A polished, if expensive, way to boost sales performance
Simple plan creation and editing; Uses Salesforce; Clear view of benefits
Expensive to set up; Can run a bit sluggishly
Customer relationship management apps have made a near-seamless move to the cloud, but managing compensation for sales staff still tends toward the old-school, manual, way of business, requiring monthly or quarterly number-crunching in Excel.
Xactly Incent Express, aimed at smaller organisations - ones with up to 75 salespeople, is an attempt to change that. It acts as a plug-in inside the popular Salesforce CRM app, encouraging higher company sales performance through incentive plans that automatically calculates the commissions and bonuses earned by sales staff. But it also allows sales staff themselves to have an overview of how they need to perform against their targets.
Through a step-by-step series of screens, a sales administrator either chooses a pre-built incentive plan - there are templates for plans to encourage revenue growth, renewal and retention or attracting sales opportunities, or builds one of their own, either through editing a template or building one from scratch. You then choose a time period for the plan to run and the sales people to apply it to.
You add the sales quota – or target – if there is one, as well as credits, which links the overall quota with the deals or items that your company sells. There's a high level of granularity for quotas, which can be set for an entire plan or for individual team members. This isn't as fiddly as you might think. Plan members are listed, as far as possible, on a single screen, so its easy to adjust and compare quotas in a single table.
Setting up payment plans is equally flexible. You can have multiple payments established - standard commission, quarterly bonus and so on, and within each choose a different type of payment: flat rate commission, tiered or bonus. But you can also make payment plans a simple non-cash competition – essentially gamifying sales.
We like how easy it is to change a plan. You can increase commission rates by simply adjusting the percentage amount in a rate table, and this change is instantly applied to all people on that plan. But while you still have the same welcome granularity over rates - each can be overwritten for individual staff - these are trickier to update as details for each member is shown on its own.
The final setup stage is a clear review screen that summarises the rates and models the expected overall cost of the plan depending on how much of the quota is reached.
Once the plan has been set up, Xactly Express lets you monitor progress in several places. Xactly is built as a plug-in to work inside the popular Salesforce CRM app, so some of benefits of integration – tracking opportunities and sales performance under a single login – should go without saying.
But there's a more significant integration between the apps. A logged-in sales rep can tap on Salesforce's Opportunities tab and under a refreshingly blunt section labelled 'Show Me The Money', can see instantly an estimate of how much successfully closing that opportunity will be worth. He or she can even edit the estimate to show earnings under different conditions, such as by changing the deal term of the opportunity. If that doesn't encourage someone to close a deal, it's hard to think what will.
Admins, managers and sales reps can also check performance under the Xactly Express tab within Salesforce. The dashboard here shows a series of polished-looking modules that attractively displays on a set of gauges how you're performing against quota. More prosaic facts and figures are shown under the Payments tab, which details payments over current and previous periods. All the deals you're currently working on are listed under the Deals tab, with hyperlinks through to the stats for each deal. You can also see a personalised plan illustration, showing quota rates where you can download detailed commission statements too.
There are benefits of Salesforce integration too, including Chatter social media integration. In Xactly you can set up Chatter message to run when commission calculations are run or a commission period is closed.
There is an obvious counter to Salesforce integration, it it entails the use of a CRM you might not otherwise choose. Connection to other business systems is possible through an Express Connect module, though we didn’t test this. As seems almost inevitable when working in such a complex CRM performance, it occasionally felt sluggish when switching between screens.
But if you're already a Salesforce subscriber, be reassured that Express – with the glaring caveat that quoted setup isn't cheap – should do exactly what it claims to. It's a powerful way of encouraging sales that is neither difficult to set up for administrators, nor difficult to understand for sales reps. More than that, it's also a transparent way of keeping sales reps informed about their performance.
Say goodbye to lovingly updated Excel compensation sheets – you can at least import them – because we can't see you going back to manual calculations after using this.
A polished, if expensive, way to boost sales performance.