Sales operations (sales ops) refers to a key function of any sales team. Its purpose is to streamline sales processes and increase efficiency by being the main link between your sales strategy and your sales reps.
Many companies have a team dedicated solely to sales operations, while smaller and growing companies may roll sales ops into another position. But there is often some confusion around what the function of sales ops actually is, how to leverage it, and what the benefits are.
Below we’ll clear up any confusion and dive into some core benefits and best practices around sales ops.
What are sales operations?
At the core, sales operations teams exist to empower sales reps with the tools, insights, and other resources needed to help them close more deals in less time.
Your company sets its sales strategies, objectives, and goals. Those should align with the company’s overall strategies and objectives. Once strategies and goals are defined, sales reps need to meet sales quotas and perform at a certain level to meet those goals. That is where sales ops come into the picture.
Sales ops teams act as the administrators of sales data and the technology used to store and manage that data. This is normally done through a customer relationship management (CRM) solution. They also manage the sales pipeline and analyze key metrics to gain additional insight into your sales team’s performance.
They manage giant data sets to provide sales reps with the information they need to convert prospects into customers. Sales ops is a multifaceted role, with team members wearing a variety of hats. Their responsibilities range from the tactical to the analytical, all with the end goal of ensuring that reps adhere to formal sales processes and have the insight they need to hit their quotas.
Benefits of sales operations
Sales ops teams not only benefit you by empowering reps to work smarter and more efficiently. They also provide various additional benefits. These include:
Accurate revenue forecasting
Managing the sales pipeline enables companies to forecast future revenue and stay on course to meet their goals. Without sales ops in place to manage the pipeline and analyze the data coming from it, companies struggle to forecast future revenue and devote resources where they are needed most.
Sales ops manage and analyze the data coming from your sales pipeline, allowing you to better plan for the future with an accurate revenue forecast.
Faster company and revenue growth
Consider this: companies that spend at least three hours monthly analyzing each sales rep’s individual pipeline see growth rates 11% higher than those that spend less than three hours per month on this. Since pipeline management is a key responsibility of sales ops, it’s hard to reap this benefit without a sales operations team in place.
More formal sales processes and increased accountability
Sales ops teams help your reps follow a formal sales process. They check to ensure that reps are populating required data fields and are following up with newly qualified leads in a timely manner.
Ultimately, they increase the accountability of your reps by presenting detailed reporting and metrics to sales managers and ensuring sales reps follow all parts of the sales process correctly.
Data-driven decision making
As discussed above, sales operations teams help predict future revenue, so sales leaders can devote resources where they are needed most. The data analyzed by sales ops goes beyond revenue predictions and include metrics on all aspects of the sales team, the sales funnel, and the results of individual reps. This allows leadership to make an array of decisions based on actionable data, which is a greater challenge without sales ops in place.
As your company grows, it must adapt processes and shift staff to accommodate that growth. Sales operations make it easy to scale your sales team because they help ensure reps follow a formal sales process.
Plus, because they help define and manage sales territories, they are incredibly helpful in adjusting territory mapping to accommodate a growing customer base and the addition of new reps to handle increased demand.
They also administer the systems used to manage sales data, ensuring that as your company grows, your data stays healthy and automated processes remain viable and firmly in place.
Cultivation of new talent
Sales ops teams are involved in and must understand every role that sales plays in the overall customer journey. This arms them with insight into your entire sales process; they essentially become experts in your sales process and the moving pieces involved.
This comes in handy when hiring and training new talent. Sales ops teams are often called upon to vet applicants for open roles, onboard and train new hires on your company’s sales processes, and educate them on your specific market.
Sales operations best practices
You probably captured a few sales ops best practices from the benefits listed above. Here, we’ll dig a little deeper into some core best practices involved in maintaining a high-performing sales ops team.
Hire data-centric candidates
Because there is so much data analysis involved in sales operations, it’s important to hire staffers for that team that understand data and how to analyze it critically. If your team members get stuck in data analysis, it’s a good indication that you have hired the wrong people.
Planning and strategy
Sales ops should be involved in all stages of sales strategy planning. They will be the ones managing efforts to ensure your team stays on track to hit its goals, so keeping them in the loop and asking for their feedback during planning and strategy development efforts is crucial. Plus, they need that insight to nurture and train new hires and to do their jobs effectively in general.
Use the right technology
A sales ops team is many times more effective if you provide them with the right technology tools to automate processes and give them easy access to sales data.
These days, many businesses are opting for an all-in-one CRM to empower sales ops. That’s because these solutions provide traditional CRM capabilities, as well as built-in sales, marketing, and help desk automation modules, all on one platform.
An all-in-one CRM not only allows sales ops to automate processes and access better data but also provides additional sales enablement features that make their job easier and increase their productivity.
Plus, with all the company’s data from various departments housed in the same database, sales ops can analyze even more data and provide analysis that facilitates even better data-driven decision making.
Ongoing professional development
As you’ve surely seen by now, sales ops play a major role in the success of your sales team. They can be the difference between an average team and an outstanding one. Considering that, it makes sense to invest in ongoing professional development for those on your sales ops team.
Continue to educate them on the industry you sell in, emerging trends in sales, the technology used to facilitate success, etc. Doing so will ensure that your sales team is supported by a group of individuals with a powerful ability to provide the tools and data needed at just the right time.
Pay them well
Because sales ops play such a critical role in the success of your sales team, it’s essential that you compensate them appropriately. This is not a role that you want to fill with new hires straight out of school. Rather, you want experienced, highly-skilled people in charge.
As the old saying goes, “you get what you pay for.” This couldn’t be truer in the world of sales ops. Reduce turnover by compensating your sales ops team well, and ensure they stick around for a long time. Turnover in this position is costlier than most, due to the number of hats team members must wear, and the diversity of skills required to do the job. Compensating them well will ensure your team is solid over the long haul.
The key takeaways here should be pretty clear at this point. Sales ops teams help elevate the impact of your sales efforts exponentially. They play a critical role as those that empower your reps with the tools and information they need to convert more prospects to customers.
At the same time, they enable you to grow and scale with ease by lending accountability to your sales team’s efforts as well as ensuring sales reps adhere to a formal sales process.
With a powerful sales operations team in place, you will make informed decisions based on actionable data and have metrics that provide insight into the health of your efforts. Ultimately, more than anything else, they drive revenue growth.
If you’re not leveraging sales ops in your sales process, now is the time to look into doing so. By hiring at least one dedicated sales ops rep, the return on your investment—in the form of increased revenue—will be far more than the cost of hiring someone to fill the role.
Do you have any anecdotes or advice around sales ops that you’d like to share with us and our readers? Let us know in the comments section below!