The San Mateo, Calif.-based research firm evaluated four vendors across seven categories to reflect how well they meet buyer's requirements. Ventana evaluated Callidus Software, Varicent, Merced Systems and Xactly Corp.
"I was surprised how closely they came out in the end," said Mark Smith, Ventana's CEO and executive vice president of research. "They're all duking it out for opportunities in the marketplace. We see more of Callidus and Varicent going head to head. Xactly is focused on the small and medium-sized business market, so they're not always on the short list."
In conjunction with the research, Ventana surveyed more than 200 qualified sales organizations regarding their needs for sales performance management software. It's a requirement that apparently needs to be filled. Only 41% of respondents said they were confident or very confident that their organization currently manages its sales operations and performance effectively. The most common problem was scattered information followed by inconsistent sales execution and a lack of process.
"Heads of sales organizations are making a couple of investments," Smith said. "They're investing in sales compensation, incentives and rewards -- because they're trying to keep reps stimulated in a troubled economy and the other area is sales forecasting and sales pipeline analytics -- because people are trying to get better visibility."
In addition, finance organizations are often helping to fund sales performance management software investments because it gives them better visibility into compensation, so they aren't surprised by compensation plans at the end of the quarter.
Organizations are not getting everything they need out of core sales force automation (SFA) products, either, according to the research. SFA has been adopted in only 42% of organizations, and the SFA and CRM suite vendors are not focused on sales performance management. They may, ultimately, turn to acquiring sales performance management vendors to fill that need, according to Smith.
"CRM suites are more about how do we collect data about what sales, customer support, marketing and field service is doing," he said. "They're following the same trend of ERP. They're pretty much transactional systems. The ERP vendors bought BI and performance management vendors because over the years they tried to build the analytics themselves and realized they had to buy it. This is the same dynamic."
Sales performance management software rankings
Callidus emerged slightly ahead of Merced and Varicent in Ventana's Value Index thanks to ranking first in usability, customer assurance validation and customer assurance TCO/ROI. Varicent ranked second overall and first in product manageability, and Merced ranked first in product reliability and customer assurance validation (tied with Callidus).
Xactly, focused more on the SMB market, ranked last.
The top three vendors placed in Ventana's "warm" category because the market is still evolving, Smith said.
"The key thing is which ones are expanding their applications to support more than compensation incentives -- territory analysis to compensation plan management to sales coaching, there's a whole series," he said.