What is Sales Operations?

A Complete Guide to Sales Operations

Definition of Sales Operations - What is Sales Operations?

Salespeople are usually the “face” of the sales cycle – working with the customer to define and offer solutions that improve their organization’s performance. To do their job more efficiently, Salespeople rely on technology, processes, data analysis, and marketing interfaces to help accelerate their deal cycles and guide them to successful outcomes.

The tools that help Salespeople drive deals forward can also come with major challenges – data in the CRM needs to maintained, processes need to be created and optimized, Sales technology requires research, selection, and management, the right analytics need to be gathered and processed. 

Enter Sales Operations who support and enable the Sales team to sell more effectively by managing all of the non-selling tasks of the sales process, reducing friction wherever possible, and providing strategic guidance. Sales Operations drives revenue and helps Sales team close deals faster by promoting operational efficiency and freeing Sales from internal and administrative duties to give them the opportunity to focus on the customer.

Sales Operations Adoption - What is the market adoption of the Sales Operations role?

Percentage of Organizations with Dedicated Sales Operations

Benefits of Sales Operations - What key challenges does Sales Operations help businesses overcome?

The overall goal of Sales Operations is to reduce as much friction as possible in the Sales process to allow reps to maximize their selling time and increase Sales productivity. But what are some of the specific challenges that Sales Operations help solve in order to help organizations grow their revenue and profits? 

Eliminate “Selling Thieves”

“The unspoken, overall goal of sales operations, is to reduce or eliminate selling thieves. Any process that takes the salesperson out of the field, or off the phone, or away from selling, is a sales thief.” Jeffrey J. Fox, Founder of management consulting firm Fox and Company.

Sales Operations is responsible for assessing and providing solutions to those processes that are “Selling Thieves”. This usually includes automating or taking on administrative tasks that Salespeople are tasked with. A great example of this is quote generation. In many organizations, the process of creating a quote is a huge time drain due to manual processes and stand-alone tools such as Excel. Solutions such as CPQ (Configure, Price Quote), can help to automate the process. Research shows that CPQ can help reduce Sales cycles by 13%, increase revenue by 48% and improve margin growth rate by 57% (Aberdeen).  CPQ (Configure, Price, Quote) Helps Sales Leaders Increase Revenue

Simplify Data Interpretation

Sales Executives rely heavily on execution from their Sales team to reach results. However, many Sales organizations have a generous amount of data at their disposal which can help them to optimize productivity and increase revenue. The issue is compiling and organizing the data into useful dashboards that Sales Managers can interpret effectively and take appropriate action. Being the analytical heroes that they are, Sales Operations can help manage the labyrinthine of information to create, and continually optimize effective dashboards and define correct KPIs in terms of Sales use cases and other business units as well. 

Optimize Processes Across Business Units

Many times deal cycles stall due to Sales inability to align with other business units they are dependant upon in order for deals to move forward. Sales operations play a key role in smoothing out those road bumps by defining and optimizing processes where Sales continuously align with diverse functions in an organization. An example would be setting up automated approval workflow processes between Sales and other business units such as Finance, Engineering, Legal, Marketing and Management. 

Facilitate One-on-One Manager/Rep Reviews 

An effective one-on-one between Sales Manager and rep can have a major impact on performance and helps reps better understand and motivate them to desired behaviors. 

An effective manager-seller conversation improves commercial performance by explaining things in a way sellers understand and motivating them toward desired behaviors. 

Despite the positive impact one-on-ones have, Sales managers struggle to have these conversations. Sales operations can provide guidelines on when it is best to have these sessions, what topics are most relevant, and provide the tools necessary to personalize the discussions.  P

Sales Operations Best Practice - What are Sales Operations best practices?

While each organization has its unique needs, common underlying principles guide many Sales Operations Processes. 

Define a Mission Statement

Keep the Sales team focused with a clear and concise mission statement that supports your organization’s goals.

Identify KPIs and Metrics

We identified some common KPIs in this article that can help, each organization has their unique perspective on what KPI’s are important. Make sure your team understands what metrics are measured and why.

