8 Steps to Getting Started with Sales Operations

Behind every successful motion picture, there’s an entire team of people, responsible for different tasks, working towards the joint goal of co-creating the next blockbuster movie. The director is the creative genius with the vision, who works closely with the actors to coach and guide them in that direction. On her side, there's the producer. A film producer is running more operational tasks such as the hiring of crew and cast, scheduling, and sourcing of material.

Why are we talking about movies, you might ask? Well, because in high-growth sales organizations it’s not uncommon that the VP Sales becomes a sales liability. Sales coaching, forecasting, evaluating sales tools... are just a few of the things we usually see sales leadership spend their time on. With too many things on their plate, a VP Sales will either be letting important processes and decisions slip through the cracks, or spend way too much time looking at the numbers while not spending enough time on their people.

Having a sales operations role is a smart solution for a growing sales organizations, similar to the what a movie director seeks in their producer. By leaving more responsibility on the sales operations manager (producer), the VP Sales (director) can spend more time on leading the team towards success.

We’ve already covered the what and the why of sales operations in this blog post. In our recent webinar, we spoke with Adam Wenhov (Sales Operations Manager at GetAccept) and Sander Blomberg (VP Sales Operations at Benify) about how to get up and running with a SalesOps function. Here’s the aftermath of that webinar.

8 steps for setting up a sales operations function

1. Set clear objectives and expectations

Before you even start looking at resumes or superstars internally for the role, make sure that you have a clear definition of objectives and expectations. What is it that your business really need? What are the biggest challenges for your sales managers and sales reps today? And what are the necessary steps in order to solve it? 

Measuring success in the role is difficult, so a clear definition of the mission statement is key. Create a draft of what you want the new SalesOps function to focus on (in order) and write a job description from it. 

 

2. Find the right partner to be your first SalesOps hire

Sales operations is a key hire for any organization, so you shouldn’t take it lightly. Due to the very long list of responsibilities it usually covers, you need to find someone that not only has the right technical and analytical skills, but also the drive and creativity to succeed in this demanding job. 

But maybe most importantly, try to look for someone who completes you and your team. As our speakers stated in the webinar: To get commitment from sales reps, sales operations must get commitment from sales managers. Make sure that you hire a sales operations manager that really strives to become best friends with your sales managers.

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3. Combine long term strategy with low-hanging fruits

You have your first hire, time to get started! While setting up the function and creating a long term strategy, make sure that you simultaneously also work with the “low-hanging fruit”. In the end, sales operations are there to help salespeople sell more, and when people see results quickly, you’ll gain trust.

Interview sales reps and sales leaders. What are they struggling with the most?  Where are you currently getting the most revenue? Which deals are being closed? Where’s the main bottleneck? From these insights, you can build a long term strategy for sales operations while working on quick fixes.

4. Define or reconfirm your ideal customer profile and buyer personas

Sales operations should be responsible for the development and execution of your ideal customer profile and buyer personas. They should constantly make sure that you are focusing your sales activities on the right prospects with the most optimal method.

There’s a lot of frameworks on how to create an ideal customer profile (check our guide here), but make sure to define or reconfirm it once in a while. Maybe there’s a global pandemic who makes some companies less likely to buy? Exclude them from your ICP. Are there some companies that are showing better results, such as higher ACV or shorter sales cycles? Your sales operations function should be on top of these trends.

5. Audit the existing sales tools processes to see what’s working (and what isn’t)

OK, so you have a CRM, a marketing automation platform, sales enablement tools, and maybe even a platform for sales gamification. Great, you’ve taken the first steps towards a modern and data-driven sales organization. But how well are your tools working together? Do the sales reps know how to use them? Are all of them necessary?

Sales operations are usually a bit more technical than the average sales rep, and should invest time in making sure that the data is aligned, that the platforms are being used and that the sales representatives see the value of them. Basically be a superuser and make sure that you get ROI from your sales tech-stack.

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6. Create or update a sales playbook

Training new sales reps or implementing new processes can be difficult. How do you make sure that people are following best practices? A sales playbook arms your reps with all the content and strategies they need to fire on all cylinders. Sales operations should work together with sales leadership to create a written sales strategy, a sales playbook, that your sales reps always can go to when they need support or guidance.

7. Fix your data

Data, data, data. We could talk about this for hours. Sales operations need to know which data you have access to, which data you want access to and how to use it in your sales process. Here’s a full guide on how to build a trusted data foundation.

8. Prepare for failure, and constantly iterate

Be kind to yourselves. It takes time before your new function is up and running with the best possible structure. The first step is to get started, and from there improve on the process. Maybe you need to hire more people to your new team, cut down on your tech-stack or change processes in your sales playbook. Prepare for it, and make sure you are quick on your feet to adapt.

Summary

if everyone is responsible, nobody’s responsible. You’re likely already doing some form of sales operations tasks, but if growth through sales excellence is what you strive for, having someone in charge is critical. Don’t walk, run at the opportunity to hire someone.

Further reading

Topics: B2B Sales, Sales Operations

Emelie Malmquist

Marketing Manager for Sweden and Denmark (she's from the south of Sweden, so the latter one was too obvious to decline). When Emelie’s not out preaching real-time sales, she spends way too much time in front of reality shows (preferably dating shows). Often combined with a coffee or ten.