“Take the next exit in 200 meters to avoid road blockage.”
A simple alert on Google maps helped me reach work before time today! With evolving technology, the right data is collected and utilized to help you reach your destination.
Wouldn’t it be convenient if, as a business, you knew when to push your teams or which resources to invest in while steering clear of all the obstacles? That’s where sales operations step in.
Like Google maps, sales operations help you map the most efficient path to meet your business objectives. This article explains the role of sales operations and how you can manage your sales operations teams better.
What is Sales Operations?
Sales operations is a tool that businesses use to support their sales strategies and outcomes. It improves sales efficiency and resolves business challenges by tracking and analyzing sales data. Serving both strategic and tactical functions, sales operation is essentially a bridge between your sales team and where they aspire to be.
The sales operation team contributes to every stage of the sales cycle—lead generation, lead qualification, speeding up conversions, and improving customer retention, for example.
It does so by equipping the sales team with the information, forecasts, and tools they need to sell efficiently. But from an overall business perspective, sales operations also work towards targeting the right audience and territory.
The sales operations team dons a lot of different hats, but data and analysis lie at the crux of all their activities. Most businesses identified the need to make proactive data-driven decisions years ago, which is reflected in a 38% increase in sales operations professionals between 2018 to 2020.
Helping sales teams sell better sounds a lot like the job of the sales enablement team, right? You’re not wrong. While sales enablement and sales operations have this function in common, there are a lot of differences that set them apart as well.
Sales Operations vs. Sales Enablement
|Sales operations||Sales enablement|
|Aim||Sales operations support the team by providing actionable insights to alter and improve their sales process.||Sales enablement helps sales reps close deals faster by providing them with relevant content and training to improve sales communication.|
|Build||Sales commission and incentives programs.||Content management system to align sales and marketing teams.|
|Improve||Each stage of the sales process including lead generation and forecasting.||Conversion rates and buyer engagement to boost sales efficiency.|
|Track and Analyse||Sales funnel with the help of sales performance tools and productivity trackers.||The effectiveness of each customer interaction, hiring and onboarding, and sales training.|
|Strategic planning||Develop sales and revenue strategies for territory and product-wise sales.||Introduce new strategies to engage and interact with the customer based on enablement and sales performance reports.|
Boosting sales efficiency and productivity is a common objective for both sales operations and sales enablement, but how they achieve it is different. In many organizations, there might be an overlap between their functions which leads to a few redundancies.
Businesses need to clearly define the roles of these teams to ensure that they’re productive and know their objectives. Here’s how the sales operations and sales enablement teams can collaborate to improve their outcomes:
- When a sales operation team introduces a new platform to manage and improve sales performance, the sales enablement team can simplify the adoption process by training the team.
- Sales enablement can share the data collected from the sales dashboard for the sales operation team to improve overall sales strategy and to build ideal customer profiles.
- Customer engagement feedback, from the sales enablement team, across verticals and territories helps the sales operations team plan targets.
Now that we understand the difference between these two teams let’s dive into the hype around sales operations and why businesses are investing their time and efforts into strengthening sales operations.
Why do businesses need an effective sales operations team?
In short, to improve efficiency.
But getting there requires a lot of major changes that are enabled by sales operations. With higher efficiency, your revenue gets a hefty boost. Businesses that have invested in operations have experienced a 10-20% in sales productivity and a 3X increase in revenue.
Here’s how effective sales operations transform businesses:
1. Accurate forecasting
Sales operations use the previous year’s performance, expansion potential, and current market scenarios to build accurate and realistic revenue and sales forecasts.
2. Data-driven decision making
No more gut feelings and arbitrary decisions because sales operations ensure that every decision you make is reliable, sustainable, and proven to work in the past.
3. A dynamic yet well-structured sales process
To create a scalable and high-return sales process, each step needs to be well-defined and structured into an automated workflow on a tool, such as a CRM. But sales operations also identify the best practices, something that a team or an individual adopted, and find ways to implement these as a part of the sales process.
