Senior Writer: Hiba Ali
Sales operations is the team that manages the non-selling procedures and tasks inherent in the sales process. Long-term results always outweigh one-time fixes, and that’s what sales operations do for your team – streamline the sale process with a long-term view, enabling your team to close more deals.
The goal of sales operations is to empower sales representatives to focus on building and nurturing client relationships through strategically implemented training, technology, and engagement techniques.
Ready to improve your sales performance? In this guide, we’ll answer your basic questions: What is Sales Operation? What do sales operations do? What are sales best practices? Etc.
Discover how sales operations can make a difference for your team by diving into the fascinating world of sales operations.
What is Sales Operation?
Sales operations consist of company sales processes, strategies, objectives, and technology that allow crucial players and methods to operate efficiently, productively, and in alignment with business objectives.
The sales operations team is the backbone of every organization when done right. Whether one person or a dozen, its purpose is to increase sales productivity and success in a sustainable and scalable manner. As a result, salespeople can focus on activities that lead to a customer closing, reducing friction and optimizing the sales process.
To drive business results, sales operations leaders implement training, software management tools, and engagement techniques that help sales reps focus on selling.
Consequently, the sales operations department has become a strategic and critical component of a mature sales organization, particularly in the SaaS enterprise and B2B, because of its broad scope and profound impact on both top-line (productivity) and bottom-line (efficiency) performance.
Why is Sales Operations so important?
It is about efficiency – deepening business impact without spending more money and time. Sales operations facilitate this by enabling sales leaders and reps to work more productively with optimized technology.
Among the sales operations tools, sales leaders receive are performance dashboards and automated forecasting, which assist in planning and decision-making.
Sales reps can sell more quickly and easily using AI-powered recommendations and enablement. But, unfortunately, it’s all about taming the wild, wild west of sales.
Imagine that dusty scene of sales reps arguing about accounts, drowning in administrative tasks, shooting from the hip during every sales call, and improvising.
In addition, sales leaders can’t find the data they need to set confident targets — or identify pipeline blockages that threaten these targets. The sales team can improve their return on time and energy by implementing data-proven action rather than improvisation.
What does a sales operations team do?
A sales operations lead analyzes data from sales teams to uncover insights and produce reports that help guide sales strategy. In addition, sales operations aim to create predictable revenue by streamlining the sales process with best practices and automation.
The critical tasks of sales operations teams are as follows:
1. Streamline The Sales Process
Sales operations aim to eliminate manual work from sales reps’ plates so they can focus exclusively on selling.
As a result, sales reps spend only one-third of their time selling. In addition, automation can be integrated into customer relationship management (CRM) software to automate data entry, such as logging sales calls.
With artificial intelligence (AI), sales reps can also pinpoint essential prospects amid a mountain of leads, allowing them to contact them directly.
2. Identify & Scale Sales Ops Best Practices
In sales operations, teams identify what is working and what isn’t in the sales process. Then, they implement best practices that lead to faster sales cycles when they identify trends or behaviors that increase efficiency.
You might, for example, identify a rep who crushes their quota and determine that it’s due to a specific outreach cadence — the order and timing of reps’ steps to move prospects through the sales process.
Then, to improve team performance and help new hires hit quota faster, Sales Operations would implement that sequence into the overall sales process.
3. Report on Sales Performance
It is impossible to grow what you do not know. Sales operations turn data into insights, building the information center that sales teams depend on for critical decisions.
They also create forecasts of likely sales performance. Besides reporting on metrics, they also provide detailed analysis of sales activity (like how many customers were ignored) and a big picture of business health (like revenue).
Sales operations flag problems and recommend the following steps to reach targets.
4. Lead Sales Planning
The goal of sales operations is to lay out a vision and strategy for the next several years and then work toward that vision one year at a time, using strategic planning, which is divided into four categories:
- The territory planning process ensures that the right representatives are assigned to the eligible territories to reach targets.
- For a company to meet sales goals, capacity planning determines whether and how many people to hire.
- Forecast targets are used to set quotas for sales reps.
- A compensation plan motivates sales reps to achieve their targets.
Sales Operations vs. Sales Enablement: What’s the Difference?
There is often confusion between sales operations and sales enablement. This Sales operations vs. sales enablement segment will provide a basic overview of their differences and meanings.
The purpose of sales operations and sales enablement is to improve the sales team’s performance significantly. However, since sales enablement and sales operations responsibilities overlap in some ways and are related, their unique responsibilities may be unclear to some.
Sales enablement delivers your sales ops teams with the best sales content, strategies, tools, and other selling resources to help them succeed. It’s essential to focus on the buyer using sales enablement tools and content so that sales reps can target the right people and increase engagement with them.
Conversely, sales operations encompass the entire organization – products, sales playbooks, processes, structures, technologies, human resources, etc. A sales operations specialist is often the liaison between sales and other departments, including finance, marketing, legal, quality assurance, and IT, wearing many hats and working with multiple teams regularly.
