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Supporting a return to stable salesforce operations

Compensation Strategy & Design|Executive Compensation|Talent|Total Rewards
COVID 19 Coronavirus

By Jennifer Frei and Alex Weisgerber | June 11, 2020

Salesforces are ready to sell and are connecting with customers, yet programs and policies may not sufficiently address new priorities.

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About our COVID-19 coverage

In our ongoing coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak, experts from across Willis Towers Watson share insight into what you need to know to manage your business and employees and reduce your risk.

As the economy begins to reopen and customers are increasingly ready to engage, it is important that sales management practices reflect updated selling priorities and expectations. Our recent survey shows that while only one-third of companies feel their salesforce programs have been effective in addressing COVID-19-related challenges, few (about 25%) have made changes to their programs. While this may reflect a conservative approach during the crisis, new data suggest that further action is required to ensure sales compensation, management and governance support the salesforce as they go to market.

In the majority of cases (58%), organizations report that as of mid-May sellers and buyers are starting to connect normally. The new survey shows concerns about several areas related to helping the salesforce do so effectively. The majority of organizations (57%) report that sales management is effective in helping the salesforce reorient to new priorities. But only 13% think that sales management, territory management, learning and development, and performance management are all effective in supporting the new selling priorities.

Program effectiveness in reorienting salesforce
Program/Resource effectiveness

To what extent are these programs/resources effective in helping your salesforce reorient to the new selling priorities?

Furthermore, while organizations are generally positive about their salesforces having the technical knowledge to engage effectively, this is not sufficient to be successful. Organizations need to revisit goals and incentives to ensure they reflect the current market opportunity and sales strategy/priorities. Only 35% of respondents agree or strongly agree that all three of these enablers are in place for their sales team.

 Sales team's ability to support client engagement
Ability to support effective client engagement

To what extent do you agree with these statements about your sales team’s ability to support effective client engagement?

Organizations are increasingly making changes to address these gaps – 27% of organizations reported making changes already, with 44% planning or considering doing so. Most reported adjustments target the enablers cited above with quota or goal adjustments as the most common change. These modifications are primarily targeted to support engagement, motivation and retention. Although we note that organizations should not lose sight of the equally important objective of protecting wellbeing for this segment of the workforce.

Salesforce rewards made or planned for the rest of the year.
Rewards program changes

What sales reward changes have been made or are planned to drive salesforce engagement and motivation for the rest of the year?

The responses to our latest pulse survey give important insights not only into the actions organizations have taken, but also the priorities they see ahead to ensure successful salesforces as we move into the next phase of recovery and stabilizing operations. The survey shows gaps in effectiveness that should prompt careful review and action as organizations have improved clarity about their economic prospects. New priorities and strategies may require sales teams to change job responsibilities and adapt; these adjustments should be supported by updated (and in some cases new) programs and policies.

These priorities are best addressed through a holistic lens of “sales effectiveness” drivers ensuring the organization has a salesforce – with the right people, with the right skills, focused on the right opportunities – that is highly engaged and motivated.

We recommend reviewing current programs and policies, and prioritizing adjustments based on relative strengths and the organization’s resources. Setting an agenda for a “sustainable reset” should better align your programs to the new requirements and provide flexibility in the future.


Senior Director, Sales Effectiveness and Rewards

Senior Director, Rewards,
Willis Towers Watson

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