Finding the True Story in Data: Saving Time, Improving Accuracy, and Building Trust Through Automation Blog 4 of a 6-Part Series
So far in this blog series, we’ve followed Cox Automotive’s journey to create a world-class sales operations organization and an unstoppable sales force as they confronted their challenges developed a plan for change and gained trust from stakeholders across the organization. Armed with internal support and a communications strategy, it was time for Cox Automotive to dig into their data to understand its role in optimizing their Sales Performance Management (SPM) process.
As part of the change readiness assessment, Xactly and OpenSymmetry took a hard look at Cox Automotive’s data feeds. What they found was that inaccurate data colored their reports with a convoluted picture of reality. This meant inaccurate forecasts for future sales goals, shadow accounting, and a whole lot of unhappy salespeople.
Data Silos Spell Disaster
Digging into the data feeds, Cox Automotive discovered that they were paying commission from a number of independent systems. However, finance reported the actual sales, which came from a different data source. These data sources were not connected, which meant that the salespeople had no explanation for the payout discrepancies they perceived to exist. Sales reps would project their commissions using a number they got from their CRM system but were paid based on the finance actuals. The incongruities resulting from this created tension and mistrust among the sales team.
There was rampant shadow accounting whereby salespeople would lose productivity by spending time calculating and keeping track of their own performance on personal spreadsheets, then validating the numbers when payouts were received. This resulted in a major backlog of disputes for the sales compensation team to investigate and resolve. The outcome was a lose-lose scenario where both the sales comp and sales teams were sinking excessive time into counterproductive activities, taking them away from their core responsibilities and the opportunity to create real value for the organization.
A Disconnected System Requires Perpetual Recalculations
These reports with seemingly inexplicable numbers also came from another problem. Even though Cox Automotive owned many of the right tools, their business was evolving faster than the configuration of their tools could keep pace, which is why they resorted to spreadsheets. This kept the sales comp team in a zone that they coined “Excel Hell.”
They were calculating commissions for the same months about six times each pay period, checking the numbers over and over because of the numerous nested and VLOOKUP formulas, as well as referencing rate tables, with a system that was not connected to all the required sources. According to the Senior Director of Sales Operations for Manheim, the largest subsidiary of Cox Automotive, Justin Ritchie, “In ‘Excel Hell,’ we had a million rows of data every month to turn into credits as we received tons of VINs for cars.”
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Xactly Connect Addresses Data Integrity and Sourcing Issues
Based on compartmentalized and scattered data feeds, as well as an unsustainable commission calculation process, the Cox Automotive team partnered with OpenSymmetry and the Xactly strategic services team to create a roadmap on how to address their data source and data integrity problems.
Ultimately, it was recommended that they use Xactly Connect in between Cox Automotive’s major CRM system and Xactly Incent, an incentive compensation management system that would provide sustainable measurement and tracking of all necessary pieces of data, from completed transaction to payout. Xactly Connect would create and automate data integration processes for commissions processing in the Xactly Incent system.
Combined with some data cleansing, data feeds were automated and Cox Automotive’s CRM and Xactly Incent dashboards aligned almost perfectly. Ultimately, these improvements helped the Cox Automotive sales organization save approximately 7,200 hours per year by eliminating manual calculations, minimizing adjustments, and building trust in the data to reduce shadow accounting. Ritchie shares:
When we got this working right, we reduced what took days to 3.5 hours. Time savings have been so key for us.
There was no longer a difference between perception and reality—all the discrepancies between sales quota booking and payout could be explained in the data that now worked together to tell the full story. “We’re currently at 99.8% consistency, and adjustments overall have been declining,” Ritchie adds.
With the data feeds sourced correctly and connected through Xactly Connect, Cox Automotive now has a single source of truth. As a result, the sales comp and sales teams can refocus their time on more valuable and productive efforts (such as selling for the sales reps) while letting the technology soundly take care of the rest. As accuracy rates increase so does trust and confidence amongst the sales organization.
With the data now telling the right story, Cox Automotive’s next task was to focus on optimizing the way they designed territories. The job of building new territories once took 3-6 months on manual tools like Excel – but having broken out of Excel Hell when it came to commission processing, they knew there could be a better way using smarter tools. With a constantly growing sales force as well as an ever-shifting market landscape, there was a critical need for a data-driven approach to territory optimization in order to proportionally distribute opportunities across performers of all levels.
This approach needed to be fueled by continuous feedback from the on-the-ground salespeople, as well as supported by the cold, hard numbers.