Sales operations is taking the world of sales by storm—
but people are still confused.
The scope and measure by which we can gather, measure and analyze data have changed the way sales is carried out in businesses of all sizes. As sales organizations become reliant on exact analysis and processes, sales operations has taken center stage. For the best sales organizations in business, sales operations no doubt takes the cake alongside sales leadership and enablement.
Just in the last five years, more companies are adding sales operations roles in their sales organization. Xerox was the pioneer in the 70s—but even forty years after the first sales operations hire, there’s still a lot of confusion surrounding what ‘sales operations’ really is and its function in a business.
To understand sales operation, it’s best to identify and define the array of functions a sales operations team is responsible for. If you’re in a sales organization that includes a sales operations team, take your roles and compare them against these functions and see how your team stacks up in delivering what matters most in your organization’s needs.
The main function of the sales operations team is to smoothen the sales process—reduce any friction and incorporate itself to the organization so as to ensure the execution of the sales strategy.
Here are the core functions of the sales operations team:
Push Sales Performance
As the level of sales in your organization move to more consultative-type and challenger sales, the need for client-facing and support roles to be in constant development is crucial.
Sales far from what it was before—one and done deals. Transactional. To keep up with the changing nature of customer bases and the business climate, sales professionals need to continually sharpen their skills.
To get to this constant flux of improvement, sales operations needs to be in check. Their role is beyond checking people vis-a-vis the development plan of the department. To ensure excellence, sales operations needs to monitor approaches, programs and content based on what is in line with the needs of salespeople and the sales organization’s overall strategy.
Under this function, sales operations is in-charge of the following:
Sales operations is in charge of choosing and calibrating product training programs that keep salespeople updated but still fast-moving.
Product training is focused on the hard facts, nuts and bolts, on keeping your sales force abreast on the features and benefits of the products you sell. This includes what the product is, what the problems it solves are, how it works, what are different pricing structures, what are its different configurations, how it works with different organizational structures, what needs to be done to onboard it into different businesses so as to deliver what is promised, and everything else about the product that might arise in a sales situation.
Sales operations keeps sales training in check, ensuring that best practices and methods are learned by the sales force.
Sales training is focused on how the salesperson can relate the prospect’s situation to the product’s capabilities. It is less about the product but more about understanding prospects and their needs. Rarely are there products that do not offer configurations and customization based on the customer’s context. Training salespeople to understand how to identify customer pain points and connect that with available configuration is done through sales training.
Market intelligence training
Sales operations acts as the source of expert information on markets—from the supply of data to on-point analysis.
It’s true that customers know their situations best, but a good salesperson will have enough information about a customer’s market so as to provide them enough context in their decision making. In brief, market intelligence is the combination of competitor intelligence, product intelligence, market analysis and market research. It would be too much to have salespeople specialize in all of this so sales operations is in charge of ensuring that the sales force has the right content at the right time so as to provide customer’s insight into their markets.
Sales operations is in charge of formalizing and streamlining coaching of the sales force. This is not only to arrest inefficiencies but is put in place to ensure that the sales force talent is constantly developed.
Sales operations identifies best practices that work for certain sales situations. Through this systematic study of how a sales force operates, sales operations is able to provide the sales organization guidance on which approach to take depending on the customer. The result is a highly effective and efficient sales force.
Sales has a notoriety for high turnover. Sales operations aims to change that. Since sales ops works as part of a strategy, the team understands that a company is better off developing sales talent than being a Russian roulette of sales professionals. Sales ops is in charge of formulating a winning onboarding program—from screening, headhunting, interviewing to hiring.
Keep sales in line with company strategy
It’s a huge mistake to think that sales ops concerns itself purely on the tactical. Here’s the truth: Sales operations keeps the sales force in check tactically, making sure that the everyday tasks carried out are aligned with the company strategy.
Being the steward of sales strategy, sales operations performs these key functions:
Evaluation of Sales Methods
How a company approaches sales in a strategic level is often decided on high-level strategy meetings. These methods can make or break a company’s sales and growth plans, so ensuring the effectivity of the methods used by the sales force is crucial to a company’s success. The sales operations team—being in the meat of everyday functions and the training that comes with it—is in the best position to make recommendations as to which approaches fail and succeed. They then submit these recommendations to Sales Leadership.
