on target earnings meaning

Calculating On-Target Earnings for New Hires + Examples

by Hillel Zafir
  • 05
  • Jan, 24

In the world of sales and compensation, understanding the intricacies of pay structures is crucial. Whether you're a seasoned sales professional, a new hire, or a business owner looking to incentivize your team, the term "On-Target Earnings" or OTE is bound to cross your path. But what does it mean, and why is it pivotal in sales?

Brief Explanation of On-Target Earnings (OTE)

On-Target Earnings (OTE) is a comprehensive representation of a salesperson's potential earnings, combining the fixed base salary and the variable commissions they can earn upon achieving 100% of their sales quota. If a salesperson meets their set targets or quotas perfectly, their OTE is the total amount they would earn for that period.

Why is OTE Important?

  1. Transparency and Clarity: OTE provides a clear picture of potential earnings, helping salespeople understand their compensation structure better.
  2. Motivation and Incentive: Knowing the potential earnings upon hitting targets can significantly motivate sales teams.
  3. Standardization: OTE offers a standardized metric, making it easier for companies to set, compare, and adjust compensation across roles and teams.

Components of OTE:

Base Salary

The fixed amount paid to the salesperson, irrespective of their sales performance.


Variable earnings are based on the salesperson's performance, usually a percentage of the sales they close.

benefits of ote

Understanding On-Target Earnings (OTE)

On-Target Earnings often emerge as a cornerstone in sales and compensation. But what exactly is OTE, and why has it become integral to sales compensation structures?

Definition and Importance

On-Target Earnings (OTE) is a term that encapsulates the total potential earnings a salesperson can expect when they achieve 100% of their sales quota. It's a blend of the fixed base salary and the variable commissions that hinge on sales performance.

Why OTE Matters:

  • Predictability for Employees: OTE offers sales professionals a clear vision of their potential earnings, allowing them to set personal financial goals confidently.
  • Standardization Across the Board: Using OTE, companies can establish a standardized compensation metric, facilitating easier comparisons and adjustments across different roles and teams.
  • Balancing Motivation and Stability: While the base salary offers financial stability, the variable component of OTE acts as a motivational tool, driving salespeople to achieve or even surpass their quotas.

The Role of OTE in Sales Compensation

Sales compensation is a delicate balance between providing guaranteed income (base salary) and incentivizing performance (commissions). OTE sits at this intersection, serving as a benchmark for potential earnings.

Key Aspects of OTE in Sales Compensation:

  1. Setting Clear Expectations: OTE clarifies to salespeople what they can earn if they meet their targets, setting clear financial expectations right from the outset.
  2. Flexibility and Adaptability: Companies can adjust the components of OTE (base salary and commission rates) based on market conditions, business goals, and individual roles, making it a flexible tool in compensation planning.
  3. Performance Tracking: OTE serves as a yardstick to measure sales performance. By comparing actual earnings to OTE, businesses can gauge the effectiveness of their sales teams and strategies.

Automating OTE in incentX

At incentX, we recognize OTE's pivotal role in shaping sales strategies and motivating teams. Our solutions are tailored to help businesses seamlessly integrate OTE into their compensation structures, ensuring transparency, fairness, and motivation. Whether you're looking to set up an OTE-based compensation plan or refine an existing one, incentX provides the tools and insights to make the process efficient and effective.

on track earnings and expected total pay

Calculating OTE for New Hires in Sales

Embarking on a journey in the sales domain brings with it the necessity to comprehend the compensation structures in place. Understanding how On-Target Earnings (OTE) are calculated for new hires becomes pivotal to setting realistic financial expectations and goals. Let's delve into the mechanics of OTE calculation, especially tailored for those stepping into the sales arena.

Basic Formula Explanation: Annual Base Salary + Annual Commission Earned at 100% Quota Attainment = OTE

OTE is a transparent representation of a salesperson's potential earnings, provided they meet their full sales targets. It is computed by summing the fixed annual base salary with the variable annual commission, contingent upon achieving 100% of the sales quota.

Key Components:

  • Annual Base Salary: A fixed amount guaranteed, irrespective of sales performance.
  • Annual Commission: Variable pay directly tied to the salesperson’s performance, calculated based on achieving sales quotas.

