Primer: Sales Operations
Sales operations. Wikipedia defines sales operations is a set of business activities and processes that help a sales organization run effectively efficiently and in support of business strategies and business objectives. Since the early 2000s more and more companies are forming sales operations departments within their organizations to establish sales processes, monitor sales metrics and implement the usage of sales tools. However, with more tools and use, it is estimated that salespeople spend roughly a third of their time selling and the other two thirds on non-selling activities. It is the sales operations department's job to improve that ratio. A good sales operations team will have an impact on productivity and increase the effectiveness of salespeople by reducing the time they spend on non-sales tasks allowing them to spend more time selling. Studies have found that there is a direct correlation between the focus on sales operations and sales.
While the details may differ from company to company the scope of the sales operations team falls into three primary functions:
Methodology is the backbone of the sales organization and determines how the organization sells to its customers. A good methodology that is well implemented will allow the sales organization to have a standardized approach to sales with a standardized language when the method is decided. The salespeople need to be enabled. Enablement is about selecting the right tools communicating the decisions to the salespeople and training the salespeople on the usage of the tools or the purpose of the process.
After the enablement comes the analysis. KPIs should be defined clearly and tracked either via the tools or from the other departments like operations or finance. Good analysis should measure the success of the salespeople and the effectiveness of processes, training campaigns and all sales activities. From there it feeds back into the cycle and sales operations can determine the value of the method and recommend changes to the processes or plans.
In the past sales operations have been considered to be a cost center where the impact of the team is difficult to calculate. But since organizations are realizing that the sales cycles are getting more complex and the volume of data available is increasing exponentially the value of the function cannot be denied. When the sales operations team moves from a ‘catch all’ role to a strategic one.
The goal of the sales operations team is to improve sales performance. This is done by a two pronged approach. Firstly, sales operations reduce inefficiencies allowing the salespeople to increase their time in the field selling by reducing their time spent on other tasks such as generating proposals or presentations.
Secondly sales operations increase the skill of salespeople through enablement allowing them to improve their effectiveness. For a large organization with a work force spread over different locations improving on systems data and analysis would make it easier to align focus and goals. Centralizing the above around a strategy the sales operations team ensures that the systems are part of the process. Having established processes increases the speed of sales opportunity moves through the stages of a sales funnel by ensuring salespeople understand what needs to be done and in what order. This improves the overall efficiency of the salespeople.
Lastly by establishing best practices and processes the sales operations team provides top down support to the salespeople as a center of excellence. Ownership of templates and collateral will allow the sales operations team to capture and share best practices among the salespeople.