ICM and CRM Make Worthy Sales Management Partners

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Speed matters. Just look at the success of FedEx and Amazon Prime—packages can be shipped across time zones in mere hours. Speed is the key to competitive success. And in sales, that success translates to a competitive advantage when companies implement a smooth, efficient, and transparent sales process that enables them to adapt to fast-changing economic and market dynamics. Traditionally, organizations have turned to their CRM systems for managing sales performance, but that is the tail wagging the dog. Sales performance management (SPM) should be driving your sales processes because it is designed to help everyone in the sales organization make informed decisions—fast.

If you are relying solely on CRM to inform sales, you likely have already realized that it has its limits. For one thing, you are probably spending far too much time extracting information from the existing data and transferring it to Excel spreadsheets in order to identify top and bottom performers, accurately calculate commissions, evaluate the performance of existing plans, and make any necessary adjustments. Beyond eating away at your time, these activities also absorb a significant amount of resources.

The perfect example: When it comes to handling commission disputes from the field, sales ops must check and recheck the CRM data used in the commission calculation. They then must check and recheck the Excel calculation. Unless you hired your sales ops people to complete administrative tasks, their time is unnecessarily wasted, disputes take far too long to resolve, and payment corrections are delayed. This, in turn, affects the motivation of your salespeople. Productivity suffers across the board.

Integrating incentive compensation management (ICM)—a component of SPM—with CRM systems solves these issues and enables educated decision making by providing greater visibility into past sales performance. As a result, sales leaders and reps are empowered with the key insights needed to maintain motivation and perform the selling activities proven to lead to desired outcomes.

Simplification of Complex Sales Processes

Managing complexity is a big challenge for large sales organizations, but there’s no way around it as sales ops effectiveness typically relies on copious amounts of data and often-cumbersome processes; many organizations run on homegrown ICM systems that typically patch together automated and manual processes. Changes take weeks or even months to implement, and payments are often delayed and prone to errors, leading to sales force frustration and demotivation. Rapidly evolving technologies, ever-expanding sales hierarchies, and the demands of the market create further complexity. 

ICM-CRM integration simplifies the process in a few ways. First, it saves you the hassle of extracting information and uploading it into another system for processing. It also helps you align your organizational strategy with your salespeople’s goals and identify the key behaviors that lead to desired business outcomes. Finally, it identifies tasks that can be automated. This makes many facets of the often very complex sales and compensation plans easier for reps to understand and manage, and more time is left for actual selling.

Greater Visibility and Insights for Sales Reps

Today’s ICM systems are designed to analyze any data stored in your CRM and provide you with useful insights. They can also assimilate multiple data sources (including and on top of CRM data) so that you can make the most informed decisions possible.

The result is that every rep has real-time visibility into their “target vs. achieved vs. commission” metrics, allowing them to identify the steps they need to take to achieve more. It also identifies the key accounts they should focus on to reach the desired outcome.

More Accurate Forecasting

Forecasting is the root of all quotas—too optimistic, and your sales team appears to fail; too pessimistic, and you could be missing out on greater revenue attainment. Accuracy is key, but it is traditionally hard to achieve.

ICM-CRM integration helps in this regard with the visibility it provides into past sales performance. This equips sales leaders with the ability to better predict outcomes today based on historical data and performance trends.

So, what should be on your ICM checklist?

ICM 101

Not all compensation solutions are created equal. In fact, the most critical component isn’t the technology itself, but the team you enlist to design and implement a solution. Without sales operations expertise to ensure the right processes are in place, an ICM implementation will fail to deliver. When choosing a solution, be sure your approach ensures proper functioning of all incentive compensation components, including:

  • Plan Design Rollout: Applied to the right processes, ICM helps craft intelligent plans that align sales strategy with the overall business objectives and ensures their effective rollout and communication.
  • Plan Reporting and Analytics: ICM gives executives, managers, and sales reps the data they need, in real time, to improve where necessary and to make data-driven decisions. The right partner will ensure that ICM also goes beyond day-to-day operations to provide visibility into performance trends and analyses over weeks, months, quarters, and years.
  • Motivation: Motivating salespeople is a complex process that must strike a balance between strategy and sales reps’ short-term and long-term needs; take industry specificities into account; and include the input of key organizational functions. When experts in sales operations establish processes, HR, sales, finance, and marketing can easily collaborate to keep salespeople motivated by identifying training needs and providing top-quality coaching when and where needed.

Adopting new processes and techniques is difficult, especially when multiple stakeholders are involved. But remaining stuck in old patterns that waste time and money, increase turnover, and hamper growth is not an option. For large organizations, even small improvements in ICM can trigger big results.

For these reasons, it’s critical to add a well-structured ICM system to your technology stack—one that seamlessly integrates with your existing CRM.


Amol Patil is the strategic accounts and business development manager at Optymyze. Patil has spent his career cultivating relationships with business leaders across the globe. He specializes in developing and implementing strategic sales operations solutions that drive behaviors to increase sales efficiency and effectiveness.

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