The Importance of Executive Sponsorship in Sales Performance Management Programs
Critical to the success of all Sales Performance Management (SPM) programs is the support and active involvement of key executive stakeholders. This article describes their role and how they contribute to the project success.
One of the primary objectives of an SPM program is to align corporate strategy with the behaviors of an organization’s sellers. Success can be measured by achieving sales results that deliver the business plan set out by the company.
There are many aspects to an SPM project that will often require the involvement and coordination of resources from sales, finance, HR, IT, and 3rd party vendors. The design and communication of sales plans, modelling and assignment of territories and quotas, calculation of sales incentives, and communication of performance are fundamental aspects of the program, which often require the deployment of technology and optimization of business processes.
There are several ways in which the Executive Sponsor will contribute to the success of the program:
As SPM programs impact so many parts of the business, it is critical to ensure that everyone involved understands: the vision for the program, success criteria and key milestones for delivering the expected return on investment (ROI). This is the primary role of the Executive Sponsor – to set out the vision, keep the team focused, and act as the North Star for the project.
SPM programs, particularly in larger enterprises, take months or years to fully implement. This will require a significant investment of resources, whether financial, human capital, or technology. The Executive Sponsor is vital for securing these resources, communicating successes along the journey, and garnering continued support across the organization over the course of the program.
3. Managing Challenges
As with all significant projects there may be challenges along the way. These situations may require Executive Sponsors to drive cross functional leadership decisions, communicate with key stakeholders or manage 3rd party vendor relationships. Where 3rd parties are concerned (e.g. technology vendors or service providers), it is important that each vendor also has a key executive assigned to the project as a counterparty to the client Executive Sponsor. These key executives should be involved in the program at the earliest opportunity to understand the project vision, align on success factors and drivers for ROI and, importantly, establish client relationships. They should also regularly attend Steering Committee meetings and actively participate in problem solving when necessary.
One of the most important factors affecting the success of a SPM project is the level and pace of adoption of the new technologies and processes. An effective Change Management strategy is central to this, as is top-down sponsorship and the motivation to drive organizational change. For many, the prospect of change can be daunting, with difficulties that need to be overcome initially. The role of the Executive Sponsor is to encourage and empower teams to embrace change. One way to motivate teams and measure improvement is to define KPIs that align with the achievement of both the short-term and longer-term goals of the program. Another important driver for adoption is celebrating successes at milestones throughout the program.
5. Learn and Improve
The operational activities and processes associated with an SPM program are typically cyclical on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis. This offers an ideal opportunity to regularly monitor, measure, learn, and improve. The Executive Sponsor should instill a culture of continuous improvement and close alignment across all areas of the program. This may involve driving efficiencies in the business processes, technical operations, communications, or resource allocation.
Due to the wide range of stakeholders and significant business impact of an SPM project, the Executive Sponsor is fundamental to its success. As with any business or IT project, it is important to set it up for success from the outset. Putting in place the right sponsor, who has real commitment to the program, and the ability to drive change across the organization, will maximize the success of any SPM initiative.
Article written by: Anthony Hutchins