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Sales Operations 101
Scale up your sales processes with data-driven decision-making.
Imagine a team of astronauts who just successfully touched down on the moon. They didn’t get there on their own. The mission control team on the ground supported them every step of the way, ensuring the rocket took off and landed smoothly. They strategized, analyzed, and trained to make it all possible.
That’s what sales operations does for sales. Sales ops professionals equip sales teams with the tools and processes they need to shoot for the stars.
J. Patrick Kelly, who founded the first sales operations team at Xerox, described the nascent field as taking care of “all the nasty number things that you don’t want to do, but need to do to make a great sales force.”
Fast-forward nearly 50 years, the role is as vital as it ever was, but still difficult to precisely define. Sales leaders might find themselves asking: What is sales ops? How does it help me make more strategic choices? Scale my processes better? Get my product to market faster? What exactly is the return on investment? Look no further than this sales operations guide.
Navigate this guide
What is sales operations?
What is sales operations responsible for?
“You might see reps on the West Coast are overperforming. Now you need to do a qualitative analysis to figure out how to replicate and scale those successes.”
Strategizing the annual sales plan: The goal of sales planning is to optimize sales resources to maximize revenue. Annual planning drives revenue by helping the team to be strategic about how it allocates finite headcount and resources. Careful long-term planning from day one prevents mid-quarter disruptions like reassignments or remapping and ensures your sales superstars don’t lose momentum. Sales operations helps to distill KPIs and plan for the unexpected.
Though it’s called annual planning, sales operations knows a good sales plan looks further down the road. Preparing for the next five or 10 years impacts what you do in the next 12 months. Sales planning efficiently carves up the customer base by industry, account size, sales cycle, and geography. Through this segmentation, a company is able to align its resources with a go-to-market strategy.
Territory planning is a crucial part of this. Who is going to sell what, and where will they sell it? More importantly, what metrics do you use to ensure that your sales reps are meeting or exceeding expectations? This is where territory-planning comes in. Sales ops leaders have a bird’s-eye view of the health of the business and work closely with the head of sales to make recommendations. They’ll look at what opportunities for deals are present, and then make sure those territories get assigned to the right person. If there are too many reps in one territory or not enough, then sales ops will implement a territory rebalancing. Teams can use modeling tools like Salesforce Maps to streamline and automate this process.
Sales ops people are always leveraging all that delicious data stored in your CRM and translating it for sales reps and leadership.
How Businesses Segment Sales Territories
“Sales ops allows you to get more predictive in the sales process in order to stay competitive. You get to make an educated approach instead of throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks.”
“In the future, we’ll continue to see more sales ops professionals promoted into leadership roles and seated at the table with executives.”
Onboarding sales talent: When a new sales representative starts at a company, sales ops professionals get them up to speed quickly with training and mentoring. A slow ramp time for new hires can hurt a company’s bottom line by decreasing productivity.
The worst thing that can happen: A salesperson is hired and is not able to close deals. It's a wasted headcount and investment and leaves a hole in your sales coverage. Time that reps spend learning or relearning the sales process is time wasted. Sales ops wants reps reaching that first sale as soon as possible.
The sales ops department gets reps plugged into not only the company’s culture, but also the CRM and other tools in that company’s tech stack. This is accomplished with coaching programs and written reference guides that help standardize the onboarding for all new hires. By ensuring the rep knows the product inside out, sales ops helps to guarantee the rep has all the knowledge they require to effectively sell that product.
How do you build a sales operations team?
“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?”
What are the most important tools for a sales operations team?
How do you measure the success of sales operations?
“Sales ops takes the process of scaling from an art to a science. Sales operations should be baked into how you do business.”
What is the future of sales operations?
For many companies, sales operations collaborates with more than just the sales department. To better reflect that cross-functional role, many in the industry are opting for the more all-encompassing term revenue operations.
Revenue operations aims to break down the silos that exist between sales, IT, product, marketing, and customer service. In a perfect organization, all these departments would holistically converge, with revenue ops serving as the central data hub. Whether you call it sales operations or revenue operations, the goal is to have your entire company working as one well-oiled machine.