How to Bridge the Gap between Sales Ops and Sales Reps

Sales operations and sales reps both have sales in their name…but they’re often speaking a different language.

After all, sales operations tends to speak in a more technical, engineering-style language, while sales reps are a straightforward, say-it-like-it-is breed. As a result, a lot gets lost in translation, relationships get frayed, and lots and lots of alcohol gets consumed. Despite the fact that both sides are here to work together toward the same goal:

Improving the team’s sales process, whether through systemic changes or performance data analysis.

In 2015, the year of the sales ops, it’s time to rectify this once and for all.

Here are 3 tips on how to bridge the gap between sales operations and sales reps.

Mutual Respect and Managing Expectations

Unless both sides are crystal-clear on what they want from each other and how to achieve those goals, this relationship will never be a well-functioning one within the sales team. Despite the long-term and long-standing goal of improving sales efficiency, sales reps sometimes view sales operations from afar as being meddling, making their lives more difficult.

And it’s true – sometimes, the rules or process changes that sales operations implements can require more upfront or short-term work on the reps’ part. However, sales reps mustn’t lose sight of the forest for the trees – these processes and analyses will ultimately help them sell more effectively and more efficiently.

It is a two-way relationship of improving efficiency, and sometimes it feels to the sales operations team that sales reps wants ops to take over most of their day. There are so many ways to automate aspects of the sales and marketing process in Salesforce and your marketing automation system. It can be a fine line between reps being lazy and ops being able to help you do your job better. Implementing a complicated backend Salesforce validation rule just to save each rep 10 seconds or a click on each opportunity doesn’t seem like a great use of sales operations’ time.

It’s natural for this relationship to be contentious at times – after all, the sales operations’ role largely consists of telling the sales team what they’re doing wrong and where they could improve. Always remember that you’re playing for the same team, and to not take any of these process improvement suggestions personally.

And it all Starts with Communication

Sometimes, sales ops might get a request from a sales rep or the sales manager that is very technical – so technical, in fact, that the requesting party has no clue what they’re talking about. Don’t assume that you have to struggle with a complicated technical language and don’t underestimate just how educated and familiar with sales management concepts and business goals most sales operations teams are.

“These requests are more effective when the sales managers give us the context of the problem they’re trying to solve, and what they want,” said Gabe Paley, a member of the sales operations team at InsightSquared. “We’ll take care of the tactics.”

Here are some tips and tactics for improving the communication between both teams, all of which are used internally here at InsightSquared:

  • Shadowing sales reps – What better way to improve the work processes of sales reps than to be embedded with them to see how they actually work? Gabe makes it a point to sit with reps for at least a day each month, to see how they’re setting up their lead queues, how they’re using various systems and figuring out what’s working and what’s frustrating.
  • Batch requests from the sales teams – Sales reps could have dozens of requests at any given time, ranging from small – “Can you remove this name from the list you’re about to import?” – to large – “Is this configuration possible?” If these requests come in to sales operations in an ad hoc nature, the whole system becomes a mess. Unless requests are urgent, it would be best if a representative from the sales team batches all the requests, sends it to the sales operations team once a week, and let’s them handle their own work priority.
  • Meet with sales leaders regularly – Realistically, sales operations should meet with the sales manager or the VP of Sales at least once a week. Sales ops often lives in the weeds, operating very tactically and living in the muck of your Salesforce CRM. But because they also have visibility into practically every aspect of the sales process, they’re in a unique position to find opportunities for improvement in the workflow. Meeting regularly with sales management and leadership is a great way of keeping their head in the clouds, and providing insightful perspectives borne out of their involvement all over the sales process.

But it ALWAYS comes back to Data

Asking the sales operations team to provide analysis around a head-count and capacity model for the sales team that includes top-line revenue goals, bottom-up capacity analysis and ramp time is a perfectly reasonable ask that could provide actionable insights leading to improvements…unless the data is wrong.

Asking the sales operations team to auto-tag opportunities sourced from Free Trial requests to measure your overall efficiency on such opps is a perfectly reasonable ask…unless the data is wrong.

At the end of the day, sales operations can’t do a damn thing or make an iota of difference on your sales process if the data is all wrong. That’s why the beginning of a fruitful relationship between both parties starts and ends with data quality.

Without a data-driven culture from top to bottom, where reps understand and buy in to the importance of having clean accurate data in all Salesforce fields at all times, the sales operations team won’t have much to work with. Much of their analysis and process changes are centered on the data being right.

If your reps aren’t going to be on board and disciplined about entering their data, sales operations might have to take things a step further and use sheer brute force. Making Task Type a required field to enter before saving an opportunity, setting up field dependencies with specific picklist options or creating validation rules are just some of the ways sales operations can make damn sure sales reps are staying on top of data quality.

Sales operations is such a crucial aspect of the modern, data-driven, CRM-dependent sales organization. They’re here to make the lives of sales reps easier, and the results of their selling efforts more effective. Follow these tips to bridge the gap between sales ops and sales reps, and see a more fruitful relationship blossom.