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Why modern sales teams need a sales commission software

Why modern sales teams need a sales commission software | Apoorv Singh - ElevateHQ

About ElevateHQ

Apoorv: With ElevateHQ, we automate commissions for sales teams. Sales teams are frustrated that they can’t see how much money they’re making on a day-to-day basis, and they get to see a spreadsheet at the end of God knows how long. And it’s just not a good experience. I’ve been a sales guy most of my life, and we are trying to solve that. We want everybody who’s getting paid commissions and incentives to see how much money they’re making and to get it paid accurately in real time because they deserve it.

What products do you offer?

Apoorv: These are all four different products in one. Technically, it’s all part of the larger umbrella of ElevateHQ – solving for sales commission automation. One piece of it is the commission designer itself, where we can ingest any kind of commission logic that you throw and automate any kind of commission logic under the sun. The second one is the workflow builder. You can build approval, workflows, and audit workflows around the commissioner itself. The third one is payouts. Your finance team can come in and see how much money needs to be paid to whom and when that money is due, and then can create more sophisticated rules on top of it, like don’t pay this money until the invoice is received from this team.

That’s all automated on the payouts. The last bit is audits. You can come in and audit anything that has happened in the past. Look at people’s commissions all the way back and go through the details of their pay slips. What deals were they paid on? We don’t like to think of it as features, honestly, because I think features don’t really add up to a product. It’s more like how you’ve built it.

If I was to pick a feature, I think I personally would love what we call a What If simulation. A lot of salespeople have this question, what if I close that deal with 5,000 more? What if I did a multi-year deal? How much more money would I make? They can go into our system and kind of play around with their deal details and then click on a button and see in real-time how much more or less money they would make if they did those what-ifs.

ElevateHQ costs

Apoorv: We charge between $30-35 per user per month. And a user is basically anybody who is either a rep who’s earning commissions or an administrator who’s managing commissions. We actually have over 40 different integrations. ElevateHQ integrates with all major CRMs, ERPs, invoicing, and accounting systems. We also integrate with databases like SQL and others. And then offline data, if it’s in your spreadsheets files, can be ingested as well. Pretty much wherever you have your commission-related raw data, we are going to ingest it from there.

What teams can use ElevateHQ?

Apoorv: Anybody who is on an incentive plan or has variable pay. We’ve had use cases where customer success teams have used it. They usually have a lot of variable pay solution engineering teams, but this is all part of the revenue function. Usually, people in the revenue teams have variable pay, and those are the most common users of ElevateHQ.

What’s one success story of a customer you particularly enjoyed?

Apoorv: We have a customer called EdgePetrol in the UK, and we reached out to them and called the COO he just loved what he heard, so he got on a call. This was very early for us. We had just started building ElevateHQ. And we, this was our early days, and the product was not really fully refined, and he saw it, and he just loved it so much that he wanted to introduce it the same month into his team.

And they used to have sales teams in different countries. Their problem was that they sold in both UK and in the US. {eople had current com, you know, targets in different currencies. Someone based out of the UK had a target in the US currency, but their commission was going to be in pounds. What conversion rates to apply? Historically going back and auditing, like if you paid someone, what was the conversion rate? Then that was a bit bit of a challenge.

And then a customer success SDR & BDR team. They had a lot of different roles, and one of them was incentivized on different kinds of stuff. Keeping all of that in the same place and showing them visibility was a big part of the challenge for them. I think we did this pretty beautifully. Mark would probably agree because he’s been an active supporter of us since that day. We’ve gone on to also then include the customer support team in our commission plans. Probably goes on to tell you that we did a good job with them.

How competitive is the space that you’re operating in?

Apoorv: It’s a pretty fast-going space. I’d say it’s fairly competitive but not crowded. We have three companies in the US that have gone on to raise over $50 million. But most of them focus on the enterprise. ElevateHQ mostly focuses on SMB and mid-market. Companies with up to two to 300 sales reps are our sweep spot. It’s actually less competitive than you’d think. You, we are still mostly replacing Excel in most places. Most of the customers who end up using us are evaluating maybe one or two other players in the market. And then you’ve got your legacy players. There are SAP, IBM, those are the guys who’ve been around for a long time in this domain, and they usually stay in the enterprise domain.

Apoorv faced this problem for many years

Apoorv: We officially started in 2021, but I have been working on it since 2020, but it was mostly research. I have been a salesperson most of my life, man. And it just hurts me when I see good sales guys leaving an organization because they’re not happy with the commission. In terms of how much they were supposed to be paid and how they were actually paid or delays in commissions. It’s just painful because great sales guys need to be paid immediately for exactly what they do.

Many companies lose out on that talent because they’re not keeping those sales guys happy. And they’re not doing a decent job of running commissions very well. That’s one thing that I really wanted to solve. I’ve worked in San Francisco, Southeast Asia, and Indonesia, India. I’ve worked in different geographies, and I’ve seen this problem across. It’s not like a one geography problem globally, almost like a disease.

More sales teams start with Excel, which is fine. You do want to start with Excel early on because it’s simple, but they just don’t know when to graduate to software on when to start automating. Regarding the team, we are 30 people now, and we’ve raised $1 million in 2021. That was pre-product when we started from a phone called Leo Capital based out of the US.

Do you think you found the Product-Market-Fit?