Champion the Right Technology

Evaluate your team’s existing and developing needs and define functionalities that can help improve their Sales productivity. Choose solutions that can consolidate multiple capabilities, will scale with your business and provides excellent support.

Collaborate with Other Departments

The role of Sales Operations is evolving and their role in organizational strategy is a pivotal one.  Therefore it is vital to put processes in place that align sales data with multiple business units. 

Invest in Future Growth 

Artificial Intelligence is making its way to every facet including in the Sales process. Automation and AI will provide new opportunities for you to improve Sales productivity, shorten Sales cycles and ultimately increase revenue for your organization.

5 Best Practices for Sales Operations Success

Measuring Sales Operations - Which Sales Operations KPIs & metrics do you need to measure?

KPIs are a key component for Sales Operations to measure if processes and models put in place are working and also show weaker links where those processes can be optimized. Here are some commonly used KPIs that evaluate and improve organizational results.

Close Rate

The number of sales made within a certain time period divided by the number of people pitched. It not only shows how effective the Sales team is, but how effective are the Sales Operations processes that guided the Sales team during the engagement with the customer.

Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)

The amount spent on Marketing and Sales activities to acquire new customers over a given period of time. It is a delicate balance of finding the most cost-effective way to get leads without compromising on their quality. 

Quota Achievement Rate

The number of members of the Sales team who were able to achieve 100% of their quota.

Average Sales Cycle Length – Sales Velocity

How long does it take to close a deal? This metric is vital as Sales Operations are continually searching for solutions such as CPQ and Contract Management to accelerate this cycle.

Time Spent Selling

How much time Salespeople actually spend selling as opposed to other tasks such as meetings, administrative work, etc. The goal of the Sales Operations is to optimize the amount of time that the Sales team has to sell. 

Customer Lifetime Value

How much money can be made from a customer over a period of time and how can that amount increase without having to bring in new customers. 

Lead Response Time

How long it takes for a lead to respond to some sort of reach-out initiative. 

Weighted Pipeline Value 

The value of the Pipeline at any given point in time. This metric helps Sales Operations make forecasts.

Sales Forecasting Accuracy

The actual sales results vs. the predicted results based on data in the pipeline. This is vital to Sales Operations because if there is a big discrepancy, it could signal errors in the accuracy of data that the forecasting is based upon and requires more in-depth analysis.

Defining the Sales Operations Role - What are Sales Operations’ responsibilities?

Depending on the size and culture of the organization, the responsibilities of Sales Operations can vary from company to company. But at its core, many Sales Operations have similar roles and follow certain standard working processes aimed to fine-tune the Sales process. Sales Operations duties are usually a mix of both strategic and tactical: 

Some of the Strategic Functions of Sales Operations Include:

Optimizing Sales processes by implementing methodologies and best practices. 

Helping Sales leaders make data-driven decisions– to find areas that need tweaking or helping Sales harness the stronger ones

Technology management – Sales Operations are responsible for researching and integrating a Sales Stack – a set of digital platforms that work together to help improve sales team efficiency. Since each organization has different needs, Sales operations add value by finding those solutions that work best for their organization and help Sales accelerate their deal cycle.

Some examples include tools that can help reps automatically log data in the CRM, direct callers to the right reps, prioritize and score sales leads, save time in creating price quotes and managing contracts, predict which companies to target and more. Sales operations often work with sales managers, sales enablement and the IT team to coordinate which solutions are most suitable for the organization
 

Data management and analysis – using data to determine the effectiveness of tools and processes for peak productivity and effectiveness

Training programsSales operations oversees and implements a variety of training programs. Whether it is for veteran teams members to help them make the most of their CRM and Sales Stack, for new Sales reps who are coming into the organization or training on new tools, Sales Operations is responsible for assuring that the Sales team have the knowledge they need to derive value from the tools and processes that are meant to help them.  