The effectiveness of the abundant data brought about by advancements in tech and sophistication of sales-centric solutions relies on analysis. Sales data has moved away from the days when what’s available is only important for compensation and sales forecasting. The small and big adjustments in the way a sales force operates need to be supported by data—sales operations ensures that every move is backed up by real-world experience by the sales force in data terms.
Sales operations is instrumental in producing and analysis reports to make sure the sales force is on the right track. By using data and predictive models, sales ops actively align the predictions on what makes sense on a strategic level. All of this is of course to help the whole sales organization hit its quotas.
The structure of a team dictates a large part of how it behaves. Sales operations monitors how the team works and makes recommendations that improve the dynamics and workflow of a team.
It involves work on these levels:
Onboarding new people is bound to make an impact in any sales organization. From performance to dynamics, a new hire influences a team from their entry until they integrate with the sales force. There is a treasure of horror stories of new hires negatively impacting a team to the point of slower performance and worse metrics. Sales ops evaluates the hiring process and makes recommendations based off of its evaluations so that only people who will positively impact the organization would be let on board.
Apart from the beautiful mix of competitiveness and teamwork a competent sales force possesses, it’s no secret that compensation and remuneration keep salespeople fired up. Sales operations monitor how people perform vis-a-vis compensation and incentives. With their observation, study and analysis, they make recommendations as to how resources should be properly disbursed to the sales force for optimum performance.
Most sales forces are divided into geographical assignments. The interplay of machinery, prospects, outbound and inbound deployment in certain territories impact the performance of the sales force immensely. Even the way reps are assigned to areas can make or break a campaign. Sales operations balances this setup and finds the best combination of machinery, talent, leads and other factors to create a sales force that performs at a maximum.
An effective sales force should be able to seamlessly communicate changes, wins, practices and updates that not only make performance smoother and more efficient, but also adds to the sense of team and camaraderie in the workplace. Sales operations identifies improvements that could be made and creates channel mapping that is least disruptive but makes a positive impact on the organization.
Team Workflow and Performance
Sales teams always have things to do. Well performing teams are rarely idle. If you can provide them a way of freeing up even just a bit of time, it would impact their performance greatly. Sales operations find that window—be it spotting an inefficiency that can be swiftly remedied or finding tools that make life easier for the sales force.
The handset and soft-dialer are the most essential tools in a modern sales floor. Sales operations ensures that the sales force is equipped with the right tooling that allows them to pull custom scripts, guides, coaching information, emails and other content that sales people will need to move the prospect along the sales process.
The time between the close and the actual delivery of documents is crucial. Anything that slows down a deal is bad customer service and buyer’s experience from the side of the prospect. Sales operations is tasked to find monkey-wrenches and bottlenecks and find solutions whether by way of software or coaching.
Customer relationship management systems are married to salespeople all the while they are on the sales floor. Data should be recorded so seamlessly that using the CRM is second nature to salespeople and provides immense value and efficiency compared to old school pen and paper. Sales operations is tasked to ensure salespeople use the CRM—a challenge for most companies. Demonstrating how CRMs actually improve a salesperson’s workflow is crucial to having the sales force use the CRM.
Everyone wants to manage their time better and in the busy world of sales, more time is more sales. There are tools that speed up processes for salespeople, but equipping the people themselves with skills and techniques to get more results out of their time is something the sales ops team is greatly concerned about. Sales ops also determines whether a sales person’s certain activities is much better done through tech so as to not waste productive hours on rote tasks.
Sales operations work with sales enablement teams to ensure that the sales force get what they need in terms of content and pushing conversations with prospects. Sales enablement teams work with sales ops in coming up with tool recommendations that sit right in the middle of seamless delivery of relevant content to the prospect at the right time. Tools for sales enablement cannot be overstated—sales ops and sales enablement come up with what’s necessary for the sales force.
At the core of the sales operations essence is its strategic role in improving salesforce performance. It is the objective of the team and its main focus. Although this list is filled with various roles that not all sales ops team can cover, it gives an idea as to how crucial a competent sales ops team is to a stellar sales force.
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