have the best view of how well plans are working in real time. Comp plan managers see this data as it comes in. They have the first view of the success or failure of SPIFs, bonuses, contests, and other incentives. With a little more time, comp plan managers can monitor results against objectives and signal to leadership when results are underperforming to allow remedies to be implemented quickly. Similarly, they can identify programs that work and surface breakthrough successes to allow managers to use the incentives that are working more broadly across the sales organization.
Hunting for Outliers within Payouts
With more time to analyze data—and with modern analytics tools at their disposal—comp plan managers can spot instances where deals reveal problems with plans and work to fix them as quickly as possible. For example, a deal where an inordinate number of people are receiving commission payments should be examined, as should a deal where commission payments are unusually great. By allowing comp plan managers to regain time, they’ll be able to conduct these analyses regularly and help drive down compensation costs, moving money directly to the bottom line.
Correlating Data to Understand Success
The same powerful analytics tools also enable sales comp managers to go deeper and work with sales ops to determine how compensation correlates to other data about sales. If a salesperson’s results increase after a training program or self-driven learning application, leadership needs to know this so it can invest in more training and incentivize greater use of training assets. The same goes for the use of content in enablement and the use of guided selling tools in CPQ. When these things lead to success (or when the lack of their use is associated with poor performance), the associated behaviors should be encouraged though incentives, coaching, and gamification.
Helping Build Better Forecasts
Comp plan managers can track historical information about sales performance better than anyone else in the business. This could make them a tremendous ally for sales leadership as they create their forecasts—if they have time to analyze and report on historical data, for the organization as a whole and for individual sales people. They can also offer input on how current incentives will impact sales performance in the immediate future based on past performance of similar incentives. This is a much better recipe for effective predictability than giving sales leadership raw data and hoping they can extrapolate every insight they need for an accurate forecast.
Coaching Managers about Tactical Incentives
Giving comp plan managers time and ability to study the impact of incentives allows them to provide strategic advice to sales leaders that will lead to improved sales performance. This could mean organization-wide initiatives, variations in comp plans from region to region based on past performance of certain incentives, or even the tweaking of individual salespeople’s comp plans to drive desired selling behaviors. All of these add value to the sales organization and translate into more money at the end of each quarter. They make the comp plan manager a valuable asset for sales managers, finance, and the sales force as a whole. And, not coincidentally, they’re things comp plan managers would rather do instead of dealing with disgruntled sales people.