How Sales Compensation Should Change with AI and Automation Technologies

Technology is growing smarter and automation in the sales process is becoming a reality. In fact, we now have some sales functions that require no real-life human interactions at all. For instance, the process of buying keywords for Google’s Adwords is completely automated. As the role of sales reps evolves due to automation and artificial intelligence, it also mandates companies to alter their compensation structure to accommodate these changes.

Here is a look at some big interruptions on the sales process brought about by artificial intelligence and automation as well as how to factor them in sales comp planning. 

  1. Automation will expose weak salespeople 

We are already in the age of information where people can find all sort of information. This includes information about a product or service they are interested in buying. Now, educated buyers will hardly require any human to convince them into purchasing. This means businesses will begin receiving leads that are already halfway through their buyer’s journey.  

As a result, the focus in selling will shift to managing relationships, building trust, and up-selling. Sales results will also depend on marketing and customer service. With effective data collection and proper analysis, it will be easy to determine which sales reps or what sales activities are driving revenue. This makes it easy to weed out weak salespeople and create smaller, more effective sales teams. 

How will your compensation plan look like? Technology will enable top sales reps to close more deals faster. Consequently, a compensation plan that puts more weight on incentives than base pay will influence excellent performance by salespeople.  

  1. Sales roles are evolving

As the sales process changes, we now have new sales roles such as customer success managers and process managers that were hardly heard of in the past. This means your compensation plan will have a different basis for paying such workers. Their performance metrics are different from entry-level salespeople and their pay can’t be determined based on similar parameters. For this reason, your sales comp design team will need to get creative and determine how to compensate such roles effectively so as to reward or encourage desired behaviors. 

  1. Selling will become more collaborative

With most sales leads already nurtured, it will be difficult to pin the entire sale on an individual rep or department. Fortunately, modern sales technology enables team leaders to monitor and identify who is playing which role during the different stages of the sales process. This way, sales managers can optimize the individual strength of sales team members by allowing them to participate at a particular stage of the sales process where the rep is well-versed.  

With that said, any effective comp plan must account for collaborative efforts. For instance, your plan can focus on cross-selling, retention of customers, and up-selling instead of paying straight commission on sales. You could also think of awarding bonuses as a percentage of the qualified leads that successfully translated to clients, product demos booked per month, e.t.c.  

  1. Sales and marketing departments must work together 

As mentioned earlier, closing deals will not only depend on sales but also on marketing and customer service departments. Consequently, these departments can no longer work independently as they need to join efforts to push leads through the buying process. So, when designing the comp plan, consider a model with hybrid teams of marketing, customer service, and sales. However, where a certain department is clearly responsible for a sales win, you could opt for a profit-sharing arrangement to reward such a team. 


From evolving sales roles to smaller sales teams and better collaboration, artificial intelligence and automation software is disrupting how selling has been done. Any keen business should move fast to adjust their sales compensation structure to cater to these changes. Otherwise, businesses risk having an outdated sales comp plan that can’t influence the right behavior on sales teams.