Sales operations is one of the most crucial functions for any business. With sales teams continuing to operate in a hybrid model, and teams adopting multiple tools, the need for sales operations has never been greater.
But, what is sales operations (SalesOps) and how can they help your sales teams grow?
What is Sales Operations?
Sales Operations [Sales Ops] first came into practice in the 1970s, when teams had to analyze customer profiles and buying behavior, and plan the inventories accordingly.
Roles and responsibilities of SalesOps evolved along with technology.
They now play a major role in:
- Developing an automated and streamlined sales process
- Territory management
- Structuring sales rep coaching programs
- Providing teams with customer and market insights
- Improving sales revenues
Why does Sales Operations matter?
Having an effective Sales Ops in place improves the productivity of the sales teams, and improves outcomes.
Gone are the days when sales reps would spend hours on mundane activities like administrative tasks, reporting, following up repeatedly and so on. With SalesOps, sales leaders and entrepreneurs can make reps’ lives easier and influence them to free up their time to engage in more meaningful activities.
SalesOps empowers the reps with data-driven insights to develop and implement better sales strategies. As a result, the smart use of SalesOps can accelerate lead generations, and conversions and improve the bottom line.
Sales Operations vs. Sales Enablement - What are the Differences?
Both sales enablement and SalesOps are used interchangeably, but they aren't the same.
Sales enablement ensures the onboarding and coaching of new hires, provides teams with the relevant buyer-facing content and ensures that the sales team has all the relevant resources (best practices, persona profile, buyer intent, etc.) to sell smart.
Whereas, a SalesOps looks at the entire sales process - from lead gen to support, identifies the bottlenecks in each stage of the process, and provides data-backed solutions to optimize them.
Also, sales enablement is involved in the early stage of the sales cycle - from educating the buyers and coaching the sales team, while Sales Ops is involved in the later stages of the funnel - negotiations and deal signing phase.
Channing Ferrer, former VP of Sales Strategy and Operations at Hubspot says, “I think of sales enablement as a component of sales ops, Sales operations analyze the data and make decisions, and sales enablement helps roll out those decisions.”
Roles and Responsibilities of the SalesOps Team
SalesOps teams are involved in multiple activities like sales strategy formation, territory management, analysis and internal communication.
Different businesses define the roles and responsibilities of the SalesOps teams based on the products they sell. Here are some of the most common types of roles you can find in a sales operations team:
1. Sales strategy
Sales Strategy is an integral part of SalesOps. SalesOps provide teams with 360-degree visibility into prospects’ behaviors to frame a strategy that identifies their needs and provides the right solutions. Some of the key elements of sales strategy include:
- Optimizing existing sales processes and aligning them with goals.
- Evaluating existing sales methodologies and adding modifications wherever required.
- Analyzing sales data to identify insightful patterns to leverage in the sales process.
2. Sales performance management
SalesOps is responsible for managing the sales team’s productivity and keeping track of each sales rep’s performance. In addition, SalesOps helps remove all blockers the sales reps face and smoothen the selling processes.
Some focus areas for SalesOps when it comes to performance management include:
- Adopting and implementing the productivity best practices.
- Monitoring the sales KPIs and metrics.
- Planning compensation plans for sales reps based on their performance.
- Keeping a closer look at sales reps who need further guidance and arranging training sessions for them.
3. Sales forecasting
Sales forecasting is important as it lets sales leaders identify potential issues in their current sales process that can affect the team’s performance in the future. Accordingly, sales teams can take preventive measures to fix these issues.
And SalesOps analyze tons of sales data, that helps in forecasting.
With sales forecasting, SalesOps can also tell you the possibilities for a sales rep to close a deal. For example, suppose a sales rep has been trying to close a deal for 2 months and your organization's average sales cycle length is 3 months. In that case, SalesOps can forecast the probability of closing the deal around 66%.
4. Lead generation
SalesOps can take care of lead generation and other administrative tasks like scheduling meetings, following up with prospects, etc. SalesOps helps the sales reps to manage these activities so that sales reps can continue to sell.
For example, sales and marketing teams are not aligned in many organizations. Despite representing the same brand, such organizations fail to bridge the gap between these two teams. SalesOps can quickly fill these gaps to ensure that both teams are targeting the same buyer persona and that their strategies are aligned.
5. Sales Support
Sales representatives are involved in many rigorous activities, and hence they require consistent support from SalesOps. SalesOps can help them to access leads seamlessly, manage contracts, offer sales training wherever required, and more. In addition, when required, SalesOps can help sales reps with essential sales tools like CRM, sales analytics tools, etc.
6. Sales coaching
A sales team includes both new and experienced sales reps. New sales reps always require efficient sales coaching to become familiar with their responsibilities and processes. Additionally, experienced sales reps also need the training to stay updated with the changing sales practices and trends.
SalesOps identifies when the sales reps require in-depth coaching and arrange extensive mentoring programs to offer upskilling opportunities to the reps.
7. Sales territory management
SalesOps allocates different sales territories to the sales reps to avoid miscommunication. The core idea is to optimize the sales process and remove any backlogs that can lead to confusion among the reps and affect their productivity. Allocating specific territories is crucial because it defines the working hours and incentives each rep is subject to.
8. Technology management
Most Business-to-Business (B2B) organizations manage multiple SaaS subscriptions in their tech stack. While sales leaders try to reduce the excess efforts of the reps by buying these applications, it can also mean extreme pressure for them. With so many tools, sales reps often become overwhelmed, and their productivity drops.
