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Sales organizations and individuals strive to reach their quotas and get paid the maximum commissions for their performance. In support of these goals, software vendor Xactly offers a suite of VR_leadershipwinnerapplications for sales performance management that operates in the cloud computing environment. An example of its success is receiving our recent 2013 Leadership Award in sales excellence for work by its customer Zuora. This achievement builds on its 2012 Leadership Award with customer GlobalEnglishMy last analysis of Xactly discussed its applications running on mobile technology including the Apple iPad, which answers the needs of sales people who prefer to use mobile technology. Xactly signed its 500th customer in late 2012, a milestone demonstrating its adoption by companies looking to improve sales.

I stopped in at its annual conference, CompCloud 2013, where it showed a range of advances in its core products Xactly Explorer and Xactly Territory Management, but what caught my attention was the introduction of Xactly Objectives and its innovative approach to simplify the user experience in defining, tracking and achieving objectives, which also can be linked to incentives not just in sales but anywhere in an organization. The application addresses the need for timely guidance and direction from managers to employees; that is a key aspect of  human capital management, as my colleague Stephan Millard outlined it for 2013. Xactly’s unique approach integrates to-do lists and objectives from worker to manager, who then can link them to incentives and bonuses; this facilitates motivating people to perform well. The idea of pay for performance has been a mantra in sales compensation for some time, and Xactly Objectives provides a viable way to accomplish it with an approach to help manage people and individuals manage to their objectives on a routine basis. While annual performance reviews might not go away anytime soon, lines of business need to manage performance weekly and monthly, which is easier when they can use incentives to stimulate higher performance.

vr_sales_preferred_accessMy analysis of the application shows that it covers the practical aspects of defining and supporting workers’ to-do lists and links them to individual and departmental objectives. Xactly Objectives shows progress and team members in visual form, which helps users engage more readily, and includes notification reminders such as the number of days left to achieve specific objectives. Xactly’s deployment in the cloud also matches the preference of 41 percent of sales organizations in our research. Xactly’s applications, and especially Objectives, also provide ease of use, which is the number-one evaluation criterion for purchase consideration in 73 percent of sales organizations and for 77 percent of participants in our human capital management research. Similarly the ability for individual sales reps to review progress to goals is one of the five most important capabilities according to our research. The Xactly Objectives application can add significant value to sales as well as the rest of the organization.

In the last year Xactly has worked to interoperate and integrate data with sales force automation systems from Salesforce, Oracle and even SAP so customers can work across applications used in their sales processes. Xactly also provides a rich set of analytics and reporting to help guide sales people in understanding how to reach their quotas and commissions. Xactly also previewed Insights, a benchmarking service that it has built from metrics in more than 500 companies that use its applications, to indicate where companies can improve their sales processes.

The introduction of Xactly Objectives demonstrates the SPM_VentanaResearch2012_SPMHotVendorexpanding nature of sales performance management, as outlined in my research agenda for 2013. It indicates why we see Xactly as a key application provider for sales and a Hot Vendor according to our 2012 Value Index on Sales Performance Management. Expanding its applications and integrating them all in its suite is the right approach as sales performance management continues to be red-hot with applications. I am happy to see that sales applications are getting smarter, as I hoped they will, and Xactly is expanding rapidly to meet the broader range of needs in sales and across the organization.

I expect that Xactly will find interest in its focus on objectives in customer service, field service, marketing and others departments, supported by its ease of use. Our research finds that in sales departments alone, 27 percent are looking to deploy new applications by the end of 2015 and that doing so is important to 83 percent of organizations. Other approaches in the market are either more closely aligned to HR and performance reviews or are trying to emphasize social collaboration rather than enabling workers and managers to define and achieve objectives. I believe that Xactly has some work ahead to make the application engage people in roles higher up the organizational chart, and it needs to add more collaborative capabilities, but for a first release Objectives offers much of what organizations should have in their standard portfolio of applications for gaining better productivity and performance that is directly aligned to the objectives of the organization.

I think those in management and finance roles will like to have visibility into objectives, and most will welcome having pay for performance, incentives and bonuses more tightly aligned with the direction of the organization and directly linked to daily, weekly and monthly activities. If you are serious about getting the most out of your workforce, having a defined method to use objectives that link achievement to incentives can be a useful management tool. In that perspective, Xactly Objectives should be on your list of applications to consider.

