7 min read

How to close the gap between your sales strategy and execution

Sarah Van Caster

Product Marketing Director, Sales Solutions

Combine your CRM with a powerful sales planning solution to build a comprehensive revenue strategy that drives predictable, sustainable growth.

Imagine the year is 1985 and you’re a VP of sales. You park your DeLorean in the parking lot and head into the office. The managers who report to you oversee different territories and you are accountable for ensuring that your team hits its revenue goals.

Any idea which accounts are the most promising? You likely have some basic order history as well as some recent anecdotes, but analysis is limited and based on the biased perspective of your sellers.

Are the territories and quotas you assign your reps ideal for hitting your goals? It’s hard to say. You do things the way they’ve always been done. When reps perform, you give them higher quotas. When they don’t, they’re gone.

The strength as well as the weakness of this model is that customer acquisition and retention strategies are built on relationships. Your sellers serve as a valuable source of information for customers and they build these relationships over time. But as a leader, you’re limited in your ability to adapt and pursue new market potential.

Contrast this with today. Assuming you head into an office at all, you spend most of your time in front of a screen. You’re still keeping track of progress toward revenue goals, and you’re likely also keeping an eye on lead generation metrics and pipeline velocity, sales training and enablement programs, relationships with key channel partners, sales accelerators and other incentive programs, and your net promoter score, to name a few. You have far more data at your fingertips than has ever been available before. But are sellers any more successful?

Modern sales: Relationships are still front and center

Selling in the digital era is a complicated endeavor. Gone are the days of rolodexes stuffed with business cards. Sales leaders face not only the familiar pressures (daunting as they are) of delivering growth in a competitive market environment, but also some less-familiar pressures like needing to work cross-functionally to deliver an exceptional customer experience. Building and sustaining a competitive advantage in this environment means narrowing the gap between strategy and execution.

Make no mistake: Relationships with customers are still mission-critical and they are still what top-performing salespeople do best. Technology can now enhance and complement those efforts. To help manage relationships at scale and across different channels and touchpoints, companies have adopted customer relationship management (CRM) technology. This technology allows sales organizations to keep detailed records for accounts and individual deals  – and also, in many cases, helps keep sales, marketing, customer service or success, and other revenue-facing functions operating in the same system.

Sales planning in a fast-changing world

CRM technology is purpose-built for driving sales execution. It is not built to do everything – especially when it comes to building a connected revenue strategy. Although most CRMs are excellent at tracking and managing day-to-day interactions between companies and customers, CRM software  –  or even some cutting-edge technologies designed to measure things like customer sentiment and engagement  – cannot fix a broken go-to-market strategy. Although CRM often serves as a critical data source for sales leadership, the decision-making and analysis takes place elsewhere.

Sales and operations leaders face complex challenges that are constantly evolving. Their decisions have major financial implications for the business and direct impact on revenue results. As a result, sales leaders need all the insights they can get to make decisions and then evaluate and reevaluate those decisions throughout the year. Decisions could include areas like account segmentation, incentive compensation design, territory planning and optimization, revenue target setting, sales capacity, and  –  the trickiest question of all  – where and when to make changes.

Altogether, building and maintaining an optimal go-to-market strategy often demands not just access to data, but highly sophisticated modeling and analysis. Although CRM systems are great at recording and visualizing past events, they are not well suited to answer forward-looking questions such as “Should we change our customer segmentation mix to include more mid-market accounts next year?” Or “If 20% of my account managers leave in the next fiscal year, how does this affect my selling capacity and territory planning?”

Why? To list just a few reasons:

  • CRM requires a lot of manual input from sellers, and many organizations struggle with adoption, usage, and data integrity.
  • For enterprises that may have multiple instances of CRM technology used in different divisions, coordinated planning and forecasting activities become extremely manual and burdensome.
  • CRM is primarily used in sales organizations, so key stakeholders in finance, marketing, HR, or supply chain may lack visibility.
  • Other data sources are often critical to sales decision-making – e.g., headcount budgets from HR, revenue forecast from finance, or actuals data from an ERP.
  • Complex scenario modeling is essential for making sound decisions, but very difficult from a technology standpoint, and CRM technology is not designed to do this.

And yet, the move to more continuous and agile sales planning has become critical for leading organizations to maintain a competitive edge. In today’s fast-moving, digital-first environment, having a sound go-to-market strategy is important, and having sellers equipped to execute reliably and on time is fundamental. But when you can monitor performance, surface timely insights, and make rapid course corrections at scale  –  that is truly a competitive advantage.

Example: Sales territory planning and optimization

Consider the impact of sales territory design and assessing territory performance all year long. What happens when things don’t go according to plan?

Sales territories are collections of accounts or prospects that get assigned to sellers such that they maximize performance and growth over time. Although most organizations aim to start their fiscal year with fresh territory assignments, the performance of every territory is evaluated throughout the year. Adjustments to plans may be necessary due to changing market and buyer dynamics, underperformance, or personnel changes.

To be sure, the CRM is often a key source of sales data, providing details about accounts, engagement, and past opportunities. But the ongoing analysis of sales performance requires more information:

  • Sales headcount and role information, likely from an HCM or HRMS, to understand options for hiring new salespeople
  • Past transactional data, likely from an ERP, to understand what customers are actually buying
  • Internal plans and data including financial targets, segmentation and scoring models, and a sales capacity or resource model that pairs up sales roles with specific segments. All of these may be built in disparate systems, or spreadsheets. They are essential for understanding what options are on the table and how to evaluate tradeoffs.

This only addresses the needs of a direct sales organization. For firms that sell through channel partners like resellers or distributors, additional data or records may be required, and the data may not be clean or consistent.

Aggregating all this data, modeling possible scenarios, and analyzing various plans can easily become a highly manual, labor-intensive, error-prone process. It also takes a lot of time, which gets added on top of a heavy regular workload, leaving many sales ops teams struggling to meet fiscal kickoff deadlines.

Future-proof your sales planning

With Anaplan, sales and sales ops leaders can gain more value from their CRM and investments, providing modeling capabilities and insights that help leaders craft a revenue plan aligned with corporate goals. Built to manage the entire go-to-market strategy, Anaplan for Sales solutions span sales planning: account segmentation, territories, quotas, sales capacity, incentive programs, pipeline optimization, sales forecasts, and more.

With a Connected Planning platform like Anaplan, sales leaders can deliver territory and quota plans in less time and help close the loop between sales planning and execution. Let’s revisit the territory planning example from above:

  • Anaplan provides users with the flexibility to include multiple processes such as territory and quota planning within the same model, or separate them as business needs require.
  • With a Data Hub, leadership can pull in data from CRM, ERP, HCM, or any other source, and data can be shared across models.
  • Anaplan enables stakeholders in finance, marketing, supply chain, HR, or other disciplines to work from common models, and allows user-based access controls up and down the organizational chart.
  • Leadership can conduct “what-if” scenarios and create as many iterations on the territory plan as they need, evaluating variables like product, headcount, and seller capacity.

Leverage Anaplan to create an optimal revenue strategy from day one and gain the insight and tools to adjust as needed throughout the year. Keep your sellers focused and your organization on a steady path to growth.

 

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