Telesales generally comes in two big categories: inbound and outbound. Inbound reps are responding appropriately to the calls that come in, generally triggered by marketing of some kind (ads, promotions, etc.). Outbound reps target prospects and initiate contact themselves.
In general, inbound telesales is one of the lower prominence sales roles, and also generally lower in TCC (Target Cash Compensation) than the outbound rep. So there may be less pay at risk as a percent of total compensation for the inbound rep than for any other member of the sales team (including field roles). And there would also be less upside for over-achievement for these roles. But their base pay level may be higher than that of an outbound telesales rep.
Outbound telesales reps are often one of the highest prominence sales roles, and may even function very close to the level of a field rep with the distinction that they don’t actually visit the customers on-site. Often their plans are relatively aggressive in terms of pay mix (50/50 might be typical, but check on this for your industry), and include some dramatic upside for overperformance. They are usually running shorter sales cycles than the field rep with their total quota made up of a large number of small deals. So they are often paid monthly even when the field rep is paid quarterly.
Outbound renewal-only telesales reps are one more refinement of the above, with responsibility for calling into the existing customer base to secure a renewal for a subscription-type service (e.g., phone service, online data access, SaaS). They may have upsell/cross-sell opportunities as well. For these roles, there is probably a known/expected renewal rate. Ideally their earnings start to be meaningful at some minimum acceptable rate of renewal generation, and go up dramatically if they manage to beat expectations and/or add on services. For example, if 85% of customers renew when prompted, then the performance threshold might be 75% or 80% of customers renewing. And outstanding or “excellence” performance might be set at 90% or 95% of customers renewing. Clearly no more than 100% of customers can renew, resulting in a natural cap if the plan rewards for percent of customers renewing. In order to ensure meaningful earnings throughout the year, this role would most often be paid monthly based on results that month (not cumulatively for year-to-date performance).
Standard direct rep plans, in contrast to the renewal-only telesales plan, would likely have
- More total compensation at target (as field roles generally do, compared to inside roles)
- Wider performance ranges (for example, 50% of quota as the threshold and 150% of quota as excellence performance, or maybe 75% to 125%)
- A core measure (like sales value) augmented by a secondary measure of sale quality (like profitability, new name account, or percent of sales from a strategically important product line).
Practices vary from situation to situation, but these general directional pointers would apply in many businesses with these roles. If you have good ideas to add, please comment below!
Donya Rose, CSCP, is Managing Principal of The Cygnal Group. She is a recognized expert in sales compensation plan design, regularly speaking at conferences and writing published articles. She serves clients from F500 to growth-stage businesses, and advises WorldatWork on sales compensation hot topics and best practices.