What do sales leaders have to be ready for when it comes to implementing sales performance management (SPM) technology? What skill sets do you have in-house, and what gaps can be filled by SPM? How heavily must sales teams lean on other departments like marketing, IT, or even field service to get the most out of SPM? And how does SPM deliver value to the business?
In order to harness the full potential of SPM, it’s vital to answer these questions. In our previous blog post, we discussed why companies should consider SPM in the first place. In short, it boosts sales performance. This still, of course, leaves us with the question of how it does so. Here, we break down the answer in three key points.
Data, Analytics, and Oversight: Better Sales Insights, Better Sales Actions
If an SPM implementation were a story, your data sets would be your characters. Well-managed and up-to-date CRM data may, for example, lead you to heroically observe a common pattern of sales communications for successfully closed accounts – a pattern that can be exploited and amplified. Conversely, marketing data neglected by sales may villainously spark a blame game.
Analogies aside, data is crucial to a comprehensive, successful SPM implementation. Diving into the data helps sale leaders establish a reliable foundation for building on SPM’s value. Aberdeen’s research shows SPM users are 97 percent more effective than non-users at harnessing data exchanged between marketing and sales to inform actions and decisions. This is by no means the “holy grail” of SPM value, but it powerfully illustrates the benefit of aggregating multiple forms of sales-relevant data into one over-arching system. Insights into compensation best practices, training and onboarding assets, and territory management, to name a few key areas, can be converted into actions from one, cohesive place.
Of course, sorting the data for use in SPM is the dirty work: sales must first identify existing solutions (and stakeholders) for any data that may be pulled into the platform. A CRM admin in sales ops may be easy to track down, but IT might have oversight over marketing data while marketing might have insight into customer data. It’s also important to be wary of the specific data capabilities offered by SPM vendors. Extract, Transform, Load (ETL) capabilities, for example, require that any data that needs formatting to serve its purpose within the system be managed by the SPM vendor. Without ETL capabilities, SPM may only function well with the assistance of a 3rd party data transformation tool or an outside vendor. All this effort, and all this investment, just to get the data to do what it’s supposed to do, can seem overwhelming.
When these data details and SPM capabilities are sorted out, however, the analytics functions of SPM provide sales leaders with a clarified, direct line of sight into each and every area. The holy grail? Maybe not. But it’s a huge piece of the pie.
Rally Internally to Identify How Far You Can Go on Your Own
Aberdeen’s research has also uncovered that sales leaders who use SPM are 2.2 times more likely than non-users to see, based on proven performance, increases in budget allocation for technology and headcount. This rather virtuous growth cycle of doing well, receiving resources to do better, doing better, receiving more, etc. – should be initiated somehow. While SPM technology may be a catalyst, an organization must still have all the right elements in place to be catalyzed. This is where great sales leadership and SPM meet.
The primary thing is that sales leaders understand internal stakeholders such as IT (who invest time), finance (who want to see ROI), and other relevant parties. Sales leaders must also possess full and thorough knowledge about what the organization knows, needs to know, and even what it doesn’t know. In use, SPM can provide windows into an organization’s unknowns or blind spots – e.g. how incentives or campaigns connect to upticks in performance, or which behaviors are most common to top-performing reps. It’s essential, though, that a foundation of internal knowledge and responsibility also be established in order to make the SPM acquisition process a smooth one. Sales leaders can drive this effort, but all stakeholders – IT, finance, marketing, and others – need to be included.
Vet Vendors by Their Understanding of Your Needs and Their Ability to Adapt Accordingly
Naturally, there is only so much your organization can know on its own about the value SPM will yield. The future, for better or worse, is full of variables. If your organization could foretell how it was going to change in the next three to six months, you‘d plan for those changes in advance. Rarely, though, does any organization have that luxury.
Since deploying SPM requires a continual alignment and realignment of the technology to changing organizational priorities and pressures, researching platforms independently is no more valuable or reliable than gaining insights from vendors. In fact, the opposite is true. SPM providers, who help hundreds of organizations apply the technology, see scenarios like yours on a regular basis. In many cases, an agile implementation methodology executed by an SPM vendor can serve as a strong, credible foundation for delivering the SPM components that matter most to specific or even changing business needs.
In terms of evaluating different products, ask yourself, “How prepared is this SPM provider to handle our needs today, and how prepared will they be to adapt and adjust to our needs down the road?” Lean on SPM providers to fill in the gaps or eliminate uncertainty when making your case for the technology. SPM implementation can be challenging, but viable providers will help you carry it out as efficiently as possible.
Of course, all these insights are meant to get you ready for SPM. In the next and final post in this series, we’ll explore setting expectations and objectives to achieve sustained sales performance growth.
Aberdeen Research | Best in Class Sales Performance Management
Best-in-class players not only automate incentive compensation, but also embrace emerging trends and technologies. Download this Aberdeen sales effectiveness report to learn the techniques of high-performing sales organizations.