Sales operations were disrupted and reshaped by the pandemic, and where it’s headed next remains a mystery. Digital solutions are offering new ways for sales teams to build agility, create data-driven strategies, and overcome rising challenges. For sales operations in 2020, the key is building better connections both with the customers and the workforce.
To find out what’s driving sales operations today, we surveyed almost 6,000 sales professionals from around the globe. In this blog, we review the fourth edition of the State of Sales report, highlighting important insights and trends in 2020.
Let’s have a look at some of the challenges and opportunities that sales operations face in the New Normal.
Sales operations refers to employees involved in aspects of sales but not in direct selling. This includes generating leads, locking in sales areas, managing incentive plans, carrying out research, and leveraging analytics.
Sales ops has changed in the face of the pandemic, as lockdown measures led to new ways of working and new responsibilities. According to the Trends in Sales Ops report, 75% of sales ops professionals say that they have new responsibilities at work and 64% state that they expect their role to change.
But why? The increasing importance of using data to drive decision-making has made the sales ops skill set even more valued.
The increased focus on actionable data has led to a corresponding rise in strategic thinking in sales operations.
The State of Sales report reveals that 89% of sales professionals think that sales ops plays a critical role in business growth. Sales teams are valued because they’re wizards at selling and bringing in essential revenue. Behind the scenes, sales ops put the sales teams where they’re needed, when they’re needed, and with the right information in hand.
Sales ops’ role has also been expanding since 2019, as 56% report increased involvement in sales strategy planning, 55% in sales performance analysis, 55% in sales strategy coordination, and 52% in sales technology management. Agility is important in the current climate, and sales ops professionals are well placed to tackle emerging problems and handle the essential digital transformation.
One of sales ops’ most crucial functions is providing connected experiences for customers and sales teams. According to our report, high-performing sales teams are 2.3x more likely than underperforming teams to increase sales ops’ cross-functional work management.
Additionally, 78% of customers expect consistent interactions across departments. Businesses that have yet to undergo digital transformation will find it difficult to offer these connected workflows and experiences.
Many businesses were preparing for the digital imperative even before the pandemic hit. Now, these companies have accelerated their digital transformation, in some cases from years to mere weeks or months.
Virtual pitches have replaced in-person meetings; Zoom has exploded; tech-intensive sales strategies have become critical, and sales ops is dealing with shifting customer expectations and new competition. It’s a lot to get a grip on, and it’s no wonder that sales ops professionals are leveraging technology to navigate the changes.
What is most revealing in these figures is that 19% of sales ops still aren't using these new technologies. How do these organisations plan on staying competitive when they’re already falling behind?
Some other statistics reinforce this growing chasm: AI adoption in sales operations has increased 76% in recent years, and high performers are 2.8x more likely to use AI than underperformers. With numbers like that, we can expect the high performers to stay on top, while underperformers need to close the gap.
Sales operations has had its hands full over the past year. But as new challenges arose, so did new solutions. Today’s sales professionals are more resilient, agile, and forward-thinking than ever before. And as we move forward, the importance of sales operations will only continue to grow.
Below you see a quick overview of what to expect so that you can evolve, grow, and get ahead of it.
We can expect increased flexibility, better data, new skills, and more personal communication. That’s a future that sounds pretty good to us.
To see more about how sales professionals are tackling the challenges of the current climate, download the State of Sales 4th edition.