Sales Agenda for Applications and Technology in 2015

Most people in business management admit that sales is more an art than a science. Organizations have long struggled to find the right mix to improve its effectiveness, and few get the most out of available technology. For many the default is still to use sales force automation (SFA) and spreadsheets to manage processes VRLogobug400x400and try to increase the productivity of sales staff. In our view they should take a holistic approach to sales processes from contact to close and support everything from sales forecasting to pipeline management to compensation with applications designed for these purposes. Those in sales operations need to apply analytics to understand and fine-tune sales activities. Those in sales management need applications that can help recruit, engage and retain the best talent. Even more than elsewhere in business, in sales people matter, and the organizations that most empower their teams are likely to get the best results. Optimizing people and processes requires a balance of information and technology to support the various needs of the sales organization.

Our research in this critical area of business during 2015 will examine applications designed to provide effective execution in sales processes. These applications cover a strikingly wide range of areas including deal management, forecasting, VentanaResearch_NGSA_BenchmarkResearchquota and territory, compensation and commissions, product information management, planning and tracking, learning and competency, coaching and objectives, contract automation and configure-price-quote. All rely on information and thus on technology to help people learn from and act on it. In today’s digital world the consistency and quality of product information is more critical than ever and more complex as digital assets such as images and video can make the difference in proposing and closing a sale. Analytics software can increase insights to improve sales execution and outcomes. Sophisticated techniques such as predictive analytics and data discovery can exploit the ever growing volumes now classified as big data. This trend has driven us to engage in new benchmark research for 2015 on next-generation sales analytics to advance knowledge of best practices and methods being adopted by innovative organizations. It will investigate new methods for using analytics to advance modeling and planning that can help sales groups recognize and respond to fast-changing trends and realize their potential. The need for improvement is clear in our next-generation business planning research, in which fewer than half of organizations said they are satisfied with their sales and operations planning (43%) and sales forecasting (47%).

Our research in sales compensation management explores the vr_scm14_01_impediments_to_effective_sales_compensationmotivation and impact of commissions and rewards on sales performance. Sales compensation is very important to almost three-quarters (73%) of organizations, but more than one-third have impediments that are motivating management to consider further investments in sales compensation. Leading the list are inconsistent execution in sales, cited by three out of five organizations, and lack of sales effectiveness in almost half of organizations. These and other issues can be addressed by adopting dedicated applications for sales compensation, especially to replace spreadsheets, which almost two-thirds that use them said make it difficult to manage sales commissions efficiently. Managing sales compensation effectively also requires commitment, as I have written, and investing in capable software should be part of that commitment. Used properly it can provide a return in terms of the resources and time saved and improvement in the sales process. Our research finds other benefits of a dedicated sales compensation approach, most often aligning the sales force to business strategy and goals and increasing confidence in achieving the forecast.

Our recent benchmark research on recurring revenue reveals advantages in automatically billing for subscriptions for VentanaResearch_RR_BenchmarkResearchproducts and services on a repeating basis. However, the recurring revenue model requires the ability to manage a variety of services that customers can change at short notice and be billed for correctly and promptly. Managing recurring revenue is easier with a dedicated application that links the complete order-to-cash process. These applications also support not just the transactions but the full cycle of interactions with customers, which is the largest challenge for 55 percent of organizations, according to this research.

There also are new tools to help sales professionals improve their own campaigns using demand generation techniques that previously were available only in marketing. They can target prospects, schedule interactions and provide information that matters to prospects. This directly empowers individual sales reps to develop leads for the sales pipeline to achieve their quotas, which in turn can improve the accuracy of the sales forecast. The tools also can be used by teams. Half (53%) of participants in our sales forecasting research said that the forecast is a collaborative and team effort; that even more (57%) said the forecasting process is unreliable shows the need for improvement.

Another technology that can make a difference for sales people and processes is mobile technology, which can facilitate completion of tasks through smartphones and tablets. These portable tools can provide information and updates to sales people on the go. Our research in sales finds adoption booming; for example, tablets are now being used in 43 percent of sales organizations, and almost another one-third (31%) plan to deploy more or plan to start using them. Improvement in mobile applications designed for sales should drive growth even faster.

Mobile technology also can boost another innovative technology – collaboration, which is a natural part of the sales process. New methods for social collaboration are going beyond mimicking consumer social media to relevance in sales. For instance, using collaboration for coaching or gamification for earning badges and awards can spur sales people to compete and improve; these methods are being evaluated or planned for use in one-third and one-quarter of organizations, respectively, according to our sales compensation research. In the end collaboration is about improving the relevance of actions and the quality of decision-making. Collaboration can help improve the execution of any sales activity.

