Sales Compensation in a COVID-19 World

In response to the pandemic, organizations are quickly adapting when it comes to their sales operations, including reassessing projections, planning for adjustments, and having proactive and frequent communications around sales compensation. These are some of the key findings from the “Sales Compensation in a COVID-19 World” survey, conducted by WorldatWork in partnership with SalesGlobe. The survey results provide a window into how organizations are addressing the myriad changes they are encountering as a result of the new business and economic environment. WorldatWork has been fielding COVID-19 Quick Polls regularly.
Key findings:

  • 96% of organizations have a moderate to high degree of trust that leadership will treat sales fairly in light of the current business climate.
  • 85% of organizations are communicating with their sales team on a weekly or more frequent basis.
  • 49% of organizations are developing a plan on how to address sales compensation; 34% are triaging based on immediate sales compensation needs; 20% have a plan on how to address sales compensation; 16% are implementing a plan to address sales compensation.
  • On the communications front, for 43% of organizations, leadership has assured the sales team that compensation would be addressed, with an approach to be determined or announced later; for 15%, leadership has communicated immediate actions that would be taken on the compensation plan; and for 5%, leadership has communicated immediate actions that would be taken on quotas.
  • The primary levers under consideration for actively taking action for adjusting sales compensation are quotas (46%), adjusting performance measures (44%) and lowering plan thresholds (36%).
  • Organizations are adjusting sales strategy through application of several shifts with almost 50% leaning in to help and to become a trusted advisor vs. selling.

“It makes sense that sales compensation is a major focus right now as businesses have been hit hard in recent months,” said Scott Cawood, President and CEO of WorldatWork. “The impact has been sudden and extreme, and in every industry sector the scales have been tipped. Regardless, the playing field sales has grown accustomed to has changed. For every type of business in every industry, realignment of sales operations is necessary to address the new marketplace.”

“The survey confirms our observation that companies are in the midst of Planful Action, the second phase of COVID-19 recovery,” said Mark Donnolo, Managing Partner and Founder of SalesGlobe. “The four phases include: 1. Acclimation 2. Planful Action 3. Building and Adjusting, and 4. Planning for Recovery.”

“It is important for companies to be thoughtful of the changes they are making today, as it is still unclear how this crisis will impact the sales model of the new economy. Companies that take a conservative approach that isn’t overreacting to a short-term problem will be best equipped to transition into their post-COVID-19 sales strategy,” said Michelle Seger, Partner SalesGlobe.

About the Study

WorldatWork, in partnership with SalesGlobe, conducted a rapid response survey about sales compensation in a COVID-19 world. WorldatWork members and SalesGlobe clients were invited to participate in the survey via email and LinkedIn, resulting in a final sample of 372 respondents. Results are generally representative of mid-sized and enterprise organizations, and the overall study has a 5% margin of error. Sample sizes vary by question and by respondent group. Please note that statistical reliability will fluctuate based on sample sizes.


The impact of COVID-19 on quotas and incentive compensation is literally evolving week to week. As companies move from “What are other companies doing?” to “What should we do?” it’s helpful to get insights and examples of how to approach the specific challenges in this uncertain environment.

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