Sales operations: The definitive guide to sales ops

By Samir Qureshi
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Sales operations is a key component of a successful sales strategy. Yet, it can be difficult to implement and maintain in an organization due to the many moving parts involved. Luckily when it comes to Sales Operations, there’s no better person than our friend and colleague Samir Qureshi. With over 20+ in sales and revenue operations working with sales teams and developing sales strategy and sales processes for some of the world’s most recognizable companies, he has a wealth of experience as a senior sales operations and Sales executive. Read on to learn more as Samir talks about: what sales operations is, why it matters, roles, responsibilities, objectives, how to implement impactful sales operations in your organization, the keys to success for Sales Ops in 2022, and how to increase revenue without adding unnecessary work or resources – from Samir Qureshi.

What is Sales Operations?

Sales Operations is the backbone to the sales / revenue organization. Sales Operations could mean different things to different organizations. It has evolved over the years and it will continue to change as we move forward. Recently many organizations have transitioned / expanded Sales Operations into Revenue Operations where they have combined Marketing, Sales and Customer Success Operations into one unified Revenue Operations function. Simply put: the Sales Operations teams handle non-selling business activities and processes to support sales organization. Sales operations is about supporting and enabling frontline sales teams to sell more efficiently and effectively. Sales Operations reduces friction in the sales process and it handles both strategic and tactical functions to support sales. Main goal of Sales Operations is to increase sales productivity and revenue.

Why Does Sales Operations Exist?

Sales Operations exists to provide the outlook for the business (monthly, quarters, future quarters) and provides confidence behind the numbers. Sales Operations gives sales organization guidance and the tools that enable them to sell and make it easy to sell. Depending on the organization, Sales Operations is made up of many functions like lead generation (SDR/BDR), reporting, analytics, deal desk, sales forecasting, pipeline, order management, sales process, quota / capacity planning, setting up territories, sales compensation, strategy, communication, enablement, technology, tools, events, long-term planning, etc. Sales Operations team helps the sales team perform better, and helps them achieve goals and improves sales process. If Sales Operations didn’t exist then you would have sales people spend more time on operational challenges than selling time which would have an impact on productivity.

What’s the Difference Between Sales Enablement and Sales Operations?

Sales Enablement is a component of Sales Operations in most organizations and in some organizations it’s a completely separate team but reporting most of the time to the revenue leader. Both sales enablement and sales ops are focusing on increasing sales productivity and increasing revenue. Organizations have to define each team’s roles differently. Sales Enablement works with the sales rep from the first day with onboarding and they continue to train and coach them on a regular basis. Sales Operations helps reps with tools, quota, territory, quoting, compensation, developing sales strategies, etc. Sales reps will call Sales Operations people if they need help on a day-to-day basis. Both of these teams should work very closely on all the key projects because Sales Operations department will make the changes and then Sales Enablement will train the reps on all the changes.

What’s the Differences Between Sales Ops Manager & Sales Manager?

Sales Operations ManagerThe sales operations manager is there to support Sales Managers and their team and make sure to remove any friction in the selling process. Sales ManagerThe sales manager role is to make sure their teams deliver the expected revenue goals and close business with customers.

What are Sales Operations Skills?

Some common questions I get regarding sales ops skills:

  • What are good sales operations skills?
  • What are the skills needed to succeed as a sales operations manager?
  • What type of skill set thrives in this position?
  • What skills do you look for in a person which lead you to believe they would be best for the sales ops department?

The most important skills for Sales Ops are:

  1. Process oriented
  2. Business minded
  3. Organization skills
  4. Emotional Intelligence
  5. Ability to work under pressure and tight timelines
  6. Curiosity
  7. Results oriented mindset
  8. Program Management
  9. Analytical and Data mindset
  10. Willing to work on new technology
  11. Financial acumen
  12. People management skills for managers
  13. Relationship builder

Goals that Sales Ops should Help Achieve

Below is a list of the most important outcomes that the Sales Ops team should be focused on achieving:

  1. Lead gen results
  2. Improve sales cycle
  3. Pipeline and forecasting
  4. Best practices & scalable processes
  5. Increase Effectiveness
  6. Set Up Analytics
  7. Data Insights
  8. Sales Briefs
  9. Sales Data Management
  10. Onboarding and training reps
  11. Help achieve revenue results
  12. Increase Average selling price
  13. Pay for performance assessment

How Do I Build a Sales Operations Strategy?

Sales Operation Strategy Breakdown: I use the analogy of Sales Factory and how efficient we need to run the factory when building out Sales Operations strategy. When thinking of Sales Operations strategy, I break that down in three buckets using the acronym OPS.