Performance analysis – Sales operations analyze ways to improve the productivity of Sales teams by eliminating barriers, restructuring the team if necessary, providing lead management, identifying KPIs, and implementing best practices.

Sales forecasting –  Sales Operations analyze data to help an organization predict revenue and identify bottlenecks that if addressed can be a catalyst for growth.

Cross-departmental collaboration – Sales operations works together with other departments to make sure that goals are aligned, and provides input on the process and progress.

Defining and assigning territories – Sales operations will assign territories for each Sales rep.

Tactical Functions can Include:

Maintain and leverage CRM platforms – this includes implementing a CRM, maintaining data hygiene, optimize fields, automate activities and more.

Lead generation – Sales operations saves Sales reps time by handling admin tasks like lead generation and appointment bookings, or implement software that can do that for them.

Dashboards- Sales operations play a vital role in creating the right dashboards so the organization can track their goals. Sales ops ensures that relevant reports visualize data from the CRM so Sales leaders can make informed decisions.

Automation of repetitive processes like data synchronization

Pricing, Contract, and SLA management

Sales and product training, recruitment, and onboarding

The Value of Sales Operations - Why is Sales Operations important?

At its core Sales Operations ultimately has one goal – to help Salespeople close more deals faster. So a large part of the success and increase in revenue rests squarely on Sales Ops shoulders. However, in today’s ever-evolving sales landscape, a lot of things have to happen and processes need to be completed before a Salesperson can actually make a call. That is where Sales Operations comes in. 

Sales today is more than just hitting the numbers. Management is continually appraising the increased cost of Sales, longer buying cycles, higher customer awareness, and competition. In addition, technological advances are changing the way businesses compete. Sales Ops are not only tasked with finding the solutions that will optimize Sales processes but also building a structured process that will help Sales reps succeed and drive the company’s revenue and growth forward. 

Sales Operations is responsible for reducing friction and increasing productivity in the Sales process. To make that happen Sales Ops need to fill a diverse set of roles and are responsible for processes like data analysis, lead management, hiring and training, maintaining Sales collateral, process optimization, communication and reporting, and most importantly sales and revenue strategy. 

Building a Sales Operations Team - What are the characteristics of successful Sales Operations teams?

As mentioned before, the key goal of Sales Operations team is to support and enable the Sales team so they can focus on selling. As the organization expands, the roles and characteristics of Sales Operations evolve but there common personality traits that are beneficial when a company builds a Sales Operations organization.

    • Communicative and articulate. A Sales Operations professional needs to coordinate and align with business units and personnel on many levels (from junior level to executive). They need to be able to breakdown data in a way so their audience understands the significance of it and sometimes even change minds.
    • Analytically oriented. A big part of the Sales Operations role is to look at different types of data in different formats, organize it in a way that is digestible, and offer conclusions that can help optimize processes in the organization. The data is the heart of most optimization processes so a successful Sales Operations professional is one who is comfortable  “getting their hands dirty” with data.
    • Amiable. Sales Operations is connected in one way or another to almost all business units in an organization. Therefore the ability to build relationships at many levels is a crucial part of the Sales Operations role.
    • Technically oriented. Many times Sales Operations are called upon to be creative in offering solutions that did not exist before. Having a technical background and some developer experience can be useful when analyzing and implementing technology that is meant to improve efficiency.
    • Logical. Sales Operations build workflow processes and need to understand the logical steps the workflow needs to progress through.
    • Resolute. Sales Operations need to have a strong personality to be able to stick to frameworks that make sense for the organization despite the desires or whims of different business units.
    • Curious. Piecing together data to tell a story is an art form and there are many ways to do it. A successful Sales Operations will be curious about the data itself and continually think of how to mold it so it conveys a message. 
Key Pillars of Sales Operations
Source: Lucid Chart

 

Different stages of organizational growth require different hiring stages. In his post Building Sales Operations Within Your Start-up, Matt Cameron, recommends which Sales Operations functions your organization should hire at different growth stages according to Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR). 

