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        Planning Matters to Sales and Revenue Performance Management

        While many vendors have focused on developing new technologies and features to improve sales execution through more personalized and targeted sales enablement, lead and sales opportunity progress tracking and scoring, manager coaching and conversational intelligence, it seems that sales and revenue teams are realizing that this is not, in and of itself, enough to arrest the decline in quota attainment and the general failure of most sales teams’ members to make targets. But, as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.”

        At Ventana Research, we pioneered the category of sales performance management or SPM. This represents not just the execution side of sales performance, but the planning as well. Combined, this is sales performance management. Ventana_Research_2023_Assertion_RPM_Unified_Revenue_Planning_43_SI write more on this in The Necessity of Sales Performance Management. And we are also pioneering its successor, revenue performance management or RPM. More details around this can be found here, but, in essence, revenue performance management represents an expansion of the coverage of sales performance to reflect the increasing adoption of the recurring subscription model, leading to a shift from a singular focus on new sales only to an approach that puts equal emphasis on retention and expansion as well as recognizing the increasing role of omnichannel engagement, especially self-service and e-commerce. But despite this, we assert that by 2025, less than one-quarter of organizations will have a unified technology approach to manage revenue planning for the performance of revenue professionals across territories, accounts, quotas and incentives.

        Typically, sales and revenue planning can be thought of as setting up the team, whether direct or indirect, field or inside sales, for success. This is done by developing and building integrated territory, incentive compensation and resource plans that align to, and are driven by, overall company objectives. More recent trends, such as the increasing adoption of mixed pricing and recurring revenue models, including subscription pricing as well as self-service B2B commerce, are adding complexity and require sales planning to accommodate the impact of these changes. The move to add subscriptions places a greater emphasis on retention of customers and upsell and cross-sell opportunities. In addition, self-service purchases need to be included within sales targets and compensation so that sales teams are both fairly compensated and supportive of omnichannel engagement.

        In terms of territories, the shift to remote selling has led to interest in, and adoption of, virtual territories, allowing for industry-type specialization, a key requisite for sales teams building that all-important expertise that enables them to be viewed as a trusted partner to buyers. Likewise, the drivers used by organizations to establish a way to estimate the value of a territory, virtual or otherwise, are moving beyond the somewhat limited and one-dimensional use of the previous year’s sales as a proxy. Better availability of firmographic and buyer intent data makes deriving territory values more data-driven and aids in creating balanced territories, which is important in assuring salespersons that opportunities are fairly distributed.

        When it comes to incentive compensation plans, historical performance should be utilized in assessing whether incentives led to alignment between expected behaviors and actual results. And compensation needs to reflect that newer channels, such as self-service B2B channels, are part of a holistic engagement model and may be preferred by existing customers re-ordering after the initial sale is made, but the sales and account team should be credited even if the sale no longer goes directly through the account team.

        And the last major component of sales planning should also include capacity planning that ensures the effective allocation of resources. Metrics such as quota by rep and territory, average deal size, sale duration, conversion rates, new rep ramp rates and the rate of stage progression are examples of drivers that can be used in capacity planning.

        The final point I would like to raise is this: Although historically for many organizations, the overall sales plan is treated as a one-and-done activity, the reality is that plans are typically not completed before the following year begins and, and even when completed, market changes, competitive pressures and members of the sales team changing roles will result in the need for continuing adjustments. One of the main lessons of recent years is that best-in-class organizations are nimble and agile, and they don’t just track performance but utilize this information and forward-looking data to make on-the-fly adjustments to ensure territories, incentives and resources are being constantly aligned with needs. I cover this need to embrace a more dynamic approach to planning here. And best-in-class organizations recognize the need to move beyond trying to manage this in spreadsheets, knowing that good planning is collaborative and will involve not just sales and revenue teams, but finance and HR as well. A superior sales and revenue system provides the data and administrative control and guardrails needed while supporting empowering leaders and operations teams to make their own adjustments without needing to rely on technical help or the one individual who knows how the spreadsheet works.

        Sales and revenue leaders and operations leaders should review their existing processes and applications to ensure that sales planning is not just a one-and-done exercise but is part of a dynamic feedback loop. And sales and revenue forecasts as well as the inevitable personnel changes should be continually fed back into the planning process and applications so changes can be modeled, and the options evaluated using data.

        You cannot know the future, but you can be ready to adjust resources and plans accordingly with an integrated approach to all aspects of sales and revenue planning.


        Stephen Hurrell


        Stephen Hurrell
        Director of Research, Office of Revenue

        Stephen Hurrell leads the Office of Revenue software research and advisory expertise at Ventana Research, now part of ISG and guides leaders in the applications and technology for buying and selling products and services to maximize revenue. His topics of coverage include digital commerce, partner management, revenue management, sales engagement, revenue performance management and subscription management.


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