When you work in sales operations for a fast-growing company, time is a precious commodity. You’re always moving, always reacting to changes that affect your plans and forecasts. There really is no time to waste.
Winshuttle is one of those fast-growth companies. Based in Seattle, we simplify and automate the way people collect, validate, and move data in SAP. We serve more than 2,000 customers in 66 countries.
My job is overseeing sales operations. When you consider that role in the context of rapid growth, you can imagine what this means: constantly evaluating where we are now, anticipating where we need to go, and determining what we need to get there.
Sales planning is at the heart of this, of course. As our CFO, Jeff Bergstrom, likes to point out, as a high-growth software company our business model is heavily dependent on sales capacity and rep productivity. But the way we used to plan for these things had serious shortcomings.
Manual planning just didn’t cut it
Sales planning traditionally was a time-consuming process, weighed down by manual tasks done in Excel.
This didn’t mesh with the reality of our quickly growing business. And frankly, Excel just couldn’t keep up in an environment where business plans needed to be continuously optimized. We were updating multiple spreadsheets in multiple workbooks across our global offices and markets. It could take days to come up with just a single version for our model. And when new sales projections came in, we’d go through it all over again. This left us no time to consider alternative scenarios for growth projects, and it made it difficult to know where we needed to hire staff and make other investments to meet the demands of growth.
That’s just one example, but you can see the cost not just to sales and sales operations, but to the company as a whole.
Sales planning processes built for today
We knew we needed a sales planning environment that could keep up with us. For years our finance team had been using Adaptive Insights solutions for finance forecasting, budgeting, and consolidation, all to great success. So when Adaptive Insights approached us to collaborate in developing a solution for sales planning, we were all in. The result, known today as Adaptive Insights for Sales, helped us fundamentally change the way we plan across several dimensions within sales ops.
Before: We spent a lot of time trading spreadsheets back and forth between our leadership and our analysts, trying to figure out our sales plan and track our metrics. You can imagine how difficult this was, because we had to follow up on several metrics and then make changes to the forecast midyear. That meant rebuilding all of the spreadsheets, and more, halfway through the year. Now: Updates to metrics are automatic. We now work on a rolling basis, so there’s no heavy lift at midyear. Even better, there are no spreadsheets to rebuild, because all budgets, forecasts, and plans are integrated, which means a change to one automatically flows to all related plans.
Before: Our sales plans are highly dependent on a few key factors, and those factors change every month. For instance, we would get forecasts from directors, and their numbers are dependent on what’s happening in the field. As these factors change—and they will change—they in turn change our forecasts going forward. When that happened previously, we had to update each spreadsheet individually, carefully going through the different scenarios. Now: The process is much more flexible. Updates are automatic, so we can make adjustments to forecasts on a rolling basis.
Before: Every month, we would have forecasting calls with sales, where they’d present their numbers for the next month. We needed to have those conversations to get the inputs necessary to update the overall finance plan. Later we would meet with the finance team to physically hand off the data we just received from sales; otherwise none of what we worked on would make it into the finance plan. And this was a one-and-done document: It had to be accurate when we presented it to them. Now: It’s much easier for us to operate globally, quickly, and nimbly. My operations team in EMEA can update its forecast at the same time that my U.S. operations team updates its forecast. Now we have a combined, collaborative process that makes forecasting far less time-consuming and gives us more confidence that the numbers are accurate.
Before: Reporting could be very time-consuming. We had one business analyst who needed to report how our reps had done. She’d spend four hours every month—that’s an entire workweek a year—preparing that report. Now: All the information we need for that report falls right out of Adaptive Insights for Sales. We’ll take five minutes to format it and send it along. So on that report alone, we’re reducing our prep time from four hours every month to just five minutes!
Responding to changes
Before: Our spreadsheet process was so inflexible that it robbed us of any ability to change capacity or forecasts on the fly. Changes were viewed as disruptive, not just an opportunity to come up with a better forecast. Now: The dashboard capability in Adaptive Insights for Sales lends itself to having conversations across the organization and making changes as they arise. We can show the impact of those changes in various formats—charts or numbers, depending on the audience—so we can have conversations with everyone affected.
Integrating with Salesforce
Before: Inputting information from Salesforce was possible but inefficient. Now: With the Salesforce integration, we’re able to bring opportunity and account level data by rep straight into Adaptive Insights for Sales. This lets us easily view historical trends and use that data to project sales going forward. It also gives us the ability to look at multiple scenarios for growth projections, generate multiple plans, and run what-if scenarios and analysis in real time.
Before: We focused on the tactical, because we simply had no time to think more strategically. Now: We have time to begin asking more questions, and Adaptive Insights for Sales makes it easy to answer them. The charts, graphs, and dashboarding capabilities allow us to look at the data in ways we hadn’t before. It’s opened our eyes to things we didn’t know and gave us the ability to explore possibilities we previously couldn’t.
The next phase in our journey with Adaptive Insights will focus on territory planning, specifically account scoring to help our reps prioritize where to spend their time. Tackling this process in Excel is too cumbersome to manage on an ongoing basis, but we look forward to implementing it in Adaptive Insights for Sales.
Here at Winshuttle, our business moves quickly. We selected Adaptive Insights as a partner to help us support that growth, and every day, we’re discovering new reasons it was the right move to make.