Imagine a live performance in a concert. Your favorite singer or dancer is setting the stage on fire, and you’re having the best time of your life. But many people behind the curtain make the magic happen: from the costume designer and sound crew to the stage manager – and numerous other roles.
Well, an organization works just like that. What you see externally is profits end performance.
However, a business runs on a set of activities behind the scenes, sales operations being one of them. Let us understand it in a bit more detail below:
What Is Sales Operations?
A set of activities, processes, and roles involved in optimizing the sales processes are grouped under sales operations. What does it take to make your salespeople more successful and productive?
A great way to do it is to reduce the friction and increase support within sales processes. Apart from that, it also takes technology, training, best practices, and strategic insights to drive performance.
There’s only one goal here – to facilitate the closure of deals faster than ever! In this guide, you will be introduced to the aforementioned elements of optimizing the sales operations framework. Let’s begin with it:
How Does Sales Operations Differ From Sales Enablement?
Sales enablement and sales operations are not synonyms. The former is also aimed at boosting revenue and sales productivity. That naturally raises a question – do you require both?
According to Channing Ferrer, HubSpot VP of Sales Operations and Strategy, “Sales operations analyzes the data and makes decisions, and sales enablement helps roll out those decisions.”
Hence, the answer is – yes, you require both!
While sales ops focus on the technologies, human resources, processes, and structures, the goal of sales enablement is to increase the efficiency of sellers and the experience of customers.
For this reason, sales enablement is considered a subset of sales ops. You may not always need to run both of them under the same umbrella of sales ops. You can choose to form two co-equal branches in the same organization.
Now that the difference is clear, let’s proceed to the next section and talk about the four essential roles of the sales operations framework.
What Are the 4 Roles of Sales Operations?
The following roles have a deep impact on both bottom-line and top-line performance and productivity, which is why it’s crucial to understand them:
1. Sales Ops Strategy
What you call sales ops today was conventionally a very small team that executed sales forecasting, reporting, and financial analysis. Now that the business information has almost exploded in terms of volume, you need a considerably large reporting unit and powerful data analysis.
Today, the sales operations strategy offers valuable insights on:
- Formulation of incentive program
- Assessment of training needs of salespeople
- Growth forecasting
- Selection of technology tools and enablement software
- Evaluation of sales methodologies
- Performance metrics analysis
- Sales process optimization
- Sales territory assignment
2. Sales Ops Technology
A 2017 survey by Gartner shows that approximately 37% of businesses have adopted Artificial Intelligence (AI) in some form. And sales is no exception. Salesforce reported in 2019 that the adoption of AI is rapidly increasing among salespeople, slated to grow 139% by 2022.
In this digital age, sales teams have access to technologies such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, and big data analytics to future-proof their profitability and performance.
However, these tools can also distract sellers because of their complexity. For this reason, the tech stack belongs to sales operations.
It comprises of:
- Performance management software
- Email automation
- Contract lifecycle management
- Content distribution and management
- Conferencing and communication tools
- Data analytics software
- Business intelligence services
- Customer relationship management platform
- Integration and defragmentation of tech tools
Speaking of technology, you can now incorporate engaging videos in your sales and marketing efforts. Hippo is a video engagement platform designed to give you a competitive edge by incorporating compelling videos in your campaigns.
3. Sales and Operations
The whole purpose of sales ops is to allow sellers to do what they do best – sell. To achieve that, sales ops professionals assist them by assuming operational and administrative tasks within an organization.
Some of these tasks include:
- Contract lifecycle management
- Maintenance of collaboration and communication channels
- Allocation of accounts
- Implementation of incentives program and compensation
- Allotment of sales territories
- Sales recruitment, onboarding, training
As you can see, by navigating these administrative and operational tasks, you can greatly reduce the workload of salespeople and let them focus on their top skill, which is selling.
4. Sales Ops Performance
This role emerged for just one reason – improving sales performance. Sales ops professionals work with sellers to help close more deals, speed-up the sales cycle and streamline the entire process.
As you can expect, this role necessitates some number-crunching prowess which is why companies hire analysts.
They are tasked with:
Coaching and mentoring
Selection of key performance indicators (KPIs) to use
Implementation of sales operation framework
Optimization of knowledge base, sales tools, and other assets, including:
- Client outreach and engagement
- Forms and templates
- Contract management
- Data analytics
- Customer relationship management
Implementation of sales processes such as:
- Conversion rates
- Lead generation
- Sales activities
- Selection of important sales metrics
Since we have covered the four major roles under sales ops, it’s time to talk about agile.
What Is an Agile Sales Operations Unit?
In sales ops, choosing the ideal structure is nearly impossible.
Given the variety of structural templates and organizational models within the same industry and among similarly scaled players, building a sales operations unit can be challenging.
You must have heard about agile marketing and agile software development.
Now, agile sales has paved its way into the modern world. It has more to do with selling methodologies than sales ops.
