Monthly Archives: September 2018

Sales Strategy and Planning – What’s Your Vision? How Are You Getting There?

Napoleon, one of the most successful leaders of all time, built his empire on meticulous strategy and planning.

We recently answered the question “What is Sales Operations?” and defined the roles and responsibilities of the Sales Operations job.  TLDR: It’s all about the policies, processes, and analyses that support sales teams to sell better, grow faster, and be more strategic.  The Sales Ops Job Cycle is made up of 6 points:

  1. Strategy & Planning
  2. Policy Creation
  3. Process Optimization
  4. Sales Enablement
  5. Data & Technology Management
  6. Performance Analysis

In this and subsequent posts, we want to dive deeper into each of these points, and today we start from the top: Sales Strategy & Planning.  We’ll focus on the “What,” “Who,” “When,” and “How,” and finish with a plug for our Strategy & Planning tool ????.

What is Strategy & Planning?

Sales Strategy & Planning is about how a business will hit its sales targets.  Trying to grow your revenue by 30%+?  Maintain sales while lowering expenses?  Have a sales target from your investors/management and need to figure out how you are going to get there (or want to set your stake in the ground for your next investor/management meeting?)?  This is where Strategy & Planning comes in.

Strategy & Planning encompasses, but is not limited to:

  1. Market Analysis – Who are our customers? How many are there, and where are they?  How much will they pay?
  2. Territory/Team Alignment – Where do we put our sales people? How do we organize and then support them?
  3. Capacity & Role Decisions – How many sales people do we need? What are their different roles?
  4. Target Setting – How much is each sales person expected to bring in? How does this add up across the company to hit our overall goal?
  5. Compensation/Incentive Plans – How do we structure comp plans to maximize motivation? How much are we expecting to pay?
  6. Crossfunctional Communication – Do we have numbers from Finance? Does Marketing know our alignment, so we can match?  Is our Customer definition the same as Product’s?

The task list is long, but all components are critical.  Miss one step, and your sales team is unorganized, inefficient, and potentially unsuccessful.  We plan to cover each point in further detail in later posts.

Who Does Strategy & Planning?

It depends.  Strategy & Planning for a small sales organization is the responsibility of the sales managers.  Small sales organizations don’t have the budget to task specific people to think exclusively about Sales Strategy & Planning, so it is part of the job of the Sales Leader(s), the CRO, CEO, or the Head of Sales Ops.  Strategy & Planning at this level is often quick and dirty, due to the many other responsibilities on these teams’ plates.

On the flip side, an enterprise could have hundreds if not thousands of employees dedicated to Strategy & Planning.  At Microsoft, for instance, there are over 2,000 employees with  “Sales Strategy” in their role, and Salesforce has over 1,000!  What these people do is undoubtedly different and spans the gamut of our Sales Operations Job Cycle. However, when you consider the number of markets, products, channels, and sales people these companies address, it is easy to see how the need for Strategy & Planning would expand.

When Does Strategy & Planning Happen?

This also depends.  It is important to find the right balance, but our view at is that Strategy & Planning is and should be a constant concern for a business. There are cases both for and against it happening constantly:

The case for constant Strategy & Planning

  • To Stay Ahead of the Market – you want to prepare your business for any industry changes
  • To Get Closer to Customers – you want to get your people closer to evolving customers
  • To Take Advantage of New Information – you get new information daily, and want to respond

The case against constant Strategy & Planning

  • To Minimize Account Disruption – you want to let reps have enough time to break into an account before moving it
  • To Focus on Execution – you want to focus on executing, because that’s how you sell deals
  • To Empower your sales force – you want your sales people to own their own destiny

Make changes too often?  You lose productivity, trust, and headcount on your sales team.  You miss your targets.  Don’t make changes enough?  The market and your competitors adapt faster and you lose out on opportunities.  Your business falls short.

