So, you’ve realized commission spreadsheets are actually evil, and that sales incentive software will vastly improve transparency, efficiency, and your personal sanity. Eureka! Problem solved.
Except… not exactly.
If you’ve decided to invest in any new solution, your work is just getting started. There’s no shortage of sales commission software on the market, and when you factor in the massive operational differences, it’s a recipe for information overload. It also doesn’t help that every vendor seems to have their own way of explaining things, which can make the whole ordeal feel like comparing apples to oranges.
So how are you supposed to determine the best fit for your organization’s budget, goals, requirements, and tech stack? Establishing some common baselines before you begin will make for an easier evaluation process. It’s always better to look under the hood before you get to the RFP stage, so you can weed out incompatible solutions as you go and spare yourself an unpleasant surprise later on. After all, the last thing you want is to sink time and resources into a brand new sales incentive software, only to find yourself struggling to use it.
Here are six crucial considerations to keep in mind while shopping around. These considerations will help mitigate the risk of investing in a clunky, outdated piece of technology that may not meet your sales incentive program needs:
What type of sales incentive software are you looking for?
A good first step is determining which type of sales incentive software you’re looking for. Two of the most popular types of commission tools are self-managed platforms and bespoke solutions. Both are intended to help streamline sales compensation, but do so in fundamentally different ways.
Technically speaking, self-managed platforms are low-code or no-code, with the platform’s core capabilities— like real-time data or automated commission reports— coded in reusable modules. Admins can then select those modules to create, combine, and rearrange comp plan components. Due to their graphic user interface, low-code and no-code platforms enable admins to visually build out complex plans, without having to tinker with the underlying source code.
By contrast, bespoke solutions function more like traditional software. Plan rules are typically hard-coded on the backend depending on your organization’s specific requirements. Due to complexity, customization is usually restricted to developers with deep platform expertise. This often requires an additional investment for external engineering support and can be a costly expense— especially if you aren’t prepared for it ahead of time.
Here are some example questions we recommend asking in your initial conversations with sales incentive software vendors:
- Do you consider your platform to be low code or no code?
- What kind of changes can admins make themselves with your platform?
- What kind of changes require the assistance of a professional services rep or a customer support rep?
- Are supported or assisted changes to my account set up included in the standard pricing package or is that something I’d have to pay extra for?
We won’t spend too much time comparing and contrasting the different types of commission software available since we’ve already done a deep dive on the topic, here: ASC 606 Compliance: Choosing a Commission Expensing Solution.
This post is framed around searching for a solution to assist with ASC 606 compliance, but many of the main points will help you understand the pros and cons of different commission solutions.
What functionality do you need to design and automate sales incentives?
Compensation plans are the meat and potatoes of any sales incentive software, so it’s important to delve into the actual processes around building, managing, calculating, and distributing incentive compensation plans. No matter what type of solution you’re looking for, it’s important to ask the vendor to walk you through a range of processes you might handle during any given pay period.
Also see what’s involved in setting up project-based compensation, custom-defined commission periods, or overlapping plans. Even if it seems like overkill, it’s good to get a grasp on the full range of capabilities— some of which may become more relevant as your sales compensation plans evolve.
Whatever the process, be sure to check and see if your team can perform these functions independently, or will need to go through a CSM. Also be mindful of the pricing model, which may restrict how many plans or rules you can create, or the amount of data you can process.
Here are some example questions we recommend asking during your initial calls with sales incentive platforms:
- How do you manage compensation program complexities like promotions, overlapping plans, intra-period adjustments, and modifiers?
- How do you handle complex team structures and roll-ups?
- How well does your platform support growing teams? Changes in territories? Setting up new sales reps? Organization restructures?
What integrations will need to work with your sales incentive software?
Data integrations are another critical consideration to keep in mind while researching solutions, since these will significantly impact the accuracy of your payouts, audits, and reports— as well as your ability to streamline compensation management.
Vendors may insist their solution will “play nicely” with the rest of your tech stack, but this can be subjective. Instead of just talking compatibility, drill down into the actual integrations and which objects the software can pull from your CRM, ERP, HRSI, or payroll. If a solution doesn’t easily sync with your system or requires custom coding for future integrations, you may find yourself drowning in the same spreadsheet-style drudgery you’re currently trying to escape from.
It’s also important to be mindful of bloated imports. When commission software pulls in complete CRM reports with every sync, instead of just new or modified data, this can cause significant lags and make it harder to streamline commission operations. If there’s a two hour processing time, it’s better to know about it in advance.
Here are several example questions to get you started during conversations with potential vendors:
- What platforms do you have native integrations with?
- How many customers do you have using the integrations that are important to me?
- How customizable are these integrations? Can I pick and choose which objects you’ll pull from our CRM, ERP, HRSI, or payroll software?
- Will your system import or sync everything from our systems and how will the integration impact lags and processing times?
Are you confident in a sales incentive platform’s data workflows and processes?
Beyond integrations, it’s also important to consider the level of nuance and depth in the data being imported— and what your team can actually do with it. Are reps able to trace commission calculations on their statements, or will they only have summary visibility? Can admin users modify data without impacting the CRM source code?
Be sure to evaluate data management capabilities and workflows, and take stock of potential restrictions. For example, we recommend you ask your potential vendors of choice the following questions:
- Can I attach a new set of records to an existing hierarchy, or do they need to be added one at a time?
- Can I isolate and correct a commission error at the rep level, or do I need to re-process the entire batch every time?
- How much flexibility do I have with functions, logic, and calculations?
- Can I use familiar syntax, or do I need to learn a whole new lingo?
- Is there automated version history, or do I have to manually keep track of any changes and overwrites?
Keeping an eye out for repetitive or complex data processes will help you assess a platform’s ability to effectively streamline sales compensation.
What kind of customization does each sales incentive software vendor support?
Depending on the type of platform you choose, commission plan customization can run the full gamut from single-click updates to complex processes involving CSM support and a full binder of instructions.
Here are some questions we recommend asking during your research of different platforms:
- Can you show me different customization capabilities in action?
- Can you demonstrate how to create a new rule or make an ad hoc plan modification?
- Does your platform allow users to switch between different languages or currencies?
Does each sales incentive vendor support your reporting needs?
Reports are another biggie to keep in mind. Take a look at what’s actually involved in building, editing, customizing, and deploying different varieties, from routine plan and performance assessments to ad hoc C-suite requests and full-blown ASC 606 or IFRS 15 audits. Some good questions to ask vendors throughout the evaluation process:
- Is this solution’s built-in reporting functionality granular enough to support my existing plans and commission cadence, or will I need to supplement with additional dashboards?
- How extensively can you customize dashboards before you need to go to your CSM for support?
- Does your platform automate ASC 606 reports and is that an extra cost?
- Are there any types of reports that are an additional cost?
Spiff is a new class of software that creates trust across the organization by delivering real-time automation of commission calculations and motivates teams to drive top-line growth. With a combination of an intuitive UI, real-time visibility, and seamless integrations into current systems, Spiff is the first choice among high-growth businesses. Spiff’s sales commission tracker enables finance and sales operations teams to self-manage complex incentive compensation plans and provides transparency for sales teams.