Traditional selling methodologies involved a flurry of dinners, phone calls, and emails as part of relationship-building events.
It also included rigorous discovery and prospecting sessions. Almost 40% of salespeople believe prospecting to be the most challenging part.
These traditional selling methodologies would no longer cut it in this modern sales age. Most sales reps fail to hit their quotas, and it shouldn’t be surprising.
The ability to instantaneously obtain and work on user feedback has transformed the marketing as well as software development industry.
It allows teams to make changes quickly and adapt to shifting trends. This is what agile is all about.
Similarly, salespeople can benefit greatly by embracing agile. They can build tools, create processes, or track the performance data by working on real-time insights in a series of iterations.
Therefore, you can achieve faster and better results by forming an agile sales operations unit.
In other words, there is no place for assumptions in the agile approach.
The Sales Operations Process
Your agile sales operations unit can formulate an efficient sales process so that your sellers can close more deals.
This is one of the key benefits. An established sales process works as a reference and template for salespeople when a new challenge arises all of a sudden.
This saves a lot of time and resources that would otherwise be spent on formulating a process to counter the new challenge.
The sales ops unit will not only formulate a process but also help adopt and execute it by other members of the team.
Often businesses feel the need to hire sales professionals during search challenges. However, it could be too late until then, and the deal may slip through the cracks. For this reason, even small businesses should consider creating a sales ops unit during the early stages.
The team can handle:
- Strategic responsibilities
- Technical functions
- Administrative tasks
In large organizations, the complete responsibility of the above-mentioned tasks lies with the sales ops unit. Sales leaders, on the other hand, handle critical decision-making scenarios and strategy formulations while leveraging the analytical support of the ops team.
There are many other areas that your sales ops team can manage, including:
- Workflow and accuracy
- Automation of repetitive processes
- Management of content assets
- Ownership of talent development
- Implementation and optimization of sales processes
- CRM administration and optimization
- Integration of new sales tools with the existing tech stack
10 Strategic Ways to Boost Sales Productivity
Without a doubt, sales teams are unsung yet the most important heroes of an organization. Irrespective of the size of teams, they can have a profound impact on a company’s success.
More often than not, they do so with minimal resources. For this reason, businesses must adopt ways to lift their productivity levels. Some of those ways are described below:
1. CRM Ownership and Integration
CRM is an essential tool for sales reps, with many organizations transitioning from manual to automation to make their lives easier. In fact, the CRM market is projected to be worth nearly $82 billion by 2025.
According to a report by HubSpot, about 61% of leaders utilize CRM for automating specific parts of sales processes. These leaders also happen to exceed all performance expectations as per the same report.
This statistic only indicates that technology and performance are interlinked.
The active involvement of sales leadership in opportunity stages and defining the sales process is necessary and may even involve multiple iterations.
On the other hand, the sales op team should oversee the building and improvement of the company’s CRM.
It begins with choosing the right CRM tool, customized according to the needs of the company as well as their customers.
Apart from that, it should also be optimized so that the salespeople would spend as little time as possible with the system.
This way, you can devote more time to prospecting and other sales-related activities and leave the technicalities with the ops team.
2. Tools Integration
The responsibilities of a sales ops team do not end with choosing the right tools. A typical sales team works with multiple tools, which incur a significant amount of their precious time.
However, there’s no benefit and value in investing in multiple tools if you do not integrate them.
Incomplete data, double-entry of data, and separate windows are just a few problems encountered when a company invests in tools without proper integration.
For this reason, tool integration is a sure-fire way of boosting the productivity of salespeople.
Hence, the sales ops team should include the cost of integration in their budget allocated for buying new tools in the early stages.
3. Better Reporting and Dashboard
Sales operations staff generally reports to sales managers, sales leadership, and frontline reps. Accordingly, they manage different reports and dashboards to examine what’s working and what’s not.
Through their reports, the leadership can determine which areas need more time and attention.
Report creation requires a significant amount of time. That also includes the time to maintain and improve dashboards.
As new sales structures and products are introduced, sales reporting and dashboards should stay useful and relevant.
4. Process Improvement
Process improvement is about more than just tools.
You have to ask yourself certain questions like:
- How can an order be processed more efficiently?
- What kind of paperwork would be involved?
- What’s required of the client or customer?
- How would the sales managers and sales rep contribute to the process?
- Which factors may present themselves as roadblocks?
- Could certain stages be eliminated, sped up, or improved?
It may seem intimidating. However, process improvement is the basis of a streamlined sales organization.
5. Data Management
Even though data management is the responsibility of sales managers, it can be taken up by the sales ops team as well. It can establish certain processes and best practices for presentations, follow-ups, messaging, and prospecting.
Besides, the team can work with sales managers to develop a sales operations strategy for creating communication frequency, storage options, and an optimal system. This area is often overlooked in most organizations.
6. Analytics and Reporting
Failures can crop up anytime, anywhere. For this reason, analytics and reporting are critical to decision-making.
