The Salesperson's New Toolbox
Last week was like the fireworks on the Fourth of July. You know how at the end they fire off a huge flourish of explosives, and if you live in Boston for some reason the Boston Pops play "The 1812 Overture?" It was like that minus the Pops. Actually, the crescendo was not limited to last week but to a rolling thunder effect that happened because many software companies have decided Q2 is a good time for analysts to visit the Bay Area.
So SAP, NetSuite and Xactly, just to name a few, all had conferences. I heard from attendees that SAP had some interesting things to say, though I am not sure where they go from here since I was not in attendance and I won't comment further. I've already commented on NetSuite, which I think put on a good show of painting a picture of the future and showing how they were positioning themselves for it. A couple of weeks earlier SugarCRM did much the same thing.
The Way to Pay
The Xactly conference followed the broad outlines others had set. Attendance nearly doubled over last year, and the company came into the event fully loaded with announcements and ideas. If you aren't aware of Xactly, you should be. The company specializes in sales compensation management. You might think sales comp is a backwater, but not so fast -- it is becoming an integral part of the sales management tool kit.
It's about time too. I can't tell you how many companies want to brief me on the latest ways to make salespeople perform. Please. They're already coin-operated; you don't need draconian measures to get them to perform, just a little reward system that makes sense. That's where Xactly comes in.
Sales compensation systems used to be sold on the benefits of timely reward for jobs well-done and accuracy in the accounting process. Indirectly, greater accuracy meant less labor for the CFO's team trying to close out the quarter too. But another benefit that Xactly CEO Chris Cabrera likes to focus on is the utility of a mountain of sales data, and Xactly provides analytics for that.
Metrics and Mobile
Selling, in case you haven't been paying attention, has become much more metrics-driven. The amount of data sales teams collect is quite big, and the vendor that can turn that data into usable information will be ahead of the pack. That's what Xactly has tried to do and it seems to be working.
What also impressed me about the Xactly CompCloud 2012 is how well the company is managing to insert compensation management and tracking into the sales process. The company is sticking to its knitting and doing things relevant to performance management through compensation. The best example is the release of an iPhone app, which was announced at the show.
Large and small sales organizations are equipping their salespeople with iPads these days. And just as graphics packages like PowerPoint became the killer application of the laptop, and word processing and spreadsheets were the killer apps of desktops, the killer app for the tablet might be video. With video, a salesperson can deliver an error-free message to customers and do all the other things a salesperson needs to do without starting up the machine and waiting or running down the battery. Unlike PowerPoint, there's less wondering if the presentation is up to date and all the rest.
So it's highly likely that the tablet will in short order be the go-to device for sales people. It's also less expensive than a laptop, which only adds fuel to the fire. So it makes good sense for Xactly to be on the tablet, where salespeople are certain to be in the future. In this context, an iPad app makes perfect sense.
On-Course and Poised
In its various product editions, Xactly has increased the compensation footprint in useful and logical ways. For instance, Xactly Territories is an end-to-end solution for territory planning and management. What managers used to spend hours on with manual processes can now be done in a fraction of the time it once took while enabling them to play what-if scenarios.
Other extensions into the sales process include Xactly Analytics (already discussed), eDocs & Approvals, Modeling and Sandbox. All of these modules provide logical extensions of the sales compensation idea that will directly benefit salespeople and managers.
So there's a lot to like for this sales compensation management company. Given the environment and the customer response I saw last week, it would be easy to say that Xactly is on-course and poised to make more of an impression as selling and the economy continue to improve.