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An Introduction to Data-driven Sales Planning

Your sales plan is the foundation of success, and manual planning processes do more harm than good. Learn data-driven sales planning can improve performance.

8 min read

Most organizations still conduct sales planning as a manual, once-per-year exercise, due to the painful and time-consuming nature of the process. Since this is traditionally viewed as a burdensome task, it’s common that once sales plans are set in motion, companies rarely go back to evaluate accuracy or make adjustments. It’s at that exact moment that performance starts to suffer and companies put themselves at risk to miss their goals.

This static approach puts today’s organizations at a disadvantage due to lack of insight and agility. With the adoption of automated and data-driven sales planning solutions, companies can modernize three key areas of their sales planning process: building, planning, and execution.

Building:

What can top organizations do differently to achieve better results? Simple...build a better sales plan! Companies can modernize sales planning, improving the accuracy and effectiveness of planning functions with an approach that is:

When used together, these approaches can drive 4 key business goals:

1. Increase Sales Planning Agility

Findings show that up to 88% of all spreadsheets have errors, so why are companies holding on to out-dated and problematic homegrown solutions? By switching over to automated sales planning processes, organizations can focus their efforts back on strategy, improve plan efficiencies, and increase overall productivity—all while simultaneously reducing the risk of manual errors.

2. Eliminate Planning Guesswork

According to Harvard Business Review, organizations that embrace digital technology innovation have nearly 20% higher gross margins compared with the laggards. With data insights, organizations can identify growth potential, determine appropriate sales resources, see how their plans measure up with industry competition, and track performance.

3. Increase performance through continuous sales planning

Accenture states that “a living business continuously adapts to changing customer preferences and market conditions with speed and scale”. Long story short, being able to plan “in the moment” is crucial for any organization in a fast-paced digital landscape. Data informs the sales planning process, so when you basing your next year’s plans off out-dated information, you are already setting yourself up for poor performance.

By making planning an ongoing, continual process, versus an annual one, organizations become more agile, can respond to evolving circumstances, and readjust their plans accordingly in real-time to ensure they stay at the forefront of their market competition.

4. Align your team

Xactly sales planning data shows 60% of companies say that the solution to reaching strategic goals is collaborating more across functions. Sales planning must be in sync across all affected departments or you risk the possibility that crucial information or data might fall through the cracks.

When you use collaborative planning tactics to align your team, you not only drive sales, you also promote growth, boost performance, and improve interdepartmental communication.

Planning

Because sales planning functions touch almost every aspect of your overall sales performance management (SPM), your plan design must be aligned with the goals of the different departments of your organization in order to be successful.

An integrated approach to sales planning should include the following key functions:

These key aspects of business can help drive your organization to break from the status quo of sales planning and help you to work smarter, not harder.

1. Align corporate targets

Sales and finance organizations must have the flexibility and modeling capability to coordinate corporate targets across all geographies, territories, business units, and sales reps. If you are still implementing this via manual processes, your organization is missing out on crucial aspects of planning such as in-depth market insights, scenario analysis, leveraging historical data, determining coverage needs, and assessing the ability to effectively allocate and align company resources.

2. Grant insights into their hiring needs

Xactly research shows that over 33% of organizations don't conduct - or rarely conduct - any type of capacity planning. Without effective resources and capacity management, organizations have no insight into their capacity and resource needs. Without access to data insights, incorrect ramp and attrition rates can lead to a loss of revenue, which is simply a risk companies today cannot take.

3. Give an in-depth look into quota attainment

According to the Sales Management Association, quotas control nearly 25% of an organization's total sales-related spending. That’s a large portion of your budget you’d be gambling if you don’t have automated visibility into the variability of your sales team’s quotas. Having insight into your company’s quota attainment patterns is vital to set realistic targets and obtainable compensation goals.

4. Maximize revenue by balancing territories

New research finds that organizations using automated technology for territory design increase performance up to 30% over those that do not. Once an organization completes all other aspects of planning, they must execute their models across balanced territories to maximize revenue coverage.

Using data to map territories, organizations can ensure they have the best coverage in their market, identify the amount of sales resources they need, and ensure they’re not leaving any money on the table by overlooking key territory areas.

Data-Driven Sales Execution:

Leaders need to put themselves in a position at their company to continuously re-evaluate their plans against performance and determine the accuracy of the data they base their strategy around and the plan goals themselves. Modeling plans helps identify gaps and places where plans might fall short. This allows organizations to be proactive and made adjustments to the plan before performance starts to suffer.

Be ahead of the curve by using Xactly Sales Planning’s intelligent, automated, and continuous approach across all key sales planning functions. With access to timely and objective insights, organizations can calculate productivity, plan their sales goals more effectively, and have a data-driven discussion about targets, needs, and future implementation from an executive level.