Sales Compensation Among Large U.S. Acquirers

Navigator Edition: Merchant Acquiring Special Edition
By: Brooke Ybarra

In 2013, First Annapolis surveyed top U.S. acquirers regarding their sales compensation rates and practices. All of the survey respondents are among the 25 largest U.S. acquirers, and three are in the top 10. We asked about base salaries and incentive compensation for field-based and telesales-based sales representatives. We further asked survey respondents to distinguish between sales representatives covering regional and local merchants and those responsible for selling to large, national merchants.

On average, base salaries were almost twice as high for national field sales staff ($87,000) compared to regional/local field sales reps ($45,000). Telesales reps had an average base salary of about $32,000. Incentive compensation (combination of ongoing and/or upfront commissions and bonus payments) followed the same pattern, but the difference based on the type of rep was much less – national field sales reps earned, on average, an additional $49,000, regional/local field sales reps an additional $36,000, and telesales reps an additional $35,000. These results are in Figure 1. It is important to bear in mind that incentive compensation results from the combination of the acquirer’s plan and the rep’s productivity, so we cannot draw firm conclusions about compensation plans (e.g., sales staff compensation at full quota) based on the average payment amounts alone.

Figure 1: Average Compensation Amounts (000’s)
Fig-1_-Average-Compensation-AmountsSource: First Annapolis Consulting survey and analysis.

To calculate incentive compensation for field-based sales reps, most acquirers we surveyed used a combination of upfront and ongoing commission, only occasionally supplemented by quarterly or annual bonus payments. Incentive compensation for telesales reps was more often derived from an upfront commission only. The specific drivers of incentive compensation varied by acquirer, and many acquirers used multiple drivers (e.g., number of merchant approvals and a percent of expected or actual net revenue) to calculate commissions and bonuses.

Most acquirers we surveyed had a very large range between the lowest and highest compensated sales reps in each channel. In some cases, the rep with the highest total compensation earned more than three times the average and almost seven times more than the lowest value. This result demonstrates an acquirer’s ability to reward the highest performing reps.

An acquirer should develop a sales compensation plan that incentivizes the behaviors required to meet its goals. The components of a compensation plan, such as the drivers of incentive compensation, the ratio of base salary to incentive pay, and the residual rate and duration, can be thought of as a series of sliding scales that must work together to create a comprehensive plan that motivates sales staff toward the acquirer’s goals.

For more information, please contact Brooke Ybarra, Manager, specializing in Merchant Acquiring,

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