When we think of anything in operation, we think of the internal structure of the thing. How it works. How it does what it does. What makes it tick.
That’s what we’re going to look at today regarding sales operations management.
How does sales operations work? How does it differ from other departments? What are some best practices for making it work in your business?
In this guide you’ll learn the inner workings of sales operations and be able to build your own sales operations team or improve your existing one.
What Is Sales Operations?
Sales operations is pretty well-defined by Wikipedia:
“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 objectives.”
It’s the backroom where data is analyzed, plans are hatched, and goals are set.
Sales operations can be broken into the following 4 categories:
- Strategy – including analyses of performance metrics, creation of incentive programs, and the selection of enablement tools and training requirements.
- Operations – including recruitment and onboarding, maintenance of collaboration and communication channels, and management of contracts.
- Processes – including the adoption of appropriate sales metrics and KPIs, coaching and mentoring, and the implementation and optimization of workflows, sales activities, etc.
- Technology – including the integration of software tools, content management, and CRM platforms.
Sales operations covers anything and everything to hit targets, maximize productivity, and sell more of your products.
What Is the Sales Operations Job Description?
Sales operations requires many different people with many different skill sets to run efficiently.
You may have a project that requires setting up a new CRM, which calls for a variety of technical skills. Or you may have to optimize the stages of your current sales process, which requires deep problem-solving skills.
This means there are many job descriptions for sales operations.
But there are 5 major positions most sales ops departments will have that you should too. They are:
- Sales operations representative
- Sales operations analyst
- Senior sales operations analyst
- Manager of sales operations
- VP of sales operations, sometimes known as the senior director of sales operations
Let’s dig into each below.
Sales Operations Representative
A sales ops rep is an entry-level position.
This job only demands 0-2 years of experience, but you will be expected to have:
- Precise attention to detail.
- Technical skills.
- Excellent communication skills.
- And the aptitude to learn marketing and sales automation (if you don’t possess these skills already).
Sales Operations Analyst
The sales ops analyst is expected to be able to work across functions. This means they should deeply understand the product you’re selling, understand how to market it, be able to analyze the data collected, get involved in engineering tasks, and so on.
And since your job revolves around analysis, you would also be expected to know data modeling, data mining, and data quality management.
The job usually requires at least 3 years of experience.
Senior Sales Operations Analyst
The senior sales operations analyst needs all of the skills of an ordinary sales ops analyst but on a much deeper level. They also need to be well-versed in managing CRMs, business intelligence platforms, and many more software tools such as Excel.
Plus, they absolutely must possess strong communication and leadership skills, along with the ability to work well with sales executives.
The job requires 4 or more years of experience.
Manager of Sales Operations
The sales operations manager oversees and directs a team of sales operations specialists.
This demands a high degree of leadership qualities and experience.
Sales ops managers need to grasp various sales methods, the driving forces behind sales behavior, and how sales processes work. They also need to be proficient in data modeling and analytics.
This position requires 5 or more years of experience.
VP of Sales Operations (or Senior Director of Sales Operations)
The VP of sales operations will lead the entire sales ops department and work hand-in-hand with executives and senior leadership in other departments.
You’ll need to know how to use CRMs and sales automation tools. You’ll need to be able to produce complex financial models using database software. And you must have extremely strong presentation, communication, and collaboration skills.
To be in this position, you must possess an MBA or Masters in a technical field and have 10 years of experience, the bulk of which should be in successful leadership roles and similar business departments like sales enablement.
12 Sales Operations Roles and Responsibilities
In the last section, we detailed a few of the major jobs you’ll have to hire people to do as part of your sales operations team.
What we didn’t cover are all the roles and responsibilities those jobs entail.
Below we detail 12 of the top roles and responsibilities that various members of your organization will need to perform.
1. Cross-Functional Collaboration
Sales operations convenes with other departments such as sales and marketing to make sure everyone is on the same page, business objectives are aligned, and each member of every team is doing what they’re supposed to.
2. Sales Data Management
Sales operations is most in charge of analyzing and managing the sales data collected across your entire organization.
“Managing” data in this context means determining the effectiveness of processes, methods, and campaigns for maximum productivity and revenue generation along with improvements in the sales strategy.
3. Sales Forecasting
Sales ops will create sales forecasting to compare your organization’s goals with your current needs. It also allows the sales team to identify possible issues that they can fix now instead of allowing it to grow into a bigger problem later.
4. Lead Generation
Sales operations typically either handles admin tasks like lead generation and appointment bookings, or will supply software that can.
5. Performance Management
Sales operations will look for ways to improve the productivity and performance of the salespeople they oversee.
This may take the form of compensation, incentive, or employee recognition plans. They also come up with ways to resolve poor performance.
