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10 Things to Look for in a Sales Performance Management (SPM) Platform

Aligned, agile, data-driven sales organizations perform better. Here are the top 10 things to look for in a sales performance management (SPM) platform.

11 min read

Let’s be honest, competition in the business world is fierce—and if you’re not leading your industry, you continuously falling farther behind. Businesses are moving at lightning speeds and goals are becoming more aggressive—so how do you keep up when only 69% of organizations hit their annual revenue goals?

If you search online, there are a lot of solutions, but the truth is you need to be an agile sales organization—one that continuously monitors performance, makes well-informed decisions, and is able to adapt their strategies to changes.

Ultimately, this requires two things: data and automation.

Agile sales organizations are data-driven. That means they compile their data and use it to inform decision making and drive sales capacity, quota, territory, and incentive planning. However, when your data isn’t clean or organized, it can be difficult to gain insights from it—especially if your data is managed in several spreadsheets or homegrown systems.

First and foremost, you need to organize your data, which means undergoing data clean ups. Once your data is clean, you can take steps to make your data usable—aka automating processes. Automation, specifically through a sales performance management (SPM) platform, helps you plan strategically and analyze performance continuously.

But where do you even begin with sales performance management and what is it exactly?

What is a Sales Performance Management (SPM) Platform?

According to Gartner, sales performance management platforms “ "Sales performance management (SPM) software comprises tools and process functions that automate and unite back-office sales processes. It is implemented to improve sales execution and operational efficiency."

To put it simply, SPM platforms allow your organization to operate efficiently and focus on being a profitable sales machine by using your data effectively, aligning teams, and continuously analyzing and tweaking plans and forecasting as needed.

So what should you look for in an SPM platform? Here are 10 top features and capabilities to look for in an SPM platform and vendor.

1. An Integrated SPM Platform

SPM platforms are a collection of tools to help you optimize planning and performance across your entire sales organization. That means, you need to ensure that the platform you choose provides a holistic approach, from sales capacity and quota planning to territory and incentive design, and optimization at each level.

Similarly, because sales performance management adoption is not an overnight, one-step fix, the SPM vendor you choose should provide a thoughtful approach to your current and potential future needs. As your organization grows, SPM platforms should be scalable and vendors should make it easy for you to add on additional platform solutions as needed.

2. All-in-One Sales Planning

Sales planning is the foundation of your sales organization. As a part of your sales performance management platform, your sales planning solution should give you the capability to plan for revenue and headcount, coverage, accurate team size, and more—all while taking growth potential into consideration. Ideally, you should be able to do all of this in one solution, without needing additional tools to get the job done.

3. Quota Planning & Management

According to Salesforce, 56% of sales reps are expected to miss quota this year. So getting your quota right is crucial. Your quota planning and management solution should provide multiple planning options, including top-down and bottom-up quota setting.

Because several factors impact quota, you should also look for an SPM platform that allows you to pull in data from multiple sources for quota setting and the capability to apply artificial intelligence (AI) to predict optimal quotas.

4. Territory Design & Management

Territories are a touchy subject in some sales organizations, and they can have a huge impact on morale and performance. When reps think their territory is unfair or unbalanced, it can be difficult to motivate them. According to research, when organizations use technology to optimize territory design, they see up to 30% higher quota attainment.

Your territory mapping solution should be interactive and give you the flexibility to design rules-based territories and integrate seamlessly with your quota planning and management solution. It should also allow you to pull in third-party data to optimize territories and ensure they provide your sales team with the strongest opportunities to succeed.

5. Incentive Compensation Management (ICM) & Commission Accounting

Compensation is the biggest driver of sales behavior. If you don’t get it right, you’re entire organization suffers. Your incentive compensation management (ICM) solution should help you optimize every part of sales compensation, including plan design, payout calculation, credit assignment, exception handling, and more.

Another important aspect with incentive compensation management is ASC 606 compliance. Your ICM solution should aid your accounting team in compliance and easily provide the detailed commissions data needed for cost capitalization and commissions accounting.

6. Performance Analysis and Optimization

In order to continuously analyze performance, you need access to real-time insights. Every solution within your sales performance management platform should provide you with real-time or near real-time analytics so you can optimize your plans.

You also should look for an SPM solution that can offer you industry pay and performance data (the more data, the better) that you can use for benchmarking incentives to ensure your pay mix is competitive and you can identify and eliminate any potential pay gaps.

7. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI/ML) Capabilities

When you automate your processes, your data is more usable because you can analyze continuously. When you apply AI/ML algorithms to that data, you unlock the door to endless strategic insights.

Top SPM platforms should continuously help you use your data more effectively. Once you’ve automated each part of your organization, the next step is adding in intelligent technology to analyze your data and learn from it so you can plan more strategically.

(Learn more about Xactly’s AI capabilities for predicting and reducing sales rep turnover here).

8. Data Integration Across Solutions

You need to be able to integrate and transfer your data across systems to plan effectively and perform well. Your SPM solution should allow you to automate and streamline critical data flows and seamlessly integrate with your other enterprise and data architecture systems, including your CRM, ERP, HRIS, CPQ, and more.

9. Training and Certification

In order to get the most out of your sales performance management (SPM) platform, you need to know how to use your solutions effectively. Look for an SPM vendor that provides in-depth training and certification to help you develop the skills you need and provide best practices for your SPM platform. Depending on your team size and learning styles, you may want a vendor that provides training by product, online courses, in-person sessions, or classroom style training opportunities.

10. Analyst Recognition

Selecting a new vendor for any part of your business is not always an easy process. It requires research, demos, and hours of analysis. Having backing from key analysts, like Gartner, Forrester, and Ventana can help make the decision easier.

Search for an SPM vendor that is recognized as a leader by these key analysts. Each analyst has their own criteria for how they rank vendors and break down the strengths and weaknesses of each vendor.

Discover why Gartner, Forrester, and Ventana have all named Xactly a leader in SPM on our What the Market is Saying page.

Getting Started with Sales Performance Management

Diving straight into sales performance management (SPM) adoption can seem like a daunting task. Even if your processes and operations are working well now, it doesn’t mean there’s not room for improvement. The first step is knowing where you stand and actions you can take to gradually work your way to optimized sales performance management.

Take our 60-second assessment to discover where your organization ranks in sales performance management. Then download our SPM workbook to discover more benefits of SPM and how you can get started on the next steps in your SPM journey.

If you’re already versed in the benefits of sales performance management (SPM), discover how Xactly’s Sales Performance Management (SPM) Platform can transform your organization today.