4. Consistent sales activities and outcomes
Daily reports and activity tracking ensure that leads move through the pipeline at the predicted speed. The operations team is in charge of identifying the outliers and low performers.
5. Sales planning
Sales operations work closely with stakeholders and business leaders to create strategic plans under four categories:
- Territory planning: Makes sure the right reps are assigned to the suitable territories to hit their targets.
- Capacity planning: Identify if and where new talent must be hired, or previous employees must be reskilled to meet target demands.
- Quota planning: To assign achievable sales quotas for teams based on their performance and potential.
- Compensation planning: For sales commissions and incentives plans that ensure the team performs consistently and stays motivated.
6. Manage sales performance
Most reporting and planning can only occur if sales performance is tracked. Sales operations analyze it to give a big picture and weekly account of where the performance is lacking. This proactive approach can help sales managers step in before it’s too late to meet sales targets.
As we talked about before, efficiency is their priority. Providing these benefits to the companies’ stakeholders and leaders comes with many responsibilities that the team takes up.
Sales Operations Roles and Responsibilities
“The sales operation team is the backbone of the sales team. Our goal is to ensure that processes and performances are maintained and that the right tools are adopted to enable salespeople to sell better and boost their numbers.”Mamta Mishra, Senior Manager-Operations and Analytics, LeadSquared
The responsibilities of the sales operations team land under four major silos—Strategy, Technology, Performance, and Operations.
One of the most important functions of sales operations is strategic planning, where they provide a bird’s eye view of the sales process by tracking each stage of the sales cycle. They provide insights rather than data, supported by dashboards that depict the trends which are necessary for CEOs and sales managers to improve funnel management and simplify the sales pipeline.
Strategic planning includes:
- Sales forecasting
- Sales data management
- Sales team organization
- Optimizing the sales process
- Sales planning
- Lead generation strategies
Administrative tasks and operations can slow down the sales team from hitting the ground with their maximum potential. So, sales operations solve this challenge by taking up the following responsibilities:
- Setting up internal communications for the sales team
- Hiring and onboarding talent
- Aligning sales and marketing teams
- Supporting sales teams
Implementing technology that helps teams improve their productivity and decrease the number of manual tasks is imperative for sales operations. They figure out which tool would be cost-effective, easy to implement, and simplify sales workflows.
The decision is made in close collaboration with the IT and tech teams in the organization to ensure compatibility with systems and abide by the company’s data privacy laws.
The sales operation team looks after these tools as a part of their tech stack:
- Sales automation platforms
- Data management and reporting dashboards
- Adopting a sales and marketing CRM
Most sales operations teams find a CRM to be the right fit to meet their sales team’s requirements. But choosing a CRM can be complicated because there are so many options and an overload of upcoming features in the market. We’ve compiled a simple guide to help you make this decision.
You can’t improve something if you don’t know where your team is going wrong. Sales operations closely monitor the sales performance and any fluctuations that they see regularly. Even if things are going great, all the targets are being met. They use it as an opportunity to raise the bar by either expanding their opportunities or finding effective ways to upsell and cross-sell.
Sales ops can help you create and manage team performance in the following ways:
- Set sales KPIs and metrics
- Track sales analytics
- Create sales performance management reports
- Monitor the efficiency and productivity of teams daily
- Manage leads through the sales pipelines
While these responsibilities are a part of operation’s everyday tasks, there are also a few targets or assignments that cater to. Sales operations representatives follow a strategy when they receive a new target or begin to tackle a new sales challenge.
Steps to Develop a Sales Operations Strategy
The sales operations strategy may differ across organizations and industries. But, in general, most sales operations teams follow the top-down approach to build their strategy.
1. Clearly define sales operations objectives.
At this stage, the operations team understands the business challenges from the stakeholders and leaders. They also get in touch with the people involved in the process, such as the sales, presales, and customer success teams, to figure out all the points of conflict.
Eventually, they clearly quantify and define the goal that the team needs to achieve. For example, enable sales automation to decrease manual intervention and save the salesperson’s time.
