Five Risks of Ignoring Sales Performance Management

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1 Five Risks of Ignoring Sales Performance Management Seize the Opportunity To Achieve Better Results White Paper Sponsored by Aligning Business and IT To Improve Performance Ventana Research 2603 Camino Ramon, Suite 200 San Ramon, CA (925) Copyright Ventana Research 2012 Do Not Redistribute Without Permission

2 Table of Contents Five Serious Risks... 3 Software The Missing Ingredient... 3 Benefits of Managing Key Sales Risks... 4 Achieve Sales Targets... 4 Achieve Profitability Objectives... 5 Reward Performance Appropriately... 5 Retain Top Talent... 5 Optimize Management Time... 5 Finding the Right Software... 6 Report on and Analyze Sales Performance... 6 Reduce Errors and Payment Disputes... 7 Create More Effective Incentive Programs... 7 Implement and Modify Plans Faster... 7 Manage Territories and Quotas Better... 8 It s Time to Eliminate Unnecessary Risks... 8 About Ventana Research... 9 Ventana Research 2012 Page 2

3 Five Serious Risks Optimizing the potential of a sales organization requires being able to motivate representatives with appealing incentives and a clear compensation structure. Determining these can no longer be a once-a-year effort because today s dynamic business climate rewards companies that are able to respond immediately to rapidly changing conditions. However, many organizations lack the tools as well as the advanced compensation practices needed to achieve superior sales performance. In business terms, organizations face five key risks in this area. Failing to manage compensation optimally, they may: 1. miss sales targets. 2. miss profitability objectives. 3. reward mediocre performance. 4. lose sales talent. 5. waste sales management time. Today s sales incentive and compensation software gives companies the ability to avoid these risks by enabling compensation teams to analyze, plan and improve compensation programs faster and more intelligently. It is an essential tool in the effort to optimize sales performance. Software The Missing Ingredient Sales force performance improvement initiatives usually focus on identifying people and process issues that prevent peak performance and then determine and implement corrective actions. Sales coaching, incentive structures, territory alignment and accurate matching of offers and channels are examples of efforts aimed at enhancing the productivity of sales forces. Yet in these efforts some companies overlook the important role that information technology plays in implementing Applications specifically designed to manage aspects of the sales process can amplify and accelerate the results that Sales delivers. comprehensive sales management and sales operations enhancement efforts. Applications specifically designed to manage aspects of the sales process support performance improvement efforts and can amplify and accelerate the results that Sales delivers. In the area of motivation, the right software typically used in conjunction with a performance improvement initiative enables companies to design incentive compensation programs that are better aligned with strategy and to manage them more consistently. Companies increasingly use dedicated Ventana Research 2012 Page 3

4 applications to manage compensation and incentives: Our research finds that 29 percent of organizations have deployed incentive and reward software, and another 20 percent will deploy it within a year. Equally important, sales performance management software: makes it easier to adjust incentives quickly to address changing market conditions, allowing commission plans to better align with shifting business priorities. provides sales organizations greater visibility into compensation programs so managers understand better the expense implications of different plan structures, allows organizations to plan and forecast more effectively and update their projections quickly and accurately. avoids errors in commission calculations. This accuracy reduces disputes and administrative effort and motivates a more engaged sales force. Moreover, dedicated software gives executives and employees more reliable, up-to-date information about incentives earned and may even enable sales people to determine specific steps they can take to make their quotas or reach specific targets. Having current information that is easily accessible enables sales organizations to react to changing environments to achieve their sales targets. Benefits of Managing Key Sales Risks Using the right software for managing compensation enables sales organizations to reduce or even eliminate each of the five key risks they face. Achieve Sales Targets Up-to-the-minute information in the proper context can help keep people focused on results. Our research shows that it is very important to more than three-fourths (78%) of companies to provide visibility into sales operations and performance. When managers and individual account executives can see immediately how well they are performing and drill down into results, they are better able to understand what has happened and to see where there are shortfalls and where there are opportunities. What s selling and what s not? How does this compare with other periods, channels or territories? How well are specific incentives working? Having a plan is essential, of course, but business is never static. Having current information that is easily accessible enables sales organizations to react to changing environments as needed to ensure they will achieve their sales targets. Ventana Research 2012 Page 4

