What is ‘Sales Ops’?

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Sales Operations can help a sales team

Imagine how much more lemonade he could sell with the right sales operations team behind him.

When I started my sales career the basic tools that we had at our disposal was the telephone (hey, it was touchtone at least!) and the US Postal Service. To gather information on companies we’d target, I would have to call the main number of the target company and ask them to mail me their annual report, which by the time it arrived would be at least a year out of date! We received very little support in our sales efforts, and it showed up in our numbers.

This brings me to sales operations or “sales ops” for short. Many new salespeople that I’ve spoken with are confused about what their role is in a company, and where they add value to your selling approach.

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Here is the Wikipedia definition of sales ops:

Sales operations are a set of business activities and processes that help a sales organization run effectively, efficiently and in support of business strategies and objectives. Sales operations may also be referred to as sales, sales support or business operations.

So in English, sales ops are the team or individual that handles all the prep work to hopefully make your job run smoother and easier. Let’s take a closer look at what an effective sales ops team or individual does.

What Can Sales Ops Do For You?

Key things that sales ops should be doing for your operation include:

  • helping you with sales training, both by providing it and bringing in outside training when appropriate
  • providing a simple and easy-to-follow sales process
  • working with the IT organization to ensure that your CRM system actually adds value
  • processing commissions and ensure they are correct
  • managing reporting and administration
  • providing expert advice on territory sizing and alignment

In short, the sales ops team is responsible for ensuring your business is running at the most cost-effective and efficient level at all angles. While you are spending time trying to gain customers and sales, they go behind the scenes to ensure the company flow is heading in the right direction. They are responsible for staying current on all new policies, procedures, technologies, strategies, and any other factors that are ever-changing within the company.

Sales Ops is a Tougher Job than You Might Think

Sales Ops is not something that is necessarily an easy thing to figure out. One of the largest hurdles for this type of position is working on an assortment of projects, while also trying to stay up-to-date with new technologies and business structures. The question is, with this many tasks to complete all at once, is it possible to be completed by just one person?

Andris A Zoltners, a professor from Emeritus of Marketing at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management has taken a closer look at the process of sales ops. In doing so, there has been a discovery as to what this professional or group of professionals are really expected to do for the company they work for. Along with facing decisions across all categories, the sales op team or individual must also be strategic. From support activities to design, analysis, and management, they have an enormous amount of responsibility.

In order for a sales op team to be successful, they must be able to work with a variety of leaders throughout the company to ensure that all the proper information is gathered and aims are set on the proper goals. They should also be able to work outside of the company with partners. Not to mention the job of staying informed of the newest technologies happening in the sales industry.

Make Friends With Sales Ops

As you’ve just seen, it’s tough to be in sales ops – and don’t forget that when you get all the glory (and pay) from closing a deal, the sales ops team doesn’t. Make friends, not just to ensure that your commissions are correct, but to have long-standing relationships in areas where it can be beneficial to you and your business goals.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user John Morgan.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Adam Honig
Adam is the Co-Founder and CEO of Spiro Technologies. He is a recognized thought-leader in sales process and effectiveness, and has previously co-founded three successful technology companies: Innoveer Solutions, C-Bridge, and Open Environment. He is best known for speaking at various conferences including Dreamforce, for pioneering the 'No Jerks' hiring model, and for flying his drone while traveling the world.

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