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December 2012

Five New Year's Resolutions for the Data-Driven Sales Leader

Cabrera_newToday's blog post is by Christopher Cabrera, CEO of Xactly Corporation, the industry leader in sales compensation automation.


Recently, many sales managers have told me that they feel they could and should be operating more strategically — but they lack the data they need to make critical business decisions and consistently drive performance. Here are five New Year’s resolutions to help you make better, more strategic management decisions and get your team on a better track for 2013.

Resolution #1: Find out how much sales compensation really costs.

Most sales managers and sales-compensation analysts consider Compensation Cost of Sales (CCOS) a key metric for making the right strategic decisions. To correctly determine the percentage of total revenue spent on salaries and incentives, however, you must have the right data.

Collecting that data is not always as easy as it sounds, because it lives all over. For example, base pay may be stored in payroll software, while commission information may be stored on spreadsheets. Instead, consider this:

  • Sync all of your business data — finance, ERP, sales, CRM, etc. — in one automated sales-compensation tool.
  • Use complete, real-time data to determine percentage of spend.

Resolution #2:  Spend more on sales.

I know what you’re thinking: “Shouldn’t we reduce costs?” The short answer is yes. But you’ll spend less in the long run (and increase profits and revenue) if you spend more on sales where it counts. For example, drill into your top-performing territories, products, and performers. What opportunities do you see to increase spend for long-term improvements? Maybe data indicates that you should sweeten the pot for certain top performers or increase sales spending in certain territories.

Resolution #3:  Determine exactly where to allocate funds for coaching and training.

Many sales managers take a one-size-fits-all approach to coaching and training. But research by Harvard Business Review and CEB has shown that sales managers get the best ROI on coaching dollars by investing in midlevel performers. (Top performers don’t require the same level of coaching, while poor performers often can’t be helped, no matter what you do.) Here are a few action steps I recommend:

  • Review your data to determine the effectiveness of your coaching and training programs.
  • Identify sales reps who could most benefit from coaching and training (typically midlevel performers).
  • Customize training and coaching programs to increase performance where you need it most, based on what’s worked well already.

Resolution #4: Eliminate payment errors.

Sales-compensation plans can be complicated and confusing. And the information can take forever to true-up, get approved, and so on. The net effect is often inaccurate or delayed payments. What can you do to simplify? 1) Export sales-compensation data from the database directly to your payroll system. 2) Eliminate errors with an automated sales-compensation solution. Your reps will thank you for timely and accurate comp-plan payments in 2013.

Resolution #5: Comply with sales commission regulations.

You know noncompliance can be very costly, but how effective are you at staying up-to-date on legislation?

For example, have you heard about California AB 1396? It’s a new law requiring companies with any commission-based employees providing services in California to have written commission plans in place by January 1, 2013. (Read more about the details on Xactly’s blog.)

Stay compliant:

  • Create plan documents that specify how commissions will be tracked and paid, then route them to employees for approval.
  • Use an automated tool to guarantee consistency between commission plans and information used to calculate and report on commissions.
  • Partner with a company that will keep you abreast of future legal requirements.

We all want to do better in the new year. These five resolutions for sales managers will help you make the decisions necessary to ensure that your sales team is set up for success. 

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Selling with 360-degree Visibility: Dream or Reality?

Clip_image002Today's blog post is by Louis Tetu, CEO of Coveo, a company that digs insight out of the many corporate data repositories to help salespeople look smart when they deal with customers.

 A sales professional’s greatest asset is knowledge. The more you know about a prospect, the more relevant you are to your prospect and the easier it is to close a deal – and then a bigger deal. But faced with information fragmentation and a proliferation of information clutter, sales teams often fail to effectively and efficiently mine the knowledge they need to make better selling decisions; instead, they constantly reinvent the wheel. The long-promised, 360-degree view of the customer was never quite delivered, mainly because there is no such a thing as “the” 360-degree view that can be captured in a single system.

The “cloud” fuels this problem of fragmented information. When brought cloud computing to the forefront of selling professionals’ minds, it was – and still is – a revolutionary tool due to its scalability, flexibility, and freedom to collect and track sales activities and house many parts of an account. But the proliferation of cloud-based applications and their ease of adoption also add systems of knowledge to an already crowded picture of applications, databases, and online resources – other systems where knowledge can be lost. Cloud platforms such as Salesforce are themselves scattered a bit, requiring users to look in many different areas – and click and scroll a lot – to see the information they need. Then they have to remember it while they look for more information.

