The math for sales managers used to be pretty simple.

If you met your quota and your boss set a new target, you could use the corresponding increase in your budget to hire enough new reps to hit the newer, bigger number.

That kind of formula no longer applies in many organizations. Whether you’re working in a large enterprise or a small to medium-sized businesses, chances are that meeting your quota will still lead to a loftier goal, but one you’re expected to achieve using a flat or even reduced budget.

“It’s not fair!” you might think -- and you might be right. But depending on the industry, organizations need to balance the importance of generating revenue through sales with increasing the investments they make to keep customers longer, or increase their share of wallet within some of those customers. Or simply reduce operating costs in general.

This is why some companies turned to CRM like Sales Cloud in the first place, of course. With the right use of data, sales managers can reduce the time that reps spend cold calling, and even the number of reps they need to make those cold calls. They can work more strategically with the marketing team to get leads more quickly. And they can spend more time with those customers up front so they’re not mired in service issues after the fact, which is one of the few ways to really reduce churn.

All this calls for a new way of thinking about how to best organize and manage sales -- think of it as a sort of sales “operating system,” or OS.

Even if you’re not incredibly technical, you’ll probably recognize the OS as the software that runs the basic functions of a computer of mobile device, on top of which are the applications you depend on every day, like CRM. Most of us don’t need to get into the details of an OS like Windows, OS X, Android or iOS -- if it runs well, we’ll likely be able to do whatever it is we need to do with our desktop or smartphone.

If you were able to go “under the hood” of a successful sales department, here are the elements of the OS you would probably find:

1. Strategic Plan

This may sound obvious, but in many organizations the strategic plan might amount to little more than “sell more stuff to more people.” That’s not a plan, though -- it’s the goal on which the plan should be built.

A real strategic plan for sales would include:

  • What measures you’re focused on (i.e., volume of sales, volume for particular products and services, close rates, etc.)
  • How you plan to go after those targets, which may be a combination of hiring reps, using content marketing or paid advertising and many other elements.
  • A granular look at the customer base to whom you’re selling, broken out by account size, geographic location, industry sector and so on.

A strategic plan can weave in many other things, too. It depends on how specific and spelled-out you want to be. Talk to the really fast-growing firms, though, and you’ll likely find a strategic plan in their sales department that governs almost everything that happens -- almost like the way the central processing unit (CPU) on which an OS runs determines things like the way data is passed around in a computer or smartphone.

2. The Sales Investment Portfolio

This is really just a fancy way of talking about things like “budget,” or any other resources you’ll need to execute on the strategic plan. It will mean the dollars earmarked for hiring people, of course, but also the investments you’re going to make in training them.

If you really want a new rep to boost their close rate or shorten the time from a pitch to a signed deal, offering additional training in technologies like CRM will pay for itself in the long term. This is sort of like the way an OS manages the power consumption required for a computer or smartphone to do its work. Striking the right balance of resources is crucial.

3. Talent Management

Unfortunately, not all applications work with every OS. Some are even advertised as compatible with iOS but not Android, for example. In other cases there are ways developers ensure you can integrate different kinds of applications from, say, Apple’s OS X with Windows, or vice-versa.

The same goes for sales departments. Anyone you hire not only needs to have the right “fit” from the get-go, but needs to be able to change and adapt along with the organization. This is where you look at sales enablement tools like playbooks, along with a commitment to coaching in addition to regular periodic training to ensure you have a high-performing, highly engaged workforce.

4. Demand Catalyst

Even on a smartphone, there’s typically some kind of “boot-up” sequence when you first turn on the device and the OS does all the things necessarily to bring the system to life, at which point you can start using it.

In a sales context, this is where sales connects with other functions like marketing to look at what leads are coming through, qualify them (or not) and to feed data back based on conversations with clients to increase the ability to generate more demand.

5. Performance Measurement

If you’ve been using your desktop or phone for a while, you may be reaching your limit in terms of storage, or you may simply need to better manage files and applications to ensure things don’t start slowing down or malfunctioning.

Great sales teams try to measure everything they do, period. They know that by establishing the right key performance indicators up front, and then managing them based on what you’re seeing in CRM, you’ll be able to consistently optimize how the team works to reach ever-more ambitious goals.

The other thing about an OS, of course, is that without it, the most common technology devices we use become little more than a piece of plastic and metal. If you develop it in the right way, your sales OS will become just as vital to the way your team is organized and runs, and you’ll deliver better results to the rest of the company.