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Compensating Heterogeneous Salesforces: Some Explicit Solutions


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  • Ram C. Rao

    (The University of Texas at Dallas)

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    This paper considers the question of how a sales manager should design the optimal compensation scheme for his salesforce when it consists of salespersons of varying selling skills, i.e., when the salesforce is heterogeneous. The manager's problem is to reward the salespersons based on observable, uncertain sales achieved by the salespersons. Under the assumption that both the manager and the salespersons are risk neutral, the optimal compensation scheme is derived. It consists of the manager offering a menu of plans, consisting of a quota, a payment for meeting quota, and a constant commission rate for sales above or below quota. Such schemes using constant commission rates are also called menus of linear plans. Salespersons choose the quota which best suits them, achieve sales, and are then rewarded based on their actual performance. This scheme, variants of which are often observed in practice, is shown to be optimal for sales environments characterized by commonly encountered sales response functions, and a large class of frequency distributions of selling skills in the salesforce. The problem is solved using the methods of principal-agent models. The key differences in managing homogeneous and heterogeneous salesforces are highlighted. Finally, the paper discusses the issues involved in practically implementing the optimal compensation scheme.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by INFORMS in its journal Marketing Science.

    Volume (Year): 9 (1990)
    Issue (Month): 4 ()
    Pages: 319-341

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    Handle: RePEc:inm:ormksc:v:9:y:1990:i:4:p:319-341

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    Keywords: salesforce compensation; selling skill; heterogeneous salespersons; menu of linear plans; principal-agent models;


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    Cited by:
    1. Pushkar Murthy & Murali Mantrala, 2005. "Allocating a Promotion Budget between Advertising and Sales Contest Prizes: An Integrated Marketing Communications Perspective," Marketing Letters, Springer, vol. 16(1), pages 19-35, January.
    2. Banker, Rajiv D. & Lee, Seok-Young & Potter, Gordon, 1996. "A field study of the impact of a performance-based incentive plan," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(2), pages 195-226, April.
    3. Albers, Sonke, 1996. "Optimization models for salesforce compensation," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 89(1), pages 1-17, February.
    4. Yang, Jian & Qi, Xiangtong, 2009. "On the design of coordinating contracts," International Journal of Production Economics, Elsevier, vol. 122(2), pages 581-594, December.
    5. Banker, Rajiv D. & Lee, S.-Y.Seok-Young & Potter, Gordon & Srinivasan, Dhinu, 2000. "An empirical analysis of continuing improvements following the implementation of a performance-based compensation plan," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 315-350, December.
    6. Marty Stuebs & Li Sun, 2010. "Business Reputation and Labor Efficiency, Productivity, and Cost," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 96(2), pages 265-283, October.
    7. Sanjog Misra & Anne Coughlan & Chakravarthi Narasimhan, 2005. "Salesforce Compensation: An Analytical and Empirical Examination of the Agency Theoretic Approach," Quantitative Marketing and Economics, Springer, vol. 3(1), pages 5-39, January.
    8. Murali Mantrala & Sönke Albers & Fabio Caldieraro & Ove Jensen & Kissan Joseph & Manfred Krafft & Chakravarthi Narasimhan & Srinath Gopalakrishna & Andris Zoltners & Rajiv Lal & Leonard Lodish, 2010. "Sales force modeling: State of the field and research agenda," Marketing Letters, Springer, vol. 21(3), pages 255-272, September.
    9. Lee, Chung-Yee & Yang, Ruina, 2013. "Compensation plan for competing salespersons under asymmetric information," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 227(3), pages 570-580.
    10. Lee, Dong Hwan, 1998. "The Moderating Effect of Salesperson Reward Orientation on the Relative Effectiveness of Alternative Compensation Plans," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 43(2), pages 65-77, October.


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