A few years ago, Selling Power asked Price Burlington, a longtime sales leader at SAP, to summarize the role of the modern Sales Operations team. Sales Ops is notoriously difficult to sum up, but Burlington nailed it.
“Everyone is concerned with driving revenue, which often comes down to finding a way to improve productivity without hiring more salespeople,” he told Selling Power. “The question has become, how do we make the sales process more efficient without just adding more bodies?”
Burlington’s definition of Sales Ops — centralizing tasks and strategy to make individual reps more productive — is actually important in two ways: 1) it succinctly describes why sales teams of a certain size add a Sales Ops function and 2) it challenges a persistent myth that has dogged Sales Ops for years.
Since Sales Ops has emerged as a common feature of the modern sales team — roughly the 1980s — it has been fighting a stigma. Viewed as the behind-the-scenes (read: glamorless) sales function that everyone needs but no one wants to think about, Sales Ops is thought to do the dirty work that allows sales reps to bring in revenue. Like the line cooks in a fine-dining kitchen, Sales Ops keeps everything organized and on track so that the “real stars” can work their magic.
Or, as Barry Trailer of CSO Insights puts it in the same article, “[The traditional Sales Ops role has been expected to] forecast travel expense or monitor how well sales were doing versus projected estimates.”
But that stigma is changing. The last few years have seen a rapid evolution in (and elevation of) the role of Sales Ops.
Back to Trailer: “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.”
Suddenly, it seems, everyone’s coming to the same conclusion: Sales Ops isn’t just about doing the dirty work to free up the real sales stars. Sales Ops is about turning strategy into revenue.
Now the VP of Sales looks to the Sales Ops Manager, not just to give the numbers, but to help interpret research.”
Identifying the Destination
Before we go deeper into the specific ways the Sales Ops function has changed, let’s step back and talk about how startups typically function, from the top down.
Once startups make it to the expansion stage (those that are lucky enough to make it there at all), they start to really think hard about sales execution. Their product is in good shape, the team is growing, and now it’s time to start selling some software.
At this point, board room discussions start to follow a fairly familiar pattern. “Here’s how much we need to increase revenue this year, here’s the market we’re going after, and here’s how much we’re going to spend on sales and marketing to get there.”
From here, the startup’s founders and executives have a destination marked on their maps, and now it’s time for them and their team to figure out how to get there.
Charting the Course
And this is where Sales Ops comes in. Sales Ops is, in many ways, the bridge between the broader go-to-market strategy determined by the management team and the specific tactics used by the sales team to push forward to that goal.
How should we set quotas? What’s the best way to segment our sales team? What tools can we implement to make our sales team operate more efficiently? How can we repair breakage in our sales process to execute as effectively as possible?
In this post, we’ll help answer these questions and explore the 3 components of Sales Ops’ mission to turn strategy into revenue.