Detailed Breakdown of Each Component

1. Annual Base Salary:

  • Definition: The guaranteed, fixed pay a salesperson receives, regardless of their sales performance.
  • Purpose: To provide financial stability and security to the employee.
  • Considerations: While determining the base salary, factors like industry standards, geographical location, and the salesperson’s experience and skill set are considered.

2. Annual Commission Earned at 100% Quota Attainment:

  • Definition: The additional earnings a salesperson receives when they achieve their sales targets or quotas.
  • Purpose: To incentivize and reward high performance.
  • Considerations: Commissions can be structured in various ways, such as a flat rate per sale, a percentage of the sale value, or tiered commissions that increase with higher sales volumes.

Practical Examples and Scenarios

Example 1: Entry-Level Sales Representative

  • Annual Base Salary: $50,000
  • Sales Quota: $500,000
  • Commission Rate: 5% of sales
  • Potential Annual Commission: $25,000 (if 100% of quota is met)
  • OTE: $75,000 ($50,000 base + $25,000 commission)

Example 2: Senior Account Executive

  • Annual Base Salary: $80,000
  • Sales Quota: $1,200,000
  • Commission Rate: 7% of sales
  • Potential Annual Commission: $84,000 (if 100% of quota is met)
  • OTE: $164,000 ($80,000 base + $84,000 commission)

Understanding OTE is crucial for new hires in sales to set accurate financial expectations and align their performance goals accordingly. In the subsequent sections, we will explore the benefits and challenges of the OTE model, providing a holistic view of this prevalent compensation structure in the sales industry. Stay tuned for a deep dive into the world of sales compensation!

sales rep hitting 100 of their quota every quarter

OTE Across Various Sales Roles

Navigating through the diverse landscape of sales roles, one encounters varied structures and expectations regarding compensation. On-Target Earnings (OTE) plays a pivotal role in defining the potential earnings across these roles, each carrying its unique set of responsibilities, targets, and consequently, compensation structures. Let’s explore how OTE is structured across various sales roles.

Sales Representatives

Definition and Role:

Sales Representatives are typically on the front lines, directly engaging with clients, identifying their needs, and facilitating sales.

OTE Components:

  • Base Salary: Often lower than more senior roles due to the entry-level nature of the position.
  • Commission: Usually a straightforward percentage of the sales value or a fixed amount per sale.


  • Quota Attainment: Ensuring quotas are realistic and achievable to motivate reps.
  • Training and Ramp-Up: Allowing new reps time to learn and start hitting their full quotas.

Account Executives

Definition and Role:

Account Executives manage client accounts, ensuring satisfaction and exploring opportunities for upselling or cross-selling.

OTE Components:

  • Base Salary: Generally higher than sales representatives, reflecting the increased responsibilities.
  • Commission: Often based on account growth and retention metrics.


  • Client Retention: Balancing new sales and maintaining existing client relationships.
  • Upselling: Encouraging growth within existing accounts.

Sales Managers

Definition and Role:

Sales Managers oversee sales teams, ensuring they meet targets, and often engage in strategic planning.

OTE Components:

  • Base Salary: Substantial, reflecting managerial responsibilities.
  • Commission: May be tied to the team’s performance and overall sales department targets.


  • Team Performance: Ensuring fair distribution of leads and opportunities among team members.
  • Strategic Planning: Aligning team efforts with organizational goals.
pay structure and sales process in review

Executive OTE

Definition and Role:

Executives (e.g., VP of Sales) are involved in high-level strategic planning and decision-making.

OTE Components:

  • Base Salary: High, reflecting the seniority and impact of the role.
  • Bonus/Commission: Often tied to overall company performance and revenue targets.


  • Company Performance: Ensuring strategies drive overall company success.
  • Long-Term Planning: Aligning sales strategies with long-term company objectives.

Setting Up an OTE Model: Key Considerations

Crafting an On-Target Earnings (OTE) model is a meticulous process, requiring a delicate balance between motivating sales personnel and ensuring alignment with the company’s financial and strategic objectives. Let’s delve into the key considerations that organizations must navigate to establish a robust OTE model that fosters a win-win scenario for both the sales team and the company.

