Sales Operations is a key hire for any company, and not one that you should take lightly.
This short title can encompass a a very long list of roles and responsibilities, crossing the lines between the sales, marketing and finance departments. You need to find someone that not only has the right technical skills, but also the drive and creativity to succeed in this demanding job.
Whether you’re looking for someone to automate your Salesforce.com instance, set up custom features in your CRM, create a logical compensation plan or track sales results, every business wants to hire a talented Sales Operations professional. How do you find, interview and then hire the right person for the job?
1. Be Honest About Your Business Needs
Before you even start looking at resumes, you have to understand what it is that your business really needs. Depending on whether you’re a small startup or a large corporation, your operational requirements will be vastly different. Force yourself to articulate the problems you’re really looking to solve. Ask yourself:
- How complex are the challenges you’re asking this person to solve?
- Are you looking to automate a significant portion of your sales operations?
- Is your CRM particularly complicated or customized?
- How complex are your multiple data sources?
Depending on the business and sales organization structure, you may be looking for an operations expert, or just someone who knows how to set up the basics in CRM. For example, an early-stage startup might opt to pay a Salesforce.com consultant to write rules automating a significant number of their processes, allowing the company to delay hiring a full-time Sales Operations person for several years. In the interim, sales executives often play double duty, handling reporting and other operational tasks. But eventually, as the company grows, operational needs will exceed the automation and require more work. At around 100 employees, many companies will create a Sales Ops group and start to seriously look for this key hire.
2. Determine the Experience Required
Now that you know what your business really needs today, you can weed out Sales Operations candidates who don’t have the right experience for the job. There are three different types of Sales Ops candidates:
- Junior Ops with a few years of experience
- Mid-career Sales Ops
- Incredibly experienced (and expensive) Operations consultants
Sales Ops are in such high demand everywhere that it’s tough to hire someone no matter their experience level. In fact, the market is so competitive than anyone with more than 3 years in the field is considered “experienced.” Many people in Ops tend to move up to become executives, or move out of Ops entirely. If you’ve found that your business only needs some basic CRM configuring, you can opt for the less expensive junior Sales Ops candidate. But if you have the budget and the deeper business need, you should select only candidates with 3-plus requisite years of experience. However, the difficulty is simply finding a qualified candidate who has the experience you need for your team.
3. Ask the Right Questions
Once you’ve found the candidates with the right level of experience, you can start to screen for candidates that can tackle your specific operational needs. You should be asking tough questions about how they would handle specific Ops challenges. For example:
- How many users can you support in total?
- Have you ever built a custom solution?
- Are you comfortable managing user roles and permissions?
- How do you implement custom fields and objects?
- How do you manage data uploads and keep the data clean?
- How do you keep up with reporting?
You should customize these questions to your specific business needs. Also, make sure the person interviewing the candidates can fully understand the technical details discussed, and can differentiate between Sales Operations proficiency and expertise.
4. Test Out Real Skills
While hypothetical questions are always useful in interviews, it’s also a good idea to get tactical. Take time to consider the most difficult Sales Operations challenge facing your team today. In the interview process, explain the challenge specifically to the candidate and then ask him or her to walk you through their thought process. Especially for front line Sales Ops, you need someone with proficiency in Excel, Salesforce, and mathematical modeling. Try coming up with a technical problem for them to solve either in the interview, or give them a week to complete the assignment.
For Ops candidates who will be working heavily with data sets and databases, ask them a hypothetical like: What do you think Twitter looks like from a database perspective? You’re looking for clear knowledge of how tables are built with unique keys, talking through the linkage of a user table, and coming up with example columns for each. This will give you a good idea of this candidate’s technical skills in the Sales Ops role.
Sales Ops is a challenging role at any business, fulfilling the needs of multiple departments and solving a variety of pain points. By following these 4 steps, you will be able to find not just hire someone for Sales Operations, but hire the right person for your company’s Sales Operations.