Maximizing Sales Performance is No Longer Just About Compensation. Today, More Than Ever, It’s About Continuous Planning.
Sales organizations are being forced to change at an incredibly rapid pace. With buyers operating in new ways, and remote work becoming the norm, reps must adapt to a new selling paradigm — under heightened pressure to meet ambitious goals.
According to a new study from Forrester, 79 percent of business leaders say they’re facing more pressure than ever before to deliver on higher-growth targets. As they attempt to keep up with rising demands, they are constantly inundated with the next piece of software needed to address the shift towards virtual selling. Although some platforms, like Salesforce, Slack, and Zoom, have demonstrated tremendous value, others create excess noise that sales leaders must navigate while trying to make their numbers.
The latest shiny object may not be what’s ultimately needed in the grand scheme of things. In this new world of 1000+ sales enablement tools, and in the middle of an economic crisis, leaders are realizing they need to take a critical look at the tools they’re using and assess how those tools, or perhaps new ones, can help them better plan and adapt to the moment.
Today, 84 percent of corporate leaders feel it’s important for their organization to be able to make decisions based on trusted data versus gut-level instinct; yet only 34 percent say their business is doing so effectively. While compensation has always mattered to sales organizations, bridging the gap and forging a sustainable path forward requires leaders to see the bigger picture by incorporating continuous, data-driven planning into their overall sales strategy.
A Foundation Grounded in Compensation
Savvy sales leaders recognize that the centerpiece of their performance is people, not processes, and that those people are driven by an innate desire for incentives.
These success drivers aren’t something to shy away from. Sales is hard, yet companies depend on salespeople to achieve greatness. They need to tap into inherent human motivations to create win-win scenarios. All the best solutions in the world will not drive the best results if the human part of the equation isn’t addressed.
The business landscape has made great strides over the last fifteen years when it comes to incentivization: sales leaders have moved away from spreadsheets and towards automation, adopting technology that allows them to optimize compensation and ensure alignment in rep behavior with the company’s overall objectives.
But today, with market dynamics and business needs changing drastically at breakneck speed, it’s essential that leaders expand their focus. Selling in a virtual environment requires the use of real-time data to engage and motivate reps while empowering them to succeed.
To stay agile in the face of new obstacles, sales organizations must reframe how they think about driving behavior, shifting from a solely incentivization-based paradigm to a more holistic picture that encompasses the entire sales process — Sales Performance Management (SPM) — including its most vital component: sales planning.
Shifting Focus onto Sales Planning
While incentive-based solutions can be effective at motivating teams and driving growth, they’re no longer the only tools in a sales organization’s kit. Business needs have expanded beyond commissions, and compensation can no longer be viewed as an isolated system. Companies now require a more comprehensive approach to help them not only stay competitive but stay in business.
As enterprises grapple with restricted resources in the face of countless risks and unknowns, leaders find themselves in the difficult position of needing to be decisive and act fast without having all of the relevant information in front of them. Finding a way to effectively harness the data they have is critical so that companies can take those insights and act. That’s where sales planning comes in.
Sales planning must be executed continuously, allowing companies to optimize their salesforce by quickly and efficiently making the informed decisions they need in order to dynamically adjust their sales plans based on external changes in real time — and in turn, meet available opportunities and drive more revenue.
For instance, some sales planning software can automate territory alignment, allowing sales ops professionals to upload their data and visualize recommended territory alignments based on their company’s requirements.
In addition, planning tools can help companies identify “white-space” opportunities that may have been overlooked, as well as utilize AI models to build and compare multiple “what-if” territory scenarios in order to make educated decisions about the right next step.
Nimble, forward-thinking companies like Cox Automotive and Flowserve took advantage of these kinds of sales planning capabilities soon after beginning to experience the impacts of COVID-19, and as a result, have positioned themselves for a better chance at recovery when this moment ultimately passes. Others will want to follow suit.
The New Imperative
The bottom line: SPM is the new imperative, especially now — and making the shift under today’s circumstances must start with both a focus on compensation and continuous sales planning.
Putting new urgency behind planning efforts, in particular, ensures that companies can rapidly make the informed, data-driven decisions they need to pave a path forward when the future is a question mark. Those that aren’t thinking about sales within this framework and that lack the ability to pivot their strategies on the fly will find themselves at a market disadvantage.
Our digital-first world requires enterprises to think about the sales process holistically and invest in tech solutions that are designed for the virtual seller experience, allowing for continuous planning. By strategically using insights to re-assess moment-by-moment how they are allocating people and resources, leaders can help their sales teams achieve their full potential and, in turn, help the company emerge stronger on the other side of adversity.
This article was originally published on MarTechSeries.