6. Sales Representative Support
When a sales rep needs help, they should rely on sales operations to lend a hand.
Sales ops can help with their leads, manage transactions, draw up contracts, and even provide training in areas like time management, for instance.
7. Sales Strategy
Sales operations takes the data they’ve been analyzing and uses it to establish a smarter, stronger sales strategy.
Part of that sales strategy includes improvements in conversions, shortening sales cycles, and increasing the number of deals closed.
8. Sales Team Communications
Sales operations is responsible for meeting with other departments, aligning their targets with larger organizational goals, and delivering regular reports on news and sales wins.
9. Sales Team Organization
Sales operations seeks ways to reorganize the structure and organization of the sales team to improve their performance and efficiency.
10. Technology Management
Sales operations is in charge of finding and implementing upgraded technology, new tools, and better platforms. They often work with sales managers, sales enablement, and the IT team to find the best solutions for your salespeople.
11. Territory Definition
Sales operations will carve out and assign the sales territory for each sales rep.
Sales operations manages the training programs used on new recruits along with established sales reps.
They may develop their own mentoring and coaching programs. They may also hire guest speakers for in-person training. And they may invest in an on-demand training platform that sales reps can access anytime, anywhere for self-directed learning.
Sales Operations vs Sales Management
Let’s define sales management to understand how it differs from sales operations:
Sales management is the coaching, leading, and directing of sales reps to consistently gain new leads, nurture qualified prospects, and close more deals.
They’re the ones on the frontlines of the sales battle.
Sales operation toils in the background to support sales management initiatives. They provide the data, strategies, and plans that sales management executes.
By working in hand with sales operations, sales management is able to focus more time on making tactical decisions and assisting their sales reps.
Sales Operations vs Sales Enablement
More often than not, sales operations is confused with sales enablement.
In reality, sales enablement is a component of sales operations.
Sales operations analyzes the data and comes up with smarter ways to increase conversions and salespeople’s performance. Then sales enablement puts those plans into action.
For example, if your sales team is having a lot of trouble with lead generation, sales operations will notice this and create ways to overcome whatever problem they’re facing and advise sales enablement on what to do.
Sales enablement can then create or hire lead generation training, invest in new CRMs, or roll out new cold calling methods.
Another key difference between sales enablement and sales operations is they focus on different stages in the buyer’s journey.
Sales enablement is very active in the beginning stages: lead generation, nurturing, training, etc.
Sales operations looks more closely at negotiations and closing deals, along with ways to motivate sales reps with improved territory designs and better compensation packages.
And more often than not, both sales operations and sales enablement sit down and discuss their targets and plans to guarantee there’s a clear division of labor and they’re not duplicating work.
Sales Operations Best Practices
There’s no one right way to run your sales operations department, but the tips we lay out below will give you a good start.
Develop a Strong Sales Operations Mission
A strong mission will unite your sales operations team and guide their attitudes and behaviors.
It also helps your team maintain a sense of purpose in everything they do.
Here’s an example of a strong sales ops mission from Hubspot:
“Enable data-backed decisions that drive growth.”
What some teams have trouble with is their mission statement ends up being vague and meaningless. Hubspot at least tried to be specific by including “data-backed” and “drive growth.”
If you want your mission statement to have more clarity, considering adding a “How” section that details things like, automating operational tasks or seeing projects through to completion.
Collaborate with Other Teams
Sales operations relies heavily on the information they get from other departments.
For this reason, it’s imperative to collaborate closely with sales enablement, marketing, sales managers, and any other relevant department.
You want to be sure you’re not doing anything that’s already been done and that you’re addressing pertinent issues.
Holding periodic meetings is usually the best strategy to get this done.
Lead Your Team Confidently
Sales operations, like any other department in your organization, requires strong leadership to run efficiently.
This person should have a direct line to the executives, be comfortable presenting big ideas to the team, and work extremely well with others.
Empower Sales Ops with a Better Way to Communicate
We’ve said it many times in this post:
A critical skill for sales ops is excellent communication and collaboration.
So much will fall to the wayside without it.
And one of the keys to better communication is communicating with people in the way they prefer.
What’s the #1 way people prefer to take in information?
Through visual communication.
Communication visually allows your sales ops teams to share recordings of their screen, discuss a project through a webcam video, and create instructional GIFs that walk someone through a process or task visually.
The tool we recommend?
Zight (formerly CloudApp), of course.
We’ve been ranked by G2 Crowd as one of the top sales enablement tools.
Our software is easy to use and simple to share.
Give your sales ops team a unique tool for communicating and collaborating by discovering why Zight (formerly CloudApp) is an essential sales operations tool today.