Anaplan Live 2022: A single source of truth will align sales with the rest of the business


Dana Therrien

VP, CRO Practice

Speakers at Anaplan Live! 2022 shared wisdom on how to get sales aligned with the rest of the business.

An ocean of ink (virtual and otherwise) has been spilled about the chronic misalignment between sales and other parts of the organization – especially marketing, finance, and IT. The problem, often, is that sales uses its own metrics to measure its own performance, too often without visibility into the metrics or performance of other parts of the business. As a result, sales can have a very different view of events and outcomes from the rest of the organization, which sets the stage for finger-pointing and a destructive blame game that only worsens the relationship between sales and the parts of the organization that support it, at the expense of the entire business.

So how do you get around this seemingly intractable problem? Customers presenting in the Sales and Marketing track at Anaplan Live! this year kept coming back to this idea: You start working with a single source of the truth.

When data is presented in a way that establishes a single storyline for the company, the conflicts begin to ease – between sales marketing, between sales management and the sales force, and between finance and the go-to-market organizations.

The Sales and Marketing track of sessions at Anaplan Live! echoed this idea. The way data is managed at many organizations “is the result of sales management arm-wrestling with one another,” said Brett Corbett, Senior Director, Worldwide Sales Strategy & Operations at VMWare during one session. In sales, “There aren’t any rules compared to supply chain or financial planning. In sales, everything is subject to opinion. And the information is entirely disaggregated.” There are two ways to tackle that issue – to build a team of all-stars who work tirelessly to turn that data into something useful for attaining goals, or to “create a more sustainable environment, where more people can participate and get greater visibility, and get a more workflow-driven environment [where] I know where things stand at any given time,” as Corbett put it. That’s why VMWare is moving to Anaplan and its Data Hub.

“We have so many new stakeholders that need to come in and have a single view of the customer from all of these dimensions, it’s staggering.”

Although your organization may have pent-up demand for something better, getting there is not just a matter of technology. The best software is useless if people don’t use it, cautioned Melanie Webb, director of sales operations at Lumen. “You’re not just creating these really cool models that package up your data and deliver it,” she said. “You’re trying to get people to do something different” than they are used to doing.

As a result, she said “You can’t forget the enablement piece. It’s not enough to create the model, have it work perfectly, launch it, and have people use it. No! You’ve got to educate them on it. You have to train them on it. You have to tell them the how and why they should be using it.” But you don’t have to do it on your own, she said – “look for early adopters” in your organization and enlist them to help drive adoption.

Webb also advised using the data collected with Anaplan to build buy-in from the sales team and across the business. “We created some really cool regression and correlation models,” she said. “We took data from Territory Planner, and we could see exactly what modules were balanced, which ones weren’t, and we had all the statistics – where are the sales, where are the average deal sales, where our penetration was. Then, we read it all out to our leadership team and said, here’s the proof. That’s the value – not everyone is going to want to jump on board at first. We can say ‘look what happened.’ The data doesn’t lie.”

Even with data in hand, winning adoption and confidence from sales is a challenge. Joe Lichtman, a product management leader at Amazon AWS, says their approach is to work with the users as if they are customers and “treat [Anaplan] like a product. I’m a product leader, I have a product management group under me who own the different individual models. They work directly with the business units and they do the interviews. Then we have a whole set of Anaplanners building the models. So we take an approach that says each model is a product, and it needs to be defined, customers need to have their input, and we need to market it. We need to go out and find ways to evangelize its value and why you want to use it.”

Because sales users are his customers, Lichtman is careful not to tread on the “art” side of selling while introducing the science side. “We had to strike that balance,” he said. AWS wants to allow its sellers “to be agile – we want to standardize where we can and want to allow them to freelance when it makes sense. We can automate a lot of this – we can use machine learning to do forecasting. We can do machine learning to define the territories, and group the customers, and assign the headcount and do all the things that need to happen. But the art is what happens in the field and how (salespeople) can bring their individual knowledge in. You can override it, (but) we want to automate as much as possible. Our overarching goal for our org is to give time back to the sellers so they can focus on selling and not focus on planning.”

This is a small sampling of the wisdom our customer speakers shared at Anaplan Live!

To hear their entire sessions and others on the Sales and Marketing track, visit our Anaplan Live! hub.