By Kevin O’Connell, Founder of Accelerated Consulting Group

In recent discussions with sales leaders, six key issues emerged that captured and deserved their attention. These are the big things that keep sales executives awake at night.

  1. Sales coverage model. Do we have the right type of sales roles and the right number of sales professionals to manage and grow the account base?  Are we able to capture market share and effectively challenge competitive threats with our sales model? Does it support achievement of our sales goals?
  2. Sales process and funnel of qualified opportunities. Do we have a defined sales process, and does the sales team consistently use it?  Is the funnel accurate?  Do the sales process and funnel produce qualified leads?
  3. Accurate sales forecasts. Are our sales forecasts consistently accurate and reliable? How aligned are forecasts with quota or sales goals?  Do sales managers pad quotas as insurance to achieve forecast results?
  4. Talent Management. Are we able to recruit and hire the sales talent required for success?  Can we retain top talent? Are we able to identify and manage out poor performers?
  5. Training and development. Do we invest in our salespeople to develop key skills linked to success?  Do we generate a positive ROI from training?  Can we retain sales talent we developed, or do they go to industry competitors?
  6. Sales compensation. Is our sales compensation plan competitive?  Is it motivating and directing the sales team in the right ways, and driving the right behaviors? Does the incentive plan support achievement of overall sales goals?

These six key issues can ruin any sales executive’s sleep.  Sales compensation can play an important role in helping sales leaders’ efforts to effectively address these issues.

For example, creating an effective sales compensation plan can:

  • Reinforce sales roles and attract the right talent by selecting the appropriate pay mix (salary/incentive as % of total pay).
  • Direct sellers to follow the sales process, as well as generate and close qualified leads, in order to optimize their incentive payouts under a performance-based sales incentive plan.
  • Include a component to reward accurate forecasting. SPIFFs for reps to clean up data for forecasting have also been used successfully.  Salary and merit increases can reinforce desired behaviors if accurate data and forecasting is considered part of the sales job.
  • Reinforce messages from sales management to poor performers using effectively designed sales incentives. At one extreme, sales incentives may starve out poor performers.  However, low or no incentive payouts consistent with sales management feedback and performance improvement plans are typically a better approach.
  • Sales compensation (salary and incentives) can support attainment of key skills necessary for success. For example, competency-based salary programs have been successfully used in pharmaceutical sales to reward new skills and capabilities.

Strategic, well-designed sales compensation plans can play a major role in helping sales leaders confront the key challenges keeping them up at night.


Accelerate Consulting Group’s mission is to help clients improve sales performance by:

-Creating strong, coherent alignment between strategy, the drivers of organizational and sales effectiveness, and an organization’s people.

-Focusing on execution, with the tactics and capabilities that will support change and create success.

-Developing practical solutions that can be implemented to drive results.