Pay for Sales Staff Rising as Economy Thaws, Study Shows

By SHRM Online staff Jan 25, 2012

There's good news for sales professionals in 2012: Base pay and target incentive increases are returning, according to the findings from the 2012 Sales Compensation Trends Survey.

The survey of mostly large North American companies showed that 75 percent of respondents planned to grant base pay increases of 3 percent for sales staff in 2012, up from about 65 percent that projected pay raises for sales staff in 2011. In addition, respondents expected a 3 percent improvement on target incentive amounts in 2012.

More than 115 sales departments representing 120,000 sales personnel participated in the annual survey, co-sponsored by WorldatWork, an association of total rewards professionals, and the Alexander Group, a compensation consultancy. Participants provided data in December 2011 on what occurred in 2011 and what they projected will happen in 2012.

"Compensation planners are once again providing base pay increases to sales personnel when base pay is part of the compensation package," said David Cichelli, senior vice president of the Alexander Group and survey editor. "The survey results show the slow economic thaw has finally reached the base pay program for sales personnel." (Cichelli discusses the survey findings in this WorldatWork video.)

James Stoeckmann, a WorldatWork certified sales compensation professional and practice leader, added, "The upturn in sales department spending for 2012 reported by survey participants means more positive news for [an] economy that seemingly took a minor pause in 2011."

Among other survey highlights:

One in three companies paid above their incentive budget for sales staff in 2011.

11 percent was the median 2011 turnover rate for sales staff; 10 percent is projected for 2012.

44 percent made no changes to sales quotas in 2011.

97 percent plan to make sales compensation program changes in 2012, mostly in the area of performance measures.

Related Articles:

Components of a Commission-Only Sales Plan, SHRM HR Q&As, January 2012

Designing Compensation Systems for Sales Professionals, SHRM Templates and Tools, December 2011

Sales Compensation Plans Can Cultivate Growth, SHRM Online Compensation Discipline, May 2011

Quick Links:

SHRM Online Compensation Discipline

SHRM Salary Survey Directory

SHRM Compensation Data Center

SHRM Metro Economic Outlook reports

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