Incentive Compensation

Monica Levine’s Expert Advice on Motivating Reps, Streamlining Processes, and Assessing Comp Plans

Siva Subramanian
min read
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In the second Uncappd AMA, we chatted with Monica Levine, Senior Manager - Sales Incentives and Strategy at Yext on motivating reps, streamlining processes, SPIFs, and assessing Comp Plans!

Ranjuna Sajeevan [Uncappd]  

Hey everyone! Here we’re again, with the second edition of Uncappd AMA!

Today we’ve got Monica Levine, Sr. Manager - Sales Incentives and Strategy at Yext to tackle all your burning questions on sales compensation! We’re thrilled to have you, Monica! 

Monica Levine  

Thanks Ranjuna! Happy to be here.

Siva Subramanian [Uncappd]  

Thanks for joining us, Monica. Super excited for the session! 

Ranjuna Sajeevan [Uncappd] 

Alright! So, our main topics of discussion are:

  1. How to keep your reps motivated and driven
  2. Streamlining sales comp processes
  3. Designing SPIFs that really work
  4. Assessing the effectiveness of your sales comp program
  5. Advancing your career in sales compensation

Got questions for Monica? Please feel free to share it across here. We’ve got some excellent questions already!

So…let’s get started.

Here's our first question: We’d like to set up friendly competitions to create extra motivation among our reps. How do we ensure this doesn’t end up becoming unhealthy and affect team dynamics? 

Monica Levine: 

Competitions are great! Clarity, transparency, and a focus on individual achievement within the team is important. Establishing clear guidelines and objectives which you can show via leaderboards or other reporting keeps reps accountable and maintains a level of fairness. It’s also important to emphasize teamwork in addition to individual success to encourage collaboration. Any competition on an individual basis needs to be centered around goals which when achieved by one rep don’t prevent others from achieving as well. 

Ranjuna Sajeevan [Uncappd]  - We’ve got one on SPIFs: What’s the ideal time and frequency for introducing SPIFs in comp plans?

Monica Levine:

I think it depends on what the goal of the SPIF is. SPIFs can be very helpful in testing new components before officially incorporating them into comp plans. By running SPIFs for a designated period, you can gauge their effectiveness in driving desired results without full commitment. In this case, launching the SPIF at the same time comp plans roll out make sense. On another hand, SPIFs can also be helpful in driving shorter-term initiatives, such as promoting the launch of new products or driving adoption of sales tools. In this case, a quarterly review/launch cadence may be more ideal.

Ranjuna Sajeevan [Uncappd]: This one’s interesting: If you could change anything and cost wasn't a factor, what would you change about your incentive comp process?

Monica Levine:

hmm that’s a good one! I would love better ways to model plan changes, both on historical data and to make projections. Going along with this, easier to use tools to get some quick analytics and takeaways so that you can keep a pulse on the incentive program would be great to have.

David Miller: Hi Monica Levine!  I have a follow up question on SPIFs - if you are implementing multiple SPIFs throughout the year to gauge the effectiveness of new measures, what are some steps you take to avoid situations where a SPIF pays out much more or much less than anticipated?

Monica Levine:

I would say that’s generally where launching a SPIF with a shorter time period or having the ability to alter it as you go is important. That way if payments are outsized for the results you’re looking for you can adjust down. As far as underpaying on SPIFs, that’s generally an indicator that the SPIF wasn’t successful in driving the behavior intended and perhaps tweaks need to be made to make it more effective.

Shiva Ranjani: Hi Monica, what are the main factors that needs to adopted in streamlining the comp process?

Monica Levine

When streamlining the comp process, I think there are a few areas you can look to. First would be your tech stack and how all of the pieces connect from identifying payees and roles down to paying them out. Another area is policies and making sure you think through common areas of dispute or conflict so you have a standard approach and don’t need to reinvent the wheel each time it arises. Lastly I think you need to look at all of your plans as a whole and keep components consistent throughout when you can (gets back to not reinventing the wheel each time)

Jordan Wong
: How would you weight affordability against other factors when assessing the effectiveness of the overall sales comp program?

Monica Levine:

This depends on the your overall sales comp budget. Typically I like to think of it as puts and takes meaning if you are considering adding a component or SPIF, what else are you going to decease to account for that additional expense? And do those adjustments align with the company strategic objectives?

Shiva Ranjani: SPIFFs are one way to motivate the reps. What other best practices can be followed to motivate a rep apart from SPIFFs?

Monica Levine:  

Some companies have seen success with non-monetary competitions or “badge” systems where you can achieve different levels of a badge after completing a set criteria. Besides what is already in their comp plan as motivator, managers should also be coaching and working with their teams to stay motivated and hit their goals

Siva Subramanian [Uncappd]:

Only 10 MINUTES left, folks! This is your final chance to get your questions answered by Monica!

Samra: Hey Monica. What do you consider as the most challenging aspect of your job?

Monica Levine  

There are a few aspects, I would say the following (can be challenging, but fun too!)

  • Driving decisions amongst execs (and making sure those decisions stick)
  • Managing competing deadlines given the tight deadlines that are involved when paying people
  • Monitoring comp plans and truly measuring effectiveness - there are a lot of factors that influence outcomes, how much is driven by incentives vs. other factors?
Ranjuna Sajeevan [Uncappd]: Here's the next one - What role does qualitative data, such as feedback or insights from sales teams and leaders, play in assessing the effectiveness of a sales compensation program?

Monica Levine

Qualitative data is very important!! The world of incentive comp is both a science and an art. It’s critical to know how the field approaches their plans since that will correlate to if they are effective for not. As an example, if a rep deems a component of a plan not important or sees it as requiring a lot of effort, that feedback is important to understand how to weight plan components. If that component is not weighted heavily, then a rep may not pay attention to it at all and thus it becomes ineffective. Qualitative feedback is also important when thinking of a plan as a whole and how it impacts rep motivation and sentiment. It’s critical for plans to be well received and keep reps motivated!

Ranjuna Sajeevan [Uncappd]: And here's the final one - What are the best ways to stay up-to-date on latest and upcoming trends in compensation, and how do you decide if they can apply to your organization?

Monica Levine:  

Being a part of uncappd and attending conferences and webinars! A lot is put on virtually and for free to learn from folks who have been in the field for a long time. Maintaining relationships with others in the field is important as well. It’s helpful to be able to bounce ideas off of peers at other companies to see how they are tackling some common problems. 

Ranjuna Sajeevan [Uncappd] 

We love that answer, Monica Levine! That’s curtains down for Uncappd AMA #2! A big thank you for chatting with us today and sharing your expertise with the community!

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