Sales Performance Management

You can’t manage what you don’t measure

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“I don’t have enough data,” is something that I have never heard from a client. The real challenge today is finding the right data. Fundamental to sales performance management (SPM) is what we call Sales Performance Measurement. Peter Drucker, inventor of management by objective, or MBO’s, is attributed to this “You can’t manage what you can’t measure” concept. Let’s revisit a few fundamentals to make sure we are aligned for a successful sales performance management process: clean data, the right measurements, and alignment what that means.

Clean data

In February of 2019, Gartner, Inc. released a Sales Technology Primer that provides an overview and guidance of Digital Optimization and CRM Strategy. It raises the level of importance that SPM initiatives have tied to a holistic approach to a sales technology strategy. Organizations who are looking at leveraging a CRM technology find soon after this project is complete require an SPM system as well. The fundamental need here is clean data. One of the shortcomings of  CRM only approaches is the successful adoption of the process. These systems are notoriously difficult to push sales into updating CRM regularly. Higher level strategists start to doubt the results of analytics because of these incomplete data sets. Worse, they are surprised in predictive modeling because this information is incomplete or in error. As the adage says, “garbage in, garbage out.” When we look deeper into this adage, it is a little more complex than it appears at first glance. If you have bad data going into a pristine model, the result is garbage. If you have good data going into a bad model, again the outcome is garbage. For the desired outcome, it is needed to have good data in a pristine model to get the desired results. In a time that we are very focused on analytics and predictive data modeling, going back to this fundamental has to be part of the process.

In Gartner’s Sales Technology Primer, this clean data is critical because of the interdependency of systems between effectiveness, enablement, execution, and sales performance management. Some may tell you that having one platform to carry all of this out is the best approach. But, what if you have not invested or are not aligned with this technology? What you require is an open technology that is flexible to work with other systems and provides a checkpoint to make sure all data is clean data.

The right measurements

Sales performance measurement is the capture and tracking of essential data for your sales organization. What is the right data? As stated at the start of this article, we are overwhelmed with data. What we are striving for is understanding, not just the consumption of more data. In a conservative estimate, I am tracking 84 essentials to sales performance measurement. It includes categories for strategy, engagement, operations, territory management, education, salesforce, and motivation. Will you track all 84? If you do, what will be the best way to transfer this data into a repeatable method to improve sales? Instead, I recommend that you consider a focus on the sales performance measurement essentials that will mean the most for your organization. Technology is fantastic at helping to do this. When seeking out systems that can support you in this effort, make sure the one you are considering includes the ability to identify, filter, and visualize data as an inherent part of the offering. Track all 84, but give particular focus on the ones that drive your business in a manageable alignment. This will mean the team will need to agree on both the metrics that are essential to your organization and the definitions.


When working with other departments in your organization, some hold unique talents that can be powerful to help your team. It’s best to find those talents and work together for shared success. Two that first come to mind are the teams of finance and sales. These teams don’t always appreciate just how important each is to the other. The definitions and views of the world can be pretty different. “Oh, that sales team,” one might say. “I see those expense reports and all they do is party.” While the other might say, “Why do I have to do all this paperwork, I need to get out there and sell. Why do these have so many rules?”

We know that the world of business is way past bean counters and out of control expenses. These views of each other might even be a barrier. Finance is impressive at understanding data, and interpreting data, into something compelling for sales. How can your finance team help to organize data better for sales to consume and improve outcomes? Sales is great at closing new lines of business and expanding opportunities inside current accounts. How can that ask for the right data? Alignment in the organization needs to take place amongst adults. Internal conflicts and power plays are a thing of the past. For example, identify what a packaged deal means to your organization. Is it higher margins, more complexity, longer cycles to close? Or is it streamlined for higher volume, more discounting flexibility, and faster momentum? Once you define what the package is, and there is buy-in between both parties, who can we come together to report and share a motivated success for all? This alignment between the goal and strategies needs to be well defined for measurement so that individuals and teams can manage that success.

In the end, just these three areas of focus for clean data, identifying the right measurements, and aligning on these definitions for success will help your organization through the rest of this year and into the next decade. Remember Peter Drucker’s words, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.”

A couple of weeks ago, I recorded a webinar “Why sales performance management is your next best investment.” If you are interested, you can watch it here.

I am also excited to announce that IBM is hosting its 2019 IBM Sales Performance Management Summit in both London and New York. I will urge you to attend either as it is meant for sales executives and compensation leaders such as yourself, who are transforming sales performance and applying every approach to motivate the sales team to achieve incredible business results. Learn more about the Summit agenda and register for the events below –

IBM Sales Performance Management Summit 2019, London, May 23rd

IBM Sales Performance Management Summit 2019, New York, June 11 – 12

Portfolio Offering Manager, IBM Sales Performance Management

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