This inaugural “HR Tech Drive” column is for human resources decision makers who have salespeople to pay. Little doubt exists that keeping top sales performers happy and informed is mission critical for compensation administrators.
All three companies profiled here are among the top sales compensation management vendors in the marketplace, according to experts such as Gartner and Forrester. This trio clearly have their fans and the customers to prove it.
It’s a good idea to note that I am not a sales comp professional. Of course, that doesn’t automatically disqualify me from sitting through a 45-minute demo of three leading sales performance applications without finding them impressive (in a very time-lapsed sort of way).
I’ve seen plenty of HR-focused software demos, but nothing has approached the complexity of sales comp software. For a layperson, it’s a dizzying display of features; paying commissions and incentives requires a multitude of factors not present when setting simple salaries or hourly rates. For effective sales compensation, the math must be on the money, so to speak.
Company: IBM, Armonk, NY
Product Name: IBM Sales Performance Management (SPM)
- IT independence: Early on you can tell that IBM built this app so that end users shouldn’t need to spend much time consulting with IT. Once the IBM SPM platform has been successfully integrated with the appropriate data feeds/extracts, it’s goodbye to IT for maintaining or managing the solution. Business users themselves should be able to easily configure and maintain the solution.
- Performance and scalability: Under the hood of the IBM SPM product are technologies such as the calculation engine, report builder and data import/export capabilities. The calculation engine (dubbed “Premium Performance Management”) is a feature that employers with seriously large sales forces can use — considering the corresponding high data volumes and complex sales commission calculations.
- Flexibility: The demo drove home how IBM’s SPM delivers flexibility. For example, the demo highlighted how customers can extend a database by creating their own column and rows needed to capture and process data. The example created a scenario whereby a customer could have a transaction table of 40 columns or a transaction table that is as large as 120 columns.
- Fairness in commission payouts: As noted, variables abound in the critical process of calculating accurate sales commissions. The demo showed how in creating a set of calculations, administrators can access a preview button at each step of the calculation to ensure the model is accurate and in alignment for each individual calculation.
- Reporting: Reports are sacrosanct in managing sales comp. As they say in sports, you can’t tell the players without a scorecard. One IBM SPM report, called Rapid Reports, is pre-built and required just a few minutes to configure and publish must-haves, such as compensation agreements, compensation earnings reports, quota attainment reports and many others.
Company: Optymyze, Philadelphia, PA
Product Name: Optymyze SPM
- Core capabilities: The demo clearly showed how Optymyze provides every core capability of an SPM solution, including incentive compensation and territory and quota management, in a single product. User interface is configurable by non-programmers.
- “No-Code” mode: Herein lies Optymyze’s main strength: No-Code applications. The demo highlighted how the “no-code” apps make it easy for sales administrators to clean and conform sales comp data from hundreds of sources and centralize it for immediate use. Of course, the idea of no-code application development capabilities means non-technical sales operations staff can automate sales processes and enable sales end-users. Load error summaries allow the user to drill down to underlying data tables to identify and fix issues.
- “Mobile First”: Optymyze demonstrated its enhanced mobile applications, including features such as push notifications and reassigning tasks. Among the mobile forms displayed were tool tips and calendar lookups, and territory management features include a new map layer for territory analysis. The mobile app allows salespeople to estimate their earnings any time, from any device.
- Speed and adaptability: Optymyze showed how it can handle complex compensation plans with a modern UI. The demo also brought home how it can deliver fast processing times for complex compensation high-volume transactions.
- Volume, volume, volume: Tuned for larger salesforces (more than 250), Optymyze demonstrated how it offers multiple and indirect sales channels, as well as the flexibility to handle blips such as a merger or acquisition, new products, new salespeople (or organizations) and the expansion of market targets.
Company: Xactly, San Jose, CA
Product name: Xactly Incent
- Instant access: The demo displayed how Xactly sales professional users can receive daily updates and instant access to their updated sales and commissions data. The user interface is clean and appears easy to use for both administrators and sales reps. Virtual real-time updates are what sales pros need to help solve problems or issues with calculations or crediting, and the Xactly model delivers on that.
- Dependability and accuracy: Along those lines, employers are focused on accurately paying and motivating sales staff. Xactly’s demo showed how easily access to quota, quota attainment, revenue and other information are delivered to sales staff. It was noted during the demo that customers using Xactly Incent saw disputes and inquiries typically drop dramatically and resolved in a timelier fashion. In fact, the demo also offered the information that Xactly Incent can eliminate payout errors, increase forecasting accuracy (up to 99.6%), and lower the time needed to administer commissions plans by 60%.
- Productivity and trust: Xactly’s Incent in action shows how sales staff can easily see their goals along with outcomes and sales details. The demo also showed how Incent can streamline and simplify sales planning processes, including factors such as territory, quota and workforce planning, incentive compensation design, and accrual forecasting. On the sales rep side of the house, it makes sense after seeing Incent in action that productivity and trust, due to on-demand visibility into commissions results and potential earnings, would get a boost.
- Security and scalability: Finally, the demo touched on how Xactly Incent can smoothly scale incentive compensation plans with the ability to instantly add new reps to plans, automate plan review and approval processes, and quickly add new data sources. On the security side, Incent provides strict controls for operational processes and service transparency through the Xactly Trust Site.
Tom Starner is a contributing writer for WorldatWork.