Sales Performance Management

Sales compensation accuracy: Questions, questions, questions

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Humans are an inquisitive bunch, salespeople especially so. There is a never-ending list of questions buzzing around a salesperson’s head and never more so than when it comes to the question of compensation. Am I meeting my customer’s needs? How do I get to the CFO? Should I have been more direct on that call? What is the competition doing and how can I plan for it?

Having put the effort in, one question that preoccupies salespeople is, “Am I going to be fairly and accurately compensated for my work?” This question is at the core of most compensation enquires and the fact that it is asked at all suggests an element of doubt, paranoia or even mistrust. The question is, of course, too open to be useful in a practical sense. Compensation-related questions are usually more pointed. For example:

  • Why is transaction XYZ123 not appearing on my compensation statement?
  • Why has this money been clawed back from me?
  • What is my revenue target for the quarter?
  • Would I be compensated on this type of transaction?
  • How does my team target work?
  • How am I performing against my peers?
  • Why was I paid less than expected for this deal?


The volume of these types of questions drops off considerably when a dedicated Incentive Compensation Management (ICM) tool is used. Accuracy and visibility of all aspects of compensation should increase significantly over night and many of these questions no longer need asking, giving significant benefits back to both the individual and their organization as shadow accounting is reduced, allowing more time for sellers to sell. There should also be an improved level of trust in the whole compensation process, helping with motivation and staff retention.

Still, there will always be questions and they will always need answers. Inquiry management has been a core feature of IBM Incentive Compensation Management application for a long time now. As well as the out-of-the-box functionality, there’s also been the ability for organizations to configure the tool for their own specific requirements using Workflow Manager, an integral part of the product. The benefits of handling enquiries within the same application that calculates compensation are significant in IBM’s case.

  • Transactions in question can be referenced in-line, cutting down on ambiguity and unnecessary communications
  • Correct routing of enquiries is used and when the process changes, the application changes with it; the tool adapts to changes in your business, not the other way around
  • Categorization of enquiries allows for analysis and increased clarity for payees, thereby reducing frustration and hopefully the number of similar questions in the future once corrective measures have been taken
  • Lastly, all enquiries and responses are stored in the audit log, ensuring a complete log of events is available to those that need it.

So, by using an automated tool with built-in enquiries, organizations have come a long way from Excel spreadsheets, mail-merge and asking questions via email and phone call, so what left is there to do?

The answer to the question

There is always room for improvement and the business of asking and responding to incentives-related questions is no exception. IBM is integrating Ask Watson Inquiries into its ICM application, and based on trials, the results should represent another major leap forward. By enabling users to have a discussion in real time about their compensation with a tool that learns and improves from each interaction, will significantly cut down on the volume of unnecessary interactions, giving salespeople immediate answers and allowing them to get on with their job, whilst compensation administrators benefit from being able to focus on the activities that deliver real value to the business.

Find out more

For more on IBM Incentive Compensation Management application and the benefits it provides, have a look at our Sales Performance Management Buyers Guide, review the Gartner report and take yourself on a hands-on tour of the application.

IBM Incentive Compensation Management Lead (CEE, Nordics & Benelux)

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