Sales performance management and C-level goals

Founder and Managing Partner, SalesGlobe

When thinking about sales strategy and sales compensation, having a framework is vital. The compensation plan should always be the train’s caboose, not its locomotive engine. In other words, compensation should never drive the strategy; the strategy drives the compensation.

My firm, SalesGlobe, recently worked with a large enterprise to help design its sales compensation program. Rather than starting with the plan, we started with the business strategy. We met with the CEO of the company, its president and its sales leaders and asked them about the priorities for their business. Here’s what they had to say: 

  • Gain enhanced productivity from existing resources: “We want to drive twice as much sales productivity three years from now.”
  • Drive a sales-oriented culture: “We need to break the complacency in our sales culture.”
  • Promote cross-selling of the portfolio: “We want to execute our strategy of offering our full portfolio of solutions based on customer needs.”
  • Structure for solution selling: “We need to build the sales organization of our future with one face to the customer.”
  • Align to high-value segments: “We want to align our best sales resources with the right buyers further up in the organization.” 

To make the connection between these business priorities and compensation, the company’s leadership focused on its priorities for the design of the compensation program. The leaders knew what they needed to accomplish the design. Once they got down deep into the compensation work, the team grew uncomfortable. They made comments such as: “Do we really want to do that?” “I’m not comfortable with this measure.” “Finance is not going to support that upside.”

Our response to these comments was clear and effective: “Look, here’s what you want to accomplish as a business; we’re going to have a hard time going back to the CEO saying we missed a couple important points.” Nobody wanted to return to the CEO with anything that didn’t support the CEO’s goals for the business, and the connection from C-level to front line was made.

As sales executives determine priorities for their business related to sales compensation, they need to set their C-level goals. These goals define the major priorities for the organization that will be converted to the sales compensation plan. And those priorities provide clarity for how the team designs the plan and the behaviors the plan is going to drive in the organization. Once set, the C-level goals can force answers to the key questions that can lead to the program’s success. They also help overcome resistance as sales leaders become deeply involved in the design of the compensation plan.

IBM’s Incentive Compensation Management technologies are using the power of data to help firms strengthen the connection between sales strategy and sales performance and, with the capabilities of Watson Analytics, are leading us into a new era of cognitive business.

Learn more here about IBM Sales Performance Management. Of course, as always, you can also reach me at

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