2. Research Analysis
At the research stage, the ops team measures the current operational effectiveness and identifies trackable metrics. It’s a way to report the process before the change and audit the available data collection points. They also try to find new metrics that can be tracked and are involved in the process.
3. Build Effective Dashboards and Reports
Once the source of the data and all the metrics are finalized, the sales operation team focuses on building or improving reports and dashboards to reflect this data. It’s important to note that this data collection should be automated while creating a single source of truth.
“While creating reports, the sales operations team focus on building a source of truth that all the teams and stakeholders can refer to. It decreases redundancy, and your teams don’t have to spend time creating reports that don’t match up at the end of the day.”Priyanka Sharma, Business Analyst, HighRadius
4. Involve the stakeholders
Here’s when you present the plan to the stakeholders and get their approval. So, how this pans out depends on your plan. But while presenting the plan, you should involve all the stakeholders who will be affected directly or indirectly. For example, automating processes may decrease the need to hire more reps in the future, or sales managers need to be on board with any changes in the sales process.
5. Implement the plan
Sales operations strategy also involves implementation, including adoption and training. The entire sales team needs to understand the new changes, whether a new tool or a sales cycle stage, so they can adapt to it and set it into motion.
6. Optimize it further
Track, report, tweak, and repeat the entire process all over. You get the gist!
Sales operation teams stay on their toes to improve their plans based on what they learn about their customers, the evolving market and new products, and well as competitors.
5 Best Practices for Sales Operations Management
The conundrum in sales operations is that while the team reports and tracks sales performance, the sales operation manager must also be equipped with the tools and reports to manage their team.
We’ve got five practices for sales operations management that’ll take your teams from good to brilliant.
1. Hire the right talent
Sales operations is an integral part of any business, and for it to perform well, you need to hire the best talent in the market. The entire team should understand the sales process to be able to identify the laggers, or delayed tasks, in a project or the process and then begin to improve it.
“The ability to read between the lines is essential for a sales operation team member. Numbers are frequently thrown at you, and you need to identify the impact that its analysis has on all the different stakeholders.”Priyanka Sharma, Business Analyst, HighRadius
2. Tracking sales operations KPIs for consistent growth
The outcomes of the operations team usually reflect on the sales cycle—its efficiency, length of the sales cycle, or the revenue that the sales team generates. These outcomes are interlinked for the operations and sales teams, as they work very closely towards achieving them.
Sales ops managers need the sales and operations-related KPIs to be easily accessible. It helps them monitor the teams and tweak the process swiftly to improve outcomes.
The most common sales operations KPIs that businesses track are:
- Length of the sales cycle (An average of the number of days taken to close a deal)
- Weighted pipeline value (Projected deal value x probability of closure)
- Win rate (Number of deals closed/ Total number of leads)
- Customer acquisition cost (Total sales and marketing expenses/ Total number of customers acquired)
- Average selling time (Time spent on core selling tasks versus time spent on manual, administrative tasks)
- Forecast efficiency (Predicted revenue/Actual revenue x 100%)
Based on ongoing projects and targets, the sales KPIs the operations manager needs to track vary over time. The relevant KPIs can be built into a CRM system to manage them on a single platform and spend close to no time generating the reports.
3. Shadowing the sales teams
While sales metrics and KPIs give you an overall view of your sales teams, there are a few sales efforts that automation absolutely can’t track.
Sales operations teams shadow sales reps to understand what the high performers are doing right and how it can be implemented for the entire sales team. At the same time, it helps them:
- Understand the buyer and their requirements better
- Collect feedback to improve the sales performance
- Reduce redundant tasks that automation can’t track
Shadowing also involves the sales representatives in operations, and knowing their challenges improves operational efficiency.
4. Set realistic expectations
Efficiency and productivity don’t have an upper limit, especially for fast-growing businesses. 100% isn’t where sales operation teams stop. They continuously improve the process to increase outcomes for the bottom line.