In sales, power equals relevance to prospects’ or customers’ exact needs and situations and an ability to challenge their views, if necessary. For sales executives to be highly relevant and credible challengers and perceived as bringing added value, it takes real-time and comprehensive intelligence. It starts with understanding the prospect’s context – and that context is multifaceted, with information about it stored anywhere and everywhere – certainly far beyond the scope of CRM systems. Add to the equation all of the tools your company has created to ensure that your sales executives can be effective. Where does all of this information reside, and how does sales discern which content is most appropriate and relevant for each prospect?

Information about your prospects and customers plus all sales tools and customer/prospect interaction reside in a multitude of systems and formats: social media, CRM, financial systems, engineering, service, communities, email, call transcripts, Websites, and more. Add to that examples of similar customers and their products and history, the right presentations, product literature, blogs, and all customer/prospect communications and interaction. Then add knowledge from colleagues and even former colleagues – people who have expertise about that prospect or customer or about the applicability of your products to that prospect. Next add other sales execs who may be selling into the same company at the same time across the world.  Don’t forget products from your company the customer may already own and his or her experiences with them.

How can a single sales executive know all of that for each customer during each encounter? Until recently, one of the biggest pain points that sales agents faced was having to leave a CRM such as to access information from multiple other systems, in addition to running around the company to reach people who possess the right information.

Advanced indexing technology is the way forward. In this model, fragments of information are assembled on demand and served up to users. Take a look at how Google and Yahoo! have transformed the consumer world in aggregating, consolidating, and unifying into one index information from the world’s Websites. Now think about the same paradigm but across the enterprise IT clutter.

Advanced indexing technology can perform securely in the same manner within the vast variety of systems – email, databases, CRM, ERP, social media, documents. The technology is available to securely index those sources, unify that information in a central index, normalize the information, then perform mash-ups on demand. Think of a world in which every document a sales executive needs on any platform is instantly organized, indexed, and recommended at the right time and for the right prospect or customer. Think of a world where every sales executive gets the complete and best contextually relevant information for the prospect’s needs and situation. 

Sales and CRM teams around the world have used this technology to their advantage:

  • CA Technologies is a global software company with 400 products and 13 million documents relevant to its sales and CRM teams. CA is able to index, correlate, and utilize relevant information from these systems instantaneously, allowing its marketing teams to solve cases 15 percent faster.
  • Tokyo Electron is a global manufacturer of high-tech semiconductor products. When its field service teams need to solve a complex case, they’re able to index information across multiple systems instantaneously. They increased their post-sales revenue without any additional travel or personnel costs.
  • L’Oreal equips its sales and customer service agents in the field with the ability to index customer information across millions of documents. As a result, they’re able to see all relevant information about a customer or prospect, allowing them to close deals faster and keep customers happy.

While many technologists still chase the impossible dream of integration, we are leading the way with a federation of information through advanced indexing technology so that we can help salespeople benefit from 360-degree, instantaneous visibility of all relevant data. 

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Will You Set Smart Goals for 2013?

We cannot expect to become the directors of our lives if we fail to choose a meaningful direction.

As we approach 2013, we can choose to sit on the sidelines and watch other people score or take charge of our lives by pursuing our goals. Goals are difficult concepts to grasp; many people don’t see themselves as capable of changing, growing, and achieving. They see goals like statues: cast in bronze and placed out of reach.

I suggest viewing goals more like a river that flows from the present moment to a rich land filled with amazing opportunities. Instead of focusing our attention on the two obvious points, the present and future, we need to look at the emerging road between these two points.

Goal setting doesn’t amount to simply creating a narrative about what we want to get out of life or what we want to give back. We need to decide on the quality of our journey. We need to choose a road that challenges our capabilities and our will.

Sometimes people attach so much meaning to their distant goals that they obsess about them while ignoring their need to feel good in the here and now. They overrate the value of the trophy and ignore the meaning of the trip. They tend to forget that success is not a vague destination that resides only in our imagination but a journey into a forever-expanding and precious present. If we can’t expand our awareness to match the richness of the here and now, we’ll never get a chance to claim the fortune we imagine in the distant future.

To become the director of our own life, we need to…

know who we are and take inventory of our talents,

know where we are and scope out our future,

and decide on our goal and the quality of our journey.

One more important thing to remember is not to be influenced by the noise on the sidelines, such as talk about the “fiscal cliff,” the “European debt crisis,” or the “growing economic uncertainty.” Pessimism is misuse of the imagination. Think of the two words “smart goal” as acronyms with two meanings. The logical meaning is SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-based. The emotional meaning is GOAL : Guts, Optimism, Attitude, and Loyalty.

With a little effort, we can shape our future in the image of our goals. But without a set direction for 2013, we won’t be able to direct our lives, and we’ll continue to repeat what we know hasn’t worked for us in the past. Take a moment now to write down your number one goal for 2013. Carpe diem leads to Veni, vidi, vici

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