What I Wish I Knew About Incentive Compensation Plan Assessment Best Practices

What I Wish I Knew is back with special guest Mark Davis, Associate Partner at Aon. We sit down and talk about a topic top of mind in this rollercoaster of a market. Mark and I cover incentive compensation plan assessment best practices: what works, what doesn’t, and what gets in the way. Mark has decades of experience in this field, you won’t want to miss his valuable insights on how to get the most out of your assessment, whether you’re a seasoned sales leader, or it’s your first time being involved.  


Here are 3 big takeaways from our chat.  

 1. You Need More Time Than You Think 

 Many of Mark’s clients don’t start the assessment process until 2-3 months prior to a new planning year. That’s far too little time to do a thorough job. Especially if this isn’t a regimented process. Ideally, assessments are consistently planned throughout the year. However, in most cases this isn’t happening because of lack of resources. When should you begin the process? It really comes down to the size and complexity of your company. Watch the episode to see how Mark breaks down the specifics of timing.  

 2. Get Your Data in Order 

The secret to a quick start to an assessment? Mark suggests that you have the data you need ready to hand over. It sounds simple. However, each type of data is often owned by a different department, using a different system. In general, an assessment requires 3 types of employee data: demographics, pay, and performance. How can you overcome this hurdle? You’ll have to watch the episode to hear how Mark advises his clients.  

 3. Be Qualitative, Not Just Quantitative. 

Data is an important part of an assessment. However, to get a thorough understanding of a plan, you need to look past the numbers. Connecting with key executive stakeholders from across the organization (e.g., HR, Sales, Finance, Sales Ops, Marketing) is an important step in understanding go-to-market priorities and establishing expectations on the key metrics, and how this translates into the sales plan.  

There’s another view you need to consider. Sales Management and Sales Reps can give a different perceptive. It’s less strategic, but more about how the rubber meets the road. These interviews reveal if there is alignment between how leadership feels the sales process is being executed versus what is happening in the field. How are reps allocating their time between new account acquisitions vs existing accounts? And what is their understanding of the sales plan? Can they summarize it at a high level?  

 According to research by the Sales Management Association, companies that incorporate sales rep input are far more like to observe effective sales compensation plans. Yet, leadership still resists having reps participate in the assessment process. Why? It’s an important quarter and reps need to focus on selling. Leadership also worries it will just be a griping session. Mark explains why this isn’t the case, watch the episode to find out more. 

 Mark and I cover a lot more ground in the episode, including some reminiscing about the good old days. We also discuss the transformation of sales operations, and its role as an internal advocate for sales plan governance and change. Plus, Mark offers some sage advice for those going through their first assessment. Check out the episode and share some of your experiences with plan assessments in the comments. Don’t forget to let us know what you wish you knew more about. Your topic may be chosen for the next episode.  

 Did you catch our last episode of What I Wish I Knew? I sit down with Igor Uroic, Principal at the Alexander Group, to discuss how you can drive seller performance and revenue growth throughout the year.