Why Complacency is a Kiss of Death for Sales Organizations

Jul 20, 2020
5 min read
It’s easy to fall into a “don’t fix what’s not broken” mindset in business. Discover why Forrester Research and Xactly VP Enterprise Sales Lisa Welch say complacency is a kiss of death for sales organizations.

In sales, being prepared is critical. But it’s not just having your plans ready for the start of a new fiscal year. What happens when three months into the year, a global disruption hits, and the entirety of your industry, business, and sales plans are turned upside down?

Today’s world is a perfect example. Three months into 2020, the world hit pause. Now, seven months in, we’re still trying to figure out what both the near and long-term future looks like. As a sales leader, the most important thing I’ve learned through it all is that having the ability to adapt plans and change strategies at any moment in time is the difference between success and failure.

Complacency is a Kiss of Death

It’s easy to fall into an “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” mindset—but the worst thing you can do, especially in times of disruption, is remain stagnant. You have to adjust your plans immediately to drive the right selling behaviors to remain competitive. You can’t assume that the plans you rolled out two or three months ago are still the best strategy going forward. Rather, you need to be continuously analyzing and improving your sales plans to pave the best pathway to hit your organizational goals.

This is even more critical considering 65% of companies say their board of directors’ patience is growing thin, and more than 60% say their sales attrition rates are going up, according to Forrester Research

Failure to align your planning velocity to the market only hurts your ability to achieve increasingly higher growth targets—which is something Forrester reports 79% of organizations are also experiencing, regardless of economic or global disruptions. 

Considering how quickly and frequently things have changed this year, I think we can agree that any company thinking their existing planning cycles and processes are good enough is digging their own grave.

Static Planning Just Can’t Keep Up

If we’re really being honest, the way we’ve built sales plans in the past just doesn’t cut it anymore when the world is changing at such a rapid pace. Now more than ever businesses need to adopt a different mindset of “if it’s not broken, continuously look for ways to improve it.” In today’s world, using data isn’t aspirational, it’s imperative.

But it’s impossible to be strategic without the right processes in place, and that’s precisely the problem. Companies recognize that continuous sales planning is critical, but they are slow to react when change is needed. This is caused by two main issues, according to Forrester Research: 

  1. Inadequate Technology: 90% of businesses say the number one challenge preventing leaders from hitting growth targets is a lack of real-time insights into current inefficiencies.
  2. Poorly-designed Business Processes: 71% say they are unable to pivot incentive and compensation management as needed because of long, inefficient quota- and territory-setting cycles.

So this raises an important question: if 90% of companies say making real-time decisions based on real-time insights is important to be effective (aka continuous sales planning), why is implementing it successfully so hard?

There’s a Lack of Education on the Solution

The most successful businesses turn to Sales Performance Management (SPM) solutions to establish agile sales management across their organization. But in order to do this effectively, you need to adopt best practices, centralize data, and lock in executive support. 

Unfortunately, Forrester reports those three areas are precisely where companies encounter the highest levels of difficulty:

  • 57% struggle to successfully implement best practices
  • 57% lack centralized data sources
  • 52% can’t convince executives to buy-in

This all boils down to limited education around the benefits SPM solutions provide. To earn executive buy-in and implement best practices, growth strategy leaders need to start with an understanding of how the best SPM providers help them transform their sales organizations in impactful ways.

Many users have no prior experience with an SPM solution, and it can be a lot to learn in a short amount of time; hence, it takes a village to achieve success. The key is creating a trusted partnership with your SPM vendor. For example, Xactly’s expertise lies in making complex processes simple for large, global companies. That’s not to say the complexity of sales and incentive planning will go away, but when partnered with the right team, the process of optimizing your Sales Performance Management becomes seamless and simplified.

We’ve had a solid partnership with Xactly for a long time now...and we’ve been investing in our entire SPM platform for four to five years…[The Xactly] team has allowed us to move much faster through some of these changes than we would’ve been able to had we not done the work we’ve done over the last few years.

Justin Ritchie, AVP Enablement & Execution
Cox Automotive

On-demand Session

Forrester's Latest Research: The Importance of Continuous Sales Planning

If not now, when?

When spreadsheets were first introduced in 1969, they were revolutionary. Do you mean to tell me I can have this electronic document complete calculations for me? It completely transformed the way we managed data. Now, some 50 years later, we’re still using them. Why? Yes, they house your data in one place, but they’re also easily derailed with one misplaced comma—not to mention their lack of security. 

But even more importantly, what good is that data to me if it’s sitting in a static spreadsheet, getting more out-of-date by the minute, if I can’t get any sort of insight out of it? When disruption hits, you need a foundational safety net in place so that you can focus on creatively adjusting plans and maintaining momentum—instead of merely trying to keep operations afloat.

There’s never a right time to optimize and rework all of your business processes. But now more than ever you need to be able to adapt as quickly as the world is changing. That’s why adopting digital transformation is essential. 

You have all of this foundational data, but what really helps you innovate and be strategic in times of disruption are the insights you derive from that data. And you’re even more prepared if you can uplevel that information into predictive insights. SPM makes this an achievable reality. It’s not an easy, overnight fix—but it is much easier with the right SPM partner and 100% worthwhile if you’re willing to put in the initial work. 

It’s no longer a matter of being able to react quickly. You must be able to examine the health of your sales organization and predict how you’ll need to adjust as the world changes. You have to set yourself up to not only bounce back when uncertainty hits but when the time comes, catapult forward. 

See how you can get started and advance your digital transformation in our workbook, Accelerate Your Sales Performance Management Journey.

  • Sales Performance Management
  • Sales Planning
lisa welch
Lisa Welch
VP, Enterprise Sales

Lisa Welch is a galvanizing, cross-departmentally collaborative global sales leader who has achieved remarkable results growing sales 50 - 100+% YoY by attracting and building high-performance sales teams.