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Sales Operations: The J.A.R.V.I.S to Your Iron Man

Superheroes – who wouldn’t give up everything to be one? 

I’m sure all of you have your favorite Marvel or DC Universe superheroes. I don’t want to start a fiery debate on which is better (but having said that, if you ask me, I am a Marvel girl). And, Iron Man is my personal favorite. Everyone knows who Iron Man is, and for those who don’t—please come out from whatever cave you’ve been hiding in. While Iron Man is a superhero in all his right, he would be flying blind most of the time had it not been for his trusty AI, J.A.R.V.I.S, that gives him the much needed edge to fight the bad guys. 

That’s exactly what Sales Operations does for a company. It provides the sales team with the edginess, strategy, and tactical advantage they need when they deploy their salespeople into the battleground. This blog post talks about the unsung heroes and how their work allows for salespeople to be the best superheroes that they can to be. 

Sales Operations has been around since the 1970’s and a simple Google search will tell you that Xerox was the very first company to establish a Sales Operations group. But here’s the real question:

What exactly does a Sales Operations team do?

Sales Operations encompasses all the functionality and activities a sales organization requires for their sales team to be a lean, mean, and an un-squeaky machine. This includes taking care of everything under the sun from lead management to data analytics to training and more. By working behind the scenes, they allow for the sales team to power through their own goals competently.

Sales Operations vs. Sales Enablement 

I have noticed that most people use the words Sales Operations and Sales Enablement interchangeably. This is because the two teams focus on the same objective: Sales Productivity. However, the line between the two is so fine that it is almost invisible, in the sense that the Sales Operations team appraises the possibilities at hand and makes decisions, while the Sales Enablement team executes these decisions into actions.

Sometimes, they divide their accountabilities in such a manner that the sales enablement teams can weigh in earlier during the buyer’s journey while the sales operations team can weigh in at a later time point such as during handling contract negotiations and dispensing compensations. Hence there exists a crucial need to tailor the role of a sales operation team to a tee. The two teams should have a clear and decisive division of labor. The Sales Operation team should have extreme clarity when it comes to its own deliverables, goals and major metrics.

Almost all companies around the world look for opportunities to scale further. One such way to do so is by establishing a Sales Operations team to boost the sales processes, increase successful closures, and propelling revenue. So, what are the different kinds of functions that lie at the crux of a Sales Operations team?

The 9 Top Functions of a Sales Operations Group

1. Lead Organization and Management

Marketing might be responsible for the majority of the leads that come into an organization, but Sales Ops is responsible for ensuring that sales reps provide each lead the undivided attention it deserves. Sales Ops facilitates the synergy between marketing and sales teams to ensure high quality leads and content ideas. Sales Ops works hand in hand with marketing to create projects for  lead generation programs by deeply evaluating the target market. They also help  marketing to execute nurture campaigns. Sales Ops also organizes the prospect’s information in a customer database tool to allow for a robust pipeline which is the lifeline for any sales team and in turn for the company.

2. CRM System Management

This is one the most powerful tools that your sales team and company possesses. Play your cards right and the sales team will be able to reap unlimited benefits from an efficiently managed CRM system. However, like any system, if this isn’t calibrated to your required preferences, it will fail to provide the ammo your sales team requires to go in guns blazing. Hence, the Marketing and Sales Ops teams work towards defining the required parameters sales teams need to capture to optimize the quality of data. Among other things, Sales Ops undertakes managing contact lists, ensures that the CRM data is up to date, conducts data audits to check for consistency, setup automations, customize fields and data.  This frees up valuable time for your sales team  who can in turn focus on bringing home the revenue.

3. Establishing Scalable Sales Processes 

This is one of the primary functions of a Sales Operations team. They provide hands-on help in setting up the overall sales strategy for the company. They design the skeleton which contains the 4Ws & 1H (who, what, when, where and how) which acts as a guideline. Sales Ops houses an abundant amount of data which is refined and presented to the higher executives who then formulate the sales strategy. Once the strategy has stakeholder’s buy-in, Sales Ops then provides actionable steps to implement the sales strategy. The Sales Operations team is further tasked with ensuring  that every individual involved comprehends the pathway needed to actualize the end goals outlined in the strategy. So all in all, the Sales Operations team polices the company to prevent panic and confusion, all the while championing scalable and replicable sales processes. 

4. Data Analytics and Management 

In a world which is fueled by big data, clean crisp management of data is paramount. Sales Operations team ploughs through all the data available, identifies and establishes viable data sets. These data sets can then be used in a multitude of different ways to pin-point areas of improvement in the sales process, campaigns or products. So Sales Ops first identifies what can be improved upon and then paves a way for the teams to incorporate these changes to better the existing strategy at hand.  

5. Territory Structuring and Management 

A sales territory is a group of customers that is managed by a single salesperson. These areas are divided based on geographical area, while taking into consideration  multiple factors such as customer density, historical sales and pipeline value. The Sales Operations team monitors so that continuous optimization of territory structuring and management can be achieved. This guarantees effective allocation and usage of resources at hand.

