Sales operations are defined as the business activities or processes which help the company run efficiently to support their business strategies and objectives.
Sales operations is where the data is analyzed, and the plans are prepared. It is the same place where sales reside. There are primarily four categories of sales operations:
- Strategy: this includes analysis of performance and making and implementing new incentive programs. This also includes a selection of tools and training requirements.
- Operations: operations which include onboarding and recruitment along with maintenance of communication channels, collaboration, and management of the available contracts
- Processes: This includes adoption and implementation of appropriate metrics and KPIs, mentoring, coaching as well as optimization of all the workflows and relevant sales activities.
- Technology: includes the amalgamation of software with sales techniques.
Functions of sales operations
1. Product Training
It is the responsibility of the sales operation to calibrate and choose the training program required for salespeople. They have to keep the plan updated and fast-moving. The product training should be focused on the facts and informing your team about the latest development in the product line of your company. Along with this, they should be briefed on the benefits and features of the product. The training should also include the problem that the product solves and the working of it.
The various pricing structures and configurations of the product should also be included in the product training. Live demonstrations and hands-on is also included in the product training. One of the critical parts of responsibility is knowing the competition.
The product training should also include competitor activities, brief on competitive products, and how to tackle the doubts and queries raised by the competition.
2. Cross-functional collaboration
The sales operations team is an advocate for the salespeople which plays an important role in sales and operations planning as well as in the business management process in which the leadership teams need to discuss the business function.
3. Sales Training
Sales training is kept in check with the help of sales operations. It is essential to understand that sales training is different from product training. Sales training is focused only on the development of salesperson and is related to practical scenarios.
A person who is trained on product knowledge is taken to sales training. It is less about the product but more about understanding the needs of the customer. There are many products which require configuration customization from the customers’ perspective.
Training the salespeople to negotiate, talk with the customer, behave professionally are a few of the crucial aspects of sales training. Making the salesperson understand how to judge the customer; analyze the pain points and provide a solution in the form of the product is what is taught in sales training.
4.Market Intelligence Training
Sales operations provide information on markets right from the supply of customer data to sales analysis. A good salesperson will have a lot of information about the customer as well as the market, which will provide him with power for decision-making. Market intelligence, in short, is a combination of competitive pricing, product intelligence, as well as market research.
It would be overwhelming for the sales team to load in this knowledge with them; this is why sales operations are in charge of ensuring that the right content reaches the sales team.
5. Sales forecasting
By understanding the historical data and analyzing it along with the performance trends sales operations can help in sales forecasting. Sales forecasting is essential to arrange for necessary products and to keep an inventory of expected sales. The supply chain and the marketing team can make arrangements depending on the forecast that is given by the sales operations team.
It is also important to forecast the sales regularly so that the possible issues can be pointed out and avoided before they can cause a problem.
Sales forecasting is also essential because depending on the forecast, the targets are set annually.
6. Sales Mentoring
Formalizing, as well as streamlining the coaching process for the sales force, is the function of sales operations. This not only prevents the inefficiencies but also places a formalized process to conduct the mentoring process. Sales mentoring is essential for new joiners as well as non-performing employees.
7. Guided setting
The best practices are identified by sales operations which work in a typical sales situation. It is with the systematic study of how does a sales team perform, sales operations provides guidelines for sales teams. It also studies the customers and draws guidelines for sales organizations
High turnover is the specialty of sales. Sales operations have to reduce employee turnover in the sales department. Sales operations usually are part of the strategy and the company understands this better.
It is easy to develop and nurture a sales talent rather than play with employees by changing and rehiring them. Formalizing the onboarding process is also part of sales operations which starts with screening the eligible candidates up to hiring the correct ones.
9. Sales Strategy
Sales operations use the sales strategy and forecasting to establish a proper and formalized sales strategy. Sales strategy is also essential to set future goals. The sales department is also responsible for building a fundamental sales process which will improve.
The lead conversion ratio and reduce the time for the sales cycle. This will enable the sales team to maximize customer conversion and increase their sales wins.
10. Sales Team Communication
Sales operations are also responsible for keeping the entire team aligned to the sales reporting. It is also responsible for campaign results and communicating this news to the team.
11. Evaluation of Sales Methods
Usually, it is decided in high-level meetings that how a company should approach in strategic level sales. These methods can make or break a company’s growth plans and business volume.
Thus, effective planning and practices are essential for the success of the company. The sales operations team, which is the core of everyday functions, including training, functioning, should make the best possible recommendations. Their approach should be failproof so that the sales team can work accordingly.
