X-Factor Compensation Leaders: How to Be Incredible at Incentive Planning (Looker)
Sales compensation planning can be a gruesome process. In recent years, the sales operations role has become one of the most vital players on sales compensation teams. Sales operations professionals are often tasked with roping in each executive’s goals and aligning them with corporate objectives, all while designing incentive plans that will inspire sales reps (and stay within budget).
Achieving all of this within a reasonable timeframe means sales operations needs to be incredible, not only in their commission calculations, but also in their planning. As part of our Friends of Xactly (FOX) Community, we’ve spoken with sales compensation leaders to create a blog series about their journeys in sales compensation, best practices, and the Xactly advantage.
Meet The Expert – Phil Chowaniec, Looker
Looker is based is based in Santa Cruz, CA on California’s Central Coast, approximately 90 minutes from San Francisco and 45 minutes from Silicon Valley. Phil has lived in Santa Cruz for almost four years and enjoys spending time in the ocean, surfing and paddleboarding, as well as frequenting the many breweries and unique restaurants the city has to offer.
Looker is a business intelligence software and big data analytics platform that helps you explore, analyze and share real-time business analytics easily. The SaaS company began using Xactly Incent approximately 18 months ago and has been recognized as a 2017 Forrester Strong Performer and 2017 TrustRadius Top Rated Business Intelligence Tool. Phil Chowaniec is the Commissions Manager at Looker and has been with the company almost four years. Below is our Q&A with Phil.
Tell us about your career journey in sales compensation. How did you get your start, and how did you end up where you are today?
“[I got into sales compensation in] kind of a roundabout way. I’ve been at Looker for almost four years, starting as an SDR [Sales Development Rep]. I joined the Sales Ops team, where commissions were treated as almost a side project, with no real owner or direction.”
“I started getting heavily involved, as I thought there was a lot to improve on (and there still is), which eventually turned into my full-time position. Almost oddly, since I didn’t specifically seek it out, but now I find it very interesting and rewarding!”
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What are the biggest challenges you face in your role today?
“Getting decisions made in a timely manner. We have a lot of very smart and experienced people at Looker; the downside of all those discussions and ideas is that sometimes it is hard to get people to nail down a decision and fully commit to something. Despite my best efforts to lead things, often times I find myself as the last recipient of a decision, falling victim to the “hurry up and wait” mentality.”
How has technology played a role in your evolution as a sales compensation professional?
“The two biggest tools (in addition to Excel and Gmail) I rely on at work are Salesforce and Xactly. I spend most of my day having both of those open. SFDC is our source of record for transaction and bookings data, which all imports into Xactly. Without those two tools, my job would be super difficult to manage (if we didn’t have a CRM and were running commissions out of spreadsheets).”
Describe your company’s sales compensation planning process, your role in it, and how Xactly has changed this process.
“We start thinking about planning for the coming year in the fall, but it’s really not until December and early January that decisions get made – leading to a bit of a race against the clock to get everything done in January before we have to run commissions for the month in the early part of February.”
“We work closely with Finance and Sales Leadership in enacting year-over-year changes, and having just closed our first, full year on Incent. Having that historical data to benchmark against has been hugely helpful.”
What piece(s) of advice/lessons have you learned on your journey that you would share with your peers or younger self?
“Communication is key – both to Finance/Sales leadership and to the reps themselves in preventing headaches further down the road. The more visibility and transparency that everyone has into the process and calculations, the better.”
How do you envision the future of sales compensation? What do you anticipate for 2018 that was different in 2017?
“I don’t have too many thoughts on a macro level, but to our company specifically, we are simplifying a lot of bonus/plan components, which we think will be helpful for reps to wrap their heads around and truly tune their behaviors toward what we want to incentivize. We are hoping that with a lot of communication, all our payouts are accurate, on-time and highly visible to the reps!”
Discover the Xactly Advantage for Your Company
At Xactly, we work with our customers to provide a simplified compensation planning process. When the compensation of your company lies on your shoulders, you shouldn’t have to struggle with spreadsheets or manual commission calculations. Discover the best Xactly solution for your business, industry, and role. Or schedule your personalized demo today!
Complete Guide to Sales Team Compensation
Putting together your sales team requires you to consider the specifics of each person’s tasks, how those responsibilities move the team toward the given goal – and how to properly compensate each member.