Commissions on sales are the simplest and perhaps the oldest form of incentives. Sales commission plans are generally easier to communicate to salespeople and at times have a greater impact on salesperson behavior due to their simplicity. They are more prevalent in cases where sales goals are difficult to define, either due to uncertainty in the market or due to the business being new or in an indirect/agent-based sales channel. These types of plans are also common in situations where an organization wants to reward total unit or dollar volume and believes that all individual reps have equal earning potential.
Straight sales commission plans are easy to administer, but at times sales commission plans need to be tweaked to help ensure that salesperson behavior is aligned with organizational goals. It becomes more critical in instances when a salesperson has much more control over price negotiations or the organization would like to focus on sales growth. This post will discuss the different variations of commission-based plans that companies employ to ensure that salesperson behavior conforms to their business objectives.
This is the simplest type of plan in which a flat commission dollar value is paid per unit sale. However, the unit of measurement for which the commission is paid may depend on the company’s objectives. More often than not the flat commission may be paid per dollar of revenue sold by the salesperson or per widget sold.
In such a plan the commission paid increases progressively with the sales unit of measurement. Figure 1 shows an example of a tiered sales commission plan. The increase in commission may be of two types depending on whether the increased commission applies to all revenue or only the marginal revenue which falls in that higher tier :
The commission table above has sales revenue as a basis. However other metrics (such as net profitability of products sold) may determine the tier in which the replies. Here is a list of commonly used metrics by companies to determine the commission tier:
Sometimes commission-based plans and quota achievement plans are mixed to build a hybrid plan. In this, a target is set and reps are paid on the basis of their % target achievement until they reach 100%. Post 100%, in addition to their target incentive, they are paid a fixed percentage as commission on the extra sales they make above their target quota. These types of plans are commonly used in the pharmaceutical sector.
Performance metrics for sales commission plans should always be chosen based on desired business objectives and appropriate safeguards should be introduced to accomplish the end result without being financially irresponsible.
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