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Sales Compensation Predictions with Autodesk & ServiceNow: AI, Personalization, and Advanced Analytics

While AI has been around for some time, ChatGPT made it accessible, providing a simple, user-friendly experience that anyone can understand. It prompted this current AI revolution we find ourselves in today. But what implications does this change hold for the future of sales compensation?

Does the future involve AI? What are the impacts of this future state? What happens to sales comp teams as we know them? With so many factors at play, understanding this evolving landscape is pivotal.

In a CompOps 2023 event, three sales compensation leaders shared their predictions on AI in sales comp, the role of advanced analytics, the future of the industry, and more. In this blog post, you’ll learn from:

  • Nabeil Alazzam, Founder and CEO of Forma.ai
  • Robert Bieshaar, Sr. Dir. WW Incentive Compensation and M&A at Autodesk
  • Rick Butler, Vice President, Global Sales Compensation at ServiceNow

Find out what these experts foresee for the future of sales compensation and how they are using AI in their enterprise organizations today.

To access the full recording of this event, plus all other CompOps 2023 sessions, register here.

The Evolution of Sales Compensation

The sales compensation landscape has significantly evolved over the past 20 years. There has been a shift in complexity, the use of cloud-based tools, and the rise of advanced analytics and AI to drive sales strategy.

Rick Butler from ServiceNow kicked off the discussion with his thoughts on this change. In the past, sales compensation was confined to rudimentary tools like Excel or data center-based applications. However, the rise of cloud-based tools has expanded the choices available to comp professionals, providing a more accessible and diverse array of options. This shift has fundamentally changed how sales compensation tools are used, kickstarting an era of increased flexibility and efficiency.

Transactions Are More Complex

Simultaneously, sales transactions have become more complex with an increase in the number of products and SKUs. While tracking and managing sales quotas were once straightforward, today’s environment requires a more comprehensive approach to accommodate diverse products and customer preferences. Sales leaders must now ensure that their compensation structures can handle this complexity, making data management and analysis a critical component of the process.

Strategies Are More Aligned

Robert Bieshaar from Autodesk emphasized the shift in business models, pricing strategies, and go-to-market approaches, highlighting the need for sophisticated and flexible incentive compensation management. Sales compensation plans now need to align seamlessly with corporate and sales strategies, driving the importance of a more strategic and predictive approach to compensation.

The level of flexibility required [in sales comp] today is much different from 20 years ago… even more complex than just 4-5 years ago.

Robert Bieshaar, Autodesk

Every Sale Has More Stakeholders

The panel also discussed the increasing specialization of sales roles and the growing number of stakeholders in a single transaction. This shift has led to a demand for incentive structures that align with the entire sales journey, ensuring a positive customer experience. Consequently, setting and executing sales compensation plans has become more challenging, requiring a deep understanding of the intricacies of modern sales transactions.

Data is More Readily Available

The wealth of data available today has revolutionized the sales compensation landscape, as organizations grapple with collecting and harnessing data from various sources to inform their compensation strategies. This surge in data volumes, coupled with the need to track customer consumption and engagement, has catapulted sales compensation into a new era of data-driven decision-making.

Sales Comp 2.0: The Future of Sales Compensation

The Role of AI in Sales Compensation

The panelists shifted their focus to the evolving landscape of sales compensation, exploring the impact of predictive analytics and artificial intelligence (AI). They delved into the impact of personalization, the challenges and opportunities of AI in sales comp, and the potential future implications of advancements in sales technology.

Fundamental Reshaping of Sales Comp

Robert Bieshaar spoke on the pivotal role of AI in reshaping fundamental aspects of sales compensation. He emphasized using AI to define territories, set quotas, deploy and manage resources, and customize the sales experience for both sellers and customers. He stressed the significance of individualization in sales, urging organizations to understand and motivate sellers on a personalized level while implementing guardrails to maintain control and coherence in the sales process.

Individualized Incentives

Building on Robert’s insights, Nabeil Alazzam highlighted the evolving nature of sales roles and the necessity for tailored compensation plans that align with specific roles and customer segments. The traditional one-size-fits-all approach is becoming obsolete as sales roles become more specialized. This shift toward greater specialization requires companies to consider individualized compensation plans that align with the unique needs and behaviors of different roles within the sales organization.

In the near future, [sales compensation professionals] are going to start using AI in one way or another. We will all have to.

Robert Bieshaar, Autodesk

The introduction of AI into sales compensation presents a spectrum of challenges and opportunities. While AI has the potential to revolutionize quota setting, sales forecasting, and execution, the panel emphasized the need for a thoughtful balance between AI-driven individualization and a human understanding of seller motivations. The consensus was clear: a strategic approach to leveraging AI in sales compensation, combining technological benefits with a deep understanding of human behavior, is essential for success.

The Future of Sales Compensation: Individualized Incentives

Evolving Roles in the Era of AI

Nabeil Alazzam expressed his belief that a revolution in sales compensation is coming, comparing it to the inflection point when personal computers overtook the mainframe or when mobile phones overtook landlines. He pointed out that the revolution is happening faster than most people realize and raised the question of how to leverage and adapt to this change while identifying the challenges that might hinder progress in the next five to ten years.

Limits of AI

Robert Bieshaar responded by acknowledging the fear and hesitancy surrounding AI and its potential impact on jobs. He emphasized that while AI can replace certain aspects of the sales cycle, it cannot entirely replace human interaction.

He stressed the need for responsible use of AI and the importance of human oversight to prevent its misuse. Ultimately, we should be looking at AI as an advantage to enhance productivity and efficiency, rather than seeing it as a threat.

Shifting Humans to a More Strategic Focus

Rick Butler agreed, adding that increased productivity has always led to more work, as humans are never satisfied and always seek more. He discussed how AI enables greater individualization in role-based compensation plans, shifting the focus of individuals to more strategic tasks and higher-value activities. He referenced the responsibility that comes with the power of AI and the need for salespeople to use it in a competent manner.

To quote Spider-Man, ‘With great power comes great responsibility,’ and AI is a great power, which means we’ll need very responsible salespeople.

Rick Butler, ServiceNow

AI has the potential to free up time for salespeople to focus on higher-value activities and shift their focus from administrative tasks to driving desired outcomes. It also underscores the idea that while roles may change due to technological advancements, new opportunities and responsibilities will emerge.

The insights shared in the discussion are particularly relevant in the current digital age, where AI and automation are reshaping various industries, including sales comp. The responsible and strategic use of AI in sales compensation has the potential to drive better outcomes and more personalized approaches, ultimately benefiting both the salespeople and the customers.

Sales Compensation Software: Enterprise Buyer’s Guide

The Future of Sales Compensation

The future of sales compensation, driven by advancements in AI and data analytics, offers new opportunities for organizations to optimize incentive structures and reward systems. As such, the demand for a heightened level of flexibility within your sales compensation team today is unparalleled compared to just a few years ago.

Most sales compensation systems are not designed for such flexibility. However, at Forma.ai, we are at the forefront of building a solution that redefines flexibility in the space.

Since day one, we’ve been committed to seamlessly integrating AI into our infrastructure. Whether it’s the conversion of plain text into configured comp plans or employing predictive modeling to design optimal comp structures, AI stands as the catalyst propelling our mission forward. Click here to request a demo.

To access the full recording of this event, plus all other CompOps 2023 sessions, register here.

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