Question and Answer Format
I need benchmark data on what percentage of annual gross revenue should come from new business and should be allocated to sales force compensation. For example, if in insurance or other annuities there is a commission on first year premiums only and not on renewal business or a reduced rate on renewals. I assume that the 1st year budget for acquisition is higher than maintaining existing customers, but I am curious is that is really the case or if there are any good benchmarks to use as a reference.
I believe your question is about sales roles with a new business focus when the acquired business generally turns into a long-term annuity type relationship. Examples from my experience include insurance policies, ASP software offerings, software leasing, online test delivery contracts, EDI services, data and voice communication subscriptions. In all these cases, the company most values the acquisition of new business, and counts on the quality of the service delivered to retain it.
In these business models, new business sold earlier in the year contributes more to in-year revenue than that sold later in the year as the revenue is generally recognized monthly. For this reason, much of the incentive design effort may be aimed at rewarding those who acquire significant new business early in the year by measuring “in-year new revenue.” Retention is sometimes the job of the new business sales person, but is often assigned to a different Account Manager or Client Services role. If the same person is doing both new business and account management, the total revenue from new business may be very small compared to the total revenue from the existing assigned book (5% – 20% of the total). Often the new business is commissioned (based on new in-year revenue or total contract value), and the retained business is handled more as a quota bonus, with the weight on each component proportional to the expected time allocation.
But to get to your specific question, the budgeted sales comp % revenue is likely all over the place, depending on industry and company stage of growth. In very high margin businesses (software, data services), you are likely to see a higher comp % revenue. Similarly, large deal sellers (deals in the millions, tens of millions and more) would see a smaller percent of revenue as their comp; and small deal sellers (I’ve seen deal sizes in the thousands of dollars) would earn a larger percent of revenue. And in earlier stage companies you are also likely to see higher comp % revenue. The right comp % revenue is really based on the market value of the job (numerator) and the selling model, which generates a reasonable sales productivity expectation per person (denominator).
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.