Apoorv: I don’t think it’s one thing that you find that you keep, it’s just a continuous journey, which is evolving. I think at this point, in some segments, we know what people want. Once the team is just starting to get to 20, 30, or 50 reps. We know that the sales operations of the finance teams there are struggling to manage commissions, and they need something like this. I think to them, we are able to do a pretty good job of servicing. I think from that end, we’ve found a pretty strong crowd market fit. But consumer needs to keep evolving. Now there are people that have expectations. They want like an AI to write the commission plan for them. How do you keep evolving with the needs of the customers as a continuous journey? And I think we need to keep discovering it.

Founders should not forget about the core problem they’re solving

Apoorv: Being able to build what you think is the right product to build and not caring about what your competitors are doing are saying because they’ve raised more money than you. Once you raise hundreds of millions of dollars, you have to build something with it. They will basically create things that are not needed but create noise around them. It’s hard to keep your head in the right place and say, this is the core problem. That’s what we are going build, and that’s it. Because we have limited resources, we going to do one thing, and we’re going to do that thing.

I think that’s been hard. I’ve often been tempted to build more things, but thankfully raising a limited amount has helped us stay consistent on that core problem. Don’t get me wrong, the thing is, you do want to innovate, but there is a fine line. I would love to have a hundred million dollars in my account and go on and do that. But founders who have raised less should remember that they shouldn’t be distracted by what others are building. There’s a core problem that you found. If you solve that well, money will come. And with that money, you can maybe experiment tomorrow and run these paddle projects that you think are going to be path-defining.

What are future plans with ElevateHQ?

Apoorv: I want to grow old running this company, I want to have gray hair. It’s just a very exciting market. I think we are just getting started. Over 90% of the world’s commissions are still on Excel. All these sales guys need to be saved from the horrors of Microsoft Excel. We won’t be happy until we get done. And I think there’s a lot more to be done in this domain because we work with revenue operations. There is more to be built on top of it around how you plan your entire sales process. We see a lot of exciting stuff. Right now, the short-term target is to stay focused and continue to go deeper into the problem and delight our customers. And at some point, once we think we are big enough, then expand into more product verticals.

What is your story, Apoorv?

Apoorv: I actually got into sales by Fluke. I was supposed to go to a financial services job with  SAP after my college, and somehow it didn’t appeal to me. All the spreadsheets and all number crunching. There was this startup, and someone introduced me to that startup, and the founder called me for an interview. I didn’t know what startups were. This is back in 2012, and I didn’t know what SaaS was or all of this stuff. And they were running an HR software startup, and he gave me a job immediately.

He said, why don’t you come tomorrow and start? In my head, I’m thinking, I already have this job, but I need to show up next week. But I decided to give it a shot. I said, if nothing works out in a week, I’ll leave. But man, I loved sales from day zero. Just the amount of hustle on the floor and what all goes in and the amount of energy and camaraderie in sales teams, it stayed with me. That’s when I started enjoying sales. Never thought I’d do it. And I ended up doing it for a long, long time.

What’s your best piece of advice for somebody that’s starting in sales?

Apoorv: I don’t know how it is in a lot of other countries, but in India, there’s still a lot of stigma attached to sales roles. People look down upon sales, they think of finance and consulting as these really important roles that are going to change the world. I went to the MBA School in France, and I don’t think it was any difference. Most of the folks wanted to go to consulting. McKenzie, and probably a handful of people, said, we want to go back to sales.

It was just looked down upon. Nobody thinks like a lowering job. But if you look at the statistics, most of the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies come from sales. If you want to make a real impact and if you want to learn everything about the business, and if you wanna grow fast, you need to be in sales. Because you’re eventually gonna do sales anywhere in your life, whether you move to consulting or finance. Once you get from the grunt work and rise above, you will be selling to someone.

Why charisma is overrated in sales

Apoorv: Charisma is overrated. Honestly, I’ve found great sales guys who, if you were at a party with them, you’d probably not look at them twice. Certainly, charisma is not one of the great traits. I think it’s persistence. And different people find their style. If you’re trying to get someone to believe in you, right? That’s what sales are. And then believe in your product. You want to be a little smart, you do want to be intelligent so that people can trust you. You want to be intelligent about what you’re saying, and you build that trust.

And then the question is, what else can bring out that trust in the person you’re speaking with? It can be charisma, but it can also be your persistence. It can also be your honesty, so you can win people over in different ways depending on what works for you. Stay authentic to yourself and use that to define your own selling. But don’t give up. I think no matter what you have, what skills you have, if you give up, you’re not going to do well in sales.

What’s your favorite software apart from ElevateHQ?

Apoorv: Slack is brilliant, I love Slack. I really like a tool called MailMotor which, if you haven’t checked out, you should. You can do a lot more with your email. It’s very, very interesting. A friend started it. Some really interesting companies coming out of India.

Being part of a community will help you a lot

Apoorv: This is gonna be a hard year for everyone, and I don’t think it’s getting said enough, but if you are selling this as a founder, as a salesperson, I think it’s important to talk to other people in your network to know that everybody’s going through the same things together and that it is gonna be hard, but it is gonna get over, right? And it helps to be around other folks who are going through the same journey as you. I think this year, as a community, we need to come together and help each other as much as we can.