Category Archives: Sales Ops Policy


Data Policies: Don’t Fix Your Bad Data

It’s estimated that bad data costs companies between 15 and 25 percent of their total revenue. With clean data, companies could earn up to 25 percent more each year. On a per-unit basis, bad data costs anywhere between $10 - $100 a record. Most CRMs have over 100,000 records...that’s up to $10m in lost income.

A less obvious but just as significant expense is time. Bad data wastes 50 percent of workers’ time in finding, correcting, and confirming information. Analysts spend even more time - 60 percent - cleaning and organizing faulty information. Essentially, productivity could be doubled if CRM managers didn’t have to spend time cleaning their database. Even reps suffer. Inside sales reps waste 27 percent of their time dealing with inaccurate records, which totals 546 hours per year, per rep. That’s valuable time that could be spent selling. 

The reasons for cleaning databases are obvious. More money, more time, more effective selling. But fixing bad data isn’t really the solution. In fact, these statistics are related to the cost of fixing it, not just the bad data itself.

What if there was a way to not just clean your CRM but keep it clean?

CRM databases grow at a rate of 40 percent per year, with 20 percent of the database being dirty. That means inaccurate information grows each year, making it more expensive to clean and confirm. 

Most solutions are centered around enrichment and cleansing. But as your CRM grows, the cost to continually update your data increases with the growth of your database. Instead, there needs to be a solution that builds policies and rules that govern data and prevent bad data from entering and staying in your CRM. 

The most important thing you can do for your CRM is to build rules and processes that prevent bad data from entering and stagnating in the first place.  Within CRM, we have the ability to build logic, rules, and required fields to stop errors like account duplication, missing fields, and retaining dead leads. Treating our CRM as a breathing exchange of information incentivizes us to not let data rot away as teams spend hours updating it. Instead, we bring fresh, accurate information in and expel old information out in real-time, saving ourselves from the expensive time and effort of fixing errors.

Let’s talk about what information is stored in your CRM and how we can think about creating processes and policies to keep it clean.

Accounts and Contacts

Accounts are the cornerstone of your CRM database and your go-to-market strategy. The number of accounts and their relationship with each other defines how you allocate coverage, territory, and ownership. To manage account data, create data rules that give you consistent definitions. 


    1. How to define an account and its minimum data requirements?
    2. What are the lifecycle statuses of accounts in relation to your company? 
    3. How do you deal with duplicate accounts?

These policies define how you treat an account, who creates it, and the minimum data requirements for a valid account. Policies define the buying behavior of an account (i.e. prospect, customer, attrited) and reduce account duplication.

You need a similar approach when creating and managing contacts.  Contacts change roles and leave organizations, requiring almost constant updating. Build policies to define and govern contact lifecycles that match your buying cycle. 

Account Hierarchy and Industry Taxonomy 

Integrating third-party data sources enables you to have accurate information when building account hierarchies and industry taxonomy. However, each data provider has its own taxonomy and account hierarchy structures that differ from your go-to-market plan.  Invest in creating a custom hierarchy and taxonomy model to match your go-to-market plan. This allows you to segment accounts accurately and provides a coverage plan to support your go-to-market plan.

Addressing these CRM policies enables more actionable data in your CRM investment and creates processes for keeping records current and accurate.  Rather than fix bad data on the backend, CRM policies reduce errors that enter and stagnate in CRM. 

Changing how we think about database management will ultimately solve our bad data problem. We must go from reactive cleaning to proactive maintenance to save our companies the growing expense of wasted time and money. 

Three Priorities of Focus For Sales Transformation

Nancy Nardin of Smart Selling Tools interviewed Founder and CEO Dharmesh Singh for her series on Transforming Sales. Dharmesh explains how trends in sales ops are driving growth. Nancy is the founder of Smart Selling Tools which reviews sales tools and provides resources for sales professionals.  You can read the original interview here.


DHARMESH: I think the first priority is taking control of the tool stack. There has been an explosion of tools in the sales ops world and we feel that today, sales operations professionals are spending more time integrating systems than performing sales operations.  It’s death by a thousand tools. Moreover, most tools aren’t integrated with each other, so you get point solutions that solve a niche need but are not really helping teams grow. Sales organizations are dynamic by nature and if they invest in tools that do not accommodate and align an evolving sales team, teams will outgrow the tool. This has tremendous impacts on sales teams.

