If your sales commission schedule is becoming increasingly complex and you’re having a hard time tracking and approving sales commissions, there’s good news!  SharePoint (or SharePoint Online which is a part of Microsoft Office365) is an excellent tool for providing flexibility, security and process discipline for tracking and approving sales commissions.  Here’s how to put it to work for you.

Track Your Commission Schedule

First of all, you’ll need a place to track your commission schedule.  This includes the commissions that each sales person makes, referral commissions, and so forth.  In everything but the smallest organizations this is more complex than just the commission rate for each individual sales rep.  This may include things like:

  • Base commission
  • Different commission levels for different types of product/service sales
  • Sales Manager commission share
  • Referral commissions for passing business between sales teams
  • Exceptions to commissions (specific clients or sales opportunities that are treated differently, such as commission splits)
  • Commission accelerators (an additional commission that some may earn after meeting a target)
  • True up commission calculations to align commissions with goals

As you almost certainly know, this structure is often quite fluid.  Fortunately, there is already a great tool on the market for handling tracking financial situations that may change quickly.  It’s called Microsoft Excel!  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating using Excel as your tool for this indefinitely, but until you understand your process well enough to document it and have the time to automate it in your CRM system, then Excel is a great part of the solution.  Create an Excel sheet that lists all of your reps and commissions however your business works, and includes additional sections for clients/opportunities that are “exceptions” to the standard commission schedule.

Save this Excel spreadsheet to a private SharePoint document library where your finance and sales management teams can have visibility to it, and set the SharePoint document permissions so that only authorized personnel can make updates.

Create Your Monthly Commission Report

Next, you’ll need to use your commission schedule worksheet to calculate your revenues each month.  If you’ve already integrated your CRM and ERP systems, then you can pull the monthly sales report directly out of CRM (which can be helpful if you’re already tracking multiple owners, referrals and exceptions in CRM).  If you’ve not gotten to your integration project yet, then you can pull the reports directly out of your ERP system for the time being.  If your CRM system is Microsoft CRM, you can export sales as a dynamic worksheet – so that your sales report auto-updates each month.

You’ll then need to calculate the commissions based on the sales report pulled in the preceding paragraph and the commission schedule you have in Excel.  This can simply be a manual Excel-based process or, if you have expertise with Excel, you can automate the calculations – though you may still need to manually update some figures with the exceptions.  In either event, you should end up with an Excel document that has all of the monthly commissions in it.

Submit Expenses for Approval

Commissions should then be saved into a SharePoint document library that is shared only between the finance team and the individuals who have to approve commissions before they are sent out.  This is where some of the SharePoint magic comes in.  A SharePoint workflow can be setup on the SharePoint document library to automatically submit the expenses for approval.  The approval process can be very simple (going only to the Sales Manager for approval, for example), or much more sophisticated (initially going to the CFO and CEO, either of which may approve; then after receiving initial approval going to the Sales Manager for final approval).  When the report is submitted for approval, approvers get an alert email with a link directly to the document so they can mark their approval and, once approval is sent, the next round of approvers is automatically notified.

No matter how complex your approval process is, it is much more efficient, secure and reliable in SharePoint than trying to remember to email around an Excel spreadsheet each month.  Moreover, the changes you made to commissions are remembered in the document version history automatically – which is a much better audit trail than an email thread.

Send Out Commissions Reports

The last step of the process is to send out individual sales commissions reports.  This will vary widely depending on how you want to communicate commissions to your team.  But the most complex approach may entail some Excel macros to split the full report into individual Excel documents for each rep.  You can have individual document libraries for reps where the reports go and, when a new document is added, the rep can get an email alert stating that a new commission report has been filed for them.  This will give you a single secure document library for each rep with a full history of their sales commission reports.

Is This Really for Me?

This process may seem a little archaic to some, and over-engineered to others! 

If you’re a very small business with only a few sales reps and a simple commission schedule, then this process may be more complex than what you need. An Excel-only approach may be sufficient.  In the long-run, you can plan on further automation using your CRM solution.

If you’re a sophisticated organization that has invested in a comprehensive CRM implementation, then this may seem to be inefficient.  Full automation using your CRM tool is probably the way to go in this case. 

But a very large number of businesses, or divisions of businesses, are somewhere in between – and it is for those groups that this process may provide a rapid way to bring some more process, quality and discipline to your sales commission process.  With SharePoint Online and Office 365, Microsoft has put this kind of automation within reach of businesses of every size.