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2019 Sales Compensation Study

Author: Peak Sales Recruiting
Posted: July 26th, 2019

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Talent is an organization’s competitive advantage in the modern economy, and sales talent in particular is a core revenue driver. It is also one of the trickiest functions to hire for. Talent shortages are at their highest since 2006, the Manpower Group reports, and sales reps hold the #2 most in-demand role out of all possible job functions, surpassing even engineers.

Given these conditions, companies must offer attractive compensation plans for a chance to entice top sales talent. If they are to attract the best candidates, these plans need to offer a variety of monetary and nonmonetary benefits, including market-leading salaries, easy-to-calculate commission structures, and clear markers for future personal growth and development, including raises, bonuses, and promotions.

For this report, we surveyed over 1,000 sales professionals in 100 cities across North America. The key questions the survey investigated include:

  • What are today’s salary benchmarks for different sales roles, including reps, managers, and leaders?
  • What is the broader state of compensation packages, considering features such as base-commission splits, additional incentives, and yearly OTE growth in various regions and industries?
  • How satisfied are sales employees with their compensation packages?
  • How does satisfaction with compensation relate to retention?

These findings are designed to help companies set benchmarks and to assist with the development of an attractive sales compensation program to entice top performers while retaining A-players.

In compiling this survey—and in working with thousands of salespeople and their companies—we have learned that no single characteristic can define a “good” compensation plan. Every sales professional has their own motivations and goals, and they all require something different.  Consequently, savvy companies need to regularly review their compensation packages and tailor them carefully for individual employees.

However, it remains vital to hire the right salespeople in the first place.

A-players with a successful sales track record represent just 10–15% of the entire sales population, so they are not easy to find, nor are they easy to attract. Top performers are, nonetheless, well worth the effort of seeking out. They are much more likely to deliver on revenue goals, to inspire customer confidence and brand appreciation, and to contribute significantly to positive team culture.

By offering an attractive, tailormade compensation package from the outset, not only will a company attract top talent, but they will also be more likely to retain them and incentivize desired behaviors across the organization.

Unfortunately, our research confirms that most companies are not succeeding in this respect. We have found that 29% of top sales performers are not satisfied with their current compensation, and 54% are dissatisfied with their employer. Given this state of affairs, employers need to think of compensation not just as a standalone financial incentive, but as leverage for a broader initiative to increase employee satisfaction and retention.

At the same time, every sales professional wants something different, but most top-performing salespeople are attracted by more than financial considerations alone. A supportive sales culture and fully engaged leadership are also important, especially in providing extra sales support and establishing salespeople’s confidence in a company’s sales strategy.

As we shall see, once a wellbalanced compensation plan is established, top sales talent will be easier to attract—and much easier to retain.


Leadership, Motivation, Sales Research


Motivation, Talent, Compensation, Performance, Hiring, Recognition