Here at sales cookie, we are passionate about helping our customers automate their sales commission programs. Our platform is designed to handle the most complex incentive plans – those with accelerators, split crediting, recoverable draws, or advanced calculation formulas. There are times however where we run into roadblocks. Here are the most common ones and how to resolve them.
Insufficient Data Tracking
Virtually all our customers have a system of record (ex: SalesForce, HubSpot, etc.) tracking sales activities (ex: opportunities, deals, invoices, etc.). However, in some cases, there simply isn’t enough information available in the system to calculate sales commissions. For example, suppose that reps receive a 5% commission when a contract is accepted, and another 10% when the contract is signed. To calculate commissions for a given pay period, we need to know not just that these events happened, but also when they happened. Having each record store a state (ex: dropdown) such as “contract accepted” vs. “contract signed” is not sufficient. In order to calculate commissions, those records should include a date for each event (ex: “date accepted” and “date signed”). Without this type of information, we’re unable to know what happened when, and so are unable to calculate commissions.
Murky Commission Structure
In some cases, sales commissions get so complicated that, while trying to elucidate the incentive plan’s structure, our customers realize they’re in fact not sure how they are supposed to work. We try our best to break down general descriptions of sales commission plans into logical components, but sometimes we find that the logic remains murky – or even that some commission rules contradict one another. To be clear, we see it as part of our job to help our customers gain clarity on how they want their incentive program to work. At the same time, how those incentive programs should work is not our decision. This is why we sometimes hear something like: “I agree it’s confusing. I need to confirm with my finance team how sales commissions are supposed to work for the scenario you’ve outlined. I will get back to you soon.“.
Data Reconciliation Issues
Another roadblock we’ve identified is customers looking for a way to reconcile records within our platform. While this is possible, we don’t recommend it. For example, suppose that the customer’s finance team mark deals as paid in Quickbooks, but not in their CRM system. As a result, deals we sync from their CRM system aren’t identified as paid or unpaid, and so we can’t calculate commissions. Some of our customers ask us whether their finance team could login to Sales Cookie and mark deals as paid. Our answer is that they absolutely could, but that a better approach may be to ensure that their CRM system becomes a single source of truth by having their finance team update CRM records, which will then sync to Sales Cookie. Sometimes, this even means that the customer no longer needs our solution (because their commissions are simple enough to calculate within their CRM platform), but it is our responsibility to make correct recommendations regarding data architecture.
The last roadblock we run into is recurring revenue. Consider a situation where a contract is valid for a year, but commissions are paid monthly. Some of our customers only use a single record tracking the recurring deal, but want us to calculate monthly commissions. While this is something we will likely add support for in the future, our recommendation is always to create a master invoice, and then related records for each month (which for example using an automated CRM workflow). The reasons why we recommend creating separate records include:
- Ability to handle change. Customers may cancel their contract, local tax rates may change, monthly bills may not be paid on time, customers may upgrade or downgrade, etc. Using separate records for each month, customers can accurately track deviations or changes. Using a single record makes this impossible.
- Reporting is easier – whether it’s from an accounting perspective, or from a data reporting perspective, maintaining separate records for each occurrence makes things easier. For example, using separate records, it becomes possible to query your CRM system and find all sales transactions between February and May – and show total revenue earned during this period. Using a single record makes this impossible.
Our team is passionate about helping customers automate their incentive plans. Sometimes we run into obstacles, and it is our responsibility to make data architecture recommendations based on our experience. Some of our recommendations require additional tracking, but we’re confident those recommendations will benefit you in the long run.