The Faster Horse for Sales is Here — It’s Sales Performance Management

Feb 25, 2021
4 min read
In sales, we’re always looking for more efficient ways to hit our revenue targets, yet more than two-thirds of companies still use inadequate sales planning tools. Learn how to stop hindering your own progress and begin driving higher performance with Sales Performance Management (SPM).

Henry Ford once said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” If you think about that quote, it reveals some insight into the human mind. Ford knew what buyers wanted: to get places faster. But it wasn’t a faster horse they needed. It was something they hadn’t even imagined. They needed a car.

In sales, we often know what we want to achieve (closing more deals, better forecasting, driving higher revenue, etc.), but we’ve conditioned ourselves to a certain way of doing things based on what we’ve always done.

Today, IBM reports that 75 percent of companies operate using manual sales planning methods, including spreadsheets and homegrown systems. But have we ever considered that our idea of how to accomplish our goals may not actually be the best solution?

The Future Lies in Digital Transformation

We need a faster horse for sales to keep up in today’s world, but it’s not going to arrive as a spreadsheet that calculates and creates complex formulas more quickly. It’s coming in the form of digital transformation and Sales Performance Management.

Sales Performance Management (SPM) is a data-informed approach to plan, manage, compensate, and analyze sales performance at scale. It empowers you to use your data as an intelligent resource to continuously gain insights, reduce risks, and make strategic decisions in real-time.

Leading companies are already embarking on this journey. In fact, 80 percent of businesses took measures to accelerate their digital transformation in 2020, according to BCG. And as a result, McKinsey reports that those organizations were best equipped to not only recover during the pandemic but accelerate their performance.


But it’s about more than just recovery. It’s about continuously enabling ourselves to succeed and improve upon our successes, regardless of the situation we’re in. Yes, SPM played a critical role in helping organizations get back on track during the pandemic, but when there’s not a global crisis unfolding, it’s empowering them to plan, sell, and drive revenue more effectively. We just have to shift our mindset a bit to accomplish it.

Our Success is Hindering Our Progress

The challenge we face is our own human nature. When we achieve good results, we grow complacent. And rather than break out of that comfort zone and push the limit, we stay put. Why change something if it’s working well enough? If it’s not broken, don’t fix it, right?

But here’s the catch: revenue targets are continuously increasing. Forrester reports that 79 percent of leaders are facing growth targets higher than ever. Using the exact same strategy over and over, regardless of how successful it has been, will not magically result in higher performance.

On top of that, when disruption hits—like a global pandemic—we’re not prepared. Forrester research shows that 73 percent of companies are ill-equipped to adapt sales plans in real time. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • When your revenue goals are on the line, how do you know what changes to make? 
  • Where are there opportunities in your plan to improve performance? 
  • If you make one adjustment to the plan, how will it impact your overall revenue?
  • What if you don’t realize you need to shift your strategy until it’s too late?
  • Are the plans we have in place the most effective strategy? Could our existing strategy be stronger?

No matter how complex and advanced your spreadsheet calculations are, it will never be able to answer those questions. That strategy leaves us responding to disruption with gut instincts and relying on little to no data to back our decisions, and it’s only harming us in the long run.

You need to be able to calculate performance and also understand why you performed that way, what areas of weakness you need to address, and how you can improve upon your past successes. Sales Performance Management provides the visibility you need to analyze and shift strategies quickly during times of disruption. But it also provides strategic insights to accelerate when your performance is consistently “good enough."

Turning Change into an Opportunity

Change is an inevitable part of both life and business. And while sometimes difficult, it is necessary for progress. Throughout history, change has played an important role in the evolution of our world.

Consider the impact the iPhone, robotic surgery techniques, and voice-controlled smart home technology have had on society. Our lives have become connected from anywhere in the world, and to some degree, immensely easier. We can access anything on the internet and stay in touch globally with mobile devices. Surgery has become less invasive and more precise through technological advancements. And you can play music throughout your home, turn on the lights in another room, and add items to your shopping list simply by asking your smart speaker to do so.

These innovations weren’t born out of complacency. Rather, companies sought out opportunities for change when the waters were calm and they were doing “good enough.” Today, those changes have transformed the way we live.

Sales is no different.

We need to equip ourselves with tools and insights that help us uncover opportunities, adapt our strategies quickly, and strengthen our business decisions. It’s easy to fall victim to complacency when things are running smoothly. But what if you could achieve a better result with less effort?

We need to make it easier to accomplish our goals and empower ourselves to achieve more. Sales Performance Management does just that. It may not be the faster horse you thought you needed, but it’s the vehicle that will drive you to hit your goals more effectively and efficiently.

Discover more ways SPM is helping businesses accelerate their digital transformation and hit their targets strategically in “Mastering Sales Performance Management: A Guide to Digital Sales Transformation."

  • Analytics and Technology
  • Sales Performance Management
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.