The second transformation is Data Governance. CRM is now the source of corporate truth. It aligns and integrates all customer-facing functions from pre-sales to post-sales. CRM should be treated as an enterprise database, and as with most enterprise databases, it’s only as good as the data within it. Teams looking to transform sales organizations need to invest the time to define and enforce policies for data entry and data lifecycle within CRM. Today most CRM instances are in the wild west age of data governance. The lack of trust in the data is holding sales organizations back from taking advantage of their CRM investment to its fullest capacity.

Finally, thinking about integrating operations with your go-to-market plan. Today, operations teams responsible for daily sales execution chores are disconnected from the overall sales go-to-market team. These are two separate functions in most organizations and it’s imperative to integrate and ensure they are working in cadence as the go-to-market evolves. Successful organizations align their resources rapidly to meet the requirements of an evolving go-to-market as change cycles become shorter and competition in the marketplace increases. Companies that build agility in their go-to-market with execution ability will succeed.


DHARMESH: Take a data-driven approach to making decisions. Sales operations teams are typically working in silos, disconnected with the needs of the executive suite. Successful sales organizations use sales operations as a strategic lever for growth. An investment in sales operations can exponentially help scale sales beyond just adding headcount.

We have created a GrowthOps Framework that we think can help teams think through metrics to drive alignment from the CXO to the sales ops team. The metrics in the “Grow” row are the top-most metrics for most organizations. They should be the north star for teams working on metrics in the “Optimize” row to drive alignment.


DHARMESH: I recommend folks to go back to the metrics that matter and track to see if they are driving the right behavior. Focus on the process and policies that you want to enable before picking a tool. We have seen success for organizations that take the time to define process and policies before jumping into tools. The tool is a means to an end. Many teams make the mistake of signing up for the newest, shiny toy without taking the time to see how it fits into their go-to-market plan and what policies it will enforce.


DHARMESH: Our platform approach allows teams to bring their sales planning and sales operations together for the first time.  We now have a unified view of how each team is supporting the overall sales motion.

Teams leveraging’s platform are finding that they are able to:

  • Shorten their sales planning cycles and react faster to market changes
  • Build integrated, collaborative sales plans that drive transparent decision making
  • Reduce dependency on IT with the ability to make CRM changes
  • Cut down on ad hoc custom code in Salesforce systems
  • Enforce sales policies consistently across the organizations, resulting in cleaner data and better decision making


DHARMESH: has built a community for sales and sales operations leaders. We’ve hosted meetups around the country and plan to host more in the coming months. These meetups have covered everything from career growth in sales operations to best practices in sales planning. We source our community for topics and listen for pain points we can address at our events. On a more daily basis, we’ve launched the Growth Ops App and a LinkedIn Sales Ops Community group for those looking to connect with other sales operations professionals, ask questions, and share ideas. You can find the Growth Ops App in the app store and request to join the LinkedIn group here.  As one of our community members put it, sales ops professionals often stumbled into their role and make it up as they go, so we’re committed to providing resources to empower sales operations teams and help them unlock growth in their companies.

Policies: What They Are and How They Function Within A Software-Defined Ops Framework

The definition of a policy from Wikipedia states: A policy is a deliberate system of principles to guide decisions and achieve rational outcomes. A policy is a statement of intent and is implemented as a procedure or protocol.

What do all of the below have in common?

  • No smoking within 20 feet of this building
  • RCW 46.61.050 – Obedience to and required traffic control devices
  • A dress code
  • Password must contain numbers
  • An email address is required to create a contact
  • A “No Parking” sign

These are all examples of policies. We are surrounded by policies in our daily lives and most of us (reluctantly) follow them without knowing they are policies. We use them to guide our decisions in daily life. Policies help produce predictable outcomes as well. In the business world, policies help us avoid risks and/or increase the predictability of a process.

Take a minute to think about several policies you use or follow in the workplace. A good example of a workplace policy is a dress code. Focus on one policy and now think about how it shapes the decisions you make. If the policy didn’t exist, what would you do? How does that differ from the outcome the policy intends to achieve? If you ask your neighbor what before and after decision they made, it would be a fairly good bet to say that the outcome of the decision made without a policy in place is different from your outcome. Yet it’s also a safe bet that you and your colleague are both wearing closed-toed shoes to work on a hot summer day.

It’s important to understand that policies do not just stand on their own. If we zoom out to look at the larger picture we will notice that policies are components of a capability or the ability to do something. Let’s take the example of driving. We want the capability to drive. That’s easy enough, give us a car and we are good to go right? Well, what do we do with the car? If we want to get from point A to point B, then we need a process, and if we want to get from point A to point B safely, efficiently, and effectively, then we need policies. The process itself is the act of driving. Turning on the car, stepping on the gas, turning the vehicle, etc. The policies are the rules of the road that keep everyone from colliding into each other.

