In response to advertisers’ shifting marketing objectives, media companies spend countless hours in cross-functional design meetings to structure and tune the ideal sales compensation program.


The new plans are simpler than previous generations and appropriately reward for both digitally focused solutions and legacy transactional sales. Furthermore, these new plans align sales, finance, sales operations and human resources needs and adhere to pre-established guiding principles, such as:

  • Grow revenue profitably
  • Set stretch, but make goals achievable
  • Ensure each plan is simple to understand

With a new generation of sales comp plans established, companies must now ask, “How do we successfully communicate and launch the new plans?” Here are three tips to ensure success:

1) Communicate Strategy, Not Just Mechanics: When communicating a new plan, don’t just talk about the mechanics, but ensure that each message ties back to the strategy. Doing this not only provides contexts of why the company is making changes but also relieves some of the consternation that naturally arises whenever leadership alters compensation plans.

For example, consider the following two ways for communicating a new mechanic designed to increase digital revenue.

2) Communication. Not Just an Event: Rather than treating communication as an event with a start and stop, consider it as an on-going process where the messaging evolves and key points are reinforced continuously. After launching plans, take the time to check in with the sales team to ensure the program is driving the desired results and that there is alignment on expected behaviors.

Here is a typical communication sequence to serve as a guide:

  • Executive: Delivers the first notice that change is coming. Shares insights into company strategy.
  • Sales Leadership: Shares any changes to the go-to-customer strategy and model (e.g., new pre- and post-roles and rules of engagements). Communicates highlights of the new plan(s) to the sales team and also shares the principles which guided the design.
  • Train the Trainer: Provides sales management with detailed training on how the plan will work, examples of how to win and instructions on their part in the roll-out process.
  • Team Discussions: Enables each manager to speak with his or her team separately to discuss how the new plan(s) aligns to their respective goals, role and responsibilities.
  • Manager and Rep One-on-Ones: Allows personalized discussions between each manager and their reps regarding plan details and how they can personally maximize earnings.
  • Follow-Ups: Collects feedback after launch. Deploys surveys, conducts interviews and documents feedback to ensure there is accurate and complete understanding of the new program and the strategy behind it.

3) Show Them How to Win: When it comes to communicating how to maximize earnings under a new sales comp program, do not leave it up to the imagination. By creating estimating tools and examples of what good, better and best look like, you’ll be able to dynamically show each sales rep how they can maximize their success.

Each unique sales role deserves its own tailored sales compensation plan. And each sales compensation plan deserves its own earnings estimator tool (Excel or Web-Based). Here are the typical components that are built into an earnings estimator:

After you create the tools and potential users pressure test them, best practice suggests that you lock all parts of the tools, except for the inputs, and create detailed instructions.

There are a lot of things to consider when thinking through how to launch a new sales comp program. As George Bernard Shaw said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” Don’t leave communication up to chance. In the ever-evolving media landscape, change is unavoidable, and therefore strategies and sales comp plans cannot remain static. By following these tips, you’ll ensure that the effort spent on designing new plans successfully translates into understanding, buy-in and, ultimately, sales success.

Visit Alexander Group’s Media Sales practice page or contact a Media Sales practice leader.
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Insight type: Article

Industry: Media Sales

Role: HR/Sales Compensation

Topic: Leadership, Sales Comp

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