6. Compensation and Performance Management 

Sales Operations oversees sales team compensations and incentive plans. They manage and set incentives for the sales personnel and establish various processes that recognize both good and bad performance, while rectifying the latter. They are further responsible to supervise and conduct periodic sales performance reviews. Sales Operations also coach sales team managers to identify and conduct reviews of their own. 

7. Sales Automation

In this fast paced world, where everyone is looking to automate as much as possible, there exists a plethora of tools and applications that can help one achieve anything they want to do. Sales Ops rummage through these tools and platforms to understand which of them will help reduce redundancies thereby improving efficiency. These tools are then integrated into the current sales tech-stack of a company. So Sales Ops is always looking for ways to create a sales process that is as automated as it can be. 

8. Assistance for Sales Training 

For any war, soldiers are in constant training, sharpening their focus and skill set. Similarly to stay on top of the sales game, Sales Teams are constantly finding new ways to train their soldiers (salespeople). The Sales Enablement team is typically responsible for incorporating a multi-fold training structure and allowing salespeople to gain a panoramic view of what they need to do to achieve their milestones for the company. However, the Sales Ops team can help them by setting up the internal Learning Management System and coming up with onboarding processes that will teach new employees how to use the blend of sales strategy and tech sales stack to their advantage. 

9. Reporting

How do you effectively predict the big picture without understanding the finer details at play? This is where Sales Ops comes into picture with producing reports that talk about everything that is happening in both the marketing and sales teams. They crunch out the numbers and stats, based on which decisions and key changes are made. Therefore, it is imperative that Sales Ops get these reports rolling on a regular basis to keep everyone on the same page.

Roles and Responsibilities of a Sales Operations Team

Each company defines its Sales Ops function and roles uniquely to fit their needs and perspectives. Here are a few basic roles that every company needs to fill in a Sales Ops group.

Roles Job Description and Responsibilities
Sales Operations RepresentativesThis is an entry level position
where the rep has about 0-2 years of
experience. They need to possess
a keen eye for details, excellent
communication skills, technical
aptitude, and the ability to
understand marketing and sales
automation tools.
Sales Operations AnalystThis position requires the reps
to have worked for at least 3 years
in sales operations. They should be
able to liaise across multiple
departments such as marketing, sales,
IT, data analytics, engineering etc. They
should be proactive and have exceptional
problem-solving skills. Advanced
knowledge of data mining, data analysis,
automation tools, and Excel is also a
major plus.
Senior Sales Operations Analyst This position requires about 4+ years
of experience. They should be
well-versed in CRM management,
business intelligence modelling, Excel etc.
They require impeccable communication
skills to interact with sales executives.
Sales Operations ManagerThis position requires an individual
who has about 5 years or more
experience working in a Sales Ops team.
They typically manage and lead the
Sales Ops team. They need to possess
troubleshooting skills, ability to coalesce
different points of view, and put together
comprehensive reports to present to
the senior management. They should
have a deep understanding of
data modelling, data analytics, sales
behaviour, what drives sales, and
how sales processes work.
VP of Sales Operations Typically the individual who’s at the
helm of a Sales team has more than
10 years of experience. They are usually
the ones who closely work with the
senior leadership in the company. They
should typically have an MBA and should
have held multiple senior roles in
their career. They should understand
the overall process of a Sales Ops team
and provide key insights on how to
create and maintain an efficient
Sales Ops team. 

Measurement of Sales Ops Success: Metrics and KPIs 

Like any other team, how do you measure the success of your Sales Ops team? Broadly classified, the Sales Ops success is measured on the following 2 metrics: 

  1. Performance Metrics – Deal size, Pipeline value, Forecast Accuracy, Sales Target Achievement Rate and Closures Won. 
  2. Efficient Metrics – Lead Response Time, Sales Cycle Length, Selling Time Cycle, Efficiency of the Pipeline and Prospect Meetings. 

Using a combination of these metrics and more, you can determine how smoothly and effectively your Sale Ops team is running. Fine tuning these metrics will allow a Sales Ops team to work with surgical precision. 

You Are Never Too Late To The Party

Finally, Sales Ops is pertinent to any company looking to create a sustainable and a scalable business. It is never too late to add this team into your company. Sales Ops team can be a one man show or fit a dozen capable individuals all working cognizantly to achieve Sales Productivity. 

However, for a successful Sales Ops team  a road map or a blueprint or a war strategy; call it whatever you want, is absolutely necessary to have in their arsenal. It should not be limited to sales requests and administrative activities, but rather should be a guide that collates inputs from marketing, finance and other internal departments. So go on and create your own unique Sales Ops team and continue on your journey to conquer the unknown lands!

Sushmitha Malali Ramesh

Sushmitha Malali Ramesh

Sushmitha, has been a wanderer most of her life. Having spent her life in a plethora of countries - India, Kuwait, Muscat and the United States of America, she enjoys learning about different cultures and discovering new languages. She wrote her first poem at the age of 13 and has been hooked on writing ever since. She has dabbled in Medical Writing and Education Content Writing and has decided to become a freelance writer for the next unforeseeable future. She is an avid reader and when not writing, loves curling up with a book and hot chocolate. She adores thrillers although they scare the living daylights out of her. She enjoys singing loudly to BTS songs in Korean when no one is looking. She currently lives in Bangalore, India.

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