Take a moment and think about the worst intersection of traffic in the world. The middle of this intersection is packed with vehicles all trying to go in different directions. Inch by inch each vehicle creeps forward, progress is slow. Why is the traffic like this? How did it get this way? It’s not unreasonable to think if everyone just followed the rules, they wouldn’t be in this traffic nightmare.

Now imagine a pristine intersection with stop lights and all vehicles are stopped at a line before the intersection. When the light turns green, the vehicles get to zoom off to their destination since the intersection is free of other cars trying to go in other directions. What differences do you notice between the two scenes?

  • The second scene is more efficient than the other
  • Cars are able to get to their destination quicker
  • The drivers and passengers are more likely to arrive at the destination without a ding in the car
  • There is less frustration and confusion

How does any of this relate to Sales Operations? A Sales Operations organization without policies or stop lights, will operate much like bad traffic. Sales reps will fight against the system or if there is no system, then they may just do whatever they want. They will look for the loopholes, like driving on an open sidewalk. It will take longer to arrive at the destination, and sometimes the destination just becomes so unattainable a rep will give up. Policies in the driving world keep the intersection clear, thus increasing the efficiency of getting to the destination, which would increase the chance of arriving at the destination. Policies in the business world grease the wheels of the process and help guide us to a predictable outcome like the attainment of a revenue goal.

In Sales Ops, a considerable amount of time is spent putting together a go to market plan. Back in our Strategy and Planning post we learned that our GTM strategy is how an organization plans on getting to its revenue goal. The plan is the process of getting to the goal. Policies are implemented to help maintain focus on the goal and make the “how” of how to hit the goal easier by taking the guesswork out of some decisions. We’re not saying no policies no goal. Policies just increase the predictability of hitting the goal. Every VP of Sales would tell a Sales Ops org to implement policies if it increased the likelihood of them hitting their goal by 5%.

In the short-term, missing a revenue goal may seem like not a big deal because the thought is that you can always double down on the efforts to make up the revenue in later months. However, as we will discover in the next couple of paragraphs, quickly adopting a plan to make up for the miss may not be as easy we might think and we can now kiss that revenue goal goodbye. Try telling your VP of Sales that. The likely scenario is the organization spending the rest of the year trying to catch up. Everyone knows the long term implications of missing a revenue goal, but something that often gets overlooked is that the faster you move, the less policy gets enforced. Policy drives focus in decisions, and therefore a lack of policy can lead to a chaotic feeling. Decisions take longer and they are less predictable. The more chaos in the culture of an org the more employee churn.

As we alluded to in the previous paragraph, this problem of policies goes a step further. Coming back to our driving example, there is a difference between a policy that is hardcoded into the process and a policy that is extracted from the process and is able to adapt to the changing conditions. The best example here is speed limit signs. We see these signs everywhere. They are permanent and don’t change. They are hard-coded into the driving process. Getting a speed limit sign changed requires a lot of time and energy. It starts with a request, a traffic study is performed, then an agreement on the new limit is made, new signs made, and a crew will then change the signs. By the time all that gets completed, the original conditions may have changed. In business, they definitely changed.

The solution to this problem is extracting the speed policy from the process and giving it the ability to adapt to the changes in driving conditions. In major cities around the world, we are beginning to see electronic speed limit signs. As the density of traffic increases or the weather worsens, the speed limit is changed on the fly. This allows the traffic to quickly adapt to the change in policy, keeping vehicles and people safe, while keeping the traffic moving. Any business interested in building a well organized intersection that allows for efficient and rapid progress towards a goal, then policies should be a part of every process and capability established. These policies need to be dynamic and adaptable to changing business conditions. This means we need to think about how to extract our policies from the processes we currently have in place. This concept gives rise to defining policies using software. Software-defined policy is the equivalent of the electronic speed limit sign. They give you the ability to quickly turn a new strategy into execution in the CRM.

Policies are an important aspect of a capability, as they help define the rules of the process. They help with decision making. They create reliable outcomes, establish predictability, and allow your organization to scale and adapt to the changing business environment.

Reflecting on TOPO Summit 2018

I am thinking about sales ops policy as I writing this post on my way back from the annual TOPO Summit in San Francisco. Going into the Summit, I was not sure what to expect since I am a bit skeptical about the value received from conferences. TOPO, however, was great! There was good content, yes, but more importantly, it was a summit that had attracted quite a few like-minded people. I must congratulate the TOPO team for having accomplished this. In order to have a great party, you need a connecting theme that is a shared bond among the attendees and the experience of connecting with like-minded folks become more of a celebration than the content itself.

