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How to Build a High-Performance Sales Culture with Incentive Compensation

My wife is a dietician, so I have the privilege of getting a second hand education on all kinds of things health related. She regularly creates recipes using cultures like Kefir (a tasty, gut healthy cultured milk) and sourdough. Just like a good kefir or sourdough starter, good cultures produce delicious, perfectly balanced kefirs and sourdoughs that deliver positive gut health results. Cultures gone bad…well, again, not unlike a bad company culture, can leave, shall we say, a bad taste in your mouth and likely some questionable performance results. 

Every sales team has a culture: written and unwritten rules for how sales reps interact with each other, other departments, and the people in their pipelines. The wrong culture can drag your team down by excusing or enabling poor practices and behavior. But the right kind of culture can lead to dramatic improvements in performance, retention, and revenue generation.

While multiple factors contribute to a high-performance sales culture, we’ve found that incentive compensation serves as the through line for them all. By using sales comp strategically, you can build the kind of culture you want, motivate the right drivers, and empower your teams for success.

Building culture through compensation is no small task—but a powerful incentive compensation management (ICM) system like Performio makes it far more manageable.

In this article, we’ll look at six ways you can leverage ICM to motivate key performance drivers and build the high-performance sales culture you want to see.

Key drivers for building a high-performance sales culture

At Performio, we’ve worked with thousands of sales teams, and we’re constantly evaluating the drivers of performance. We’ve found that leading sales organizations share a few things in common, consistently valuing these six key areas

  1. Goal alignment
  2. Sales processes
  3. Sales coaching
  4. Data analytics
  5. Healthy competition
  6. Transparency

Here’s how you can use ICM to empower each of these drivers and build a high-performance sales culture.

1. Align sales activities with organizational goals

For a high-performance sales culture, it’s crucial that everyone be on the same page, working toward the same goals. This starts with the top-level company goals and works its way down to each sales rep’s individual quotas and targets. You should align your compensation plan with company goals by incentivizing the specific sales activities that best contribute to those goals.

Without proper alignment, you could be incentivising activities that are superfluous (wasting time and resources) or even actively harmful (disrupting organizational processes). But when your comp plan incentivises the right elements, it means that everything action a sales rep takes should contribute toward the overarching aims of the organization.

Additionally, these goals and targets should be clearly defined and easily accessible. No sales rep should ever have to second guess what they’re supposed to be working on. Performio’s ICM software enables this by providing an at-a-glance overview of company goals and individual performance as the first thing people see when they log into our software.


2. Establish clearly defined sales processes

Next to knowing what goals to work toward, sales reps need to know how they should work toward those goals. A high-performance culture means having clearly defined sales processes in place to keep everyone working in tandem, presenting a unified front to customers, and ensuring efficient and effective work across the board.

This can involve adopting one or a combination of popular sales methodologies, like the Challenger Sale, ValueSelling, or the Jolt Effect, but it could also come down to in-house methodologies. What’s important is to establish reliable, repeatable processes for the team, provide the tools and templates they’ll need, and offer enough wiggle room to remain agile when things change. Then you can reinforce these sales methodologies and processes by using sales compensation to incentivise the activities that drive them.

In Performio, your entire team will be able to access your sales processes, methodologies, organizational objectives, and more from a centralized role-based repository of sales knowledge.

3. Empower your reps with sales coaching

Sales coaching is where the rubber meets the road, ensuring that goals and processes don’t exist as abstract concepts, but as concrete elements of a salesperson’s day-to-day experience. Coaches help drive a high-performance culture by working with individual sales reps to learn what they’re doing well, identify areas for improvement, and empower their success.

The highest-performing sales teams foster a culture of continual coaching. They don’t wait until there’s a big problem to address, but work with everyone where they are, understanding that we all have room for improvement. Sales coaches identify core competencies for sales reps to master, practice with them to enable learning by experience, measure progress over time, and celebrate wins both big and small.

ICM software like Performio gives sales coaches access to all the data across their teams, allowing them to easily see each team member’s performance levels and progress, and enabling direct communication between coaches and coachees via the built-in chat system. Coaches can use the incentive compensation plan to help motivate sales reps in the areas where they need the most improvement.


4. Invest in data analytics

For a high-performance sales culture, you can’t rely on intuition alone. By analyzing sales data, you can:

  • See which activities are most profitable or most aligned with organizational objectives, empowering your goal alignment
  • Identify past customers who are primed for repeat purchases 
  • Pinpoint and eliminate sales bottlenecks 
  • And so much more

Then you bring all of those insights to bear on your sales comp plan, incentivising the activities you know will be most valuable (based on the data), rather than basing your incentives on feelings or best guesses.

In Performio, our Analytics Studio gives you access to all the data insights you’ll need. You’re able to track payable trends over time by different components in your plan. You can see things like your reward distribution bell curve, your payments, your performance distribution, your commission cost of sale, and user adoption across the platform.


5. Promote healthy competition

A bit of friendly competition among sales reps can be a great way to drive performance—especially when there are additional incentives attached. When everyone is working toward the same goals but trying to outdo each other to get there first, your team is primed for success. Competition can help to make even mundane tasks more enjoyable, improving morale while also pushing people to perform their best.

You can run contests for your sales reps based on any important metrics, providing yet another way to incentivise company goals. And Performio makes this easy to track using our built-in leaderboards feature. Sales reps will be able to see where they stand next to other sales reps on whatever metrics you choose—with unlimited leaderboards and up to six metrics per leaderboard. And you’ll be able to single out the top performers for recognition and rewards.

6. Provide sales reps and sales leaders with transparency

Transparency is key: it’s how a high-performing sales culture knows it’s a high-performing sales culture.

Sales reps need transparency into their own performance, their progress toward goals and quotas, and what they can expect to earn based on their sales activities. Without this transparency, sales reps resort to “shadow accounting,” or attempting to track these things themselves using homebrewed calculations. But those are rarely accurate, leading to unrealistic expectations, disputes, frustrations, wasted time, and poor morale.

Likewise, sales leaders need transparency to see how their team is performing, to keep them on track toward meeting quotas, to hone in on strengths and weaknesses, to identify bottlenecks, and to align goals with organizational objectives.

When sales reps and sales leaders are given the transparency they need, they’re able to stay focused on their respective responsibilities, allowing everyone to contribute to a high-performance sales culture.

In an ICM like Performio, everything you need is at your fingertips. Sales reps can easily see where they stand and what they’re earning, and sales leaders have complete visibility into all the performance data they need.


Drive performance on your sales team with Performio

Performio’s Incentive Compensation Management (ICM) software helps you at every level as you work toward building a high-performance sales culture.

It starts by enabling you to create a compensation plan that’s aligned with company goals and the kind of culture you want to build. From there, Performio gives your reps real-time insights into their sales activities, how far along they are toward their goals, what they can expect to earn, and where they stand on your leaderboards. And sales leaders have access to all the data they need to gauge performance, streamline sales processes, and keep their teams on track.

Equipping your sales reps with the best tools and trusting them with transparency are some of the best ways to create a high-performance sales culture.

Want to see what Performio can do for your business? Request a demo today.

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