Sales teams aren’t exactly short of tech to buy. A quick look at B2B software review platform G2Crowd shows email tracking, quote and contract management, gamification, intelligence, and operations as all the super-hot areas people are spending on some shiny new tech.
That’s before we get to the mother of them all—the CRM—and all its integrations and extensions.
All this can cost a lot of money. Each of these has its place, but choosing where that place is inside your organization is the role of sales ops.
Sales ops roles in an organization are wide and varied. They are reporting data, deciding compensation schemes, and defining workflows on a daily basis. The reason for their involvement in all these roles is that they are uniquely positioned to have both a tactical and strategic view of the organization.
This is what makes them best-suited to being the point person on buying tech. They know what reps need to solve their day-to-day problems, but also what the company needs to succeed and grow in the next quarter, year, or five years.
Here, we drill down into the steps sales ops should follow to get the best tech for the right problem, at the right price.
1. Pioneer Discovery
A good sales ops person should be at the bleeding edge of sales tech. They should always be looking for avenues to optimize sales, making the process more efficient.
In this role, you should always be on the lookout for marginal gains, tools and tech that can increase your productivity and revenue. The best places to find these are:
- Word of Mouth: Find out what friends and peers at other companies are using to solve this particular problem. This is by-far that most honest and open assessment of a tool’s capabilities that you’re going to get.
- Review and Tech Sites: Sites such as G2Crowd allow you to compare different options for specific tools and narrow down your choices before you start to reach out to different vendors.
- Vendors: There is something very meta about selling to salespeople, so vendors of sales tech know that sales tactics won’t easily work on sales ops. They’ve seen them all before. That means you can get an honest opinion from these reps about their tech, and the field in general.
The more informed you are the better. Keeping up with the market is an important part of your role, and can be one of the most fun.
2. Test All The Options
A great thing about SaaS is that you can easily take you tech out for a test drive before you fully commit.
With B2B, evaluation is a must. You and the main operators of the eventual tech have to know how this solution performs within your workflow before you get anywhere near a contract. This usually comes in one of two forms:
- Trial: Time-limited access to the full tool for you to use in exactly the way you would eventually be using the service.
- Pros: It will give you a real-world view of how the tool will perform with your data, in your process, and with your people.
- Cons: Time-limited, limited features, and potentially fewer seats. Can also take valuable time to set up.
- Sandbox/Demo: This will be a fully-featured testing environment for the app, but usually with a fake account and fake data.
- Pros: You can see how exactly the tool will work, with all features, probably for an unlimited time.
- Cons: You can’t easily see how it will fit into your workflow and how it will handle your data.
Which you choose will depend on a) what the vendor offers, and b) what your team is most comfortable with. If you’re good with loading data into the trial version and get it up and running, this will give you the best idea of how it will work within your organization.
3. Make Sure It Fits Your Criteria
Before you start selecting tech you need to define your buying criteria:
- Does this meet our strategic needs?
- Is the vendor offering Enterprise features such as premium customer support, SLA, single sign-on?
- Will the solution fit into your current workflow?
- Will it work throughout your organization?
This is where the strategic overview that sales ops have can help to see how the solution will fit throughout the entire team. A sales rep might recommend a new piece of tech, but they might not know that it will break the workflow of another team, or doesn’t integrate well with your analytics or intelligence suites.
Conversely, their tactical knowledge will allow them to know whether this is really a solution that can be used effectively by reps every single day. It is this strategic and tactical insight that makes this a role for sales operations.
By defining these before you start, when you are talking the ideas through with reps or the management team, you are less likely to be pressurized into a buying decision.
4. Don’t be Pressured
Pressure when buying tech can come from two directions.
Internal pressure From Your Team
If the request for a tool came from elsewhere in the organization, then those individuals will constantly want to be updated, and to push their own project along. If it’s coming from reps, you might be able to deal with it. But if it comes from higher up in the organization, then the pressure can be difficult to bear.
The best way to deal with this is to set out clear guidelines for the process from the start, and keep them and any other key decision makers informed throughout.
External pressure From The Vendor
Just as your sales team wants to shorten sales cycles, so will the vendors. They will want to navigate you into a buying decision as soon as possible. Here, your insider knowledge of how such teams operate should help you to not succumb to the pressure. Take your time to go through your criteria for the purchase, and give your team time to evaluate the tool.
Your sales knowledge can help in another way. You should work out where you fit within the Ideal Customer Profile of your vendors. Are you going to be this company’s largest customer? Their smallest? Then you can identify the right fit in terms of tiers and packages and see if it truly represents your needs. If you can’t find an obvious fit, this might not be the best solution for you.
5. Selling It To The Team
The point of buying tech is to have a positive impact on sale productivity and results.
This means more revenue. The CFO and others involved in the buying decision will be evaluating on this alone. They don’t care if it saves you time, they only care about the ROI.
You need to be able to answer: How is this tech going to drive revenue increases? If you can’t, then there will be no buying. Your job is to join the dots between this tool, increased productivity, and increased revenues.
If the tool was something that the reps were after, then selling it to them is unlikely to be a problem. But if it something that the sales ops or other executives have decided is important from a strategic point of view, then getting buy-in from the team is important. As sales ops, the best way to do this is through data. Show them how the increase in productivity will improve their results and ultimately their compensation.
Driving Growth With Knowledge
Buying tech can be one of the best jobs in sales ops. You get to play around with a lot of stuff, and sometimes a lot of money.
But it’s also a significant responsibility. Sales ops have to navigate sales reps both within their own team and with the vendor, getting the best from both. A wrong purchase can cost a company significantly, both in outlay and lost revenue.
With sales ops’ knowledge of both what reps want and what the company needs, they can choose tech for both tactical and strategic needs and get the best tools to drive productivity, revenue, and growth.