IanStoneIan Stone, UK country manager at Anaplan.
Keeping an eye on a large global sales force used to be one of the biggest hurdles sales management could face.
Hundreds, perhaps thousands of sales professionals prospecting and closing or losing deals all around the world used to be a complicated, time consuming process until the arrival of Anaplan.
This sales performance management software provider has proved its worth with big name clients in the US but now it is expanding into Europe and Asia promising huge savings for multinational sales organisations.
Clients include malware giants McAfee and latterly Kimberly-Clark, leading provider of health and hygiene brands including Kleenex and HUGGIES, which has taken on Anaplan for its eastern European operations.
Anaplan’s expansion began in February with the acquisition of Vue Analytics, its master reseller in the UK & Ireland, and the opening of its European headquarters in Paris. The company has appointed Laurent Lefouet, former chief operating officer at SAP, as its general manager of EMEA.
SI caught up with Ian Stone, UK country manager, who led us through the benefits Anaplan can provide.
He said: “Large global customers like McAfee are using our sales performance management applications, quota planning, commissions and territory alignment.
“Essentially our application is joining up a global sales plan, aspirations from the executives around what they want to sell that year and mapping those aspirations on to geographies and that cascades down into how many sales reps they would need to deliver the target sales.
Stone said that Anaplan greatly simplifies the sales performance management process for large organisations. He explained: “This kind of big exercise for organisations is typically being done in the likes of Excel, Access and Point Solutions but using our cloud platform you can bring a number of users into that environment. There is nothing to install, it’s completely browser-based and you can set the plans, territories and quotas and then monitor those all in one function.
“Then the underlying regions can feed their data in as the year rolls on so you can put your actuals in there and then monitor the project over the 12-month period. So this is a single interface for sales professionals to understand, say at the lowest level, how they are doing against target, what commissions look like and so on.
“This is for sales managers and sales directors to understand how they are tracking their target, whether they are going to meet that, whether there are enough heads in the business to do it and then we can roll that right up to group level for key understanding whether they are going to hit the overall number.”
Stone said the return of investment (ROI) can be impressive for larger organisations with current data showing an average 3.6% lift in sales performance directly attributable to Anaplan software.
He said: “This represents a very significant ROI for large businesses which, with multiple geographies, can often labour under a lot of assumptions made, wild allocations made and systems that don’t have checks and balances built in, such as Excel and Access, are prone to error. So if you look at the magnitude of that problem, you are bound to miss things and make mistakes.
“We think the returns for most customers will be similar as those for McAfee in that you can control over-payment of commission and, if you’re half-way through the year and you don’t have enough to tip you over target, you can share a residual amount of quota out and this will make a massive difference to the performance of your sales organisation and, ultimately, your company.”
Anaplan’s ROI is quick too, promising returns in a matter of hours instead of months. Stone added: “The system will start paying for itself within 128 hours of implementing it across the average client organisation. If you line that up against a traditional approach or an inhouse system, you are talking six to nine months at least and, again, by that time the business may have changed. So our time to value is incredibly quick.”
He said that, even in today’s high-tech environment, too many large companies are working inefficiently relying too heavily on simple guesswork when it comes to sales performance management. Stone explained: “Employing our applications, what you are doing is taking away the time it takes to create a hand- cranked process to get a view on what’s going on in a business – that’s cut down to seconds now. And, as professionals, you’re then spending more time analysing the results. You can make changes if you need to, make adjustments so you’ll shift changes from data collection and processing to business analysis.
“So rather than wait until the end of the year to realise that you’ve missed the plan, you will know Q1 of Q2, or wherever you are on the cycle, that there are issues in the business that need to be addressed.”
Stone stressed that any UK company with sales forces around the world will benefit from this measured and precise approach to sales performance management.
“If you think about the cost of the sales function in the sales force in any geography in the world it is significant, Stone said. “That is a key part of your business when you go to market. Everybody has the same challenges, while McAfee are a technical, software type of organisation, any B2B sales force will have this problem. You’ll have your targets, your reps, your territories, accounts, commissions – it’s a common problem and that’s where we see a huge amount of growth this year.”
Stone admitted that the applications are really aimed at the larger organisation with big sales forces.
He said: “I don’t see this as a solution for SMEs where if you’ve got five or 10 on your sales force, you could probably cover that off OK. But if you’ve 100-plus, 200-plus and then into the thousands then you need a structure to cope.
“With a big organisation, that one line on the spread sheet in Venezuela might make or break you with you targets.
“We see that having structures in place is important and this technology has a light touch as well. You do not need to be IT trained or skilled user to interact with it. The user interface is designed like those with Facebook and Linkedin, it’s all about end-users’ business as a consumption. That’s a big attraction to it – ease of use.”
Of course, Anaplan is a multi-functional software platform in which the sales performance management process is just one of its business aspects.
He said: “Anaplan is a platform of pre-built applications and one of them is Sales 360, which cover the McAfee user case. But because it’s such an agile platform, there’s no technical set-up required – if you can use Excel, you’re a competent business modeller and you can do anything you like with our platform because it so flexible. If you think about these businesses we’re selling to, things change all the time. If you start out at the beginning of the year and then arrive at its end, the products will be different or the cost- centre hierarchies have changed. If you’ve built an in-house system or bought a traditional solution off the shelf, then you’ve got a problem there – you need to go back, recode it, reload the data. Ours is just drag-and-drop and everything percolates through the system. “Where the really smart organisations will be is getting the sales performance management to feed into their overall finance picture. Anaplan is enabling companies to join operational activities right up to financial level.”
The software is also able to mesh seamlessly with other performance management systems allowing accurate future projections. Stone added: “Where we are also very strong is
integrating with the likes of Salesforce.com. I was recently with a president of a large technology company and his big issue is that when we look into a CRM system we are just seeing a snapshot of that point in time – a customer will do this deal next week for ‘x’ value. What they are really interested in is putting that into a modelling environment with an application, such as Sales 360 and that allows them to say ‘what if I don’t bring that piece of business in? What’s the impact on the plan?’ And we give them that kind of ‘what if ’ analysis. “It gives them a real business window into what they are doing.”
Stone also claimed the software is extremely cost effective when compared to existing processes being employed.
He said: “Anaplan is nowhere near as expensive if you line it up against a traditional platform having a global collaboration going on collecting this data. We deliver business value very quickly so you don’t need hundreds of consultants for months, the 128-hours threshold gives a low cost of ownership and then, because we are a cloud SaaS [software as a service]-based vendor we keep the platform up-to-date and you get frequent releases so, again, the total picture is good value.
“No inhouse IT costs or anything. If you think about rolling things out globally, getting technology to people is difficult – with us you just need a browser and a computer.” To find out more visit www.anaplan.com or call its UK office on 01753 272261.