A Case for Offering Commission Plans for Demand Generation Marketing Teams

The gender pay gap is a stark reality in businesses, and when it comes to marketing and sales, it's no different. Sales teams are typically offered commission plans as a standard, while marketers are not.

However, offering an incentive-based compensation plan to your demand marketing teams is equitable, innovative, and just plain correct. In this article, we will passionately and logically show you how.

With innovative commission plans, you can create a fairer workplace and ensure that your demand marketing teams are being rewarded for their hard work. When we incentivize marketers to keep driving revenue results at scale, it's a win for everyone at the company.

The pay gap is startling - let's look at the data:

Let's take a closer look at gender distribution by department.

How drastic are the differences?

Percentage split between Men and Women by Sales departments and Marketing Departments

A dataset analyzed by chorus.ai revealed that only 32% of sales reps were women, leaving a clear majority of two-thirds as men. In contrast, Statista data shows that women held 60% of marketing jobs in the US between May 2020 and May 2021. In simple terms, sales teams are majority male, and marketing teams are majority female.

Now let's look at total compensation of sales vs marketing teams:

The data below charts the total compensation among sales and marketing teams with a selection of manager-level and sales-level  titles in San Francisco, CA, USA based on data from Salary.com and Built.com.

Manager-level Total Compensation (average)

  • Account Executive:  $183.1K
  • Senior Marketing Manager: $158K

Director-level Total Compensation  (average)

  • Director of Demand Gen makes $172K
  • Director of Sales makes $338K

Total Compensation by Title and Department of Sales and Marketing Organizations

Marketing's impact to revenue is measurable & undeniable

In a healthy organization marketing and sales work hand-in-hand to attract and close deals. When a demand marketing function is healthy - aka there is product market fit & enough resources -  sellers won't be prospecting. Instead, they will focus on nurturing and closing deals. This means that demand marketers are not paid any of the profits for driving the entire top half of the lead-to-customer funnel. And it takes ~14 touches to create a sales opportunity.

Multi-touch attribution is the norm

These days marketing automation and CRM solutions provide out-of-the-box attribution tools that are simple and accurate when implemented correctly. These tools give us objective visibility into the touches and teams that bring in, accelerate, and close revenue.

75% of companies are using a multi touch attribution model to measure performance. [0]

Today, roughly 70% of a buying decision is made before a shopper talks to a salesperson.

Businesses naturally aim to reinvest their profits and promote growth. Nevertheless, there has been a trend toward merging marketing and sales departments into a single revenue organization in recognition of their shared goal of guiding customers along the purchasing journey. As a result, leaders need to reassess compensation structures, which may have been based on outdated gender roles and organizational paradigms.

For me, my passion is personal

My passion for this topic blossomed from firsthand experience. While leading a small demand generation team, we outperformed the larger sales force, generating over the FAR majority of closed deals. Despite our significant contributions, we received no monetary rewards, or bonuses, only verbal appreciation. On the other hand, my sales colleagues were receiving huge paydays for leads that my team sourced, nurtured, and accelerated through the sales pipeline. This got me questioning the status quo, and how it came to be. This experience fueled my dedication to promoting fair recognition in the workplace, inspiring change, and encouraging a positive environment where everyone's measurable achievements are celebrated and valued - despite a person's gender and title.

Which organizations are leading the change?

Not surprisingly, companies in progressive industries, such as climate tech and creative technologies, are leading the way. Here are a few examples.

  • Wunder Capital -a progressive solar provider in Colorado they were offering a 20% compensation bonus to meet targets.
  • Ceros  - a remote-first Creative tech SASS an essential resource and destination for professional creatives the world over (they also offer a 4.5 day workweek)

How do we make change?

You can take an in-depth look at my guide to negotiating incentive-based pay in another post.

The TLDR process for change:

Get educated:

  • Get educated with stats and data that highlight the gender pay gap
  • Research market rates and other competitors that might be offering these structures
  • Understand the sales compensation structure at your company
  • Understand the metrics around your team's contribution to revenue

If you are employed already:

  • Find productive opportunities to bring this up to current leadership and start conversations.
  • Listen carefully to any concerns of management and look for any windows of opportunities to sell in the idea upwards to leadership.

If you are looking for a new opportunity:

  • Ask and negotiate these compensation questions upfront
  • Apply to organizations that have these structures in place
  • Bring it up to recruiters and let them know its important to you
  • Reject offers that refuse to negotiate fair compensation

A New Northstar

By understanding the patterns and data in the compensation gap between sales and marketing, executives can work to ensure marketers’ compensation is equitable relative to sales peers. Closing this gap not only helps create better opportunities for all marketers, but overall workplace satisfaction also increases, and so will profitability. For Demand Generation marketers it is important that when looking into a new position you begin to advocate for a total compensation structure that values and incentivizes your outcomes. When we can understand and see the gender bias in compensation structures, we can come together to rewrite it.

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