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Dear Wiz: How Do I Hire Sales Ops Superstars?

Do you have questions about sales ops and working as a sales ops pro? Dear Wiz has your answers.

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Welcome to Dear Wiz, an advice column by sales operations folks for sales operations folks. Each month, we select a “Wiz” to answer your burning questions about the best ways to work, learn, and grow in this quickly expanding field. Have a question? Ask it below.

For December’s column, we talk about hiring for sales ops. A question Trailblazers from our online communities asked this month is: “Where can we find the best sales ops professionals? What are the best hiring practices?” According to Manas Kulkarni, a manager of revenue operations at CB Insights, the answer could be right under your nose.

Why do we hire for sales operations at all?

Say you have a sales team selling at a very small scale. Everything is well and good because there’s easy(ish) visibility into what’s working and what’s not (especially pre-COVID when everyone was at the same clump of desks).

But then your company really takes off, your team expands, and you start hiring more sales reps. Suddenly, there’s a lot more variance in how people do their job. There’s a difference in performance. There’s more variance in the tools they use. Potentially, there’s even variance in geography, time zone, language, and so on.

Figuring out what works for the sales organization becomes harder — not just for the leadership, but for the reps themselves. The role of revenue ops or sales ops is to support the growth of the business. They provide the data, the processes, the tools, everything a sales professional needs to make strategic decisions about the future.

Related: Sales Ops Might Be the Revenue Hero You Didn’t Know You Needed

What skills should you look for when hiring?

The hard skills needed to be successful at sales operations are consistent for the most part. You need to know the customer relationship management software, you need to be able to extract meaning from data, and you need to understand and optimize your tech stack to help the sales team sell better.

But let’s focus on the soft skills for a minute. Empathy, communication, and curiosity are arguably the most important soft skills one needs to excel in sales ops.

One needs empathy because designing systems that are worthwhile for others requires you to see problems through someone else’s eyes. You need to be able to listen to sales reps and suss out snags in the workflow before they become larger issues.

Hiring a former sales rep for a sales ops role allows you to design workflows that lead with empathy.

Manas Kulkarni, Manager of Revenue Operations at CB Insights

Communication is important because sales ops often work as a bridge between departments. They need to be able to seamlessly move between sales and IT and marketing and finance, etcetera, to accomplish company-wide goals. That means not only being able to talk to all these groups effectively but also bring them together as one machine.

Finally, curiosity because sales ops should constantly question “why” and challenge assumptions, tinker with processes and discover new tools. They always push for better and faster. The desire to innovate and improve comes with the territory.

There are shortcuts to finding candidates who possess these traits. And you won’t have to look very far.

Where can you find sales ops superstars?

You might think you need to search far and wide. But in the chase for talent, hiring from within can be overlooked. Hiring internally expedites the learning curve. There’s less this person needs to learn about how the company works, how the product works. That person is able to spend a lot more time on the functions of the role itself and not as much time getting acclimated to a new environment.

All of that is true for most roles, but especially for revenue ops and sales ops in the sense they have to work with many other departments. Much of the data vital to carrying out our jobs comes from multiple teams. In turn, we create tools and processes that live across several teams.

In the two years I’ve been in my current position, I’ve had to touch sales, marketing, customer success, finance, legal, and engineering. And we’re interacting with people at various levels in those departments, both the leadership and the representatives.

So a benefit to hiring internally is that this new hire will bring context and insight from another team you’ll inevitably need to work with. This is major since a huge part of the job hinges on maintaining positive relationships.

On top of internal hires sometimes being the best hires, the perfect fit for a sales ops role might be someone who has done time in the trenches as a sales rep.

When I first entered the field, sales is what I wanted to do. Or at least that’s what I thought I wanted to do. As a sales rep, I soon started questioning how processes could be more efficient. Whether it was administrative work or prospecting, which of these everyday tasks could we do faster?

So in my free time, I was figuring out hacks and processes to help my team work better. Then someone told me that what you do in your free time is what you should do full-time.

shOPS Talk Episode 1: The Path of a Wizard – From Sales to Ops

That role turned out to be sales operations. Having worked as a sales rep, I was able to bring empathy into a sales ops role that someone else may not have had. I could provide a unique perspective of how we could make adoption easy and meaningful for the reps I used to work with. Hiring a former sales rep for a sales ops role allows you to design workflows that lead with empathy. Once I came into an operations role, it wasn’t just about me and my quota anymore. It was about how do I support the entire team at large and implement initiatives that have the most impact?

When looking for the best sales operations talent, sometimes the perfect match can be right in front of you. By taking a closer look at your current employees, particularly your sales reps, you could give yourself a greater competitive edge.

Have a question about sales ops you want answered? Submit it to Anita.

Anita Little is a writer, editor, and content strategist based in Los Angeles. She has spent 10 years working with traditional media outlets from Playboy to Ms. to Elle. She graduated from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism with degrees in digital journalism and political science.

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