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Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, the way the sales function operates has looked very different, and sales teams have been forced to find new ways to connect with customers.
Organizations have responded by redoubling their investment in the salesforce: 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, for example.
These are some of the key findings from the new WorldatWork and SalesGlobe "2021 SalesCompensation Programs and Practices" report. The survey of 472 organizations found many companies bulking up their sales teams and increasing their investment in the sales function in the wake of COVID-19.
In the past 12 months, for example, 44% of organizations have increased inside sales positions, while the same number have added hybrid sales roles and 37% have expanded the number of field sales positions within their companies.
And, 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 in their organizations. Nearly half (49%) are planning to do the same with field sales roles, and 53% of companies intend to increase the number of inside sales roles.
In addition, 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% increase from 2020. Fifty-six percent of organizations use incentive pay caps and 41% use bluebird policies to cap large deals. Fifty-seven percent of companies are using three or more measures in their plans, indicating a greater focus on more specific results.
To further support sales in the year ahead, more than half of companies (51%) report planning investments in technology such as customer relationship management platforms, sales performance management and virtual communications. 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 were 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 continue to round out the salesforce, but, at this point, it’s clear that organizations anticipate increases in these headcounts.”
These findings reveal “several enlightening storylines” in terms of what sales organizations are doing to prepare for the future of sales, added 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.”
About the Author
Mark McGraw is the managing editor of Workspan.