The biggest win for me was to see that there is the desire to see lines blurring between the different ops teams. At we have been pushing for the consolidation of ops teams. In an account-centric engagement model the divisions between marketing operations, sales operations and customer operations is a recipe for building inefficiencies into how we engage with our accounts. It will also lead to a broken customer experience. I will state again – your prospects and customers don’t care about your org chart as such there is no reason for you to expose your organizational seams to them. We need to think of ONE operations team that drives the engagement from campaign to renewal. Only through looking at the full end to end engagement model can ops teams consolidate the tools explosion within the enterprise and control the exponential decay in the quality of data in their source CRM system. The growth ops framework – is about building an ops team that is accountable for the end to end process definition and the metrics highlight the efficiency of the process & policy for each stage from pre-sales, sales to renewals.

I spent most of my time in the Sales Operations track and the one common theme across the sessions was the emphasis on defining your sales process and associated policies. The need to have defined process and policies in place to help scale were being promoted over just using tools.

Art Harding from New Relic made a great point that at most places sales operations teams are seen as order takers. From my past experience, I have seen most sales operations teams being reactive and in the order taking mode. The only way for them to become strategic to the organization is to be asking the question – why? Sales Operations needs to be asking how what is being asked of them is helping drive alignment with the overall strategy of the company. Art also emphasized the need to simplify the tools stack. Whenever sales teams are complaining that a particular tool is not delivering on the value promised we in sales operations need to see if the issue is with the tool or is it because the tool lacks supporting well-defined policy and process.

Another session that caught my attention was that of AJ Gandhi from Ring Central.

He hit upon the same set of policy topics that we feel passionate about and share with our stakeholders. Sales is the most expensive function of the company and there is a gap between sales and non-sales executives in the company about why sales is so expensive. A well-run sales operations team can help bridge the gap and enable sales execs to show the ROI on the sales investment. That is correct- sales needs to be looked at as an investment, not a cost center. AJ also had a great take on the acronym OPS- Operations, Productivity and Strategy. I had never thought about it like this but it is so relevant. This captures everything that a well-functioning sales ops team must do. AJ pointed out “Systems, Process and tools- Best Practices being applied consistently is a desire, inconsistently applied best practice is causing a huge drain & waste.”

Sales ops MUST BE the glue that brings sales policy strategy and sales execution together

So the question begets why I am so passionate about the enforcement of process policy over tools? Much like ArtAJLana LeeAndy Mowat and others that I met at Topo Summit, I feel strongly that most teams are creating process and policy after the fact. The policies are not well thought through since they are reactive in nature and not connected to the strategic goal of the company as a whole. The reactive nature makes the policy more about optimizing for the sales operations teams workload management versus enabling productivity of sales.

Despite the tools explosion, there is a love-hate relationship between the sales operations personnel, tools and the base CRM system.

They love it because the tools and the CRM bring the promise of much-needed rigour to the sales process. The kind of rigour that will allow them to drive up forecast accuracy and ensure the sales number is achieved. The CRM system also promises to bring the detailed operational sales data they so crave. Data that will allow them to help the business leaders to make sensible investment decisions that support planned growth.

The hate part of the relationship comes about because the CRM systems flatter to deceive. It makes these promises then completely fails to deliver against any of them. Leaving the sales ops team in a mire of daily or weekly exports into spreadsheets. Hour after countless hour is wasted trying to stitch these spreadsheets together. Best guess extrapolation starts to become the decision-making norm as data gaps big enough to drive a horse and cart through are exposed.

Organizations that are looking to scale their sales teams must invest in sales operations. The Sales Operations teams, in turn, must then invest in defining the policy for each sales event. Sales is a series of events. Each event should have an associated policy and exception paths to define how to handle the exception.

After defining the policies need to be enforced and policed to drive consistency of data collection into the base CRM system. The policies need to be rigorously enforced to all tools and people who are injecting data into the CRM system. In order to build a data-driven sales teams you need to invest in policies that keep the data relevant to your decision making.

That data is then used to track actuals against targets set as part of your sales plan. The data then reflects the effectiveness of your sales strategy. You will also see the ROI on your tools investment and also perhaps be able to shrink your tools stack.The Growth Ops Framework will help you think about how you should prioritize the creation and enforcement of policies.

Finally, would like to thank Neil Harrington from TOPO  for inviting us down to the Summit.

Call to Action: Growing sales teams should do a thorough audit of their sales policies that are supporting the processes and then invest the time in keeping the policies in sync with the growth of your organization.

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