Regards,

Mark Smith

CEO & Chief Research Officer

Investing wisely in sales-related people and processes is a key to business success. In 2012, helping sales staff perform at their highest levels should be a top priority for management. That may take some effort, according to our benchmark research, which indicates that only 14 percent of sales organizations operate at the highest level of innovation and competitiveness. In recent years, most organizations merely discussed moving beyond using only their sales force automation application and Microsoft Office for improving sales efficiency. Now sales organizations can move beyond systems that were designed decades ago, thanks to the availability of a broad range of applications to support sales activities and processes. In fact dozens of new types of sales applications are available to help sales focus on selling, which creates another issue. Where should sales organizations focus their limited resources and budgets?

Ventana Research intends to provide guidance here. We have identified important overall business trends identified, including big data, business analytics, business collaboration, cloud computing, mobile technology and social media; all of these areas offer new competitive opportunities for improving sales efficiency and effectiveness. For example, the use of sales analytics puts 17 percent of sales organizations at the Innovative level of maturity in the Ventana Research Sales Analytics benchmark research. These organizations benefit from daily and weekly metrics about the pipeline and forecasting, quotas and the performance of account reps. As well renting sales applications through cloud computing has become the preferred practice in 41 percent of sales organizations, compared to 25 percent that purchase them in an on-premises, according to the Ventana Research Sales Performance Management benchmark research. In mobile technology, 67 percent of sales staffs use smartphones today, 17 percent use tablets, and 30 percent plan to expand their existing deployments, according to our research. In the area of collaboration, having people broadcast and post their needs to help in the sales process is a top priority in more than one-quarter of sales teams, compared to legacy methods of electronic mail and instant messaging. 

Our upcoming research aims to help your sales organization turn these business technology advancements to your sales advantage. Ventana’s 2012 research agenda on the business of sales will focus on three key areas at the intersection of people, processes, information and technology: improving the potential of the sales organization, establishing dedicated methods to manage sales and accelerating time to sales readiness. 

In the area of improving potential, we will look at the use of social and collaborative technology to coach and guide sales. We will examine the use of mobile applications accessible from smartphones and tablets. And we will assess the use of product information management to help configure deals and price them efficiently. Each of these address the need to improve access for sales to the applications that can help improve the potential of achieving revenue targets.

Establishing dedicated methods to manage sales requires many sales organizations to improve compensation and incentives that influence sales reps’ performance. Sales forecasting was identified as the most important application for 65 percent of sales organizations in our research, yet most are still using spreadsheets, which we found to impede the management of sales. Instead, sales forecasting should be a team-based business process that incorporates management of the pipeline. Sales analytics and metrics can help optimize activities and processes in key management categories including people, performance, process and risk. Our research found that 86 percent of organizations want to have simpler sales analytics, but most struggle with the difficulty of building and maintaining silos of one-off spreadsheets and presentations. Managing sales can be much easier with targeted applications that can assist managers with oversight and guidance.

Finally, accelerating time to sales readiness is important because many organizations perform tasks that take two to 10 times longer than necessary, and they often wait for long periods to get the information they need. Organizations can use SFA as a source of information for the operational and performance needs of sales, but a best practice is to use integration tools. Cloud computing can reduce IT challenges and resources while providing ready access to applications and information. Providing information through mobile and social media also can improve sales readiness and make it easier to respond to sales opportunities. Scattered information was rated as the most significant impediment in 58 percent of sales organizations, indicating the importance of improving the management and use of information.

Our research agenda will examine applications that focus on sales, considering the broad range of analytics, assets, channel, coaching, commission, forecasting, incentives, leads, learning, objectives, performance, pipeline, planning, pricing, promotion, proposal, quoting, quota, reporting, rewards, sales force automation and territory. In addition, our Ventana Research Value Index methodology again will assess vendors and their suites of applications and tools in sales performance management. Our newly released benchmark on sales applications and technology uncovered the priorities of organizations in applications as well as new technology trends, and we have previously released research on sales analyticsbusiness and sales data in the cloud and total compensation management. The next benchmark we’re conducting is in the area of product information management, and it will be followed by sales forecasting

I believe that 2012 will be a critical year for sales operations teams, which have to perform more tasks faster and more effectively than ever before. Only 39 percent of sales organizations have any confidence in their organizations’ ability to manage sales operations and performance, indicating a significant opportunity for improvement. Utilizing new applications and software that can handle analytics and planning for tasks in sales will be essential in helping sales staffs utilize their time efficiently. Simplifying access to applications through mobile technology and enabling sales people to work collaboratively and socially should be key priorities for sales executives. 

Sales cannot overachieve without making investments that target the culture and environment that sales executives want to establish. Our research will help them understand the best practices that can save time and money while reducing the risk of failing to achieve maximum results.

Regards,

Mark Smith – CEO & Chief Research Officer

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