Determining Base Salary and Commission Structures

1. Market and Industry Standards:

  • Research: Understand the prevailing base salaries and commission rates in your industry and region.
  • Competitiveness: Ensure your offerings are competitive to attract and retain top talent.

2. Role and Responsibility:

  • Hierarchy: Recognize that different roles (e.g., Sales Rep vs. Sales Manager) will have varied base and variable pay.
  • Responsibility Weight: Ensure that the base salary reflects the level of responsibility and expertise required.

3. Balance and Motivation:

  • Stability vs. Incentive: Striking a balance where the base salary provides stability and the commission serves as a potent incentive.

Establishing Sales Quotas

1. Realism and Achievability:

  • Data-Driven: Utilize historical sales data and market trends to set realistic quotas.
  • Adjustments: Be prepared to adjust quotas in response to unforeseen market changes.

2. Clarity and Transparency:

  • Communication: Ensure that sales personnel fully understand how their quotas are determined.
  • Feedback Mechanism: Establish channels for salespeople to provide feedback on quota attainability.

Aligning Commissions with Company Goals

1. Strategic Alignment:

  • Revenue vs. Strategy: Ensure that commission structures not only drive revenue but also align with broader strategic goals (e.g., entering new markets, selling new products).

2. Behavior and Performance:

  • Desired Behaviors: Ensure the commission structure incentivizes behaviors that align with company values and strategies.
  • Performance Metrics: Clearly define and communicate the performance metrics that will determine commission payouts.

3. Flexibility and Adaptability:

  • Market Dynamics: Be prepared to adapt your commission structures in response to changing market dynamics and strategic shifts.
  • Periodic Reviews: Regularly review and adjust the commission structures to ensure ongoing alignment with company goals and market realities.

Setting up an OTE model that is both motivating for the sales team and financially sustainable for the company requires a strategic approach, considering various internal and external factors. In the upcoming sections, we will explore how to manage and optimize OTE models, ensuring they remain relevant, competitive, and effective in driving desired sales behaviors and outcomes.

calculate ote on a fully ramped sales rep

Challenges and Solutions in OTE Implementation

Implementing an On-Target Earnings (OTE) model, while seemingly straightforward, comes with its unique set of challenges. From ensuring fairness to maintaining motivation, organizations must navigate through various pitfalls to establish a successful OTE framework. Let’s explore some common challenges and their solutions in the realm of OTE implementation.

Common Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

1. Inflated Earnings Expectations:

  • Challenge: Overpromising potential earnings can lead to disillusionment and decreased motivation among sales personnel.
  • Solution: Maintain transparency and honesty in OTE figures, ensuring they are realistic and based on accurate sales data and projections.

2. Complex Commission Structures:

  • Challenge: Overly complex commission structures can lead to confusion and misalignment among sales teams.
  • Solution: Simplify commission structures and ensure clear communication and training on how commissions are calculated and paid out.

3. Unrealistic Sales Quotas:

  • Challenge: Setting quotas that are too high or unattainable can demotivate sales teams and lead to high turnover.
  • Solution: Utilize historical data and market trends to set achievable quotas and be flexible to adjust them in response to valid feedback and changing market conditions.

4. Inconsistency in OTE Components:

  • Challenge: Inconsistent base salaries and commission rates across similar roles can lead to dissatisfaction and internal conflict.
  • Solution: Ensure consistency and fairness in OTE components across similar roles and provide clear pathways for progression and increased earnings.

Leveraging incentX for Streamlined OTE Management

1. Automated Calculations:

  • Challenge: Manual calculations of commissions and OTE can be error-prone and time-consuming.
  • Solution with incentX: Utilize incentX’s automated calculation features to ensure accurate and timely commission payouts.

2. Transparent Communication:

  • Challenge: Lack of clarity and transparency in OTE and commission payouts can lead to mistrust among sales personnel.
  • Solution with incentX: Leverage incentX’s communication features to provide clear, transparent, and regular updates on commission payouts and OTE status.

3. Data-Driven Decision Making:

  • Challenge: Making adjustments to OTE models without sufficient data can lead to misinformed decisions.
  • Solution with incentX: Utilize incentX’s data analytics features to make informed decisions based on accurate sales data and trends.

4. Customization and Flexibility:

  • Challenge: Rigid OTE models may not adapt well to changing market conditions and organizational goals.
  • Solution with incentX: Leverage incentX’s customization features to easily adjust and modify OTE components in response to evolving needs and strategies.

