Pinning down the answer to “what is sales operations?” is easier said than done. That’s why we’re here to cut through the noise and break it down for you.
Sales operations are a key part of a successful sales process, but pinning down the answer to “what is sales operations?” is easier said than done. That’s why we’re here to cut through the noise and break it down for you.
There are a lot of confusing conversations around the question of, “what is sales operations,” so we’ll make it simple.
Sales operations focus on supporting sales teams. They create research and data-driven strategies to drive sales. Sales operations teams remove roadblocks for sales representatives, too. They can handle knowledge management, administrative tasks, and onboarding so sales reps can focus on sales.
A successful sales operations team can streamline sales processes, taking tedious and repetitive work off sales reps' hands. That can include customer relationship management (CRM) software and integrations, improving recruiting and training programs, and strategically planning growth.
Remember how we said sales operations focus on supporting sales teams? Well, so does sales enablement. It isn’t their end goal that separates these two, but how they do it. To bring it into basic terms, sales operations handle the background systems (like expanding into new territories), and sales enablement works in the front line systems (like developing a system to keep sales reps up-to-date on new product features).
You can learn more about sales enablement here.
If you’re still wondering, “what does sales operations do?” keep reading to learn its four essential functions.
We’ve touched on strategy a few times, but it's a significant focus of sales operations.
Your sales operations team can handle sales process optimization, analyzing and implementing CRM and sales software, and large-scale strategies like goal setting and territory planning. Sales operations also oversee data analysis and forecasting for upcoming quarters.
Technology implementation and management is another integral part of sales operations. Researching, implementing, integrating, and maintaining software isn’t a job for your sales team. Your sales operations team can handle it, paving the way for a smoother sales process and automating troublesome tasks for your sales reps. The result should be for your sales team to focus on, well, sales.
Effective sales operations management encourages higher sales performance by handling day-to-day support operations. Think of it like going to a musical. All the actors and dancers can focus on their performances because other people are taking care of running lights and sound.
Sales operations can involve sales and product training, skillful hiring and onboarding, managing contracts and service level agreements (SLAs), and market intelligence.
Finally, good sales operations support and improve productivity and performance. Your sales operations will keep an eye on your sales teams and find ways to remove obstacles and create smoother operations for them.
Your sales operations team or manager will spend time implementing and updating sales processes and best practices, developing compensation and incentive plans, and creating key performance indicators (KPIs). They can also handle lead management and CRM.
Set yourself up for success by following these four steps.
Your goal in developing a sales team is to improve and support your sales process. Create strategic goals for your new sales operations team to keep that from getting lost. Providing clear measures for success will give your team room to define their own strategies while keeping them on track.
Take time to consider your sales team’s needs and what you want your sales operations management to cover.
Since sales operations management is the home base for sales, it’s no surprise that your sales operations team handles developing, incorporating, and organizing best practices.
Let’s look at it this way. Companies can have a team of sales representatives but no best practices for documenting the sales process. Sales reps lose hours every week trying to interpret notes and emailing back and forth over leads. If they miss something, they risk dropping the ball and losing sales.
A sales op manager could integrate a documentation process through the CRM system for tracking leads. By streamlining the process, sales operations have made it easier for the sales team to work together smoothly. New sales reps will have an easier time onboarding with access to up-to-date best practices.
Since sales enablement and sales operations have similar roles and overlapping responsibilities, it’s important to define things early on.
How companies handle this can vary. These two teams can have collaborative responsibilities, like knowledge management and training or CRM software and integrations. You could also clearly define where sales operations end and sales enablement begins and simply keep communication open. The main goal is to find a simple way to meet company needs and support sales.
Sales operations span the length of the sales process, from guiding leads into the sales funnel to helping to close deals. Their relationship with sales is unique. Your sales operations team can share their perspective and insights with sales reps. That layer of information lets them provide support when conflicts arise and encourage customer retention at every stage of the process.
If you want to know how successful your sales process is, a win/loss ratio is a great way to start. It’s often used to measure individual sales reps, but it can indicate if there are bigger problems in your sales process.
The point when a lead has first contact with your sales process to when it converts or backs out is the sale cycle length. The average length of your sales cycle can help you see how efficient your sales process is.
Sales operations are a vital part of driving sales teams’ productivity. They create a structure that supports and streamlines the sales process. From developing best practices to handling administrative tasks, sales operations management improves your sales cycle.
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