The nature and means of sales are changing, and sales organizations must change with them or be left behind. In pursuit of innovation they must make investments in technology to help them adapt. Cloud computing makes it simpler and more affordable for sales groups to onboard and use applications rapidly. In 2015 Ventana Research will explore further the use of all these innovative technologies in the context of what Sales needs to be successful. In addition we will undertake new research on the next generation of product information management and how it can empower sales through digital commerce by providing complete, consistent product information at all interaction points.

Sales organizations must face the realization that old processes such as merely managing accounts, contacts and opportunities and general-purpose tools such as sales force automation are not sufficient to optimize the execution and efficiency of sales activities. Better tools and processes can shift the focus from manual chores to value-adding work. For example, contract automation can save significant time every week that can be devoted to pursuing more deals. Sales departments must find ways to elevate the level of customer engagement vr_scm14_04_measures_of_sales_performanceand satisfaction that in turn drive more sales. In 2015 all involved in sales, from the front lines to operations to executives, must step up their game. Analytics can help them measure sales performance in various ways, from quota and revenue attainment (important in almost two-thirds of organizations) to building processes for continuous and sustainable improvement. We should not forget that sales is a team sport that requires leadership and coaching as well as finding and motivating talent.

Our Sales Research Agenda for 2015 will span the areas that matter most to the in-person and digital selling of products and services. We will provide insights and best practices that can help organizations select technology investments and gain fast time to value from them. Please follow as we strive to bring you information and guidance that can make the difference in your sales efforts.


Mark Smith

CEO and Chief Research Officer

Ventana Research Technology Innovation Awards Are More Than Cool

In the realm of technology that matters for business and IT, our firm as part of our responsibility continually assesses the latest technology and how it can impact organizations’ efficiency and effectiveness.2013_Tech_Innovation_Award Our benchmark research in technology innovation found that 87% of participants indicated the importance of increasing the organization’s value through technology innovation. Every year we take our knowledge from research and technology briefings to focus on our Technology Innovation Awards and determine the vendors and products that have the potential to drive change in the market, the competitiveness of an organization’s business and sometimes just how efficiently a company operates. Our firm believes that Innovation can come from any size technology vendor from the smallest to the largest that are measured on a spectrum of attributes that contribute to the specific impact of the technology.

Our process with the Technology Innovation Awards is to separate out and find the vendors and products that have innovative technology that has the most potential and might be game changing or what might be just a necessity for organizations to use to compete in the market. We methodically assess and score those technologies according to more than 26 categories, and then rate and validate within each category to determine the winner of the Technology Innovation Award. Our methodology looks at the relevance of key aspects of technology, including people, processes, information and technology, along with any best practices for applying the technology and the resulting potential impact and benefits to organizations. To apply an additional lens on the technologies being assessed  we also employ the technology evaluation categories (functionality, capability, reliability, manageability, adaptability, TCO and ROI, and vendor validation) that we use to methodically assess vendors and products in our Value Indexes. This year we have kept a closer eye on usability of technology and where it can have use across a larger number of individuals in an organization or easier to use for a specific set of people or department, as our research found that usability had the highest level of importance for technology and vendor consideration in 64% of organizations.

Our award categorization makes it self-evident where the technology is relevant and is part of our research focus that is built around innovative technology, as I previously outlined. In the end our Technology Innovation Awards are not just about being a cool vendor but about having innovative technology in either a shipping product or one coming to market in the near future that is worth recognition.

According to our research, almost half of organizations (49%) are planning to change the way they assess and select innovative technology for business and IT through 2014. With that backdrop let me introduce you to the Technology Innovation Award recipients for 2013 so you can see for yourself what technologies could change how your organization operates significantly.

Business Technology

Business Innovation

Operational Innovation 

IT Innovation

If you want to learn about technology innovation and see examples including from ones that received a Technology Innovation Award, come to our Technology Innovation Summit. At the summit you’ll learn why it’s critical to assess innovation and look beyond what you are doing today to determine where you can make changes to drive improvement. Our research found that organizations are changing the way they evaluate innovation technology mostly to drive business improvement initiatives (60%) and improve the quality of business processes (57%). If you want advice or guidance to help you leverage technology innovations, just let me know, as we are always happy to help organizations be smarter and faster.

Congrats to this year’s award recipients for innovations that are worthy of our recognition and your time to see where they might help your organization.


Mark Smith

CEO & Chief Research Officer