What Does Short- & Long-Term Success Look Like for Your Sales Comp Plans

Jul 30, 2020
3 min read
Sales compensation plans are a vital part of sales organizations. Here are some tips and best practices for long-term sales incentive compensation for remote success.

In the pre-pandemic era, companies kicked off their annual sales comp plans with a traditional "set it and forget it" mindset. However, in 2020, this approach to planning is no longer appropriate if you want to see not only continued growth but also survive in this frequently changing market. 

With planning horizons collapsed, it can feel as if much of our business and compensation planning has been reduced to just two horizons: what we need to get done now (short-term) and what we must do to prepare for where we hope to be in one, three, or even five years time (long-term). 

The most important thing to take into account when adjusting your compensation plans for remote sales teams is a firm understanding of your organization’s specific market and how that could affect performance in order to create an accurate baseline to track performance. 

Understanding the Current Market:

The first step to creating new comp plans that reflect the economic challenges brought on by the pandemic and its repercussions is to get a full grasp of how your organization has changed in the last five months and even how much it has changed in just the last month. 

It’s likely that you’ll need to adjust company goals and adapt sales comp plans to accurately reflect both the current state of business and what experts and forecasting technologies predict for the future. 

The action-plan for starting this process is to consider a spectrum of potential situations, ranging from best- to worst-case. That way, you can prepare the actions, communications, and data you need and be prepared ahead of time, regardless of what the future actually holds.

Short-term & Intermediate plans:

Your business is already dealing with the short-term disruption, so there is a very slim chance that new sales comp plans have taken full effect just yet. This needs to be at the top of your priority list since old company objectives may no longer be realistic. Our advice? Involve everyone who may be impacted by these decisions so that you have a full picture of your business and not just one perspective. Transparency, especially now, is crucial. 

Given the escalation of change in today’s world, you can expect this period of disruption to continue for some time. Your worst-case scenarios should not assume an immediate recovery once the short-term period is complete. Some experts foresee alternating periods of loosened and tightened restrictions. Thus, your intermediate view should prepare for all possible outcomes when it comes to compensating your commission-based employees. 

Advice: Create a month-by-month historical view of company performance. Monitor it weekly to identify trends and patterns unique to your business and in your industry market to help you create and tweak future plans. The best way to predict your future ability to hit quota or milestones is to understand how you’ve historically performed in similar situations in order to create a realistic baseline.

The next thing you need to consider is how long you think your company will be affected by this market disruption—six months, one year, two years? You need to model for those scenarios just in case. 


At some point, the world and nation will enter into recovery mode. Make sure you have a contingency plan in place for when that time comes. Anticipate the impact of trends and threats multiple years out, and position your institution to survive and thrive amid those pressures. 

But just remember this, you don’t have a crystal ball, so don’t set these long-term plans into stone. Ideally, you should create strategic, flexible plans that are easy to monitor, optimize, and adjust if additional disruptions come up. 

Advice: The biggest advantage you can have is a ‘go-time’ plan and make sure everyone, from reps to c-suite, agrees on your new go-to-market strategy once the business starts to stabilize. If you’re in an industry that’s grinding to a halt, this is your time to get prepared. You want to be the number one contender when customers and prospects begin to take meetings again.

What's Next?

Business-as-usual will not be a reality for quite some time, and when we return to it, it might not look like the workplaces we were once accustomed to. No one can tell you with certainty what will happen, but the business leaders that best prepare for an uncertain and rapidly-evolving future are the ones who will be the best prepared when the time comes.

No matter what stage of planning you’re in, your current sales plans should be reconfigured to reflect the current market and mirror a compromise between employees’ current baseline of performance and company objectives. It’s crucial to ensure that performance is accurately and fairly being held up to a realistic standard, or you could risk decreased performance due to lack of motivation or burnout. 

Learn more about how to adapt your sales comp plans for any situation in our on-demand session, Modifying Compensation Plans in the Face of Disruption: Draws, Quotas, Territories, & More. This session helps you adjust your short- and long-term planning by addressing hot topics such as: What quota adjustments should be on the table? How should territories shift when roles aren't backfilled? What SPIFs could work here? — and more.

  • Incentive Compensation
Emily Jahn
Content Marketing Manager

Emily Jahn is a Content Marketing Manager at Xactly. She earned a degree in advertising from The University of Colorado - Boulder and has experience in copywriting, social media, and digital marketing.

Erik Charles
Erik W. Charles
VP, Solutions Evangelist

Erik W. Charles is an accomplished professional with more than two decades of experience in Marketing, Consulting, and Product Evangelization.