You want to uncover new opportunities while minimizing the probability of those errors occurring again.
With Hippo Video, you can track the performance of your sales videos with built-in analytics and reporting feature.
7. Sales Forecasting
Without accurate sales forecasting, businesses can lose margin or spend too much or too little. The sales outlook for the next two quarters can determine whether a company will fail or succeed.
You don’t want to miss good sales opportunities due to a lack of precise predictions. Therefore, as sales professionals, you would want to spend more time getting the hang of forecasting.
Predicting your own pipelines accurately will give you an incredible productivity boost.
8. Pricing and Proposal Operations
The law of diminishing intent states that:
“The longer someone waits to do something, the less likely they are to do it.”
This will always hold true in the world of sales. Time kills sales – that’s the governing rule. Sellers can make more sales if they have some help with pricing and proposals.
Established and accurate pricing guidelines help sellers close deals faster.
9. Sales Quota Setting
Quota setting is a question that leaders often grapple with. It affects motivation, turnover, compensation expectations, seller action planning, and other selling behaviors.
Different groups require different quotas, further adding to the complexity.
Research suggests that 82% of top performers and 83% of elite performers believe in setting challenging targets and still achieve them. Other businesses stand at 72% since they may not be inclined to take more risks.
Most underperforming sales organizations are often found to have a lack of accountability. It leads to reduced margins, increased costs, and decreased revenues.
Apart from that, it affects the organizational culture.
On the other hand, top-performing sales organizations are more likely to address their accountability issues.
That speaks volumes about the scope of improvement when it comes to other organizations.
6 Best Practices of Sales Operations
1. Define a Mission Statement
Writing a mission statement is the first step towards optimizing your sales operations process. You should define the purpose and objectives in your mission before sharing it company-wide.
Moreover, the statement should be clear and concise. You should also remember that sticking to the mission is even more important than creating it.
2. Collaborate With Other Teams
Consistently checking with salespeople, marketing, sales enablement, and sales ops is crucial. It removes redundancies and ensures that everyone is sticking to the plan.
Besides, it helps to pinpoint any issues early on in the process. Period meetings (mostly weekly) to encourage collaboration between different teams are thus crucial.
3. Establish Strong Leadership
Sales operations should be led by a manager, director, or vice president because it necessitates strong leadership. They should then report to the company’s COO, CEO, or a high-level sales leader.
In other words, the executives should have a direct line with sales ops. As per Channing Ferrer, “Although sales ops and marketing work closely together, it’s critical that sales ops really understands the overall sales strategy.”
Therefore, sales ops should be in the sales department rather than marketing.
4. Shadow the Sales Team
It should be mandatory for sales ops professionals to shadow the salespeople in the organization.
They should do so once every quarter. This way, they can witness the challenges of sales first-hand and their impact on revenues.
Apart from that, it forges a stronger connection between the two teams by easing the communication between the two.
5. Introduce Technology Wisely
Since salespeople are typically overburdened in most organizations, technology should be used to automate certain parts of sales.
Tedious manual processes are not good for their morale and can cause expensive mistakes.
Besides, manual processes do not leave them much time for their core skill – selling. Hence, businesses should procure tools such as lead prioritization engines, email automation software, CRM software, or sales hub software to free up their time.
Before selecting any tool, make sure that its role is clear and it can be quickly implemented.
That said, it’s not wise to dabble with 20+ tools at a time. Buy as many as you require and not more.
Apart from that, technology shouldn’t feel too complex or cumbersome to adopt.
Innovation is the mark of a good sales ops team. Each team member should continually learn new things about the products, market changes, customers, and prospects. Such changes and implications should then reflect in the sales process.
That said, the changes shouldn’t be too frequent to have an adverse impact on salespeople. They should be made in the form of constant updates and tweaks to achieve the best results possible.
Now that we have the best practices figured out, here are the top three most frequently asked questions on the subject:
Sales and Ops FAQ
1. How do operations and sales work together?
Sales teams require sales ops to work more efficiently. The operations team has the expertise to set up and streamline sales processes which boost the overall productivity of an organization.
2. What is the sales preparation process?
After the initial contact with a prospect, sales preparation is the second stage. Here, you must collect relevant data about your service or product and research the market before making a sales presentation.
3. What’s the importance of sales planning?
Writing down a sales plan allows you to identify risks and devise ways to minimize or eliminate them. It serves as a benchmark to attain your goals.
The Bottom Line
Behind every successful venture, there is a streamlined sales operations process. Optimization of this process is imperative for improving the productivity of salespeople. Sales ops differ from sales enablement in the sense that the latter is a subset of the former.
Sales ops primarily deal with four roles: strategy, technology, performance, and operations. Moreover, to enhance your ability to respond to a dynamic sales world, consider adopting agile in your approach.
Besides, by implementing the above-listed strategies for improving productivity, you can close more deals than ever. Not just that, by incorporating the best practices, you can truly achieve great customer satisfaction.