Both concepts serve unique purposes, but that does not mean they should work in silos or alone. Often, sales operations and sales enablement teams report to the same head of sales and share responsibility for overseeing sales performance in their respective fields.
But do you need both? The answer is Yes.
For instance, sales operations might determine that your salespeople are moving too quickly through the discovery stage – impacting close rates. Accordingly, sales enablement would create sales training to help reps run a better discovery.
12 Roles and Responsibilities of a Sales Operations Team
Your sales ops unit has many roles and responsibilities to ensure your sales team is effective, productive, and positively impacts the business. Sales operations roles and responsibilities include:
1. Sales Strategy
One of the most significant sales operations responsibilities is a Sales strategy. Sales operations teams commonly use data analysis and forecasting to develop a sales strategy and set future sales targets. The department is also responsible for creating sales processes that improve conversions, shorten sales cycles, and maximize sales profits.
2. Cross-Functional Collaboration
By participating in sales and operations planning (S&OP) and ensuring that all business functions are aligned, sales operations advocate for your sales team.
3. Sales Data Management
Sales operations measure and evaluate sales data to determine the effectiveness of products, sales processes, and campaigns. This way, sales operations can verify a product’s or service’s success or implement a new sales plan if the data indicates otherwise.
Sales operations also utilize internal performance data, market and competitor research, and market analysis to craft sales strategies and achieve sales goals.
4. Sales Forecasting
It is essential for sales operations to review and understand past data and performance trends so that they can forecast future sales and report on future goals and needs.
Examining is essential since sales forecasts allow sales teams to spot potential issues while they are still in a position to eliminate them or fix them.
For example, if your sales operations department uses a forecasting model based on the length of the sales cycle, for instance, if they estimate that your average sales cycle is four months.
A salesperson has been working on an account for one month. Sales operations predict that the salesperson will likely win a big margin of the deal.
5. Lead Generation
Sales Operations handle administrative tasks such as lead generation and appointment scheduling so salespeople can focus on selling.
Your sales operations can achieve this by ensuring strong alignment between your sales and marketing departments using a service level agreement.
As a result of an SLA, questions can be answered, and communication clarifies how sales teams can follow buyer personas, who accepts marketing qualified leads, and where content like sales enablement is present.
6. Performance Management
In addition to managing compensation plans and incentives for sales reps, sales operations also establish procedures for acknowledging and resolving poor performance.
Sales operations may also conduct regular sales performance reviews or coach sales managers to help you grow your business. Your sales team will work on growing your business, while sales operations will work on improving the way you do business.
7. Sales Team Communications
Keeping the sales team aligned is the responsibility of sales operations, which reports on sales and campaigns, communicates team news, and celebrates sales wins.
To facilitate data and information sharing across your sales organization, your team could establish communication channels, such as Slack, or invest in a customer relationship management system (CRM).
8. Sales Representative Support
Sales operations aim to ensure that salespeople are more effective and efficient. In addition to providing leads, managing transactions, drawing up contracts, and training on time management skills, sales operations may purchase tools to simplify your sales team’s responsibilities.
9. Sales Team Organization
Sales operations influence how the sales team is structured and organized to maximize efficiency, impact, and performance.
For example, the sales operations team may notice that some reps are better at working with small and others prefer enterprise-level clients.
As a result, the sales ops team may decide to reorganize the team based on their observations so that everyone works with their selected clients.
10. Technology & Tools Management
As sales technology becomes increasingly specialized, a wide range of tools and plug-ins are available, and your sales operations team is responsible for ensuring your reps are using the right tools and using them to their fullest.
Operational teams monitor sales productivity and work continuously to set up tech stacks that enable the team to achieve their best results. Technical tools and platforms are implemented and used by sales operations, often in collaboration with IT, to increase sales productivity.
11. Territory Definition
An essential responsibility of sales operations is defining and assigning salespeople to various sales territories. Domains often determine territory options, commission rates, and even working hours.
Sales operations also establish sales strategies and compensation plans, so territory management should also fall under their purview.
12. Training Workforce
Sales operations are responsible for training new and existing employees to build a successful sales team. Also, sales operations may develop mentoring programs to build camaraderie and maintain a strong team.
A successful sales operations team structure is essential to achieving these roles and responsibilities. We’ll discuss this next.
What is the Sales Operations Team Structure?
Developing an effective sales operations team is crucial for growing B2B companies. An effective sales operations team leads to revenue growth and faster scaling. Sales operations generally focus on strategy, insight, and execution. Let’s look at each role in turn:
A. Sales Operations Manager
A sales operations manager is responsible for developing and leading the company’s sales operations staff. Their job includes overseeing the strategy, such as what data to collect, categorizing it, with whom to share it, etc.
B. Sales Operations Analyst
To help sales leadership make better decisions, sales operations analysts analyze captured data points. A data analyst prioritizes which data points to capture, assesses how well various data sources correlate (e.g., identifying gaps, data quality issues, etc.), and determines how to use the data to achieve better results.
