10 Ways Data and Automation are Evolving Sales Planning

Aug 19, 2018
5 min read
Learn the 10 ways companies benefit from using their sales data strategically and investing in sales performance management (SPM) automation solutions.

Automation and artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML) have grown in popularity over recent years. Companies in all industries are beginning to dip their toes into intelligent tools to grow their businesses. Technology like IBM’s Watson, Amazon’s related items, and Netflix’s watch suggestions is making business interactions with customers more digital, and the same can be said for sales organizations.

Although using automated performance management technology provides a great opportunity for companies to strengthen their sales strategy, there’s a catch. AI/ML technology and algorithms are important, but the true value lies within data. For companies to truly reap the benefits of AI/ML, they need access and the rights to data.

To obtain and manage this data properly, sales organizations need automated sales performance management (SPM) solutions to help facilitate their planning strategically, from territories and quota allocation, to compensation planning and management.

Data Drives Intelligent and Strategic Planning

Data is the driver behind AI/ML technology, and for sales organizations, intelligent planning. With the right data, companies gain key insights into sales performance and can use this as a driving force for designing sales territories, allocating quotas, and building compensation plans. To help you take advantage of data as a strategic asset, here are 10 ways data is evolving sales and benefitting sales organizations.

1. Take Sales Planning from Reactive to Active

In today’s sales organizations, understanding sales performance is key to driving growth and improvement. With the right artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) technology, data can become a strategic asset. However, many organizations continue to use spreadsheets, homegrown, and legacy systems for sales performance management (SPM).

The data from these SPM solutions is helpful to analyze performance after the end of a period, but it does little to analyze in-the-moment and predict what future performance might look like. With AI/ML technology and automated SPM solutions, data can become a strategic asset. Sales leaders can monitor up-to-date “live” performance, allowing them to watch for key data indicators to identify and resolve issues before they derail performance.

2. Get Real-time Visibility and Mobility to Keep Reps Focused on Selling

Let’s be honest—when reps are shadow accounting to calculate their commission payments, they’re distracted, and distracted reps mean poor sales performance. Technology like Xactly Connect helps create a central source of data, so reps can see their earned commission in real time and stay focused on selling.

Centralized data also increases mobility, security, and scalability. IT leaders can ensure data is secure and easily scalable, and mobility makes data available anywhere for sales leaders to monitor performance on-the-go.

3. Build an Integrated, Strategic Sales Plan

Data is a key asset for companies to strengthen and differentiate their sales plans from competitors. Using sales performance and third-party data, organizations can strategically design territories, set obtainable quotas, and build compensation plans that drive the right sales behaviors.

Believe it or not, territories are the basis and foundation of an organization’s sales plan, and when improperly designed, they can create a domino effect of poor sales performance. Third-party and internal sales performance data help to better understand the opportunity within each territory and ensure the right amount of sales coverage.

That way, quotas can be set correctly, and compensation plans can effectively drive the right behaviors.

4. Design Fair, Balanced Territories

As mentioned above, territories have a huge impact on sales performance. To ensure the right amount of sales coverage, companies need to fully understand the opportunity and sales potential in each area. Territories need to be fair and balanced to ensure that each rep has equal opportunity to attain quota.

If territories are unevenly designed (or even just appear to be), it can be detrimental to sales team morale, which can lead to high rates of attrition and poor performance. Data-driven territory design also helps increase travel cost-efficiency and increase quota attainment. Read more on the effects of well-designed territories in our survey with the Sales Management Association.

5. Drive the Right Sales Behaviors with Incentives

Collaborative planning helps to build a sales compensation plan that drives the right sales behaviors. Well-designed plans should take corporate objectives and executive goals to ensure that incentives and sales commission structures motivate and encourage reps to perform behaviors that help reach company goals.

For example, a higher priority on a new product release should be reflected in the the incentive plan so that sales of the new product are encouraged. Additionally, using automated AI/ML technology, sales managers and leaders can closely monitor the success of the plan, meaning they can make better informed decisions.

6. Make Time-Efficiency a Reality

Traditionally, sales planning has not been a time-efficient task. With data and automated SPM, companies can reduce territory planning time up to 75 percent and increase their data entry and retrieval up to 70 percent.

"Xactly Connect was key for us, it saved us 172 hours a month. We have been able to repurpose that time and look at things more strategically to add value to the business." - Cox Automotive

Not only is planning faster with automated SPM solutions, it is more intelligent with data. Organizations can ensure territories have equal, maximized opportunities for reps to reach quota and compensation plans are driving the right behaviors to reach corporate objectives.

7. Increase Data and Forecasting Accuracy

Accurate forecasting is key to the financial success of a company. To accurately forecast, companies need well-designed sales territories, properly allocated quotas, and strategic compensation plans. Any data inaccuracy can wreak havoc on sales performance and goals achievement.

Data is the most important factor in accurate forecasting. Automated SPM solutions create a central data source, making data accurate and secure. It also allows organizations to express different “what-if” forecasting scenarios in an automated SPM platform, better aligning sales and finance teams.

8. Easily Adhere to ASC 606 (IFRS 15)

We’re nearly one year into ASC 606 regulations for public companies, and the implementation date of December 2018 is approaching quickly for private organizations. These guidelines are requiring detailed data and careful accounting to ensure revenue is recognized and reported properly.

Using automated technology like Xactly CEA powered by Obero, businesses can manage their transition more easily. A central data source helps finance leaders access the necessary data needed to create detailed amortization schedules and make adjusting entries in a cohesive dashboard.

9. Plan, Execute, AND Optimize Sales Strategies

The majority of companies focus on sales planning once or twice each year. Unfortunately, many don’t make plan adjustments until a problem has occurred, and their actions are often reactive rather than proactive. Automated SPM solutions help organizations design their sales plan from beginning to end, and then leaders can continuously monitor performance and take action before problems occur.

While automated SPM helps companies plan their sales strategy and execute compensation management and ASC 606 compliance, they also help companies optimize each part of the sales plan. With intelligent data, businesses can access detailed predictive analytics to help maximize potential and mitigate issues in advance.

10. Predict and Reduce Sales Attrition

Keeping top-performing sales reps is a necessity. Replacing top talent can hurt any company’s sales performance, especially when the average cost of replacing a rep is $115,000. Taking key performance metrics, companies can now identify reps at risk for attrition before they leave the organization.

Xactly Insights helps sales leaders closely monitor sales rep performance. When a rep’s performance negatively changes, Insights flags those who are at-risk for attrition and identifies the appropriate leadership. This allows leaders to better predict performance, intervene and halt poor performance earlier, and effectively reduce overall attrition rates.

Final Thoughts

More detailed sales performance data and intelligent planning creates a stronger sales force. Using data as a strategic asset with automated SPM technology, organizations can centralize their data for collaborative planning, increasing forecasting accuracy and maximized sales performance potential.

Interested in learning more about how data can help reps hit their number, reduce planning time and complexity, and ease ASC 606 complianceTalk with an Xactly expert today.

  • Analytics and Technology
  • Sales Planning
Karrie Lucero
Karrie Lucero
Content Marketing Manager

Karrie Lucero is a Content Marketing Manager at Xactly. She earned marketing and journalism degrees from New Mexico State University and has experience in SEO, social media and inbound marketing.