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Sales Compensation

5 Reasons Why CFOs should care more about Sales Compensation

Sameer Sinha
CEO & Co-Founder At Visdum
Published On:
November 2, 2023
May 1, 2024

In the first half of 2022, 8.1% of CFOs at some of the largest companies in the U.S. were promoted to CEOs. This is up from the previous periods when only 5.6% of finance chiefs were promoted to CEOs. 

It is not uncommon for CFOs (Chief Financial Officers) to transition into CEO (Chief Executive Officer) roles these days. CFOs are often well-suited for CEO positions because they have a deep understanding of the financial health of a company and are skilled in managing budgets and financial operations.

While most CFOs today are still concerned about financial analysis, planning, budgeting, forecasting, and cash flow management, an increasing number of them are becoming more involved in the sales compensation planning process due to the impact these policies have on the company’s bottom line.

Reasons why CFOs need to pay more attention to Sales Commissions

Impact on the company's top and bottom line

The CFO works closely in developing and implementing the sales compensation plan because of its direct impact on the organization's financial performance. 

A well-designed sales compensation plan can help increase revenue and improve the organization's bottom line, while a poorly designed plan can lead to overspending and missed financial targets.

The more effective the sales compensation plan is, the more likely the sales team will be motivated to sell what matters, and the more revenue the company will likely generate.

Imagine this Scenario: Liquidity in an organization refers to the availability of cash or other liquid assets to meet financial obligations as they come due. If an organization has low liquidity, it may have difficulty paying sales commissions on time. This can gravely impact the morale of the sales team. 

There are several ways for CFOs to navigate such a situation:  

  1. Reviewing the sales compensation plan to ensure it aligns with the organization's current financial situation.
  2. Identifying and reducing unnecessary expenses to free up cash flow.
  3. Negotiating with suppliers and vendors for more favorable terms.
  4. Increasing the organization's revenue through effective marketing and sales strategies.
  5. Implementing a rigorous budgeting and forecasting process to manage cash flow better.
  6. Seeking external financing or investment.
  7. Look into other options like factoring or invoice financing.

Ultimately, the CFO's goal is to improve the organization's liquidity to ensure that it can pay sales commissions on time and keep sales team motivation consistently high. 

Attract and retain top sales talent 

A well-designed sales compensation plan can help attract top sales talent and reduce the possibility of attrition. For a company’s sales compensation plan to be effective, it has to offer competitive pay and incentives that align with the company's goals and objectives. This can include base salary, commission, bonuses, spiffs and other incentives such as stock options or profit-sharing.

Once top sales talent is attracted, it is important to retain them through a fair and consistent compensation plan that is revised monthly, quarterly, or annually, based on how your sales strategy changes. A fair sales incentive plan also ensures that top performers are rewarded well and encouraged to stay with the company. Some of these rewards could be in the form of performance-based bonuses, stock options, and other incentives that reward A players for their contributions to the company.

CFOs are responsible for working closely with the Sales Leadership and Revenue Operations team to design a fair sales compensation plan that aligns with business goals and keeps the sales team motivated.

Impact company culture

A fair and transparent sales compensation plan can foster a positive culture and boost employee morale, while a poorly designed plan can create disputes within the sales team.

The CFO has a critical role to play here as the enforcer of a fair and transparent compensation system, setting the financial parameters and guidelines for the sales team's compensation plans, and ensuring that various incentives and rewards are offered. CFOs also oversee and decide on the different forms of compensation such as bonuses, stock options, etc. that are set aside to reward exceptional performance.

To ensure transparency, the CFO can communicate the commission structure and sales quotas to all sales staff and provide regular updates on their performance and potential earnings. CFOs can also establish a clear process via sales commission software, to automate commission calculations, maintaining accuracy and visibility.

The CFO, with his pivotal role in the whole compensation process, has the power to  ensure that salespeople are rewarded fairly, thus impacting the overall company culture. 

Loss in revenue and productivity due to complex and costly implementation

Sales compensation can be complex and costly because it involves various factors, such as base salary, commissions, bonuses, and other incentives. These factors need to be carefully considered and balanced to create a plan that is fair and effective in motivating salespeople to meet or exceed their targets.

Accurate data plays a mission-critical role in designing the right sales compensation plan. The CFO has to ensure that the relationship between Sales and Finance is re-aligned based on a data-driven incentive program. The more (and accessible) data at your disposal, the better a company can ensure its sales team remains happy and productive by reducing the sales compensation headaches that have long existed.  

The CFO can work with the sales team to establish key performance indicators (KPIs) that are aligned with the company's overall financial goals, such as revenue targets or profitability metrics which can be tracked using the company's CRM system or financial reporting tools. Thereby, in ensuring fair compensation plans based on accurate sales data, the CFO helps drive up sales productivity and subsequent revenue growth.

Aligned sales compensation plans help in Forecasting future revenue and expenses

Sales compensation plans should align with the company's overall business strategy and goals because it helps to ensure that the sales team is focused on achieving the same objectives as the rest of the company.

An aligned sales compensation plan helps CFOs to forecast future revenue and expenses more accurately by providing a clear framework for how salespeople will be rewarded based on their performance. The plan allows CFOs to provide expected payouts to the sales team based on the expected sales revenue, which helps them to protect the company's revenue stream and associated expenses. 

It also helps CFOs to identify potential financial risks and opportunities, allowing them to adjust their financial models and budgets accordingly. Ultimately, an aligned sales compensation plan provides CFOs with the data they need to make informed decisions about resource allocation and investment and to accurately forecast future revenue and expenses related to sales activities.

CFO and sales compensation

In conclusion, CFOs should care more about sales compensation because it has a significant impact on a company's financial performance, and can even be a factor in their own career advancement. As more CFOs are promoted to CEO roles, they need to have a broader understanding of the company's operations, including sales compensation. An aligned sales compensation plan can help CFOs to improve financial performance, better forecast revenue and expenses, retain and recruit top sales performers, and improve sales and marketing alignment. By taking a more active role in sales compensation planning.

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