C. Deal Desk Analyst
The deal desk analyst assists sales teams with creating complex orders and liaises with Accounting, Legal, and Product teams to structure enterprise deals by guiding the process, policy, and pricing.
There are also other sales operations roles, such as “coordinator” or “business development/sales and operations rep.”
These roles generally align with those described above or combine them somehow. Start with a sales operations manager who will help you build out the rest of the team when starting your own sales operations team.
How do your sales operations team fit into your sales and marketing structure? Each company has its own needs and existing sales team structures, so the answer is not one size fits all.
6 Sales Ops Best Practices
A successful sales team can yield many benefits for your company. First, you can expect an increase in revenue, which is always good. Empowered employees are more productive and happier. Below are some best practices for Sales Ops to succeed:
1. Define a Sales Operations Mission Statement
You need to align everyone on your sales operations team and the broader sales team to write a company-wide mission statement that defines your goals and purpose.
Mission statements can sometimes be vague. One way to combat this is by describing how your team intends to accomplish its mission, for example:
- Automate functional tasks and challenge case queue with a unique workload.
- Prioritize time for high business impact activities (long and short-term)
- Assist in the completion and enablement of projects and produce high-quality outputs.
When hiring and collaborating with other teams, such as sales enablement, a successful sales ops team defines and sticks to its mission.
2. Actively Collaborate with Other Teams
Ensure you are addressing the exemplary work, addressing the critical issues, and not repeating any work that has already been done by regularly checking in with sales enablement, marketing, and sales. After all, sales operations advocate for sales teams. You should also hold periodic meetings.
Many levers within sales and marketing operations change weekly or even daily. Therefore, to ensure alignment, you should have weekly meetings with your heads of marketing operations, demand generation, sales operations, and sales enablement.
3. Establish Strong Leadership
The sales operations team should be led by a vice president, director, or manager, reporting to the president, CEO, COO, or a high-level sales leader. Sales operations must have direct access to executives.
Despite the very close relationship between sales and marketing, sales ops must understand the overall sales strategy. Therefore, they should be in the same department.”
4. Observe the Sales Team
Ensure your sales operations team shadows salespeople once a quarter. Shadowing gives them a chance to experience first-hand the challenges faced in sales and see how their work can impact the bottom line. It also allows the two departments to strengthen their bond.
5. Introduce Technology Wisely
Automate sales processes as much as possible. Not only do tedious manual approaches take time away from selling, but they’re also detrimental to morale and can result in expensive mistakes.
In addition to (CRM) software, email automation software, lead prioritization software, and sales software, this technology could be used by salespeople.
In that regard, use as many tools as you need – and no more. Technology can significantly improve the efficiency of your sales team, but if they switch between 20 or more devices, they won’t be able to.
Before you add a new tool to their stack, ensure you understand how it will contribute to their sales process and ensure it is easy for them to use and implement. If you force your reps to use an overly complex or cumbersome toolkit, they will refuse it.
6. Embrace Innovation
It is imperative to innovate your sales operations continually. A sales process should always be in flux as you learn about your prospects and customers, the market changes, and your products change.
It’s essential to make constant changes to help your salespeople get the best results, but you shouldn’t change it so often that they get whiplash.
How to Nail Your Sales Ops?
An enterprise sales process begins with the building of a sales operations team. When done well, it can increase sales productivity, customer engagement, and sales data quality. Creating and maintaining metrics to measure their impact is the responsibility of the SalesOps team at a B2B sales company.
The human connection will always be at the heart of sales: one rep talking to one customer. So the job of sales operations is to focus on this human element – whether automating non-selling tasks or guiding sales reps through conversations with artificial intelligence.
Sales indeed keep the lights on, but sales operations keep them running.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are eight essential sales operations KPIs to measure:
- Conversion Rate and Close Rate
- Sales Cycle Length
- Monthly Average Sales Volume
- Number of New Leads Generated
- Sales Team Revenue Growth Rate
- Average Deal Size
- Sales Forecasting Accuracy
- Average Selling Time
Sales operations management includes supervising sales operations teams, setting goals and KPIs, identifying revenue forecasts, and optimizing sales processes.
The main objective of Sales Operations is to increase sales productivity and revenue.
Sales Operations Specialists ensure internal and external customers' needs and expectations are met. This role ensures that customer requests are satisfied promptly and professionally. In addition, the specialist liaises between customers, sales, finance, and media channel partners.
Here are the nine most essential sales operations metrics and KPIs you should measure:
- Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)
- Lifetime Value (LT)
- Close Rate
- Win Rate
- Sales Forecasting Accuracy
- Avg Deal Size and Time to close
- Sales Turnover
- Customer Churn Rate
- Revenue and cost per Rep
Sales ops focus primarily on sales, whereas revenue operations incorporate finance, marketing, sales, and customer service into their function.