The role of sales operations is continuing to evolve. A title you might not have even heard of 5 years ago is becoming a critical part of a sales organization and proving to be as important and strategic to a company as sales leaders themselves. But as with any evolving discipline, making the shift from tactical to strategic can be a challenge. In a role where you are a sales teams’ day-to-day point person filling gaps and responding to needs, how can you also get the eye of senior leadership to help them understand not only the importance of sales operations to sales reps, but that sales operations should have exec level visibility and access to ensure success in the future?
People who are in sales operations roles didn’t graduate from college with a sales ops degree. They evolved into the role from other disciplines – typically sales or marketing. I’ve also seen a few on the technical sales side – solutions consultants and such. But regardless of the background – they all are highly motivated, hands-on, and have a can-do attitude that is necessary. In a recent conversation, a sales operations manager revealed her ultimate goal, “how is this going to get me promoted?”
Here are three ways sales operations staff can be more strategic with sales leaders – and ultimately get you that much deserved recognition.
Live in the Weeds, But Keep Your Head in the Clouds
The role of sales operations can be extremely tactical. Day in and day out you are working with CRM, optimizing lead flow processes, enforcing territory plans, verifying commissions, and a myriad of other tasks. But as much as the tactical operations are important – so too is leaving time for you to think strategically about all you see. Sales operations staff has visibility into almost every element of the sales process, so they’re uniquely positioned to identify opportunities for improvement.
Take time out from the weeds to consider how changes in daily processes can impact what sales leaders and executives really care about. Where can you impact business needs such as:
- Reducing rep ramp up time
- Rep access to critical information to shape deals
- Percentage of team achieving quota
- Increasing deal sizes
- Penetrating existing accounts through upsell or cross-sell plans
- Higher win rates on selling documents (proposals and RFP responses)
- Consistency of sales message
- Mitigating risk in the sales process
- Shortening sales cycles
The more you focus on the business drivers your leaders do, the more you’re able to connect the dots to the value of your daily tasks.
Less Data Driven, More Driving of the Data
In the age of Big Data, it’s no surprise that for sales operations staff to be strategic today, they must be data driven. Data is being captured at almost every point in the marketing and selling process, so the amount of information we can gain on what’s going on is at an all-time high. But the key is to not just look for the new analytics tool of the month, or dazzle your leadership with pretty dashboards and visualizations. Because data doesn’t make decisions, people do.
Interpretation of the plethora of metrics available and dilution into something consumable for your leadership is critical in leveling-up what sales operations provides. This is a skill really every manager needs – but is even more imperative for sales operations professionals who want to accelerate their careers. Think about the metrics available to you and demonstrate why it matters in words, not data points. How are metrics showing:
- Sales cycles have slowed or stalled
- Tactics that are working with particular deal characteristics
- How top reps are consistently closing key deals
- Are sales strategies like upselling and cross-selling being applied and are they working
- Has the time to revenue for sales reps decreased – what is the quantifiable impact of this shortening
- Which proposals are winning, which are losing and why
- What methodologies, or parts thereof, are working or not
The key is knowing what sales leaders are worried about, and leveraging the data available to help demonstrate and prove your approach.
Drive Fast, Take Chances
The day of a sales operations professional goes by quick – be that good or bad. There is no shortage of tasks to complete or reps to appease, and that’s one of the great things about the discipline is that no two days are ever alike. But as fast as you’re going, don’t forget to stop the routine, and break away to make changes that will improve your team’s overall sales execution. The only constant in life is change, and the more we embrace it and own it the more it will work to our advantage.
Be cognizant of not getting stuck in the day to day routine, and don’t be afraid to take chances on something new.
This is a new profession and the answers are not easily nor readily available since professionals are creating them as we go. So looking for the proven methods or alternatives isn’t always the best approach – it will keep you in a box that will only allow for a short list of outcomes. To see truly great change you must be comfortable with taking a bit of risk like other great innovators:
“If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” – Henry Ford
“Change is not a threat, it’s an opportunity. Survival is not the goal, transformative success is.” – Seth Godin
It’s an exciting time to be in sales operations. The impact successful sales ops make to the overall business is large and something you won’t be able to achieve in many other professions. If thought about differently, the role carries with it the ability to set a myriad of often disconnected sales initiatives on the path to guided, strategic and – mostly importantly – ongoing success.
And while reading this can perhaps open your mind to the possibilities of real value-added change, taking the risk to tactically apply learned data points with what’s visibly needed to secure sales growth, will not only validate your rock star status, but will paint a bigger picture of what’s possible with a little…ingenuity.