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:
- Strategy & Planning
- Policy Creation
- Process Optimization
- Sales Enablement
- Data & Technology Management
- 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
- 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 fullcast.io Is About
Is Sales Ops complicated? It can be, but we don’t think it has to be.
At fullcast.io, 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 fullcast.io’s solutions here.