Each week, we will highlight one of BSC’s Top Ten Tips from our acclaimed Design Guide to Success. To download the full guide, click on to the Articles page.
8. Include Outside/Market Perspectives
The old adage starts as follows: “If your brother jumped off a cliff would you do it too?” It makes sense to conclude from that adage that just because you notice something in a benchmark or trend study, doesn’t mean you need to follow as well. In fact, significant trends that require a competitive reaction or consideration are usually slower to evolve or are the action of a specific market competitor that won’t show up in a formal study. Chances are you’ll hear about it from a recruiter or one of your stronger employees. Still, keeping an ear to the ground and an eye on the market is important to not be caught by surprise by one of your colleagues in another department. Some recommendations:
- Encourage your company to participate in studies. Most require only a reasonable amount of energy and they are a sign someone thinks the topic matters. The data can be helpful and the individuals conducting the study will be helpful to you when you are looking for input on your special topic (yes, you should participate in the survey invites we send you!). The most common studies, of course, comprise pay data studies performed by a number of targeted survey companies. This data is certainly helpful, particularly for target and actual total compensation. We typically caution companies to treat these data points as only directionally correct. The market sources cannot tell you “the perfect number” to offer your specific roles, but they do offer additional points of reference for consideration.
- Attend topical conferences. Whether it is a Sales Management Association event, the WorldatWork’s Spotlight on Sales Compensation conference, or an SPM (Sales Performance Management) vendor’s annual users and prospects meeting (like Varicent’s Insight Conference), it’s valuable to take the time to attend and to meet fellow practitioners. The sessions and networking can be informative, confirm your practices, or give you new ones to consider. And if you ever need a new job, well, networking can work for that purpose as well!
- Sponsor an industry forum or network session. Work with a third party to organize and facilitate a hot-topics session with members of your industry. Such sessions will often lead to the most pertinent information on things you care about most. Hot-topic surveys in advance of the sessions can help to organize key discussion sessions. Participants should come prepared for in depth conversations not just about what companies do but what works and why it works for them.
- Ask new hires from competitive firms or other leading companies. When you hire a new sales person, it can be helpful to leverage what they know about the organization from which they came. Indeed, this type of competitive intelligence can often provide the freshest and most accurate approach to understanding market practices, leading to the consideration of new ideas and alternatives.
Outside perspectives should be carefully considered but certainly not followed without special consideration on your specific needs. In some cases, prevalent market practices are far from best or what we like to call “better” practices. And neither may be an exact fit for your environment, but failing to consider other viewpoints or ideas will certainly hamper the chances for an optimal outcome.