ACE Sales Comp Plan Launches with this Dynamic Strategy

David Gerardi, VP of Customer Operations & Paresh Bhandari, Managing Director

Rolling out a new sales compensation plan can be daunting for any organizational leader.

Without proper change management, the roll-out of a new plan can result in confusion, disengagement, and decreased performance among sales reps. But high-performance sales organizations have a few secrets to launching new comp plans, one of which I will share with you today.

In this article, we'll explore the importance of change management in launching a new sales compensation plan and explain how to use the "ACE" (Awareness, Commitment, Engagement) change management framework for a successful transition.

Implementing this framework in your next launch will ensure a smooth transition to a new sales compensation plan and increase the probability your team hits their revenue targets.

Related article: 14 of the Best Tips for Sales Compensation Plan Design

Common Problems Managing Sales Comp Changes

The biggest challenge when rolling out a new plan is rep engagement.

If reps do not engage during the roll-out process, they are far less likely to put in the work needed to fully understand and benefit from the new plan, which can lead to underperformance and a generally increased workload for the sales compensation and ops teams as they field increased questions and disputes.

To increase engagement from the start, ensure that sales reps understand the "Why" behind the change. Without a clear understanding of the reasoning behind the new program structure, reps may struggle to see its value and are less likely to engage with it.

Another ever-present challenge in change management is budgeting enough time to communicate the changes. Companies tend to underestimate the number of levels and meetings necessary to cascade information properly. They also often fail to identify and involve key influencers. Given most salesforces' size and geographical spread, it takes a team effort to communicate change. The best way to do this is to identify and empower those who can deliver messaging that reps will actually listen to.

Another common mistake is not creating effective communication materials. Companies often think a presentation and a follow-up documentation file will suffice for everyone to understand the changes. However, it's crucial to invest in creating materials that will genuinely help reps in the long run, such as detailed FAQs and plan simulation calculators.

Related article: How to Communicate Sales Compensation Plans Effectively

Leverage ACE Framework for a Successful Comp Plan Roll-Out

A successful roll-out of a new sales compensation plan requires a well-structured change management strategy. Best-in-class sales organizations prioritize the launch of the compensation program, planning their change management efforts while designing the new plan to ensure an effective roll-out.

One way to deliver a new roll-out plan is by using the framework of "ACE" (Awareness, Commitment, Engagement). This framework helps organizations think through all the steps required, ensuring a smooth transition to the new plan.

1. Awareness

The first step in the ACE framework is to communicate the need and value of the new plan to the entire sales team. Share the "Why" behind the change, along with your reasons for changing the comp plan, ensuring you highlight the "WIIFM" (What's In It For Me) for your sales reps.

Build excitement among the team by sharing the methodology used to evaluate design options and the reasoning behind the final changes. Connect the plan changes to the overall objectives of the business. That will help reps understand that the changes weren't made for the sake of change but to drive success for the company.

2. Commitment

The next step is to create a team of early adopters from the sales team who are aware of the updates before others and can share early reactions with the leadership team. Identify the key influencers and top performers in your sales groups (Remember: that's not always the manager!), and get their buy-in.

It's important to get 100% buy-in on the new plan from early adopters, they should share questions and concerns that will be raised by the sales team and help leadership prepare appropriate responses. These early adopters can become advocates of the new plan and help ensure continued adoption across the sales team.

3. Engagement

The final step is guiding the sales team through the new plan, showing them its benefits, and answering their questions and concerns through the first few months. It's important to react quickly to feedback. If things are unclear or the field needs additional resources to understand the plan better, be quick to address whatever is requested.

As the quarter progresses, identify any top performers under the new plan as quickly as possible. These are the reps that understand the plan the best. Ask them to share their successes and strategies with the rest of the team routinely to help struggling reps identify how to take advantage of the plan best and increase their earnings from it.

Relate article: How to Use Monte Carlo Simulation so Forecast Sales Compensation Spend

Effective Change Requires Calculated Change Management

By following the ACE framework, organizations can ensure that they have considered all aspects of change management and are prepared for a successful roll-out of a new sales compensation plan.

The ACE framework can be used as a guide for planning and delivery:

Awareness: Communicate the need and value of the new plan to the entire sales team, share the reason for the change, and build excitement among the team.

Commitment: Create a team of early adopters from the sales team who can share early reactions with the leadership team and become advocates for the new plan.

Engagement: Guide the sales team through the new plan, answering their questions quickly and reacting quickly to feedback. Use top performers to coach the team and keep them engaged. The more data and feedback you give reps about their performance, the longer they will remain engaged.

Effective change management is crucial for successfully launching a new sales compensation plan and the overall success of the organization. Ensure a smooth transition and better ongoing performance from the sales team by planning for change management, budgeting enough time for communication, involving key influencers, and investing in effective communication material.

Once you have found a roll-out and change management process that works for your organization, template it and create a database of all relevant materials, meetings, stakeholders, and influencers. That will help ensure future comp plan roll-outs are just as successful and save your team time and mistakes down the line.

Get our free, 5 min bi-weekly newsletter.
Used by 15k+ people to learn from top Sales Comp leaders.
Download this full guide as pdf