The sales environment is more complex than ever before. 

Customer preferences are constantly changing. 
There are new rules of engagement and selling motions.
Prospects are coming into deals with more information about your service or product than ever before.

It can be a real challenge for revenue teams to keep up with the latest technology.

Sales leaders must equip their teams with the knowledge and tools necessary for success. Easier said than done!

  • Sales leaders' plates are full ... if not overflowing. Revenue targets. Company goals. Organizational efficiency. All of it.
  • The “improving sales performance” silver bullet does not exist. But wouldn’t that be nice? Sales leaders must determine what works best for their team and individual sales reps.
  • Many (many!) software solutions are available — which one is the best for you and your team?

In the following paragraphs, we’ll define sales performance management, explain why it’s essential to your business, and share best practices and tools to simplify workflows and maximize returns.

Win. Win. Win.

What is sales performance management?

Managing the performance of sales reps is no easy task. 

It’s ... complicated. Mainly because it has many facets. 

Let’s first level-set with a few definitions:

Sales performance is the performance of your sales representatives in relation to their ability to meet or exceed your company's revenue targets. Sales performance often includes metrics and KPIs used to evaluate reps, such as quota attainment, customer retention, and total sales over a given period. 

Sales Performance Management (SPM) is a set of operational and analytical functions and processes that automate, unify, and improve sales’ operational efficiency and effectiveness. SPM capabilities include providing incentive compensation, setting quotas, planning territory goals, performing advanced analytics, and incorporating gamification into work activities.

Looking for a deep dive into SPM? Gartner’s Market Guide for Sales Performance Management is an excellent resource for better understanding the various processes and capabilities that go into effective sales management. It also details some of the top SPM solutions on the market today. 

We also recommend Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Sales Performance Management if you want to compare SPM vendors and determine what type of sales management software may be best for your business.

The importance of sales performance

While reps are on the front lines and often credited for business growth, what goes on behind the scenes is equally — if not more — important. 

It’s imperative to have a roadmap: where you want to go and how you plan to get there. SPM is designed to help businesses with all of the above. 

A solid SPM strategy and system in place give:

  • Reps get a clear view of where they stand relative to their quotas
  • Stakeholders get practical and insightful analytics that can be used to make smarter business decisions
  • Companies get opportunities to generate revenue, thanks to sales quotas and better decision-making

The importance of sales performance cannot be overstated. Understanding how to motivate sales reps to “go big” is critical for any effective management strategy. 

Measuring results is tricky if you don’t know what’s important to look for!

Factors that can impact sales performance

Talent.
Hard work.
A bit of luck.

That’s the key to sales.

Not so fast, my friend. 

Several factors differentiate average sales reps from the All-Stars.

How is it possible that in any given sales org, there are the same number of hours in a day, days in a week, and weeks in a year ... yet the top reps excel over and over and over again. 

Grit. Resilience. Luck. Sure. All of that, but there’s more.

Here are a few factors — some questions to consider — that may separate the average from the crème de la crème:

  • Who are the competitors? Where do we beat them (competitive differentiators)?
  • How does our product or service work best for different industries? Are reps taking advantage of personas and account-based marketing (ABM)?
  • Are reps using different selling techniques and methodologies?
  • Are reps factoring in how market and economic conditions may impact the sales cycle?
  • How often are top performers connecting with their contacts?
  • Are reps spending too much time on administrative tasks, such as calculating commission?

Notice that some of the above are things a rep can control while others are not. The important part is asking the right questions, learning how to best move forward, and putting the necessary controls to impact sales performance positively.

Best practices when launching an SPM program

Setting up a successful SPM program isn't as simple as "follow these steps" or "do this, and you're good to go." 

But where to begin ... ? Here are five capabilities every SPM program should excel in.

1. Apply predictive analytics to planning and modeling

Predictive analytics uses statistical and modeling techniques to anticipate future events (and make better predictions) based on historical data. 

Sales leaders use these insights to predict revenue better and hone their forecasting models. Predictive analytics also allows for the testing of future scenarios.

Sales reps often leverage predictive analytics to help with "what-if'' models. For example, what deals are the best to pursue? Which should be dropped? All in the name of being more efficient while maximizing earnings.

