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Sales operations has been around for quite some time, but lately the function has been gaining momentum. Instead of behind-the-scenes sales support, sales ops now acts as a strategic partner for sales VPs and leadership.

It’s clear that sales ops plays a critical role in any organization, but creating your own sales operations team can be a daunting task. Who do you hire first? How should the team be structured?

While it may feel overwhelming, getting the right folks in place sooner rather than later is key. It will also ensure you have a solid foundation for growth, reducing the need to fix broken systems and bad habits later on.

Where to Start: CRM

Start building out your sales operations department by hiring someone to own your CRM. This person will administer the system and maintain the database.

Your CRM is the backbone of your organization. It’s where you’ll track leads to opportunities to closed deals and everything in between. Not only that, but you’ve also invested tens of thousands of dollars in the tool, so hire someone who knows the system. Whatever you do, don’t skimp here by letting employees tinker around with it on their off time. Let a sales ops expert handle the heavy lifting. Would you let your teenager learn how to drive in a Bentley?

Define Processes and Reporting

Once you’ve established a dedicated owner of your CRM, sales ops will need to define processes and communicate them to the team. This will ensure everyone knows what’s expected of them, while also laying the foundation for solid reporting (garbage in, garbage out). The resulting reports will set the metrics and KPIs for which sales will be held accountable. They’ll also drive your sales forecast and allow leadership to make data-driven, rather than gut-based, decisions.

Get Deals Done

The next place to focus is on getting deals done. Your sales reps will inevitably need help with quoting, proposal generation, and getting orders processed. Luckily, sales ops can help with all the above. They’ll ensure guidelines are properly adhered to and contracts are being executed, all while simultaneously working to eliminate barriers that slow down the contracting process.

Enable With Tools and Training

I like to think of enablement as the tools and training sales needs to be successful. It’s basic, but it works when your business is still young. This means that sales ops will build a comprehensive tech stack (prospecting tools, email tracking, dialers, contract automation, etc.) that streamlines manual, redundant, or time-consuming tasks for your reps. In addition, sales ops should also focus on training your reps on anything from product to process to the various tools they’ll be using daily. You can add a more formal sales enablement role later.

For the Future

When you’re starting out, you may have only one or two folks manning sales operations, juggling all the tasks outlined above. As your sales ops team matures, however, the group will grow, and their focus will expand to other areas as well, including:

  • Territory planning
  • Quota and compensation planning
  • Go-to-market strategy
  • Renewals management
  • Collaborating with other teams (Marketing, Customer Success, Support, etc.)
  • Eliminating silos and integrating the customer journey end-to-end

Conclusion

Tackling the list above is no small feat, and that’s why it’s essential to hire specifically for the sales ops role. Don’t make the mistake of having one of your full-time employees take this on as a side project. The result will be inefficiency at best and complete failure at worst.

Your sales VP should focus on hiring, coaching, and scaling the sales team. Marketing should concentrate on driving leads into the funnel. Sales ops, on the other hand, is designed to own your systems and processes, and they’ll optimize the performance of your sales team and business. So, what are you waiting for? Time to start recruiting!

Stefanie Tial is the Director of Commercial Operations at The Rainmaker Group and the creator of Next Level Sales Ops, a site dedicated to hungry Sales Ops pros looking to level up in their careers. She has helped build out the Sales Ops function at two Atlanta-based software companies and been part of $1.84B in acquisitions as a result. She’s currently working on a third.

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Director, Commercial Operations - The Rainmaker Group
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