“Setting the expectations right is important, because the stakeholders have a specific problem but might not be aware of the intricacies of the operating system. The requirements may vary across teams so compiling these processes with the system is quite time consuming.”Mamta Mishra, Senior Manager-Operations and Analytics, LeadSquared
It’s easy to get caught up in the process, pick up multiple projects and eventually lose track of your targets. This is why sales operations managers decide which targets need to be prioritized and set absolute deadlines for them.
Involving the stakeholders in the process can be quite challenging too. So, operation managers for any project maintain a document of weekly updates and the direction to share them with the stakeholders. When expectations are managed, the decision-makers know what to expect, and progress is systematically tracked.
5. Implement sales operations tools that deliver results
Sales operations rely on accurate data to derive insights and bring meaningful change. But sometimes businesses get so caught up in simplifying tasks with technology that they find themselves knee-deep in a tech stack that is impossible to manage.
According to a report, businesses with over 1000 employees deploy 150+ SAAS applications for their teams! You’ll probably need to hire a new team to manage these tools.
Every time an operations representative thinks about adding a new technology, they need to check:
- Its compatibility with current tools
- The ROI that it’ll deliver
- Ease of implementation and adoption
- Level of data security that it provides
Sales operation managers opt for a conservative approach by choosing few comprehensive tools to solve their challenges instead of implementing multiple tools. Let’s understand how you can choose one that manages sales performance and operations.
How to Choose a Sales Operations Tool?
Sales operations works only when it is a collaborative effort between operations, sales, and marketing. And the tool that you choose should also meet all their requirements.
A CRM is a tool that fits the bill. It is a one-stop solution that performs the following functions to boost sales operations teams.
- Sales and Marketing Automation
- Customer Relationships
- Sales Forecasting
- Sales Analytics
- Sales Performance Management (SPM)
- Pipeline Management
- Content Management System (CMS)
- Sales Commissions and Incentive Management
- Lead Management
- Sales Enablement Software
Even though these are a lot of different functions, they’re interrelated and work around the same data. All you need are a few features that a CRM offers.
To make things easier, here’s a Sales Operations Tool Checklist that covers all the needed features.
You can also download this checklist to share it with your team or refer to it later: Sales Operations Tool Checklist.
Before we wrap, I’d like to show you how LeadSquared helped Eka.care improve their sales operations and make highly data-driven decisions.
How LeadSquared helped Eka.care, a HealthTech start-up, achieve 100% Funnel Visibility with LeadSquared
Eka.care aims to create digitally enabled and connected healthcare ecosystems for better health outcomes. Currently, the company provides app-based platforms to doctors, patients & labs and has also partnered with government initiatives like ABHA & CoWIN.
Eka.care used to handle their customer data on excel sheets that weren’t scalable as their teams and customer volume increased. That’s when their operations team decided to implement LeadSquared’s Healthcare CRM.
|Sales Operations Goals||LeadSquared Solutions||Results|
|Improve pipeline visibility to decrease disparity between teams.||Lead tracking tools and in-depth dashboards to monitor complete lead journey.||360° Pipeline visibility with a centralized database.|
|Enable effective sales management.||Productivity and activity trackers to monitor both inside sales and on-ground teams.||Higher accountability from the team with complete activity tracking|
|Decrease manual sales activities.||Automated lead distribution and patient workflows to save hours of time.||Improved sales productivity.|
“LeadSquared helped us unlock much-needed visibility – both into our customer journey & internal processes. We have been able to derive valuable insights and make better, data-driven decisions. Overall, it has been a great experience and we look forward to a continued partnership with LeadSquared.”Bhuvan Anand, Manager-Sales & Operations, Eka.care
To Sum It Up
Sales operations is a complex data-driven team that solves most business challenges by improving sales efficiency. They track and monitor sales activities, customer interactions, and pipeline workflows to generate in-depth reports and automate sales processes.
LeadSquared‘s extensive CRM helps sales operation teams improve their strategy with ease. It’s an easy-to-use platform to manage leads, track sales pipelines, and monitor sales performance. The tips and best practices shared in this article will help you leverage data and technology to drive sustainable growth for your business.
And to take your sales operations efforts up a notch, you should give LeadSquared a shot today.