Sales operations play a vital role in the efficiency and effectiveness of modern sales teams. More organizations are increasingly realizing the advantages of having a dedicated sales ops team. The most recent LinkedIn State of Sales Operations Report indicated sales operations roles increased 38% between 2018 and 2020, about 4.8 times faster than opportunities for sales positions overall.
Let’s take a closer look at sales ops and answer questions about what is sales operations and how you can turn your organization into a sales and operations planning powerhouse.
What is sales operations?
Sales operations is quite simply managing the operations of the sales team. But the scope of what is sales operations and what is sales enablement can be different in every organization. Sales operations roles are usually defined by using analytics and data to drive sales and operations planning.
If you’re still unsure of sales operations is, think of it this way. Your sales teams are the reps on the front lines engaging directly with customers, while the sales enablement team works behind the scenes to ensure the sales process runs smoothly. Because sales teams and sales enablement are in the trenches, the sales operations team needs to have a bird’s eye view of the entire process and apply data to steer the sales strategy on the ground.
How to build out a sales ops team
Sales operations professionals are the glue that holds sales teams together. Once you’ve defined sales operations and sales enablement, it’s critical to identify sales operations roles. Below are a few suggestions for how to structure sales operations teams and the sales operations roles that are crucial to success.
Sales Operations Specialist and Support
Specialists on the sales ops team work on administrative and technical tasks to keep sales operations and planning moving in the right direction. In essence, they support the day-to-day work of sales reps. Their priorities include lead generation and transactional and contractual support for sales teams.
Sales Operations Analyst
Sales operations are driven by data, but someone has to translate those numbers into reports that can be used for sales operations and planning. Compiling analytics from various platforms, producing reports, and even forecasting sales are some of the primary responsibilities of a sales operations analyst.
Sales Operations Manager or Director
A sales operations manager should be a sales operations professional with a wealth of experience and an in-depth understanding of your organization’s sales process. Their role is to develop strategies and coordinate initiatives based on data-driven insights. Because this role involves cross-functional collaboration, sales operations managers also serve as advocates for the sales team in strategic business planning.
Depending on the organization, sales operations may take on other integral sales and operations planning responsibilities such as defining sales territories, directly managing sales team reps, and facilitating ongoing training for the sales team.
Sales operations best practices
Once you’ve assembled your team, it’s important to sift through a noisy sales process and distill some sales operation best practices. Below are a few tips that can help sales operations teams hit goals and exceed expectations.
Create clearly defined sales operations roles
Take a close look at how your organization defines sales operations roles. Make sure your sales ops team isn’t taking on sales enablement tasks and is focused on sales operations and planning. An easy way to accomplish this is to shift your sales operations team from tasks that create buyer awareness to a focus on more advanced stages of the buying process, such as purchasing.
Set clear and measurable sales ops goals
It’s difficult to develop a roadmap if you don't know the destination. Everyone on the sales operations team should have clearly defined and measurable goals that pertain not just to sales performance but also to their specific responsibilities. These goals should be documented and refined quarterly or annually to ensure they stay relevant.
Foster collaboration on sales and operations planning
While it’s critical to separate responsibilities of sales enablement from those of sales operations, it’s equally important that neither team works in a silo. An effective sales and operations planning strategy requires alignment to produce maximum impact. From working together on a mission statement to holding regular meetings to collaborate, the sales operations teams should be in close communication with the rest of the sales team and have a firm understanding of pain points and challenges.
4 things to include in your sales operation strategy
A solid sales and operations strategy should reflect the broader goals of your organization. For your sales ops team, this may mean speeding up the sales process, streamlining lead generation, or a multitude of other priorities. Here are a few sales operations strategies that should be spelled out as part of your sales playbook.
1. Sales operations mission statement
Missions statements may seem like performative exercises. Certainly, in some organizations, they end up being little more than an opportunity to sprinkle vague platitudes with buzzwords. However, when mission statements are the result of thoughtful intent and collaboration among your team, they can become a guiding force that shapes sales and operations planning and strategy.
2. Sales ops goals
As part of sales operations best practices, measurable and well-articulated goals are essential. But it’s worthwhile to point out these goals should be a documented component of your sales strategy. Each part of your strategy should have a connection to a specific sales operations goal and a clearly defined approach that demonstrates how the goal will be met.
3. Sales team metrics and measurable KPIs
Sales operations goals should be closely tied to sales team metrics and sales rep KPIs (key performance indicators). It’s easier to keep these KPIs realistic and relevant if they are focused on measurable outputs of productivity and efficiency. Here are a few sales team metrics to consider:
Sales quota benchmarks
Sales cycle length
Lead response time
Once the sales team’s KPIs are specified, then sales operations can identify overarching sales operations goals that will be influenced by those metrics, such as forecasting accuracy or pipeline efficiency.
4. Sales process optimization
One of the core responsibilities of sales operations is to improve pipeline management and optimize the sales process. This can be done in a myriad of ways, from scaling processes to leveraging technology. The tactics being used to improve the sales process should be a documented part of the sales operations strategy. This allows performance to be assessed and the approach to be tweaked to achieve improvement over time.
Sales operations tools you should use
To enable better sales and operations planning, you need the right tools for the job. And while there are a ton of technologies out there that can keep your sales teams informed and efficient, these platforms and software are essentials that should be in your sales operations toolbox.
Sales enablement or CRM platform
If you don’t already have a sales enablement or CRM (customer relationship management) platform, don’t delay getting one. CRM software enables businesses to store customer or prospect contact info, track interaction with sales and customer service, and generate reports. Sales enablement platforms can broaden the scope of a CRM by including marketing and service information to reflect the entire sales lifecycle.
Data analytics software
Most organizations have more data than they know what to do with. Data analytics can help make sense of all that information, but not all data analytics software is created equal. From self-serve analytics like the ones SAS Business Intelligence offers to data visualizations tools like Tableau, the right fit for your company may be a combination of software approaches that best meet your business needs.
Most organizations rely heavily on some form of email automation. These technologies may be internal or external or both, but they provide more than an efficient means of communication. Email automation tools allow you to track and assess the effectiveness of communication and to fine-tune your email marketing and sales strategies for better conversions and more effective sales processes.
Sales enablement content management
And last but certainly not least is a platform that allows the organization and storage of up-to-date sales enablement content. This has historically been a huge challenge for sales teams, but solutions like the one Lucidpress offers keep branded, professional sales content just a click away.
In addition to needing tools to communicate with customers, your sales team needs the technology to communicate effectively with one another and the sales operations team. Whatever solution your organization employs, be sure it encourages collaboration and data sharing.
Putting together a sales operations strategy doesn’t have to be a daunting prospect. And the wealth of data-driven insights sales operations professionals bring to the table makes building a sales operations team a solid investment for any organization.
Learn how to create branded sales enablement materials that will help your organization reach sales operations goals with our free e-book.