How often does this happen to you in your Sales Operations role?
“Hey Sales Ops Sarah, I need you to crunch the data and give me a report about [fill in the blank], and I need it on my desk first thing in the morning.”
Welp! Guess it’s time to drop the project you’ve been knee-deep in for weeks, scramble to find this new data, chug an urn of coffee to make sure you don’t pass out from exhaustion, stay up all night arduously building out this sales report, and (hopefully) deliver the right report with the right information to your Sales VP on time.
Of course, this isn’t a very reasonable ask from your Sales VP – one day is pretty short notice for a new project. But in the fast-paced, pedal-to-the-metal world of sales management, this scenario is very real, one that Sales Ops teams face all the time.
In 2015, the year of the Sales Ops, it’s time to stop getting blindsided by requests from on high. It’s time to start taking charge, and being able to better anticipate the Sales Ops needs from your VP or CEO.
What does my Sales VP want?
That’s the crux of the question that you have to answer to truly get ahead: what exactly does your Sales VP want you to analyze, figure out and report on?
In the past, we’ve described the Sales Operations team as being the offensive line of the overall sales team, providing valuable behind-the-scenes and unheralded support that allows that sales team to close deals. There’s a certain amount of adaptability, flexibility and anticipation in real-time required to succeed in both positions. When viewed through this support lens, it becomes a little easier to anticipate the needs of your Sales VP. Here are 5 tips:
- Familiarize yourself with the latest sales management concepts and concerns – This means going beyond the technical, detail-laden and operational aspect of your job function to think more creatively and strategically. All members of your Sales Operations team should be intimately familiar with the latest and great sales management concepts, not just within your organization but more broadly across various industries.
This means knowing what red flags to look out for in sales forecasting. This means being able to diagnose the leaks in your sales funnel conversions. This means understanding the sales process from the rep perspective and what their CRM involvement entails. This means working with marketing to create smooth alignment. The more familiar you are with these concepts and how they relate to your organization, not only will you be able to get ahead of your VP’s ask, but you will also be able to comfortably and quickly work to build these reports that he needs.
- Take on long-term projects – Taking on longer term projects doesn’t preclude you from working on shorter, as-needed assignments, but it might get you ahead of the curve. Additionally, your whole team will benefit from this proactiveness, allowing you all to get valuable insights ahead of time.
Talk to your Sales VP about working on long-term reporting and analysis projects that they are curious about or might want insight too as the team scales and grows. For instance, while it might not be an immediate need, determining the impact of how certain lead sources convert compared to others, or compared to outbound prospecting, would be incredibly valuable information. That type of analysis – that only you can do within the team – can fundamentally change the way your organization markets and sells.
- Network with other Sales VPs and leaders – Getting the perspectives of your sales managers and VPs is great – after all, they’re the ones who dictate the strategy of the sales organization you’re a part of. However, to truly deliver proactively in Sales Operations, it is important for you to broaden your perspective, and that means networking with other Sales VPs and leaders to figure out what they’re primary concerns are, and what makes them tick.
- Be active in user groups – The Sales Operations community is a very close-knit and collaborative one. Sales Operations professionals know that their role is fairly unique among their sales peers and they tend to lean heavily on each other to learn, share tips, tricks and frustrations.
A good place to start is your local Salesforce.com user group. Salesforce can be a complicated beast, and sometimes the questions you have will have already been asked by others. LinkedIn groups dedicated to your profession are also a good place to look and be active in.
- Stop spending so much time building out sales reports – Finally, the best way to anticipate the needs of your Sales VP is to stop wasting so much time tediously pulling together data, building out reports and performing the type of time-consuming analysis that your VP demands. Either by turning yourself into an Excel whiz or buying third-party software that makes generating sales reports and analysis much easier, working more efficiently will greatly improve your working relationship with your VP.
It’s not always easy to anticipate the Sales Operations needs of your VP and to head those needs off, but it is possible. Follow these 5 steps to become more proactive and ensure smoother sales operations – see what we did there? – across your organization.