  • O – The O in OPS stands for Operations. O is the sales factory which needs to run as efficiently as possible. This means our sales teams need order management, forecasting, reporting, analytics, commissions, deal desk, QBR, quoting, sales support. All these functions within Sales Operations are making sure that the factory is running smoothly and at full capacity.
  • P – The P in OPS stands for Productivity. P is helping generate fuel for the sales factory to make sure it runs at the full capacity. This means our sales teams need sales enablement, onboarding, sales methodology, lead gen/SDR, sales process, communication, annual kick off, EBC, rewards/recognition programs, technology and tools.
  • S – The S in OPS stands for Strategy. S is helping create strategy on what’s needed to make sure we continue to make the factory improve and scale. This means our sales teams need territory / capacity planning, quotas, compensation plans, global policies, organization design, Account Planning and GTM strategy, long term planning, Board decks.

So when you combine all OPS then you have created a strategy to help the organization and you can invest in the areas based on your organization needs.

The Sales Operation Process

  1. Sales Strategy and Analytics
  2. Sales Forecast
  3. Sales Analytics, Reporting, Insights
  4. Quota, Territory and Capacity Planning
  5. Sales Process
  6. Annual Planning
  7. Budgeting
  8. Hiring and Onboarding
  9. Sales Compensation & Commission Administration
  10. Rules of Engagement
  11. Understanding Sales Team Performance
  12. Ongoing Enablement & Training
  13. Sales Technology & Tools
  14. Sales Communication
  15. Rewards & Recognition
  16. Long Term Planning
  17. Sales Events (SKO, President Club)
  18. Executive Briefing Center

Top Sales Operations Tools

Sales Tech Stack has grown tremendously in the last few years and there are so many new tools out there that you can easily get lost. Every Sales and Operations leader wants many Tools so my advice to them is to step back and first focus on building out the sales process and then find the right tool to align with the sales process. This will give you an opportunity to focus on tools needed to support your sales process. Ideally you need following tools:

  • CRM
  • Sales Engagement Tool
  • Sales Training and content management tool
  • Commissions system
  • Forecasting and AI tool
  • Call recording and analytics
  • BI, Data Reporting tool
  • Marketing Automation
  • Account Planning
  • Communication

9 Key Sales Operations Metrics & KPIs to Track

Below are the 9 most important sales ops metrics & KPIs you should be tracking and measuring:

  1. Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)
  2. Lifetime Value (LT)
  3. Close Rate
  4. Win Rate
  5. Sales Forecasting Accuracy
  6. Avg Deal Size and Time to close
  7. Sales Turnover
  8. Customer Churn Rate
  9. Revenue and cost per Rep

Keeping track of these 9 sales ops metrics will help keep you moving towards your goals.

Optimizing the Sales Process

For fast and steady sales process optimization follow these 9 steps below:

  1. Make sure your sales, marketing and customer success goals are aligned
  2. Automate and streamline as much of your sales process as possible
  3. Pinpoint the bottlenecks in your lead and pipeline generation
  4. Reduce your churn rate and close lost deals
  5. Shorten your sales cycle and increase average deal size
  6. Prioritize your sales activities
  7. Monitor your key metrics and KPIs
  8. Share best practices so others can learn
  9. Create reward and recognition programs to drive behaviors

Sales Operations Roles, Responsibilities & Staff Structure

The broader purpose of a sales operation function is to boost sales productivity, efficiency, remove friction and improve the overall impact that sales team has on business performance. To do this, sales operations needs to either establish or improve sales processes, use data to make decisions, help remove any friction in sales reps daily activities and perform other functions. Here’s a look at common sales operations roles and responsibilities:

1) Sales COO, CFO and Chief of Staff

The Sales Operations team leader has to manage many things but the most important one is to be the right-hand person to the Head of Sales. In many instances Sales Operations leader wear multiple hats on daily basis. Some days they act as Sales COO, some days they are CFO of the organization and they act as Chief of Staff to the Head of Sales.

2) Cross-Functional Collaboration

Sales operations function is like quarterback in a football game as an advocate for the sales team. They play a critical role in planning the sales and operations functions to ensure the business goals are entirely aligned (known as cross-functional collaboration), across each arm of the business. They focus on keeping the teams pull together and help them move forward.

3) Lead Gen

Sales ops manage administrative tasks, such as lead gen and meeting booking records, so that the salespeople can get on with creating more opportunities to sell. In some organizations Sales Operations leader may own Sales Development teams (SDR, BDR)

4) Sales Territories, Capacity and Annual Planning

Sales Operations works closely with Finance to manage over annual numbers and then break that down into Sales Territories and see how much capacity the team has so they can then come up with the hiring plans.

5) Data Management

Data is critical to any organization’s success. Sales Operations team is responsible for maintaining all data that is used within sales teams. Data is used in many reporting, and dashboards to make critical decisions to see how effective the sales teams are producing. Lately with the use of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence, sales operations is able to deeper and understands many aspects of improving sales processes and forecasting the business.