Typically, we find that focused Strategy & Planning between one and four times a year, with most companies having a one-time, multi-week or multi-month process set aside to analyze for the next year.  This number depends hinges on the size, growth, targets, and many other factors.

How Do You Strategize & Plan?

The Strategy & Planning process follows a regular, intuitive flow:

  1. Review Past Performance* – How have you been doing?
  2. Evaluate the Market and Set Goals – Where do you want to go? Is this feasible?
  3. Determine Resourcing – What do you need to get there? Can you afford it?
  4. Align Resources (Sales, Marketing) towards Goals – How are you organizing everything?
  5. Monitor Performance and Make Changes as Necessary* – How is it working?

*Note Steps 1 and 5 blend into other parts of the “Sales Operations Job Cycle,” inevitable in this closely-linked job cycle.

Each step happens differently and depends on the company (different metrics in Step 1, different resource needs in Step 3 and allocation in Step 4), but generally follows this progression.  Sometimes consultants come in to do the additional work so that the Sales Operations team can focus on execution, sometimes the team steps away from execution so it can focus on Strategy & Planning, but generally it follows the above process.

How Does Come In?

Great question!’s Planning App integrates Strategy & Planning activities into one collaborative tool, allowing sales organizations to make real-time decisions on their sales strategy and push those decisions seamlessly into action.  We bring the “what” and “how” of Strategy & Operations into one place so that you (and your team!) can stop worrying about the effort of planning and focus on reaping the rewards.

Interested in learning more?  Reach out to us at to schedule a demo.

What is Sales Operations?

Many people have asked us to define sales operations roles.  West Coast, East Coast, North, and South, it seems like few understand the day-to-day of the Sales Ops function. So we decided to help everyone out.

Sales Ops is the platform on which businesses build their sales teams. It is the infinite loop of policies, processes, and analyses that support sales teams –managers and individual contributors – to sell better, grow faster, and be more strategic.

There are 6 major responsibilities of traditional Sales Operations:

  1. Strategy & Planning
  2. Policy Creation
  3. Process Optimization
  4. Sales Enablement
  5. Data & Technology Management
  6. Performance Analysis

Collectively these roles integrate with and build on each other. They are strongly interdependent.

Sales Operations is Strategy & Planning

We could start anywhere in the Sales Ops Cycle, but we start here. Why?

Strategy & Planning is the most visible part of Sales Ops. It is where a company’s high-level strategy and its policy and procedural operations come together. Looking at Sales Operations from the top, it starts here.

Strategy & Planning takes many forms, but most generally it happens prior to a company’s new fiscal year. Management sits together and makes decisions on the next year’s plan. At many of our clients or former employers, this is a 3-5 month(!) period of determining how many people to hire, what roles to create, how to distribute and support them, and how much to pay everyone.

Strategy & Planning requires several things to succeed, which we plan to cover in depth. Data-driven decisions and stakeholder communication are crucial. Done wrong, and a company lacks direction for its sale team. Done right, Strategy & Planning leads seamlessly and effectively to the next step in the process: Policy Creation.

Sales Operations is Policy Creation

A company turns sales strategy and planning into a set of policies to govern its team(s), like who is taking which responsibilities. Policies include, but are not limited to:

    • Account Assignment (e.g. by company size, geography, industry, etc.)
    • Orders-of-Operations and Rules of Engagement for Team Members
    • Sales Methodologies and Company-wide Tactics
    • Compensation Design
    • Routing of Leads, Opportunities, Accounts, etc.

These policies are extremely important as companies grow. A 5-person sales team is different from a 50-person or a 500-person sales team, and endless complications arise as businesses scale in headcount, geographies, products, etc. Making sure a business’s policies keep up with its growth is critical for continued success.

Strong policies are clearly an important foundation for Strategy & Planning, and once put in place they lead to the next part of the Sales Ops Infinity Loop: Process Optimization.

