The economic downturn has placed even greater pressure on the sales function. Sales leaders must increase sales effectiveness while external forces reduce the number of real opportunities and threaten top-line revenue growth. Business leaders need actionable data to align sales behavior with business objectives and rapidly adapt to changes in the market. Aligning and automating sales execution with organizational goals requires a holistic approach that includes compensation management, process optimization and data analysis. Research reveals that traditional manual compensation processes reduce productivity for multiple functions, such as sales, finance, operations, and IT, which impacts both top and bottom line growth.

A recent study, "Optimizing Sales Performance Management through Data Integration and Analytics," conducted by Aberdeen Group, a Harte-Hanks Company, finds that managing sales performance is a high or top three priority for 59 percent of all survey respondents in 2009.

"Sales performance management is not just about technology. It's about using the technology to support performance management practices and processes which tie operational execution to business objectives," explains Ian Michiels, research director of Aberdeen's Customer Management Technologies Group. "The best in class demonstrate an affinity for data-driven decisions. SPM initiatives will continue to grow as organizations start to realize that technology alone is only one ingredient to superior performance. Best-in-class companies demonstrate the critical capabilities that support all three components of SPM and as a result realize higher growth in annual revenue and improved productivity."

"Lack of automation means manual processes become cumbersome and costly, and it's difficult to rapidly adapt to market volatility," says Alex Jefferies, senior research associate in Aberdeen's Customer Management Technologies Group. "All respondents want sales to be selling as much as possible to get their share of the opportunities. This means sales must be compensated with realistic incentives that are in line with the business strategy, and not wasting time on shadow accounting or selling the wrong products. The holistic SPM approach uses elements of ICM, process optimization and business goals to identify exactly what products or services to sell, how to sell them, how to incentivize the sales force to maximize the opportunity in the market, and how to maximize resources to meet business objectives."

The report demonstrates the value of collectively leveraging organizational practices in process, performance measurement, knowledge management and technology to provide a foundation for sales success. By combining organizational capabilities and technologies, such as CRM/SFA solutions and incentive compensation management tools, Best-in-class companies are able to positively affect bid-to-win ratios and annual revenue growth.

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