8 Tips for Improving Sales Performance

Anyone who has labored under the yoke of spreadsheets to plan quotas and capacity understands what modern, cloud-based planning can bring to fast-moving sales organizations. Here are 8 examples of real-world sales planning.

Recently, I wrote about a new solution from Adaptive Insights that should make sales operations professionals rejoice. Adaptive Insights for Sales brings to sales planning the very game-changers that Adaptive Insights was already known for in finance—such as automating time-stealing manual tasks, simplifying modeling, analyzing trends, and anticipating impacts.

Anyone who has labored under the yoke of manual spreadsheets to plan quotas and capacity understands what modern, cloud-based planning can bring to fast-moving sales organizations.

I can tell you what it means to our own sales planning team. It means better plans, more informed decisions, and more insightful analysis. And all of those lead to a more productive sales organization.

But what does this look like on a granular, roll-up-your-sleeves basis?

Plan creation gets (a lot) easier

Crafting an annual plan takes weeks of work and revisions, and if you’re using Excel, those can be some pretty painful weeks. It’s not that bad to create an initial model in Excel. The hard part is having it keep up with you and all the revisions throughout the year. What’s more, you often can’t do everything you want because you lack the data, or you waste time figuring out how someone broke the spreadsheet. Or, as often as not, you just run out of time.

Then there’s analysis, which isn’t impossible with spreadsheets but isn’t easy either. Modeling what-if scenarios can be so difficult that you take shortcuts or swags. And multidimensional analysis of sales performance on fragile Excel files? Good luck with that.

A modern sales planning solution will change all that. Here are some of the more useful things we can do now, with examples based on real scenarios that virtually every sales ops professional should recognize.

Example 1. Base plans on solid data.

To prepare for our annual planning cycle, we’ll evaluate all of our historical performance on total attainment, rep counts, rep productivity (deployed quota versus attained), sales rep ramp attainment, segment performance, and rep attrition rate. Then we’ll take that historical data and use it to inform a range of tasks, such as: reporting on total attainment by quarter; reviewing rep productivity, roll ups, or segments; evaluating ramp attainment; measuring rep attrition rates by quarter and year, and then rolling that up by segment or geography. These are all necessary to create a comprehensive sales plan.

Example 2. Determine if assumptions are realistic.

When our assumptions are grounded in reality, we end up with a better plan. To do this, we need to be able to clearly document and model the assumptions for our sales plan against historicals. The new solution allows my team to enter, modify, and report on plan assumptions (including quota, seasonality, segment mix, attainment, ramping, hiring, and attrition), then compare versions and variances. In addition, we can view historical data against our current plan assumptions by segment and geography.

Example 3. Determine if we’ll meet targets.

At some point, every sales ops manager is asked, “What’s our coverage?” Answering this requires understanding the coverage to planned target numbers from deployed quota at both the rep and sales management levels. The new solution makes this simple. We can compare the deployed quota and expected productivity with target plan numbers and percent of coverage—informed by planned attrition, hires, and existing reps. We can also assign quota at a sales management level. We can set it first by looking at a coverage percentage and then lock in a number for our annual plan. Finally, we can quickly compare the current actual coverage against the planned quota coverage at any point during the year.

Example 4. Gauge the effects of attrition.

Building the realities of the business into the sales plan was a tall order back in the spreadsheet days. But now we can plan for attrition and assign actual attrition to a planned attrition. We can also easily build in natural delay for backfill.

Example 5. Manage the hiring plan weekly.

Picture giving sales management the head-count generation insight they need to plan for the number of territories for the entire annual plan upfront and then managing your hiring plan each week to determine if you’re on track. Measure twice and cut those territories once. Reduce the turmoil in your sales organization by having as consistent territories as possible. With our new solution, we can produce a report that shows what role we need and when to achieve the plan. And every month, we can measure the progress of hiring and impacts to the plan from late hires.

Example 6. Determine total hires needed, including support.

Adaptive Insights allows us to ensure our hiring plan is complete and encompasses all the resources we need to understand the overall expense impact. Whether you’re in Adaptive Insights for Sales or Adaptive Insights for Finance, you can model all the moving parts, including determining support head count based on ratios. You can establish the impact of adding an account manager on other needed sales resources, such as management, sales development reps, pre-sales, etc. You can determine the impact of adding new customers on technical support, customer success, and other resources. This can roll up and provide to finance the needed heads to support the sales plan.

Example 7. Consider your alternatives—at any point.

Most sales ops managers are considering multiple scenarios at the beginning of the planning process. It’s hard to compare your options in Excel except at the top level. But using the new solution, we can do that and more, at any point in the year. We can input specific assumptions on different versions of the sales plan, visually report on those assumptions, and then see the real-time results of the different versions—at the top level or more granular levels. Understanding the consequences of different assumptions helps us create usable alternative plans and options during the year as results unfold.

Example 8. Course-correct.

This is really the point of any plan. Course correction is about agility in today’s fast-paced business environment. Agility requires: first, that you know you need to take action; second, that you have considered your alternatives; and third, that you have visibility into what a new course of action would be expected to produce. This is the heart of what Adaptive Insights for Sales provides. We can measure our performance against our plan at any time during the year. We can see the impacts of alternatives. We can then execute on informed decisions quickly. What more could you ask for?

This is modern quota and capacity planning—asking all the questions you can think of and having an easy and intuitive way to answer them. For those used to planning on spreadsheets, it’s a huge step forward.

In a future blog, I’ll explore how a modern planning platform like Adaptive Insights for Sales changes the game for territory planning. For now, however, take a moment to check out these videos of other sales executives who have modernized their sales planning environment with the new solution. They too know a game-changer when they see one.

Learn more about Adaptive Insights for Sales

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