5 Achieve Profitability Objectives In designing a compensation and incentive program, it s important that executives fully understand in advance the sales cost implications. They also must be able to track their performance to that plan over time, even as they make adjustments, for example, to address revenue shortfalls. The right software enables executives to manage sales organizations efficiently and accurately forecast sales compensation costs. As well, it empowers companies of any size to manage complex plans to ensure they align with corporate strategy. This is especially important in achieving customer or product profitability objectives or matching compensation to the frequency or degree of price discounting. Reward Performance Appropriately Optimizing compensation has two important components. It involves structuring base pay and incentives to ensure that a company doesn t underpay the best talent or overpay the underperformers. Equally important, it involves aligning incentives with corporate objectives. For instance, rather than provide across-the-board incentives, a company may want to target some combination of specific products in specific geographies through specific channels or specific customers. However, this is likely to be a dynamic mix: Over time, conditions change and the company will want to adjust the compensation plan accordingly. The right software enables executives to easily manage even complex compensation plans and adjust them quickly as the situation demands. Retain Top Talent A key aspect of sales management is ensuring that the company attracts and retains the best sales talent. Compensation When sales people aren t wasting time doing their own commission calculations, they have more time to call on customers. obviously plays a major role in achieving this objective, so sales executives should optimize pay base and incentive compensation to achieve their objectives. The right software makes it possible to structure compensation plans that allocate rewards to those whose performance is aligned with company objectives, ensuring that the company doesn t waste money on underperformers or alienate top producers through inaccurate, poorly structured or out-of-date incentives. Moreover, the software provides transparency so sales people can be confident that the company s calculations affecting their pay are correct. This, in turn, has a side benefit: When sales people aren t wasting time doing their own commission calculations, they have more time to call on customers. Optimize Management Time Achieving efficiency in performing mechanical or administrative tasks enables sales managers to spend their time on more valuable activities. The right compensation management software enables them to quickly assign the Ventana Research 2012 Page 5

6 appropriate quota levels or adjust them according to the territories, products and lines of business. Managers can easily track results and implement quota changes, including the distribution of new sales targets or quota relief. Sales management gains valuable insights as to where things are working and where they are not. This knowledge allows them to assign priorities to their actions accordingly. The right software is always accurate and transparent, so sales management can focus compensation discussions on performance issues and not have to spend time debating numbers and reconciling them with an individual sales person s shadow compensation calculations. Finding the Right Software Our benchmark research shows that desktop spreadsheets are the most common tool used to manage compensation and incentive plans. However, Ventana Research advises organizations not to use them to manage this critical sales management process. Half of Half of participants (49%) in our research reported that reliance on spreadsheets makes it difficult to manage sales efficiently. participants (49%) in our research reported that reliance on spreadsheets makes it difficult to manage sales efficiently. While spreadsheets may be the most appropriate tool when an individual or a small group is performing one-off or occasional tasks, they break down in handling repetitive, collaborative enterprise tasks such as incentive compensation. Spreadsheets are notoriously error-prone, especially when they employ sets of complex formulas and conditions. Our research also shows that even experienced users find it difficult and time-consuming to combine multiple spreadsheets to obtain a divisional or company-wide view. As well, these tools have limited flexibility in enabling an organization to forecast or analyze data. There was a time when the simplicity and ease of use of desktop spreadsheets offset their inherent technology defects, but that time has passed. Today, the advantages of using dedicated applications make them a far better choice for compensation management. To ensure that the dedicated application that you choose is indeed better than desktop spreadsheets, look for the following five capabilities in compensation management software. Report on and Analyze Sales Performance Today the capability to report and analyze data is ubiquitous, and many companies already have standard business intelligence (BI) tools to create these reports, so it s important that the compensation software readily integrates with the company s standard applications and tools. Moreover, sales people and most sales executives spend most of their time away from Ventana Research 2012 Page 6

