Designing Sales Compensation Plans to Empower Your Team

  • Donya Rose is the Managing Principal at The Cygnal Group, a consulting firm devoted exclusively to sales compensation plan design.
  • She recently spoke with Justin Lane, host of The Sales Compensation Show to share her thoughts on sales management, motivating reps, and best practices for designing a sales compensation plan that drives results.
  • Justin and Donya dive deep into the world of sales, incentives, and enterprise performance management for an in-depth, data-driven conversation.
  • Visit the Podcast homepage to hear more episodes.

Empowering Your Sales Team

Donya Rose is a certified Sales Compensation Professional (CSCP) and a sales compensation design consultant with 20+ years of experience, helping clients improve the value of their sales teams.

In a conversation with Justin Lane, Donya shares her thoughts on the importance of sales management in increasing sales performance.

Donya, tell the audience about your background.

I’ve been a sales compensation plan design consultant for 20 years. I started in the corporate world and gained some experience with the practice there, but I’ve been independent and have had my own firm for many years now.

I often say that as long as we’re compensating humans, the foundational principles of sales compensation will apply. Sales compensation is about human motivation, and we’re all trying to get it right.

Why do you think sales compensation today is so motivated by human behavior?

We understand that sales compensation is not just about the perfect plan design.

A salesperson doesn’t distinguish between the comp plan and their sales goals in their mind. It’s all one thing because they’re both parts of how they will make money.

"Sales compensation is an emotional job. You will have to communicate and provide nurturing and support that can be either inspiring or terrifying." - Donya Rose, The Cygnal Group

We’re all human. We get emotional about sales compensation and anything else in life when something that’s important to us feels outside of our control. If sales leaders can understand this and communicate the comp plan in a way that gets their salespeople to feel strong, confident, and excited, they are much more likely to improve performance.

Do you think companies are using forward data enough in their comp plan design?

No, unfortunately, most companies are still looking backward.

It takes substantial data and analytics to get to a point where you’re confident to look ahead. But if you can, it’s good for your sales comp team, and incredibly valuable for your business overall.

Forward data is a powerful tool for predicting where you’re going as a business, developing your pipeline strategy, overall roadmap, and more. It can unlock a lot of potential for improving the totality of your performance.

What is the best way to motivate a sales team to improve their performance?

There are three premises to motivating sales compensation plans:

  1. You need to have pay-at-risk
  2. There is no risk without upside
  3. All upside needs to be self-funding on the income statement

Donya walks us through the theory of these premises at 31:38 in the podcast.

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