BSC’s Design Guide to Success – Part 10

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.

10. Design Plans with Attention to Communication Messages

Creating new plans and securing official executive approval leaves one crucial step left if you want to be successful – communicating and implementing the new plans!  In too many cases, companies either do not leave enough time or enough resources to complete this essential step.  After working hard to assess the plans, create news plans to drive results, and build consensus and support at all levels of management, seeing all that effort crumble under the weight of a shoddy rollout can be heart breaking. To ensure great performance in this final step, we offer the following insights:

  • Use the communication opportunity to its fullest value. If you’ve ever thrown a tennis ball to an eager Golden Retriever, you know one thing for certain – you have her complete attention.  Those eyes never leave the bright yellow ball ready to spring from your hand.  When salespeople prepare to hear about their compensation, guess what? You have their complete attention.  We strongly encourage companies to use this session to provide the messages you most want them to hear, particularly about this year’s sales strategy and how the members of the sales organization are essential to the company’s success
  • Focus on more than the “what” behind the new plans. We’ve seen too many rollout presentations jump right into plan measures and how they calculate pay, often in gory mechanical detail.  That’s great and certainly important, but there should be some build up. Think what else they may need to know to understand this story’s punch line, such as…
  • Focus on the “why” of the plans.  Talk about the purpose behind the plan changes. What happened last year? What’s new this year? Why are the changes being made?  What drove the outcome of your plan design effort? Salespeople may not always agree with all of the information shared, but people (yes, even salespeople) learn and embrace new things when they have a greater sense of understanding. Attempt to offer it and anticipate one key question – “why?”
  • Focus on the “how”.  In this case, help them understand the (hopefully) rigorous process you followed.  Salespeople most despise when decisions are made from the nebulous “black box”. Hopefully, you have followed a process that garnered field feedback, collected market perspectives, and carefully weighed options. If you follow Tip Three, you included respected design team members.  The plan communication effort is a great time to champion your process and build confidence in its outcome.
  • Create the right materials. The best plan communication strategies include a range of crucial documents, namely the Plan Document itself (describes the plan for a specific role), the Terms and Conditions (contains all the rules and specifics that support the plan), and Plan Calculators (helpful Excel-based worksheets with the new plan programming so salespeople can test and better understand pay results from potential results achieved).  In addition, rollout presentations should be carefully communicated, first to the frontline sales managers and then on to the salespeople themselves (in the process identified below).
  • Cascade the plan communication and repeat as necessary.  Recent psychology studies indicate that humans retain 30% (we actually think it’s even less than that) of what they hear on a good day. Repetition is often a great way to increase odds of retention.  In the case of a comp plan rollout, the messaging approach and messenger both matter.  We normally recommend that the head of sales communicates the plan details to frontline management.  Next, the head of sales should reveal the “what”, “how”, and “why” to the salespeople, and the frontline managers, having already been well-trained on the content, should follow-up with one-on-one sessions and/or question-and-answer events. Cascade the communication; repeat as necessary.  One final point – we highly recommend a sales summit or get together within the first two weeks of the new plan year.  Particularly in periods of significant strategic changes, role adjustments, and new plan deployment, the face-to-face time greatly contributes to a successful rollout and a kick start to your sales results.

BSC’s Guide to Success: In Conclusion

We hope our Top Ten Tips help you ensure a successful plan assessment and design outcome.  These pieces of advice were identified while working with clients to solve their most daunting and important sales effectiveness and sales compensation issues.  There are certainly other topics worth considering, particularly around best practices in sales compensation design, which we will tackle in upcoming white papers, books, and publications.  But we are confident that the tips provided here can help you achieve a better design process and a better overall outcome.

Here’s to a future of better design processes and better sales compensation plan designs!