X-Factor Compensation Leaders: How to Be Incredible at Incentive Planning (Palo Alto Networks)
Sales compensation is one of the most important components of sales planning. Sales operations and compensation professionals must compile a team to piecing together metrics and goals, which carries an incredible amount of responsibility. The resulting incentive plan must develop a compensation process that will motivates the right sales behaviors to achieve goals, all while driving growth.
Finding the right mixture of compensation requirements is not always easy, but luckily, it can be much less time-consuming with the help of automation software. As part of our Friends of Xactly (FOX) Community, we’ve spoken with sales compensation leaders to create a blog series about their journeys in sales compensation, best practices, and the Xactly advantage. Below is our interview with Palo Alto Networks Sr. Business Systems Administrator, Padmaja Chavali.
Meet The Expert – Padmaja Chavali, Palo Alto Networks
Who: Padmaja Chavali
Position: Sr. Business Systems Administrator
Company: Palo Alto Networks
Time in sales compensation: 11 years
Bio: Padmaja Chavali is a seasoned sales comp administrator and comp plan design specialist. She works in implementation and design of plans/rules/reports using Xactly and acts as the liaison between the IT, Sales Operationss and other functional groups to help develop the best plan model for sales. Chavali’s favorite past time is heading outdoors and exploring new trails. She runs half marathons and is training for her fourth marathon in May 2018.
Palo Alto Networks is a network and enterprise security company helping their customers prevent security breaches. Based in Santa Clara, CA, Palo Alto Networks provides “cybersecurity expertise, commitment to innovation, and game-changing Next-Generation Security Platform, customers can confidently pursue a digital-first strategy and embark on new technology initiatives, such as cloud and mobility.”
Tell us about your career journey in sales compensation. (How did you get your start? How did you end up where you are today?, etc.)
“I started out my career as a web-developer. I moved to Bay Area in 2006 and worked on a contract to build a Sales Hierarchy, where manager could click on a link, and it would open Crystal Reports of the rep’s commission statement. I was hooked into the space of Sales Compensation, but I had moved on. I got a call back from the manager in this company and she was willing to mentor me in this space since I had strong technical skills.
It has been my calling and career since then. Sales compensation is a niche market, which is still in big demand as companies grow and want experienced professionals. I choose to be in this field because I find it a very interesting field,f where you interact with different functional groups, [including] HR, sales, legal, IT and sales management. I have been a systems administrator of Xactly in different companies in bay area, and every day I always learn something new!”
What are the biggest challenges you face in your role today?
“When I first started using Xactly, I moved from a mix of Access Database + Crystal Reports + SQL Server. It was such a relief to move to a SaaS-based tool and just focus on the front end design without having to worry about back end infrastructure issues.
As Xactly has evolved and other vendors in this market have come into play, competition has stepped up. This has resulted in faster features being released in the product. It makes it very compelling to leverage integrations with other tools and make it seamless to a certain extent as long as we can iron out business process issues.”
Download our "Ultimate Guide to Sales Compensation Planning," for everything you need for a sales comp plan design project. Or, keep reading for more sales plan ideas.
Describe your company’s sales compensation planning process, your role in it, and how Xactly has changed this process (What is your favorite Xactly tip/trick that you’ve learned?).
“We start our planning process around mid-year for the next fiscal year. We conduct interviews to evaluate how our current plans are liked by the reps, [and] gather data from Xactly through a mix of Xactly Analytics and our CRM system in order to run cost modeling [and] what-if scenarios with the assistance of Finance/FP&A.
Based on the budgets assigned to the net fiscal year planning, we arrive at the plan design, plan rates, and rate multipliers. We also analyze if we can support a plan in Xactly systematically based on the system limitations. I am a part of the PMO team of the Sales Comp group, and as a team, we decide how to execute the sales comp strategy and processes.
My favorite Xactly trip/trick: Always download data from Xactly credits/payments prior to any calculation. Analysts are constantly updating setup data after I recalculate, [and by downloading the data,]I have a reference point to see what [has been] changed.”
What piece(s) of advice/lessons have you learned on your journey that you would share with your peers or younger self?
“Sales comp is a crazy space to be in. It is, however, possible to bring a pattern to this craziness. As long as we know the frequent occurrences, we can prepare beforehand and bring a method to this craziness.
I used to get stressed out a lot, [but] today, I realize that many things change upstream, and it is totally out of my hands. If it is to happen, it is bound to happen. Hence, it is the need of the day to be agile to navigate through the changes and adapt to the changes quickly.”
How do you envision the future of sales compensation? What do you anticipate for 2018 that was different for 2017?
“I anticipate more reporting and dashboards through integrations between Xactly and other tools that we use in-house, like Anaplan for quotas and an IT tool for instant reporting refreshes.”
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Complete Guide to Sales Team Compensation
Putting together your sales team requires you to consider the specifics of each person’s tasks, how those responsibilities move the team toward the given goal – and how to properly compensate each member.