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Sales Operations: What is it and Why it Matters

What is Sales Operations

Sales operations refers to the department, role, activities, and processes within a sales organization that support, enable, and drive sales teams to perform more efficiently and effectively.

The internal definition of sales operations varies by organization. However, it is typically the sales operations responsibility to implement training, tools, and processes to create sales strategy and process optimization.

Sales Ops reduces friction in your sales process, so your sales team is more productive and successful.

Sales Ops goal is to help sales teams eliminate problem areas and to allow sales reps to focus on tasks that contribute to revenue, rather than focusing on tedious time-wasting tasks, such as manual data entry. Sales Ops helps your sales teams establish and maintain sustainable growth.

Sales Operations vs. Sales Enablement

Many use the terms Sales Operations and Sales Enablement interchangeably. They do have some similarities and similar goals; however, they are, in fact, different.

As mentioned above, sales operations focus is on the structures, processes, and technologies that produce efficiency for the sales team. Sales enablements focus is on the performance of sales reps and the customers' experience and satisfaction.

Sales enablement is the process of providing your sales team with the resources they need to succeed. Sales enablement works in front of teams to support them with content, training and tools whereas sales operations works behind the scene to ensure structures are optimized for productivity.

- Kristen Pratt, LeadIQ's new Sales Enablement Manager 

Many companies run their sales enablement team under the sales operations department's umbrella, but this is not always the case. Companies often decide to run the two teams as two separate departments or branches of the organization.

When both departments are present in an organization, a good unwritten rule is to have sales ops handle everything on the operational side of selling (territory planning, structuring, technologies used, etc.) and have sales enablement handle all aspects that directly impact the performance of the sales team and customers (customer engagement & tools, process efficiencies, etc.).

Sales Operations Responsibilities

Some tactical and strategic responsibilities of Sales Ops include:

Hiring, On-boarding, & Training

Companies often have sales enablement taking over on-boarding and training; however, if your company does not have a sales enablement department or assumes the duty on the sales ops side, then sales operations will be responsible for getting new employees trained and on the right track.

Data Reporting

Sales operations use data to measure and evaluate the effectiveness of their product and sales process. With this evaluation, sales ops can make necessary improvements or changes to optimize the sales team and overall organization’s success.

Performance Metrics & Management

The sales operations department will look at performance data about each salesperson to determine and manage compensation plans and incentives, as well as, develop processes for resolving underperforming reps.

They also determine which metrics and KPIs are important to track for the company at the given stage.

Sales Forecasting

Sales operations use data to understand performance trends to forecast future sales and goals. Sales forecasts are important because they help your organization make better decisions regarding planning, budgeting, and risk management.

Territory Structuring & Alignment

Defining and assigning sales territories to sales reps falls on sales operations shoulders. This has an impact on the sales rep's target prospects/accounts and commission opportunities.

Technology &Tools

Sales ops oversees the selection and evaluation of the tools used by the sales team. They often work with sales enablement and revenue operations to make strategic and sound decisions on which tools to implement.

Sales Strategy

Sales operations use data analysis and forecasting to develop sales strategies. They set goals and processes to achieve these strategies based on the stage of the company.

Sales Process Optimization

Sales ops use data, tools, methodologies, metrics, etc., to determine the most effective sales process. They decide and improve on things such as automation, determining ICP, sales goals, etc.

Sales Team Organization

Sales operations help develop the sales team's structure to maximize its efficiency, performance, and revenue goals. They help determine roles and responsibilities as well as the best fit for that role.

Sales Operations Key Metrics

Determining what key metrics and KPIs vary from company to company. It depends on many factors, such as your company's stage and what you are trying to achieve. Tracking key metrics helps the organization improve and optimize their processes to maximize revenue potential.

Here is a list of some commonly used metrics provided by SalesHacker used across B2B organizations:

  • Salesforce Quota Achievement Rate: the percentage of the sales team that has achieved 100% of quota during a given period.
  • Average Win Rate: the ratio of closed-won deals over the total number of won and lost deals.
  • Average Sales Cycle Length: the average length of time it takes to close deals.
  • Average Deal Size: the average value of deal sizes sellers manages at any given point in the process.
  • Time Spent Selling: the actual time sellers spend selling compared to other tasks such as internal meetings, training, and administrative work.
  • Lead Response Time: the time it takes before leads respond positively to a pitch or call to action.
  • Weighted Pipeline Value: the estimated value of the pipeline at a given time in the process, used to make profit/loss forecasts.
  • Pipeline Efficiency: measures how effective sellers are at managing their pipelines.
  • Forecast Accuracy: computes the rate of error of prior forecasts vs. actual results or performance.
  • Number of Prospect Meetings per Period: a measure of prospecting activity that compares the number of meetings individual sellers could set in a given period.

Sales Operations Best Practices

The sales operation structure will vary depending on your company, and there are many beliefs on how to run the department successfully. However, you'll most likely be using the trial and error technique. What works for one company may not work for another, and that's okay. It's all about defining the right process for your organization.

With that being said, here are 3 tips that are helpful for any Sales Operations team:

  1. Collaborate with other teams across your organization.
  2. Shadow and stay in communication with your sales team.
  3. Constantly evaluate your sales stack.

Collaborate with other teams

Management across each department of an organization should be in frequent communication. However, when talking about sales ops specifically, they should constantly communicate with the other sales leaders/management to increase efficiency across the sales team. They should discuss what is working, what isn't, and brainstorm solutions to any problems that arise. 

They should be using data provided by each department to determine solutions to maximize the sales process. You want to be sure you are tracking the right metrics, the process is running smoothly, and if there are any important issues to be addressed. This minimizes poor performance. You want your organization's departments to be aligned with each other.

Shadow & Stay in Communication with your Sales Team

A great way to make sure your sales process and sales team are working productively is to have your sales ops team shadow salespeople once per quarter. This gives them the chance to witness first-hand the common challenges they are experiencing.

Staying in communication with sales managers throughout the year can impact the sales ops teams future planning and goals. You should have regular sales management meetings so you will know exactly what is happening behind the scenes and how you can improve any areas that may need it.

Constantly Evaluate Your Sales Stack

A lot of time and effort goes into evaluating and implementing tools and systems for your sales team. But your job isn't done there; you should be evaluating your current tools quarterly to make sure things are still working properly and effectively. Sales technology can drastically improve your sales team's performance, so it is important to make sure they are being used properly and that you don't have too many tools in your stack. Having too many tools can be a waste of money and negatively impact performance.

Wrap Up

Sales operations play a critical role in your organization's growth. They keep the sales team working effectively, and make improvements to the structure and processes when necessary.

Sales ops are the backbone to your sales team and sales structure.