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How To Motivate Microsoft To Close Your Opportunities

A quick primer on how Microsoft's field salespeople are compensated -- and how you can make that knowledge work for you as a partner.

Want help driving your Microsoft-based sales to closure? Would you like a tighter relationship with Microsoft? Then it's critical to understand the motivations of the people with whom you're working.

Like most top salespeople, Microsoft field sellers are coin-operated. They have complex sales and quota plans to earn their bonuses. The bonuses Microsoft field sellers receive are a major part (40 percent plus) of their total take-home pay. So hitting the bonus is critical to maintaining their lifestyles.

Bonuses can vary across the company and position. Most are composed of two different targets: Commitment-Based Incentive (CBI) and Revenue-Based Incentive (RBI). RBI is the bonus vehicle for most of the field sellers. It's likely to be 75 percent of the variable compensation for the sales rep. So it's critical the rep exceeds his or her quota.

At 100 percent of revenue quota, the rep gets 100 percent of the payout. Ninety-nine percent doesn't equal zero, but it's a meager payout that accompanies less than 100 percent. So the drive is to achieve 100 percent.

Above 110 percent, the reps start making great money. Microsoft also varies the structure to motivate certain behaviors. This year, there's more weight on cloud revenue than on traditional revenue. Watch for deals where Microsoft is driving to have the solution licensed in the cloud even if the client still wants to run all or most things on premises.

Commitment-Based Incentive is the other type of bonus payout. The neat part about CBI is that one of the major metrics is usually hitting the revenue goal. So if revenue isn't achieved, then it becomes seriously difficult to achieve a good score on the CBI ranking.

Near the end of the fiscal year, managers argue against each other to get their top candidates the highest scores and prevent their employees from being ranked at the bottom. Ranking at the bottom is a message to employees that their resumes should be updated soon. Employees who work at corporate, however, may have a 50/50 split between CBI and RBI, as their work tends to be more project-based and have less direct impact on revenue.

How do you make this actionable for your business? Find the person who cares about the opportunity you're working on. Figure out what the Microsoft rep is going to get excited about. The simple way to accomplish this is to ask: "What are your goals this year? When should I bring you into a deal? What opportunities are you most excited about?"

A Microsoft rep who is excited about an opportunity can tap Microsoft's massive resources to get the deal done. These resources can include being active in the sale, as well as providing technical demonstrations and technical support. On the customer incentive side, reps can use discounts, seeding subsidizing partner deployments and more.

Here are some general guidelines:

  • Enterprise Sales (EPG) and Corporate Account Managed (CAM) sales reps have such a focused set of accounts, they want to know anything of significance that would impact new revenue.

  • Mid-market sellers in the Corporate Territory Managed (CTM) segment can have more than 250 accounts. They're looking for visibility into deals in excess of $40,000 in revenue and any deals that would drive net new Enterprise or Select Agreements.

  • Accounts in the small business segment, usually fewer than 200 seats, have extremely limited Microsoft involvement. However, deals in this segment that are more than $25,000 in revenue or more than 100 users in the cloud should at least be shared with them for visibility.

The keys are new revenue and "on focus" products. The Microsoft system has great visibility for Software Assurance and renewals already. Focus on where you are selling new products. Dollar for dollar, focus areas for Microsoft are cloud revenue, System Center sales and Windows Azure SQL Database Premium. Products in these categories will demand more revenue.

So get Microsoft excited, leverage their awesome resources and close more business for your business.

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About the Author

M.S. Partner is a pseudonym for a former Microsoft U.S. field rep who returned to the channel and writes this column to help other partners succeed with Microsoft. Let M.S. Partner know your thoughts and questions about how Microsoft works at mspartner@rcpmag.com.