Sales Operations is Process Optimization

Sales Policies turn into Processes, like the way an outbound sales rep contacts a customer or the point at which a subject matter expert enters a deal cycle. Processes exist at every stage and every company and are a big difference between businesses that run effectively and ones that struggle.

Processes that Sales Operations cover include, but again are not limited to:

    • Lead Routing
    • Defined Customer Touchpoints
    • MQL and SQL Hand-offs
    • Quote-to-Cash
    • SLA Creation
    • Compensation Attainment and Execution

Depending on the size and stage of the company, Sales Operations creates, maintains, and improves on processes to make sure that the sales engine runs more effectively each day.

At Salesforce, for instance, when over $100M in sales might close in a single day on thousands of transactions, the Sales Operations team manages the processes. They make sure deals are ID’d in the beginning of the sales cycle and are documented and paid for at their close, ensuring the business grows relentlessly. Smaller businesses face the same issues and with significantly fewer resources, which often can delay important things like rep compensation.

Fixing gaps in sales processes often leads to changes with how sales people do their job, and therefore require the next step: Sales Enablement.

Sales Operations is Sales Enablement

With the right processes outlined, a Sales Ops team focuses on enabling sales teams to do their jobs effectively. No matter how good the Strategy & Planning, Sales Policies, or Processes, no company succeeds without effectively passing strategy on to the team bringing in the revenue. Here is where Sales Enablement comes in.

Sales Enablement comes in many forms and may not always fall directly to Sales Operations, but includes the following:

    • Evaluating Training Needs
    • Establishing Onboarding Plans
    • Setting Effective Ramping Targets & Quotas
    • Providing Information at the Right Time to the Right People
    • Promoting Cross-Functional Communication

One of Sales and Sales Ops teams’ most important metric is productivity, and any manager will confirm there is no better way to improve a sales person’s productivity than to provide them the right support to make them successful.

One of the greatest ways to provide Enablement? Managing Data and Technology.

Sales Operations is Data & Technology Management

Data and Technology Management are often overlooked in businesses, but they are the platform on which everything succeeds. Notice how ineffective you are without your phone or your computer – a sales person is the same without their CRM.

Sales Operations does a lot with data and technology management:

    • Procuring, Setting Up, and Integrating Technology Tools
    • Data Governance Practices
    • Data Integration
    • CRM System Administration

Often these roles are spread among a number of different teams at a company (IT, Product, Sales Ops), but in the end Sales Ops makes the decisions about how to think about systems and data coming together to effectively support the Sales teams.

Strong Data and Technology Management enables sales teams. It also enables Sales Ops to do what is another fundamental part of their job and the last part of the loop: Performance Analysis.

Sales Operations is Performance Analysis

People working closely with large quantities of data and tech tools understand that no amount of information can help a business without effective analysis, and Sales Operations is no exception. A strong Sales Ops team will support managers and reps with several analyses. Some of these include:

    • Sales Forecasting
    • Creating Key Performance Metrics
    • Tracking Progress towards Targets & Quotas
    • Analyzing Account Whitespace
    • Comparing Company Performance to Market Opportunity
    • Running Strategic Projects in Key Areas

Performance Analysis is an ongoing task for Sales Ops and shows up in different ways at different companies. In small businesses, this task might fall on a Sales Manager or Business Operations person. Large businesses may have teams of 40+ people running Performance Analysis to make sure that the sales engine is staying on track of their numbers.

What happens with Performance Analysis? It provides the framing for Strategy & Planning, which takes you straight back to the beginning of the process.

Sales Ops, Simplified, is What Is About

Is Sales Ops complicated? It can be, but we don’t think it has to be.

At, we are working to build a platform that supports and enables business’s Sales Operations. Through strong policy-based frameworks and software products we help businesses to hit targets and enact strategy more efficiently and effectively.  We support Sales Operations teams to set bigger goals and make them happen.

Interested in learning more? Learn about’s solutions here.