Variable OTE (On Target Earnings)

Bradford Toney
Updated At


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In the world of small business, particularly those with a sales focus, understanding the nuances of compensation metrics is essential. One such metric that often comes under the spotlight is Variable OTE, or Variable On Target Earnings.

This metric is a subset of the broader OTE (On Target Earnings) and focuses specifically on the performance-based, variable component of a salesperson's total compensation. For small business owners, understanding Variable OTE is crucial for several reasons, including budgeting, incentivizing performance, and aligning sales strategies with business goals. This article aims to demystify Variable OTE and explain why it is a vital metric for small business owners to understand and utilize effectively.

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What is Variable OTE?

Variable OTE refers to the component of a salesperson's compensation that is based on performance and is variable. In simpler terms, it's the part of the On Target Earnings (OTE) that a salesperson can earn through commissions, bonuses, or other performance-based incentives. Unlike the base salary, which is fixed, Variable OTE fluctuates based on how well the salesperson meets or exceeds their sales targets.

The calculation for Variable OTE is generally straightforward:

Variable OTE=Total OTE−Base Salary

Variable OTE=Total OTE−Base Salary

For example, if a salesperson has a total OTE of $80,000, with a base salary of $50,000, their Variable OTE would be $30,000. This $30,000 is what they stand to earn through commissions or bonuses if they meet their sales targets.

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Variable OTE vs. Fixed OTE

While Variable OTE focuses on the performance-based earnings, Fixed OTE refers to the guaranteed, non-variable component of a salesperson's On Target Earnings, which is essentially their base salary. The Fixed OTE is what the salesperson earns regardless of their performance, while the Variable OTE is what they earn based on how well they meet or exceed their sales targets.

For small businesses, understanding the difference between these two components is crucial. Fixed OTE represents a constant expense, while Variable OTE is a flexible cost that aligns with the salesperson's performance and, by extension, the company's success. This flexibility allows small businesses to better manage their budgets and incentivize high performance.

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Why is Variable OTE Important?

Variable OTE is a critical metric for several reasons:

  • Performance Incentive: Variable OTE serves as a direct incentive for salespeople to perform well. The better they perform, the higher their Variable OTE will be.
  • Budget Flexibility: For small businesses operating on tight budgets, Variable OTE allows for more financial flexibility. You only pay out the full Variable OTE when sales targets are met or exceeded.
  • Alignment with Business Goals: Variable OTE can be structured to align with specific business objectives, ensuring that sales efforts are directly contributing to the company's broader goals.
  • Talent Attraction and Retention: Offering a competitive Variable OTE can help attract and retain top sales talent, which is crucial for small businesses looking to grow.
  • Cost Management: By making a portion of the compensation variable, small businesses can better manage costs, especially during lean periods.

Variable OTE, or Variable On Target Earnings, is the performance-based, variable component of a salesperson's total compensation. It serves as a powerful tool for small business owners to incentivize performance, manage budgets, and align sales strategies with broader business objectives. Unlike Fixed OTE, which is a constant expense, Variable OTE offers financial flexibility, allowing businesses to pay more when they are doing well and less during challenging times. Understanding and effectively utilizing Variable OTE can be a game-changer for small businesses aiming to motivate their sales teams and achieve their business goals.

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