Sales Organizations Increasing Sales Roles, Technology, Training Investments

WorldatWork and SalesGlobe Release Sales Compensation Programs & Practices Survey

August 24, 2021

Scottsdale, Arizona — In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, organizations are expanding the number of inside sales and hybrid roles, increasing financial controls such as performance thresholds and incentive pay gaps, and investing in technology and sales skill training. These are some of the key findings from the new WorldatWork and SalesGlobe 2021 Sales Compensation Programs and Practices report.

Key results:

  • In the past 12 months, 44% of organizations have increased inside sales positions, while the same number have added hybrid sales roles and 37% have increased the number of field sales positions.
  • With talent at a premium in a tightening labor market, an average of 67% of companies are planning to expand the number of hybrid sales roles, compared to 49% of field roles and 53% of inside sales roles.
  • More than 60% of companies are using performance thresholds as an entry point to incentive pay for new and existing account sellers, representing a 25-percentage point increase from 2020.
  • Fifty-six percent of organizations use incentive pay caps and 41% use bluebird policies to cap large deals. In addition, 57% of companies are using three or more measures in their plans, up 29-percentage points from 2020, indicating increased focus.
  • More than half of companies (51%) plan investments in technology such as customer relationship management platforms, sales performance management and virtual communications to support sales in the year ahead.
  • Forty-seven percent of organizations consider sales skill training to be a top priority in the next 12 months.

“Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen both business models and worker roles shift and morph to keep the gears of commerce turning. And perhaps one of the more pronounced pivots was within the environment of sales,” said Alicia Scott-Wears, director of total rewards content at WorldatWork.

“The standard interaction of sales roles was no longer an option and expanded skillsets were required to reconnect. So, with the Sales Compensation Programs and Practices survey, we saw that unfolding and taking shape in the form of hybrid sales roles. It will be interesting to see how hybrid roles will continue to round out the salesforce, but, at this point, it’s clear that organizations anticipate increases in these headcounts.”

“The findings from this survey revealed several enlightening storylines about what sales organizations are doing to prepare for their future of sales,” said Mark Donnolo, SalesGlobe managing partner. “Contrary to the dismal predictions for sales during the pandemic, companies have been hiring across all sales roles and creating new roles, like hybrid sellers, with 44% of companies adding hybrids over the past year and the majority planning to expand them in the year ahead."

Michelle Seger, partner and chief operating officer at SalesGlobe, added: “incentive compensation earnings have been strong and quota attainment has improved from the prior year, with the median organization having at least 50% of their reps at quota at the end of Q2, compared to 40% in 2020. But with improved performance, compensation controls are coming back, with companies adding back plan thresholds for minimum performance (increasing from 35% of companies to 61% of companies), bringing back pay caps and increasing the number of performance measures in the plan to get more specific about results.”


WorldatWork, in partnership with SalesGlobe, conducted a survey to gather information on sales compensation plan structures and practices to reward for sales success and drive performance to the goals of the business. A total of 472 responses were received, representing organizations of different sizes and across multiple industries. In addition to members and customers of WorldatWork and SalesGlobe, WorldatWork also obtained responses from full-time sales compensation professionals via the MarketCube panel online. Email invitations were sent directly to participants on 06/07/2021 and results were collected over a 15-day period. Sample sizes vary by question.

About WorldatWork

WorldatWork is the leading global nonprofit organization for professionals engaged in the critically important practice of Total Rewards. We serve those who are responsible for cultivating inspired, engaged, productive, and committed workers in effective and rewarding workplaces. We guide them in the design and delivery of Total Reward programs with our education and certification; idea exchange; thought leadership; knowledge creation; information sharing; research; advocacy; and networking.

About SalesGlobe

SalesGlobe is a leading sales effectiveness consulting firm focused on data-driven, creative problem-solving firm for sales. We specialize in helping Global 1000 companies solve their toughest growth challenges and think in new ways to develop more effective solutions in the areas of sales strategy, sales organization, sales process, sales compensation, and quotas. We wrote the books on sales compensation and quotas with What Your CEO Needs to Know About Sales Compensation and Quotas! Design Thinking to Solve Your Biggest Sales Challenge.

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