12. Analysis of Metrics
An analysis is essential for the data which is collected by abundant advancement in technology. Sales forecasting is no more the only necessary data. There is a lot of data which needs to be analyzed right from the customer usage of your product to competition usage, daily reporting, frequency of reporting, frequency of orders from the customer and other things.
Most of the data is analyzed by sales operations so that they can prepare and project accordingly. This analysis also provides many reports which are crucial for the functioning of the sales teams and strategic decisions of management.
The working area of most of the salesperson is divided into geographical regions. A particular salesperson is assigned customers from a specific territory. The performance of the territory impacts salespersons’ performance.
Representatives are assigned to the specific areas which can make or break a campaign. Sales operations usually allocate areas to the salespeople depending on the potential of the customers and area.
With the help of CRM, sales operations can understand the workflow of the salesperson and the business that is generated. Changes in the working pattern are suggested by the sales operations team based on the data from the CRM. CRM also improves the working of the salesforce.
Structure of the sales operations team
The hierarchy of sales operation team will vary from company to company as well as from industry to industry. However, standard sales operations will include the following:
1. Sales operations rep
This is the entry-level for the role of sales operations. The role is often assigned the task of the generating, reporting and managing the available leads.
2. Sales Operations Analyst
This is a more experienced position of sales operations which is data-driven. The person is more into analyzing, marketing and reporting on the data regarding sales executives and their cross-functional seniors.
3. Sales operations manager
This person has the responsibility for the entire sales operations team. The person is expected to know sales methodologies, sales processes, behaviors as well as data analytics and data modeling.
4. Director or VP of Sales Operations
This person is responsible for managing the entire sales operations team and works closely with the senior leaders of the company. His primary job is to ensure strategic alignment.
Sales operations usually handle both strategic and tactical activities. This is why team members need to be adept technically, must have collaborative nature, should be operationally reliable as well as they should be skilled in project management. Structured approaches are usually required in sales operations job but creative, and out of the box, thinking is an added asset.
The bottom line is that the team member should have a balance of the skills, including the ability to see the big picture around them and also to get into the intricacies of process details. Diversity in skills is essential for efficient sales operations.
Sales Operations Best Practices
1. Arrangement of responsibilities and roles with the sales methodology of your company
Complementing the sales team for handling everyday tasks is essential. It will impact directly how the sales representatives will sell.
A sales operations team is well run with a mission statement. The mission statement should describe its purpose. The first step is to ensure that you figure out why does the sales operations team exist.
You have to formalize the mission statement like ‘to optimize the productivity of organization’ or ‘to free the sales team from non-sales generating activities and focus on revenue generation only.’
3. Establishing standard practices:
To avoid multiple approaches across regions and offices, it is recommended to create the best practice and consistent process which will help sales operations as the company prospers.
This should also cover everything right from preparing documents of strategy and defining the incentive structure and even the separation of territories. It should also determine how sales operations interact with other departments and socialize new processes.
4. Differentiating correctly between sales operations and sales enablement:
There is a common confusion when both terms are used. Sales operations begin where sales enablement ends. You have to make sure that the rules of both the teams are defined property and documented and communicated.
Because these two teams of an impact each other directly, they have to highlight areas where over that can be expected.
5. Equip the Sales Ops team to Succeed
Apart from providing ongoing and initial training, you have to provide your sales operation teams with the support of technology which they will need to do their jobs effectively.
You have to encourage them to use and explore the latest tools available to help the sales team such as various sales tools, and software is which will streamline their operations while getting better results.
6. Define the sales territories concerning social proximity:
it is seen usually that the sales territories are defined for the job graphic proximity. It may also be identified at times by nearby prospects. But more recently, it is seen that the sales team has begun to shift towards social proximity which is used as a tool for dividing the sales territories. Salespeople are assigned with prospects based on their social proximity.
It is considered how well they are connected and how close are their social networks. Another great resource is LinkedIn which can be considered for assigning social proximity which will help the salespeople to build their connections and familiarity for any business contract.
7. Communicate with other depts
The sales operations team often checks in with sales, marketing, sales enablement, and other departments regularly and addresses any relevant issues faced by them. They communicate with these departments periodically and ensure that there is no duplication of efforts from any other department.
They help to tap the untapped opportunities so that they can further improvise the process.
8. Shadow Sales:
Since sales operations impact their sales directly, they must understand each other and use of their sales teams. Every member is paired with a salesperson for a limited time so that they can witness the regular life of sales representatives. They get a chance to see how the sales operations can make things better.
9. Technology with a reason:
They have to replace the manual processes where it will make sense. But it will not make sense to enable the sales team with too many unnecessary automation. This could result in a technological burden.
While introducing automation to them, you have to remember that the primary function of salespeople is to generate revenue rather than learning technology.