SalesOps can resolve this issue by managing all tools at the same place and assisting the reps with the right tools at the right time. SalesOps can do the following:
- Integrating all apps and tools
- Managing internal communication of sales teams
- Sales data management and reporting
- Automating internal tasks of sales teams
- Customizing the CRM according to the sales team’s requirements
9. Sales data management
Managing sales data is another critical responsibility of SalesOps. Sales teams must store and manage multiple types of datasets, including campaign, product-related, process, etc. SalesOps can manage and verify these datasets in a single place to achieve sales goals successfully. Additionally, research data, internal performance data, customer data, etc., are also managed by SalesOps to enhance efficiency.
What should be the Structure of a Sales Ops Team?
The size of a sales operations team varies depending on the organization's size. It can be a one-person or large team involving multiple sales professionals. As an organization grows, it can identify the need to add more designations to this team.
Typically, a sales team structure should be as follows:
1. Vice President (VP) of SalesOps
The VP leads a sales team and reports directly to the senior executives of an organization. A VP should be someone with 10-12 years of experience in managing sales operations and sales enablement. Regarding educational qualifications, organizations mostly favor someone with an MBA to handle these responsibilities.
The VP should have in-depth tech skills to manage the tech stack of multiple software. The person should have pro-level communication skills to collaborate with various cross-functional teams.
2. SalesOps Manager
A SalesOps manager is a mid-senior level professional managing a team of SalesOps reps. This person should have at least 5 years of experience in leadership and team management. They should be well-versed in various sales technologies, methodologies, and frameworks. It is also an added advantage that the SalesOps manager can proactively handle analytics.
3. SalesOps Analyst
A SalesOps analyst is generally responsible for handling sales intelligence, CRM tools, and spreadsheets. They should have 3-4 years of experience in sales technology management. Additionally, a sales operations analyst must have good communication and interpersonal skills as their role involves interacting with different teams.
4. SalesOps Representative
It is an entry-level role in any sales team, and professionals with up to 2 years of experience can be suitable for this position. Ideally, a SalesOps rep should have excellent communication skills, great analytical skills, and notable technical aptitude. Anyone confident about these skills can try out the role of SalesOps representative. However, a fresher will require proper training to gain expertise in this field.
Tips and Strategies to Run a Successful SalesOps Team
To efficiently manage your Sales Ops team, follow these steps:
1. Keep your goals in place
A sales leader should ensure that each SalesOps team member is perfectly aware of their goals. To simplify this, the VP of SalesOps can write down the mission statement and convey it to each team member so that everyone stays on the same page.
Many a time, sales leaders craft mission statements that are too generic to fathom. This can result in unnecessary confusion within the SalesOps team and affect their activities. When creating a sales mission statement, remember to:
- Be as specific as possible. For example, “Automate all tasks” is not the right objective. Rather the objective should be like “Automate all operational tasks within 1 month”.
2. Collaborate actively
A SalesOps team should collaborate with all teams within an organization. They are responsible for checking in regularly with the marketing, sales enablement and product development teams to identify any issues and figure out ways to address them. The SalesOps professionals are also responsible for arranging weekly/bi-weekly catch-up with these teams to catch up on all the latest updates.
A SalesOps leader should also frequently interact with internal team members to remove alignment issues. That’s the only way to develop a productive SalesOps team where everyone is clear about their goals.
3. Leverage the power of technology
Each team member in the SalesOps team should have deep knowledge of technology. They are responsible for handling the entire tech stack of the sales team. The SalesOps team should actively handle tools, including CRM software, social selling tools, email automation tools, lead prioritization tools, project management tools, and business intelligence tools.
Ideally, the SalesOps team is expected to leverage its tech stack to automate all mundane activities for the sales team and help them focus more on selling. Sales leaders should not adopt all technologies at one go to their tech stack. Instead, they should allow the SalesOps reps to be familiar with each technology first and then adopt it in the process.
4. Actively Collaborate With Sales Teams
Ensure that your SalesOps team members are on sales calls and are working with the sales teams. This helps them get a first-hand view of all challenges faced by the sales teams, and can then suggest ways to improve them.
SalesOps Metrics and KPIs you must Know
Measuring the performance of any internal team is essential, and the SalesOps team is no exception. However, the question is - which metrics to track for measuring the sales operations team’s performance?
Here are a few KPIs and metrics that SalesOps teams should monitor:
- Win rate estimates the average number of sales deals closed by the SalesOps team.
- Sales cycle length metric measures the average time duration you need to close a sales deal.
- Time invested in selling measures how much time a seller actually needs to sell. This metric doesn’t consider other administrative activities like meetings, coaching, etc.
- Deal size shows the overall deal size a sales rep manages at a given time.
- Forecast accuracy metric determines how accurate the sales forecast is concerning the actual sales performance.
- Lead response time metric estimates the average time a lead or prospect takes to respond positively to a sales rep.
The Sales department has been evolving for years now. With consistent technological growth, this department has been able to automate many of its core activities and focus on what they are supposed to do - finding innovative ways to sell.
The sales operations team works as the backbone of the sales team and supports them throughout their journey.
From supporting the sales team with data, technological support, and insights, the SalesOps team works as their best buddy to fulfill all the goals. Follow the steps and strategies mentioned in this guide to make the most of your SalesOps team.