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COVID-19 Shakeup: Organizations Adjusting Sales Strategy

Organizations are responding quickly to COVID-19 when it comes to their sales operations, including reassessing projections, planning for adjustments and having proactive and frequent communications around sales compensation.


This was a main finding in WorldatWork’s “Sales Compensation in a COVID-19 World” survey, in partnership with SalesGlobe, of 372 employers. Trust and transparency were key themes from the survey, as 96% of organizations said they have a moderate to high degree of trust from the sales team that leadership will provide fair treatment regarding compensation in light of the current economic climate.

Additionally, 85% of employers surveyed said they are communicating with their sales team on at least a weekly basis.

“Providing employees with the relevant information they need to know empowers them and builds their confidence in the organization and management knowing that things are not being hidden from them — even when the message is, ‘We don’t know yet, but will share with you as soon as we do,’” said Alicia Scott-Wears, content director at WorldatWork. “The follow-through is the next element of building and maintaining that trust. Organizations will likely continue to have these high trust levels if they are keeping communications open and honest, and following through to keep their commitments.”

What was clear from the survey is that while organizations are attempting to react to changing dynamics quickly, many are still trying to measure the impact and formulate an action plan for sales compensation the remainder of 2020. The survey found that about half (49%) of organizations are still quantifying the effects from COVID-19 and 79% of organizations haven’t yet communicated a compensation plan for the sales team.

“Before jumping in and making mechanical changes to your plan, you should gain leadership alignment on your compensation philosophy and have a good handle on what your decisions will cost you in terms of dollars and organizational impact," said Michelle Seger, partner at SalesGlobe. "What is it you expect from your team, and how will they participate in helping you through this crisis? There is no right answer, only the one that is best for you and your organization. How you treat your team today and how well you communicate your intentions will impact how the team will respond once we have surpassed the crisis and things have settled into the new norm.”

Other key findings from the survey:

  • On the communications front, 43% of organizations said leadership has assured the sales team that compensation would be addressed, with an approach to be determined or announced later; 15% said leadership has communicated immediate actions that would be taken on the compensation plan; and 5% said leadership has communicated immediate actions that would be taken on quotas.
  • The primary levers under consideration for active actions to adjust sales compensation are quotas (46%), adjusting performance measures (44%) and lowering plan thresholds (36%).
  • Organizations are adjusting sales strategy through application of several shifts, with almost 50% leaning in to help and to become a trusted advisor vs. selling.

“It makes sense that sales compensation is a major focus right now as businesses have been hit hard in recent months,” said Scott Cawood, president and CEO of WorldatWork. “The impact has been sudden and extreme, and in every industry sector the scales have been tipped. Regardless, the playing field sales has grown accustomed to has changed. For every type of business in every industry, realignment of sales operations is necessary to address the new marketplace.”


About the Author

Brett Christie Bio Image

Brett Christie is the managing editor of Workspan Daily.

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