This is a continuation of our blog series, Designing Your 2018 Sales Compensation Plan. Want to begin at the beginning? Click here.
6. Follow the Process
As you’ve worked through the steps of starting strong, crafting your change story, seeing the organization’s view, getting the change forecast, and leveraging the learning modes, you’ve covered a number of major steps in the change process. These began during the inception of the incentive plan design, and continued through the program assessment and program design.
During the program assessment phase, use a regular flow of inbound and outbound communication between the leadership team and the sales organization. This communication includes the initial C-level announcement, input from stakeholders and the organization, and regular updates to the organization on the initiative. During program design, pressure test the plan with opinion leaders and prepare the change story within the context of the organization’s change environment. As the organization moves closer to implementation, there are several communication points that should be covered using a selection of tools, including incentive plan documents, introductory presentations, key message scripts, and frequently asked questions to keep the team consistent and on-message.
Pre-launch, assuage the people who may be affected. In any change, team members will be affected in both positive and negative ways. Since a plan design can be developed for each person, address highly-valued team members who may be negatively impacted by the change to explain the impact of the change and, if necessary, work out transition plans to get them successfully through the change. Of course, this process should start during program assessment and design through a process of socializing the upcoming change with the organization. At the pre-launch point, these changes should be a formality for highly-valued team members so they’re on-board with the change and advocates of the change.
On Day One, announce with strategic themes and reinforce at the team level. Make the plan announcement within the context of the overall sales strategy. This is the first formal communication of the change story. It should hit on all the C-Level Goals and be positioned with the right motivators of change given the environment. Translate the story to the team through sales management in concert with the strategic announcement. Sales management should then work with the team in break-out groups that get into the details of the program, answer questions, and make sure that each member of the organization understands the new program.
In the first 14 days following the announcement, open the communications channels. To support the announcement, open up your support channels to capture the inevitable inbound questions and manage the flow of communications. These vehicles typically include an inbound voice hotline, a dedicated e-mail account, a company-operated blog, and social media presence. While some of these vehicles may seem non-traditional, it’s not uncommon for the sales organization to establish its own web and social media presence in response to a major change. It’s usually better for the company to move proactively in this direction than to reactively defend.
Thirty days after the announcement, test for understanding. No matter how well accepted the plan is during the announcement, don’t assume the whole organization understands it. Following the announcement, managers should work on a schedule to reach out to reps and confirm their understanding of the plan and their objectives.
Sixty days after the announcement, test for behavioral change. The first sign that the plan is beginning to work is a pattern of behaviors that are consistent with the objectives of the program. Test for these changes through direct coaching and observation by sales managers and through performance measurement through vehicles like the CRM system that track activities and steps in the sales process.
Ninety days after the announcement, test for results. At the 90-day point, test for performance results under the new plan. Depending upon the length of the sales cycle, results may begin to show during the initial months or after the first quarter. With many implementations, the sales organization may actually experience a dip in performance after the introduction as it adjusts from any initial distractions and begins a new, consistent rhythm.
Quarterly, evaluate behaviors and results. At quarterly points, assess the performance of the plan and whether it’s continuing to deliver the desired behaviors and results. A monthly view can provide more granularity as long as those shorter periods give a reliable reading on results without spikes in performance. As the organization moves into a couple of iterations of the quarterly evaluation cycle, it can also begin to assess the plan’s ability to support the strategy for the upcoming year.
When making the change to your program, start early with socialization, craft the right story for your change environment, and stay sensitive to the organization while you work through your multi-mode communications process.
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