Building a robust yet accurate sales pipeline requires reliable forecasting. A more manual, “simple” scenario means listing all pipeline deals, scoring their likelihood of closing over a set period, and using that information to predict future performance.

100% fine for small deals with few complexities and nuances. Not so good for larger, more complex deals. The what-if model considers the likelihood of a deal closing, the salesperson's experience with the client, the value of any previous deals, and much more.

With advanced software, sales reps can more accurately and confidently predict sales pipelines and leverage forecasting models.

2. Allow all stakeholders to work in one shared platform with the same data

A single source of truth means employees have access to the same data set, often in real time.

This “single source” means individuals and teams can work together seamlessly. But unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Instead, we often see department data siloed into disparate sources, making it challenging for a connected ecosystem.

SPM solutions should be designed so all stakeholders can work on the same platform and with the same data (often at the same time).

3. Use real-time data to monitor performance and make adjustments to commission plans

Historically, sales reps have learned about their commission earnings just before the pay period closes — or worse, they get a retroactive statement. In other words, the report is shared after the month or quarter ends. Sure, a rep still gets paid, but it’s not as motivating as if you can see that commission building in real-time — and further — get visibility into what they could earn based on closing other deals. 

Instead of providing reps with a fixed period view of their commission, consider proactively (real-time) updating key performance analytics and insights. This helps them plan financially, stay self-motivated, and prioritize the correct activities.

Today’s technology means automatic processing of commissions — additionally, more visibility into team and individual metrics such as close rates and most-profitable deals. A sound sales performance management solution should also include an integrated incentive program to guide reps to new earning opportunities — a roadmap to success. 

The CaptivateIQ Data Connectors (integrations) help centralize all commission data and ensure plan administrators provide employees with visibility into real-time and past or future earnings.

Customize a scalable compensation plan that fits your specific team and individual goals — define commission plan agreements such as payout dates, commission rates, employee hierarchies, quota tiers, and more.

4. Motivate sellers with a transparent and engaging commission experience

Reps often do not have visibility into the details and calculations that live in behemoth commission tracking spreadsheets. 

Poor and limited insight into sales performance can impact the C-Suite: CEOs, CFO, and others on the Executive Team who often review high-level summaries of sales and profits.

Additionally, a lack of transparency can negatively impact productivity and trust. One tiny error can plant a seed of doubt in the comp plan system.

No transparency on how commissions are calculated can start to spawn assumptions — rarely a great outcome.

Providing transparency in the commission process — real-time earnings, calculations, play inquiries, and potential revenue — helps with planning, motivation, and prioritization. 

When you implement a system that provides automated, detailed statements showing the sales team exactly where commissions originated (which deal and when), there will be fewer commission-related questions.

Also, when inquiries about sales commissions arise, the operations and finance teams don’t have to dig through spreadsheets or black box systems to track down the information; they have it at their fingertips.

‍Pro Tip: Leverage payout transparency as a hiring and retention differentiator for sales teams. Your reps will always know the timing of payouts and can track their progress to target.

5. Implement advanced SPM technology

Large companies with complex sales processes may struggle to keep up with their day-to-day tasks and require automated SPM tools to manage their workflows.

The best sales performance management software offers scalability so that you can access additional tools and features as those needs evolve, even if you start with limited needs.

According to Gartner’s 2021 Market Guide for Sales Performance Management, “By 2026, 25% of organizations using an SPM solution will optimize the design and maintenance of their sales compensation plans using advanced analytics solutions provided by their SPM vendor.”

The same Gartner report shares that the “SPM market grew by 8%, to $1.187 billion, in 2020” and that SPM vendors are starting to “broaden offerings while continuing to deepen core capabilities.” This expansion includes advanced analytics, sales forecasting, and revenue operations.

Sales performance management software that’s right for you

With CaptivateIQ, you can design and deploy your commission plans using advanced technology for commission tracking. CaptivateIQ’s Reporting capabilities offer detailed insight into your sales progress, helping you to improve your overall SPM plan.

Many different tools on the market today can help monitor, plan, and adjust your sales program to the ever-changing macro-environment. Be sure to outline your organization's specific needs to find the solution that’s best for you and your team.