Global Sales Compensation Practices: Four Myths and One Truth
Workspan Daily
August 18, 2022
Key Takeaways

  • Local design considerations. Go-to market realities, company organization structure and sales job design are top considerations for local sales comp design plans.  
  • Team incentive usage is consistent across countries. The highest portion of target incentive linked to team performance is 17% in Japan. The team portion among countries varies by 5% or less. 
  • Upside earning potential varies within countries. There’s not much variance in upside potential among countries. However, a more revealing truth emerges as upside opportunity varies widely within countries.  

Given the fact multinational companies have local sales personnel serving local customers and most companies use sales compensation to reward sellers for sales success, should sales compensation plans be uniform around the world or tailored to local market conditions?  

According to Alexander Group’s “2022 Global/Multi-Country Sales Compensation Practices Survey,” the default answer is to have uniform practices throughout the world unless compelling conditions, such as unique go-to-market strategies or local sales job configurations, warrant custom, local pay practices. 

Other survey findings revealed commonly held global sales compensation beliefs about culture, pay mix, teaming, upside potential and EU works councils. More than 120 companies, representing over 145,000 sellers, participated in the survey providing compelling insights into global sales compensation practices. 

Myth 1: Local Culture Plays a Major Role in Sales Compensation Design 

When asked what factors favor local design considerations, responses at the top of the list include go-to-market realities (57.7%), company organization structure (50.4%) and sales job design (41.5%). Near the bottom of the list is local culture (17.9%). 

Myth 2: Pay Mix Varies by Country 

Pay mix is the split of on-target earnings between base pay and target incentive. As reported for the account manager job in 12 large country economies, the pay mix varies by 5% or less. 

081822_WorldatWork-Workspan-Daily_Sales-Comp-Four-Myths-and-One-Truth_Cichelli_Myth2-Chart.jpg

 

Myth 3: Team Incentive Use Varies by Country 

Team incentives tie sellers’ pay to a shared goal. When employed, the team component is often a minor component of the pay plan; 44% of the companies report using teaming in their incentive plan. The highest portion of target incentive linked to team performance is 17% in Japan. The team portion among countries varies by 5% or less.  

081822_WorldatWork-Workspan-Daily_Sales-Comp-Four-Myths-and-One-Truth_Cichelli_Myth3-Chart.jpg

Myth 4: Upside Earning Potential Varies by Country 

There’s not much variance in upside potential among countries. However, a more revealing truth emerges as upside opportunity varies widely within countries.  

Expressed as a multiple of the target incentive, the upside doesn’t need to be capped but does reflect the expected earnings of outstanding sellers. A 1x leverage plan has no upside potential beyond the target incentive. A 2x leverage means the total upside incentive amount is twice the target incentive. A 3x leverage means the total upside incentive amount is three times the target incentive.  

Scanning the upside opportunity by country does not reveal a discernable pattern by country. However, the practices within each country range from less than 1.5x to over 3x target incentive. 

081822_WorldatWork-Workspan-Daily_Sales-Comp-Four-Myths-and-One-Truth_Cichelli_Myth4-Chart.jpg

Truth 1: Trade Unions/Works Councils in France and Germany Play a Role in Sales Compensation Design  

Employee representative practices are common in Europe. In these cases, sales personnel — through their representatives (trade union/works council) — have a voice in sales compensation practices.  

Engagement includes being a full partner, seeking input and consent or simply obtaining consent. Among the four largest economies in Europe, France (47.7%) and Germany (53.5%) have significant representative engagement. Whereas representative engagement is less prevalent in Italy (22.8%) and United Kingdom (22.5%).  

081822_WorldatWork-Workspan-Daily_Sales-Comp-Four-Myths-and-One-Truth_Cichelli_Truth1-Chart.jpg

Not all companies have a central sales compensation function overseeing global practices, but many do. The view of those that do is global sales compensation policies should prevail unless local sales deployment realities justify unique sales compensation practices. 

Editor’s Note: Additional Content 
For more information and resources related to this article see the pages below, which offer quick access to all WorldatWork content on these topics: 

Related WorldatWork Resources
Sales Compensation Does Not Stand Alone
Prepare for 2023 Sales Compensation Plans by Completing a Fiscal Year Checklist
Capping Sales Compensation
Related WorldatWork Courses
Navigating Multinational Sales Compensation
Design of Sales Compensation
Redesigning Sales Compensation Plans