7 their desks, so they need data especially detailed commission statements and compensation data available to them at any time, including when they re mobile. They must be able to use their mobile devices to complete reporting cycles by providing updated data and approvals (such as a plan sign-off). Reduce Errors and Payment Disputes Studies estimate that errors in compensation run as high as 3 to 5 percent of commissions. Part of this inaccuracy is due to an inherent asymmetry in dealing with errors: Sales people tend to complain when they are underpaid and keep quiet when they are overpaid. More importantly, errors in compensation undermine an employee s trust in the company. Sales productivity suffers when sales teams do not trust these calculations and spend time determining and documenting errors rather than concentrating on selling and working with customers. In extreme cases repeated errors may lead to unwanted turnover often of the best-performing sales representatives. In any matter related to compensation the only standard worth having is 100 percent accuracy and visibility. Spreadsheets are too unreliable in this regard and can create ongoing unpleasantness for sales executives. What s needed is modern software for managing and reporting on compensation. Create More Effective Incentive Programs Software must be able to model changes quickly so executives can assess the impact of each option and choose the one that best meets objectives. As a practical matter, achieving this objective means making it possible for compensation teams to design, implement and adjust the commission plans by themselves, without having to use third parties or even the internal IT department. Being able to adjust plans immediately without having to explain what needs to be done cuts the time needed to implement changes, enabling greater agility in responding to shifting market conditions, whether threats or opportunities. As well, the software should enable users to quickly assemble even the most complex plans and accurately calculate their impact on selling costs under a range of conditions. Implement and Modify Plans Faster Business has never been more volatile, so it s important to be able to make adjustments as soon as conditions dictate. Putting a new plan into effect typically is an iterative process of considering alternatives and their outcomes and choosing the best option. This means that the software has to model the impact of, say, quota changes on commission payouts or the make-up sales by product and/or customer following a change in the plan s structure. The software must be able to model these changes quickly so executives can assess the impact of each option and choose the one that best meets both short- and long-term objectives. Ventana Research 2012 Page 7

8 Manage Territories and Quotas Better Sales executives must be able to define territories and set quotas to meet business objectives. Sales effectiveness is enhanced when account executives believe that their territory assignments and quotas are set fairly and rationally. It s important that the software used to assign territories and quotas communicate that, reflecting the real-time opportunity and identifying the workload required to address the opportunity, its actual geography and any relevant account intelligence. It s Time to Eliminate Unnecessary Risks Risk is inherent in business, which means that managing risks well is an essential undertaking for success. Failure to do so can lead to unnecessary losses and avoidable lapses in execution. Ventana Research asserts that sales executives can manage key risks more productively by using the right software software that is cost-effective for a broad range of companies. Risk also is ongoing, so right now not next month is the best time to reassess a company s sales compensation management processes and systems to determine if incentive compensation software can improve sales execution. Ventana Research 2012 Page 8

9 About Ventana Research Ventana Research is the most authoritative and respected benchmark business technology research and advisory services firm. We provide insight and expert guidance on mainstream and disruptive technologies through a unique set of research-based offerings including benchmark research and technology evaluation assessments, education workshops and our research and advisory services, Ventana OnDemand. Our unparalleled understanding of the role of technology in optimizing business processes and performance and our best practices guidance are rooted in our rigorous research-based benchmarking of people, processes, information and technology across business and IT functions in every industry. This benchmark research plus our market coverage and in-depth knowledge of hundreds of technology providers means we can deliver education and expertise to our clients to increase the value they derive from technology investments while reducing time, cost and risk. Ventana Research provides the most comprehensive analyst and research coverage in the industry; business and IT professionals worldwide are members of our community and benefit from Ventana Research s insights, as do highly regarded media and association partners around the globe. Our views and analyses are distributed daily through blogs and social media channels including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Business Week s Business Exchange. To learn how Ventana Research advances the maturity of organizations use of information and technology through benchmark research, education and advisory services, visit Ventana Research 2012 Page 9

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