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IT plays a key role in SPM software selection and automation

Understanding the core elements of SPM software will help in its selection, deployment of sales plans, interfaces to other software and developing a strategy to support analysis.

Sales performance management (SPM) software consists of a set of tools and techniques that helps sales managers...

guide sales personnel and improve their selling results. The principal tools and techniques used in SPM software consist of:

  • Hiring and onboarding
  • Sales training
  • Product and market analysis
  • Marketing management
  • Territory management
  • Quota and territory management
  • Incentive compensation

These tools and techniques include specialized algorithms, as well as the use of business intelligence (BI) and analytical tools to disaggregate sales data and provide management insights. The tools mentioned above are complemented by other tools more focused on day-to-day sales operations, such as contact management and lead management.

Some vendors focus exclusively on SPM capabilities. Vendors in this category include Callidus, Optymyze, Skura, Synygy and Xactly.

Other vendors offer SPM as part of a broader corporate performance management (CPM) portfolio. Vendors who focus on CPM often include an emphasis on budgeting, planning, forecasting and strategy. Many CPM vendors offer specialized products for vertical industries (e.g., healthcare), as well as horizontal applications (e.g., human resources, sales).

SPM software makes it easier to educate and motivate salespeople to set goals and satisfy customers.

A number of CPM vendors have created SPM software. IBM acquired Cognos to enter the CPM market, and then offered SPM by acquiring Kenexa and Varicent. SAP acquired Business Objects to enter the CPM market, then offered SPM by acquiring SuccessFactors. Oracle acquired Hyperion for CPM, and offers some SPM functionality through its Siebel acquisition. IBM, SAP and Oracle have broad, comprehensive SPM offerings.

Among the smaller CPM vendors, Anaplan is noteworthy for having a broad footprint in SPM. And Salesforce is a major provider of Salesforce operational software, but has an SPM footprint as well.

In the remainder of this article, I will focus on the core elements of SPM, as listed above. For IT to help in SPM automation, an understanding of these core elements will help in SPM software selection, deployment of sales plans in the software, interfaces to other software packages (e.g., HR, CRM, ERP) and developing a strategy to support reporting and analysis.

Hiring and onboarding

Recruiting software can help with applicant tracking and identifying successful recruiting firms and websites. Tracking applicants through the recruiting process is critical, because this is where the best candidates are identified and hired. As your sales team interviews candidates, the software should enable you to track which sales executives have the best track record in identifying winning candidates.

Once a salesperson is hired, the onboarding process for the new hire should take only a few weeks and empower the new salesperson with relevant tools.

Product and market analysis

Strategy and marketing executives must gather data and deploy BI software to answer key questions the sales force will be facing, such as:

  • What products are we selling?
  • How do these products vary by geography?
  • Who are our key competitors?
  • Are the products bundled with consulting and maintenance?
  • What deals can we offer to customer?

Materials that answer these questions are best collected in a text-based repository; the repository should support graphics and search. The same technology can be used to support marketing management.

Marketing management

In a well-designed marketing repository, a salesperson can find all relevant materials to support putting proposals together for the prospect. Marketing will provide both PDFs and PowerPoint presentations that the salesperson can customize. The salesperson will create his or her own repository to track deals in progress.

Sales training

The product, market and marketing repositories are the perfect backdrop for sales training. Using the above materials, you can organize role playing, administer tests and compute results. Simulating real sales situations will help the salesperson prepare for real-world experiences.

Incentive compensation

Nothing is more important to a salesperson than incentive compensation, commensurate with successful selling. The right type of incentive compensation software can provide numerous benefits to a corporation. It is important for management to craft a fair compensation plan, but then the incentive compensation software provides a repository for wide usage. Once the plan is deployed, salespeople can track their performance and payouts, and management can analyze the overall effectiveness of the incentive compensation plan.

Quota and territory management

Quota and territory management work in connection with incentive compensation. It all begins with a definition phase, where territories are defined for each salesperson, as well as the quota they are expected to achieve or exceed. Salespeople must have a clear view of their territories, and the progress toward quota. Finally, sales management can use extensive analytic capabilities to ensure that the combination of incentives, quota and territory is serving the company well.

Obviously, businesses want their salespeople to hit their numbers and more. SPM software, which typically streamlines various activities in the CPM process, benefits companies by encouraging behavior that drives sales. SPM software makes it easier to educate and motivate salespeople to set goals and satisfy customers.

To manage the SPM process, a company must define an incentive compensation plan as well as territory and quota plans. But these plans require business automation, which brings IT into play. IT has a key role in SPM selection, as well as in ensuring that sales plans are represented correctly in the SPM software. IT also must provide analytical support (dashboards, what-ifs, etc.), either though the SPM software or existing BI software.

Next Steps

Sales management strategies

Art and science of sales management

Jumpstart leads with SPM software

This was last published in November 2015

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