Navigating through the challenges of OTE implementation requires a strategic approach, informed by accurate data and facilitated by robust management tools like incentX. In the subsequent sections, we will explore further aspects of OTE, providing a comprehensive guide for organizations looking to optimize their sales compensation structures.

total annual sales quota

Frequently Asked Questions About On-Target Earnings

Navigating through the intricacies of On-Target Earnings (OTE) often brings to light numerous questions, especially for those new to the concept or those looking to implement it within their sales teams. Let’s explore some of the frequently asked questions about OTE, providing clarity and insights into this widely utilized sales compensation model.

Is OTE on Top of Salary?

Understanding OTE Components:

  • Base Salary: This is the fixed, guaranteed compensation component that is paid irrespective of sales performance.
  • Commissions: This variable component depends on achieving certain sales targets or quotas.

Clarifying OTE:

  • Not Separate from Salary: OTE is not an additional amount on top of the base salary. Rather, it includes the base salary as a fundamental component.
  • Total Potential Earnings: OTE represents the total potential earnings, comprising the base salary and potential commissions when sales targets are fully met.

What are On-Target Commissions?

Defining On-Target Commissions (OTC):

  • OTC: Refers to the commissions a salesperson would earn if they achieve 100% of their sales quotas or targets.

Role of OTC in OTE:

  • Variable Component: OTC forms the variable part of the OTE, acting as the incentive or reward for achieving sales targets.
  • Motivational Tool: OTC is designed to motivate sales personnel to reach and exceed their sales quotas, directly impacting their overall earnings.

Difference Between OTE and a Bonus

OTE Explored:

  • Comprising Components: As discussed, OTE includes both a fixed base salary and variable commissions (OTC) based on sales performance.
  • Performance-Linked: The variable component of OTE is directly linked to sales performance and quota attainment.

Bonus Explored:

  • Discretionary or Performance-Based: Bonuses can be discretionary (not guaranteed) and may be linked to performance metrics, not strictly sales-related.
  • Additional to Salary: Unlike OTE, a bonus is typically an additional payout for the base salary and commissions earned.

Key Differences:

  • Calculation: While OTE is calculated based on set formulas involving base salary and commissions, bonuses may not adhere to a strict calculation and can be influenced by various factors, including overall company performance and individual achievements.
  • Purpose: OTE primarily aims to motivate sales performance, while bonuses can be utilized to reward achievements and milestones that are not strictly related to sales.

With its various components and related terms, OTE can be a complex landscape to navigate. Understanding the nuances, definitions, and implications of OTE and its related concepts is crucial for sales professionals and organizations to set clear expectations and establish fair and motivating compensation structures.


Navigating the intricate world of sales compensation, On-Target Earnings (OTE) emerge as a cornerstone, balancing motivation and predictability for sales professionals. As we've journeyed through its various facets, from its foundational concepts to its practical applications across roles, the significance of OTE in shaping a sales team's performance and alignment with organizational goals becomes evident.

Summarizing Key Points:

  • OTE Defined: A comprehensive representation of potential earnings, OTE combines the fixed base salary with variable commissions contingent on achieving sales quotas.
  • Strategic Implementation: Crafting an effective OTE model requires a delicate balance, ensuring fairness, motivation, and alignment with company objectives.
  • Challenges and Solutions: Like any compensation model, OTE comes with challenges. However, these challenges can be effectively navigated with strategic planning, clear communication, and the right tools.

Encouraging Implementation of OTE Models:

OTE stands out as a tried-and-tested model for organizations aiming to drive sales performance while ensuring clarity and fairness in compensation. It provides sales professionals with a clear vision of their potential earnings and aligns their efforts with broader company goals. Implementing an OTE model can catalyze enhanced sales performance, increased motivation, and overall business growth.

Exploring incentX for Effective OTE Management

Designing, managing, and optimizing an OTE model requires robust tools and insights. incentX's sales compensation management software offers a comprehensive suite of features tailored for effective OTE management. From automated calculations to transparent communication features, incentX ensures that your OTE model is strategically sound and efficiently managed. Dive into the world of incentX and elevate your sales compensation strategy to new heights!

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