Up to 1 million ARR 

At this stage, most organizations are small operations and the Sales Ops role will be more technical – many times 1 person. While still small, it is a good opportunity to lay the groundwork for growth by aligning business units from the get-go. The hire(s) should be able to take on administrative responsibilities and free up time for the Salespeople. It should be someone with advanced Excel skills and the ability to serve as an analytical partner. At this stage the Sales Operations organization will be responsible for: 

  • CRM Administration
  • Reporting and Analytics
  • Commission Calculations
  • Providing input to growth strategy

From $1M to $10M million ARR

As the organization grows they should consider adding on a “Sales Effectiveness Manager” who will be able to offload many of roles that are filled by a Sales Manager when the company was smaller, this includes:  

  • Sales Onboarding
  • Training and architecture design
  • Training and certification delivery

The Sales Effectiveness Manager should have in-depth functional sales knowledge and experience, and also possess program management experience. 

$10+M ARR

At this point the Sales Effectiveness Manager will take on even more roles including:

  • Reporting and analytics
  • Commission Calculations

In addition, the organization should look to hire a Sales Operations Director who will be responsible for:

  • Go-to-Market Strategy 
  • Process design
  • Planning commercial negotiation
  • Sales operation and growth plan
  • Deals desk
  • Territory and compensation plan design
  • Sales process enforcement
  • Owning the sales forecastStages of Sales Operations
“The unspoken, but overall goal [of sales operations], is to reduce or eliminate selling thieves. Any process that takes the salesperson out of the field, or off the phone, or away from selling, is a sales thief.” –
Jeffery J. Fox
Jeffrey J. Fox
Founder of management consulting firm Fox and Company

Content for Sales Operations - What key resources should every Sales Operations leader have?

Sales Operations Guide 2020

Includes new research data on the sales operations trends that impact the way sales teams increase efficiency and productivity while improving deal collaboration and customer relationships.

Sales Operations Guide for 2020

How to Consolidate Your Sales Stack

Consolidating your sales stack enables you to reduce training time, cut administrative costs, and focus on effective sales tools that tie directly into your deal stages.

How to consolidate your sales stack

G2 CPQ Momentum Report  

G2 Momentum Grid® provides a view of those industry leaders who have made a significant impact on the CPQ Market in the last year.

CPQ Momentum Grid

Make DealHub CPQ Part of Your Sales Process

Our Deal Acceleration Platform is designed as an extension of your Sales Operations workflow within your CRM. Allowing you to manage your entire deal flow from one location – with zero gaps in your view of the buyer journey.

Making sales teams more efficient and productive. DealHub integrates seamlessly within Salesforce CRM, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, and Freshsales CRM. All fields feature bi-directional synchronization so your information is updated in real time.

Our customers love DealHub because it’s fast to implement and easy to use: plug in your sales process data, configure your business rules, and start quoting. No coding necessary, so you can be set up and ready to go in minimal time. Our customers also appreciate our competitive price point.

DealHub CPQ Integration with Your CRM 

When you can manage your entire deal flow within your CRM, there’s no risk of losing crucial information. Your CPQ should be an extension of your sales operations workflow, native within your CRM. DealHub CPQ integrates seamlessly with Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, and Freshworks. All fields feature bi-directional synchronization so your information is updated in real time.

Our customers love DealHub CPQ because it’s fast to implement and easy to use: plug in your product data, configure your business rules, and start quoting. No coding necessary, so you can be set up and ready to go in minimal time. Our customers also appreciate our competitive price point.

We invite you to take a look at how DealHub stacks up against other CPQ vendors rated by users on G2 Crowd. You’ll see how DealHub has been named the Highest Performer, and how our solution ranked best in the CPQ Software Category in the following categories:

  • Best Usability
  • Best Support
  • Easiest Setup
  • Easiest to Use
  • Best Relationship
  • Best Meets Requirements

Free Guide: How to Consolidate Your Sales Stack

Consolidating your sales stack enables you to reduce training time, cut administrative costs, and focus on effective sales tools that tie directly into your deal stages.

How to consolidate your sales stack

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