Sales operations: Best practices

The team structure of a sales ops unit comes in all shapes and colors. While sales ops has become an integral part of the sales organization, variations in terms of structure, role, and implementation exist across businesses and industries. Smaller companies might simply promote a seasoned business development manager. In contrast, a large organization will likely set up a team with technical specialists, sales effectiveness managers, and a sales operations manager.

Whatever its size, follow these best practices to ensure your sales ops unit runs like a well-oiled machine.

1. Determine and understand the relevant KPIs

A good sales ops leader eats numbers for breakfast. Luckily, in sales, there’s no shortage of metrics and KPIs to track. The challenge, though, is to measure the most meaningful ones for the business.

The dashboard of a sales ops manager features big-picture metrics such as average contract value, sales cycles, and hit rate. These metrics are shared across the organization, but it’s part of what sales ops does to dig deeper into the nitty-gritty details.

For example. The sales team knows their hit-rate - but can they tell in which stage of the sales process they are losing most of the deals? And why? The sales team also certainly know how much they sold last month - but do they know from which revenue segment the most lucrative customers come from? Here’s where Sales Ops step in. They must have the capacity to have an overview of the whole sales process to give answers to those questions. Once this is understood, it is possible to tweak and tune the entire process.

Important: Break the numbers down and examine them with a magnifying glass. Deep dive into your process and the performance of the team to identify the areas where they shine and the spots that could stand to improve.

2. Identify trends before they get out of control

Once you have a detailed view of the performance of your team, you want to uncover trends that help understands the shortcoming and bottlenecks of your sales process. What is preventing your sales reps from hitting quota? The conversion rate dropped in the last week. Why?

Because they have a holistic view of the whole sales process, successful sales ops can anticipate trends early enough, so they can avoid severe underperformance of the sales team for a long time.

ImportantIf you see something, say something. When you identify a trend, communicate early to course correct.

3. Stop handling all quick-fixes like fire drills

Sales is a fast-paced world, and often, there are more problems than time to fix them. Rushing from task to task and implementing quick fixes invariably derails good routine and process. Serious problem-solving quickly degenerates into quick-and-dirty patching.

Chronic fire fighting consumes sales ops’ resources. Instead of having quick fixes, identify the real problem: where is the sales process leaking? It is the sustainable long-term fixes that eliminate underlying issues that have the most significant impact on the success of the entire sales team.

Important: Work on fixing real problems instead of doing unsustainable quick fixes. Don’t let nice-to-have quick fixes take your focus from what really brings success to the sales team and the deals rolling in.

4. Take on an advisory role to the head of sales

A necessity for a successful sales ops unit to be possible is strong collaboration between the head of sales and the sales ops manager. Acting as “chief of staff”, a sales ops manager has to learn to think like the head of sales to propose the solutions that will help the sales team implement long-term fixes.

5. Make sure your data is accurate and up-to-date

The work of sales ops amounts to nothing without accurate, fresh, and reliable data. In many organizations, sales ops acts as the administrator of most of the sales tools, including the CRM. As a result, you need to make sure everyone uses the CRM correctly and inputs all the relevant information. Establish clear rules and guidelines, so everyone in the company uses the CRM in the same way.

Just remember that no matter what, the data in your CRM decays at breakneck speed. Businesses are in constant flux, and people change jobs, making your data stale and inaccurate. Any organization that works with a CRM wants to establish year-around data cleaning activities to fixing the data decay problem and open the door to additional data points and richer insights.

Conclusion

By leveraging data, insight, and technology, sales operations is now a critical piece of sales organizations of any size. Yes, indeed, the work of these departments goes largely unnoticed in day to day life, but in the long run, sales ops supports almost everything the sales teams do. Want to make sure your reps are making the most of your time? Sales ops has an answer to that.

Topics: Sales Operations

Eduardo Alonso

Scribbler at Vainu’s Marketing team. Taco enthusiast and obsessive record collector. Straight outta Madrid.