Data in Sales Performance Management: It's All How You Use It

5 min read

In this digital age, we’re constantly hearing about the power of data. It is one of the most powerful tools in the business world; organizations can gain vital insights not only into the landscape they operate in, but also into themselves. However, like any tool, the value of data analytics depend on how you use it. As Albert Einstein said, “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” Companies can fall down at the first hurdle by measuring the wrong thing. For example, imagine a gourmet wedding cake baker measuring its success by how quickly it produces cakes. They might manage to exceed their targets and make 50 a day, but if the cakes taste like rubber, then they will lose their customers and their reputation. Similarly, think of a Premier League football striker being assessed based on how many miles he runs in each match. He might manage a half marathon every game, but if he isn’t scoring the vital goals, then he won’t be helping his team to win their games. The same principle applies to sales performance management (SPM). Businesses must ensure that they are not just looking to measure the right metrics, but that they have the proper data to do so. It might be tempting to assess sales reps based on the number of calls they make or the length of those calls, but would that really indicate how successful they are? Similarly, managers might be tempted to analyze their CRM data to examine company (and individual) performance. But the question is, what would you really be analyzing? Pre-sales data entered by sales reps, which might be either significantly over-optimistic or playing it safe. Instead, businesses should use true post-sales data – to get a view of the full process and how individuals are really performing. Luckily, using the Xactly Incent system, companies can record and analyze data on all parts of the sales process. It shows the sales pipeline – from leads through the final sale – and who the star performers are throughout this process. And importantly, because Xactly measures the most relevant metrics, it also enables businesses to incentivize their staff based on these criteria. Rather than awarding compensation with a broad brush, managers can identify what their business needs to do to be successful – and then incentivize the behaviors that achieve that. If the business needs to make progress within a certain sector, then reps can be rewarded for filling the sales pipeline with leads in that industry. Or, if landing the big sale matters more than several smaller deals, sales reps can be compensated accordingly. What’s vital is that the business has the tools to gather that data and analyze it. Data has almost unmatched potential as a business tool – but what’s crucial is that companies can use it to gain true insight into the measures that matter. Once you know more about your sales performance, you can take steps to improve it, including by incentivizing your team to take the right actions. To end with another quote, as Thomas Edison said, “The value of an idea lies in the using of it.”