In the 1970s, J. Patrick Kelly, the first sales ops group leader, described his responsibilities as “all the nasty number things that you don’t want to do, but need to do to make a great sales force.” More than 40 years later, much has changed about sales processes and cross-functional collaborations, yet three things remain true:
- Sales ops covers a vast array of responsibilities, which continues to expand.
- Sales ops is responsible for the most expensive resource in your organization: the sales team.
- Sales ops is messy. Really messy.
The “messiness” of the sales process has always frustrated sales ops leaders. They are responsible for everything from rep support to data management to forecasting, forcing them to operate in a loop rather than a straight line (counter to the linear nature of sales).
Sales operations constantly swings back and forth between strategy and executive function to simultaneously move deals forward, deliver results, inform sales leaders and drive process improvements. This places a heavy burden on sales ops leaders to navigate the loop while balancing their responsibilities.
They have actually added to this problem. While technology can solve functional issues (e.g., data management or communication glut), it does little to nothing to better organize and streamline the working loop of a sales ops team. An extended tech stack may actually provide a false sense of pipeline’s full visibility, when in fact you know very little.
Here are some best practices for sales ops leaders navigate the strategic-tactical loop with ease
Clearly define your mission, vision, and expectations.
Much of the sales ops mess can be attributed to your lack of structure and transparency. Start by formalizing your mission and delineating sales ops from sales enablement. In doing so, you create a clear roadmap that guides each team’s strategy, decision-making and tactical execution. More importantly, a clear roadmap dictates the scope of your work, focuses your resources and prevents unwanted complications from overextension of your tech stack.
Establish your ideal workflow.
The sales ops workflow should be undisrupted. Too much time spent on sales execution leaves you crunching numbers to reach your target while failing to drive meaningful process changes. On the other hand, too much time spent on strategic planning without enough quality data on sales execution leaves you with uninformed strategies.
Sales ops teams must ensure a continuous flow of all data between reps, sales leaders and supporting functions. In order to improve the sales process, increase stability and drive better results, sales ops need to deliver not just information but insights. Go beyond the numbers to spot the patterns and make recommendations to the sales team.
Start small and scale as you go
Sales ops always has more on their plates than they can handle. Between broken processes, poor data, and misalignment among the revenue team, sales processes will only become more complex as organizations grow. You can’t dive headfirst into every problem that comes up, or you will quickly disrupt your workflow.
Instead, refer to your roadmap to align new issues to strategic initiatives and tactical goals. By setting priorities and clearly communicating them to other teams, you place sales ops back in the driver seat of process alignment and introduce a more proactive approach.
A sales ops team that sets its own priorities sees a 15.2% improvement in quota attainment compared to those with priorities set by other teams. The more control you have over your to-do list, the better you can manage your workload and improve your results.
The loop between strategic and tactical execution will only become more complicated as your organization grows. The sooner you establish a strong foundation of quality data and a reference framework to guide the structure of your sales ops team, the sooner you’ll be ready to navigate it.