6) Forecasting

By examining past sales data and previous trends, sales operations can forecast future sales growth to report on the needs and goals of future campaigns. This is crucial as forecasts give sales teams the chance to pinpoint any issues while still finding a solution or workaround.

7) Sales Team Support

Sales ops team go to for sales teams and helping them get through their day to day activities.

8) Sales Compensation Management

Sales operations manages the sales team’s compensation and incentive plans. They work to establish goals and performance targets to acknowledge and resolve waning performance. In some organization, sales operations team also are responsible for commission administration.

9) Sales Strategy

Sales operations often works with C-Suite to build out Sales GTM strategy for short- and long-term plans. This would mean what are the initiatives to run to grow the business.

10) Communications

Communication is key for getting all the messaging out to the field. You have to create an avenue where sales can find all the information easily in a simplified way.

11) Sales Organization structure

Sales ops influence the sales department’s structural organization to ensure that each separate part can come together to positively influence the efficiency, impact, and performance of the team.

12) Sales Technology / Automation Implementation

The sales ops team oversees the management and use of the necessary technical tools and platforms, often in close consultation with the IT department. Managing technical tools and platforms, including CRMs (customer relationship management platforms such as Salesforce), often in collaboration with IT.

13) Sales Enablement / Training

To create the most successful team possible, sales operations takes on training new and current sales reps. They may also facilitate different programs that promote strong team camaraderie. Organizing and maintaining sales collateral for access by reps. Training staff in products, market, and proceses for sales excellence. Hiring and onboarding employees and mentoring current ones. Use SalesHood for your Sales Enablement platform.

14) Sales Culture

Sales Operations is working to help create a winning culture which brings the team together, learn from each other (Peer to Peer learning) and help each other become successful.

Working Closely With Other Departments:

Sales Operations departments play an important part when it comes to collaboration with other departments. A Senior Sales Operations analyst or other leader is like a quarterback in a football team who has to pull everyone forward and make sure there is an alignment among everyone. Here are the departments that Sales Operations works with and on what type of tasks:

  • Sales – helping the sales teams become successful in selling and making sure they get what’s needed in order for them to sell
  • Sales Enablement – making sure sales people are well trained and understand the product and sales process
  • Marketing – work with them to get all the content and leads
  • Finance – Budgeting, headcount planning, quotas
  • Product – work on customer feedback, product enhancements
  • Human Resources – Hiring, talent development, annual review process
  • Legal – contracts
  • Customer Success – customer engagement, implementation, post-sales support

Common Sales Ops Issues

Sales ops teams see these common sales ops problems in:

  • Sometimes it feels Sales Ops team becomes a dumping ground for everything for everyone in the Sales team. Juggling ad-hoc requests and many requests from everyone.
  • Sales Ops wears too many hats. Big shortage of resources causes a lot of workload for each person.
  • There are more tools than you can think. Sales Ops has to keep up with evolving technology.
  • Constant shift in strategy causes teams to shift the work
  • Reaching larger, long-term company goals while keeping up with immediate sales needs.

Final Tips to Improve Sales Team Performance

  • “Truth is in the field” – Many Sales Ops people don’t spend time with the sales team to learn a day in the life of a salesperson. This is why I always tell people that the truth is in the field so go spend time with your reps and learn. Once you understand the true issues from the reps then you can focus on helping your reps improve their productivity by eliminating the manual task or processes. Sales Ops people will appreciate sales ops more once they see that sales ops is taking interest in improving their productivity.
  • Enablement – It’s critical for sales reps to continue learning and improving their skills so make sure you are paying attention to how much time they are spending in learning. One common issue is that too many people are asking sales reps to do training and normally sales enablement may not be fully aware so this is why have a tracking process in Sales Enablement team which can manage how much time a sales person spends on training in a month so you can access if enablement is working or not. By improving the time spent on selling will improve their productivity.
  • Sales Technology and Tools – There are many tools available for reps to do their job but the right way would be to have a good sales process that is aligned with the customer buying journey and then supported by the right tools for each step of the process. Don’t just implement any tool until you see how it helps your sales process.

So there you have it. A great list of best practices & tips to improve sales operations and sales team performance from a seasoned vet in sales ops from wildly successful sales ops departments at some of the worlds most impactful companies. It’s not easy being a Sales Ops Leader but taking note of and implementing Samir’s key strategies above will definitely help you succeed as one. For more insights into what successful Sales Ops looks like in 2022 and how we can help you reach those goals by partnering together Contact Us today. SalesHood has been helping clients achieve their goals since 2013 through data insights, strategic planning, training programs that are customized by role or company size, automation tools that remove some of the manual tasks from your day so you have more time for high value work like prospecting new opportunities.

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