The Sales Ops field is growing remarkably quickly. As more businesses understand the benefits (ok, necessity) of strategic, data-driven sales departments, the prominence of the Sales Ops function has risen in lockstep. It is now almost impossible to comb through a sales job board without being bombarded by companies desperately seeking experienced Sales Ops professionals to help them optimize their sales processes.
If you’re already in the field, this is great news. The skills you’re developing are in extremely high demand and becoming more important as the years wear on. This not only means your job security is in good shape, it also means you have a good opportunity to develop and advance your career. Sales Ops teams are getting bigger and taking on more mission-critical projects, which means there is an ever-increasing demand for Sales Ops leaders.
But simply being in the field, even for many years, is not enough to guarantee that you’re set up to climb the career ladder. Here are 3 tips for giving yourself the best shot to advance your career in the Sales Ops field.
1. Think Strategically, Not Just Tactically
In many organizations, Sales Ops teams are used as a resource for solving particular sales process problems or producing specific reports. This approach can be valuable ‒ Sales Ops is in the perfect position to help sales leaders make data-backed decisions, after all ‒ but Sales Ops professionals who want to contribute even more need to start thinking bigger.
Put another way, Sales Ops professionals who want to develop their careers should aim to move from reactive and tactical to proactive and strategic. This means learning to understand the goals and success factors of the entire sales organization, not just discrete challenges as they arise. This means not waiting to correct a problem, but identifying and solving for the trend that causes it. This means, in short, thinking like a Sales VP.
Sales Ops professionals who are able to propel their careers do so because they take a wider perspective when they approach their roles. Instead of just asking “What can I do to help fill the gaps in terms of sales reporting?” they ask themselves “What does my analysis tell me about how to optimize our sales process?”
This evolution of the role means that Sales Ops professionals who can anticipate the needs of their Sales VPs and help them guide strategy based on their analysis will find them in a great position to advance their careers.
“Twenty years ago, the VP of Sales would look to Sales Ops primarily to crunch numbers,” Barry Trailer, managing partner at CSO Insights told Selling Power Magazine recently. “Sales Ops might, for example, have forecast travel expenses or monitored how well sales were doing versus projected estimates. But from these humble beginnings, the role has evolved. Now the VP of Sales looks to the Sales Ops Manager, not just to give the numbers, but to help interpret research.”
The Sales Ops function is evolving, and those in the field who can adapt to the changing (and growing) needs by thinking bigger are likely to find themselves moving up the career ladder.
2. Understand Where Your Career Path Is Headed
Even if you know which skills to sharpen (and how to shift your mindset) to help you move up the Sales Ops ladder, you still need to have some idea of where that ladder is leading. This is true in any career, but especially in the Sales Ops field, because the career landscape is evolving so quickly.
If you exhibit great proficiency in a Sales Ops role, where can you expect to go from there? Sales leadership? Operations? CRM management? What is a common career progression for Sales Ops rockstars? How possible is it to move between departments?
3. Develop Your Project Management Skills
You know what a common Sales Ops career path looks like, you know how broadening your perspective can help you provide more value to your company, but you’re still missing one important piece of the puzzle: project management experience.
Moving into a leadership role in the Sales Ops field means being able to identify and execute on new initiatives, manage a team, collaborate with executives and secure organizational buy-in. These skills all have some relation to the core Sales Ops responsibilities, but they need to be strengthened and broadened if you hope to move up in the field.
Project management skills are an essential part of this process. At any level, Sales Operations is about improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the sales team. But as you get higher in the field, these improvements move from ad hoc and piecemeal to strategic and multifaceted. And this means Sales Ops leaders must understand not only how to identify improvement opportunities, but also how to ensure that they’re adopted and ultimately successful.
“Sales Operations continues to grow in importance as a vital contributor to the ultimate success of the enterprise,” Joe Galvin, CRO for MHI Research Institute, recently wrote for Salesforce.com. “Through the strategic framework of sales performance management, the operations role has evolved into an active participant in improving sales productivity.”
Sales Ops professionals who can demonstrate that they are not only able to identify and analyze sales performance opportunities, but also lead the charge to implement solutions and manage the project to its fruition will likely find themselves advancing the career ladder more quickly than they ever imagined.