Salespeople Need Performance Management, Too

According to Cloud9 Analytics President and Chief Executive Officer Swayne Hill, only 44 percent of deals that salespeople forecast to close actually end up closing. The disconnect, Hill says, comes from a gap in delivering analytics to sales and marketing people. Organizations often have performance management for the back office, and a business intelligence (BI) application geared toward analysts. But salespeople get left out of that equation, he argues, and lack the tools they need to accurately manage pipelines, forecast sales, and optimize revenues. In the wake of receiving $8 million in a Series C round of venture-capital funding, Cloud9 recently unveiled its Cloud9 Analytics Performance Management solution. 

There are a multitude of BI applications out there, Hill points out, but those programs are too complex for the average sales person. Hill likens Cloud9's latest release to the performance management tools geared toward financial departments in an enterprise -- only difference is that Cloud9 is zeroing in on the front office. 

Sales analytics has been missing in enterprise-level sales force automation (SFA), insists Mark Smith, chief executive officer of industry-analysis firm Ventana Research. "For many organizations, if you have good visibility and control on the activities in sales then you can focus on revenue optimization," Smith says. "This is a classic area where SFA has fallen short." 

Although a number of BI vendors are reorienting to provide line-of business applications and to do some form of sales analysis, Hill says these solutions are still not ready for the front office. The front-line salespeople, however, are the ones making decisions on a daily basis. To make an analytics application work, Hill says, it has to be "trivially easy to adopt" — a threshold that he says can be reached by adhering to three principles:

  1. The user experience has to be as palatable as an consumer service. "It needs to be friendly, easy-to-use, and approachable," Hill states.
  2. The application needs to be immediately related to the business. This means integrating and offering vertical best practices and role-based recommendations.
  3. The security-risk issues must be removed. Users must be assured that there will be no security holes.

In addition to focusing on the user experience, Hill says the Cloud9 Performance Management application provides users with never-before-seen tools for sales visibility, such as a waterfall chart for pipeline reconciliation and a structured collaboration destination for accountability, actions and coaching. The app also makes use of triangulated reporting to make history-based projections.

"There is a stigma based on the lack of success many organizations have had in fully realizing the promise of BI across the organization," says Jeffrey Kaplan, managing director of software-as-a-service analysis firm ThinkStrategies. "Cloud9 is correctly recognizing they need to separate themselves in order to more clearly describe the potential and benefits of their approach." 

In introducing its new performance management application for sales, Cloud9 also shared its strategic, 24-month product roadmap, which includes expanding toward marketing functionality in the near future. Other applications include enterprise sales forecasting, lead pipeline performance management, and territory management and planning.

As of right now, Cloud9 Analytics integrates with Salesforce.com, but Hill assures that other CRM integrations are coming. It plans to hook up Oracle and NetSuite next, and later with SAP and Microsoft.

Smith says that mostly Cloud9 is competing with tools that most companies use as band-aids: spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations, e-mail, and Microsoft Office documents. The collaboration and networking aspects with Cloud9's product is what Smith says is "core bread and butter of what sales organizations are oriented around." He says that he sees CLoud9 as one day becoming a front-office platform on demand.

Kaplan says the sales analytics space is hot right now. "Analytics and content mgmt and collaboration are fertile ground for further exploration," he notes.  "When the day is done many of these companies are going to attractive add-ons for a lot of major players."

News relevant to the customer relationship management industry is posted several times a day on destinationCRM.com, in addition to the news section Insight that appears every month in the pages of CRM magazine.

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