This article covers the basics of sales operations and their KPIs, roles, models, and procedures for agile businesses. We’ve included links to relevant material throughout this post to help you get around to make things easier to understand.
What Is Sales Operations?
Sales operations describe the unit, role, job responsibilities, and procedures in a sales department that support, enable, and engage front-line sales teams to sell more effectively. Sales ops executives allow salespeople to concentrate more on selling to achieve business goals by providing them with strategically implemented training and enablement software tools and engagement programs.
Sales ops in conjunction with sales leadership, provide the framework for selling. This neglected yet often under-valued department uses data to generate strategy, best practices to enhance training, and technology to optimize performance.
The sales operations department has grown to be a critical and strategic component of a successful sales organization, especially in the SaaS, and B2B markets, owing to its comprehensive breadth and significant impact on top-line (productivity) and bottom line (efficiency) performance.
Sales ops have grown their scope to include nearly all activities that provide the critical strategic insight required by a sales team to achieve long-term growth.
A number of varying activities may define sales operations, but many contemporary sales ops executives execute a core set of responsibilities:
The function of sales operations originally consisted of a small team of number crunchers who performed financial analyses, reporting, and sales forecasting. Sales ops teams have grown in influence over time as the amount of business information exploded, evolving into a more data-driven analysis and reporting unit with the capacity to provide insight on various topics and activities;
Sales Process Optimization
Analyses of Performance Metrics
Implementation of Incentives Program
Assessment of Sales Team Training Needs
Evaluation and Adoption of Sales Methodologies
Growth Forecasting and Sales Territory Assignment
Selection of Sales Enablement Software and other Tech
Administrative and operational responsibilities are assigned to sales operations specialists for hard-core sellers to focus on their craft: selling.
Contract Lifecycle Management
Sales Recruitment, Onboarding, and Training
Implementation of Compensation and Incentive Programs
Allocation of Sales Territories and Accounts
Administration of Communication & Collaboration Channels
Process and Performance
Sales operations are focused on more than just reporting and should drive initiatives that can improve sales performance. Sales operations staff assist with simplifying processes to speed up the sales cycle and enable sellers to close more deals. Naturally, the analytical abilities of sales ops analysts have the most significant impact here.
Selecting Key Sales Metrics
Coaching & Mentoring Programs aka Training & Development
Sales Process Optimization & Implementation
Middleware Apps example: Zapier
Workflows example: Salesforce Flows
Sales Activities example: Cold email personalization
Lead Generation example: Bombora
Conversion Rate example: Tracking urls
Rolling out Sales Frameworks, and Sales Methodologies
Implementation & Optimization of Sales Tech Stack, Knowledge Base, and other Assets (see next section for details).
Technology Adoption and Optimization
Today’s sales teams use big data analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning to boost performance and future-proof profit. However, since tool complexity might distract sellers, sales operations should have control over the stack. Here is what Sales Ops executives should handle concerning the technical stack:
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
Business Intelligence (BI) Software
Data Analytics Software
Configure Price Quote (CPQ)
Sales Enablement Platform (SEP)
Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM)
Sales Performance Management (SPM)
How to Structure an Agile Sales Ops Team
Given the wide range of organizational structures, the best sales ops structure, even among similarly sized competitors in the same sector.
Matt Cameron from Sales Ops Central, published an excellent guide for small and fast-growing businesses to create a sales ops unit.
Matt defined the various phases — based on annual recurring revenue (ARR) — at which firms should hire sales operations personnel in his guide.
Companies with revenues of less than $1 million may employ several tech-savvy employees, analysts, and administrators if they use his matrix (see below).
Manage the CRM
Build, Analyze, and Present Reports
Manage Sales Compensation
On-boarding, training, and certification should not occur until ARR reaches $1 million consistently. A “Sales Effectiveness Manager” should be hired to oversee talent onboarding, instruction, and accreditation when the company has achieved $1 million in revenue.
If ARR continues to grow to $10 million per year, consider hiring a new Sales Operations Director.
Sales Operations will be responsible for the following duties in addition to technical and sales enablement responsibilities:
Go-to-Market strategy and planning
Sales growth and operating plan
Sales compensation plan
Enabling sales processes
Difference between Sales Operations Manager & Sales Manager
Sales operations units are designed to help sales executives meet objectives and maximize the talent pool (i.e., sales floor) under their jurisdiction. A sales ops manager takes on many management and operational responsibilities required to manage a sales department.
The sales manager is freed up to focus on leading sellers in reaching their objectives and making tactical decisions and long-term growth strategies. Sales operations managers may take charge of the following processes/areas, depending on company maturity:
Create data-driven insights and predictions for strategy development.
Recruit, hire, and train salespeople (or at least share a lot of the responsibilities here with Sales Managers)
Sales content and sales knowledge base management
Life cycle management of customer contracts
Develop a compensation and incentives program.
Ensure that processes, methodologies, and performance matrices are followed.
Manage, synchronize and optimize the IT infrastructure, this includes CMS, CRM, CPQ, and SPM.
The Sales Operations Process
Having a sales operations unit that is effective can provide numerous advantages, including the creation, adoption, and execution of an efficient sales process that applies to the whole sales team.
Established procedures are templates and reference points that salespeople use when the road ahead gets foggy or a new issue arises.
Sales operations in early-stage sales organizations may arise at various phases of the sales process or the structural and functional makeup of the organization. Sales operations, for example, might be created to assist the sales leader with managing:
Sales operations in many mature businesses take complete control of administrative and technical processes while providing sales leaders with analytical support for strategic development and other crucial decision-making situations. Here are some instances where sales ops have a significant impact on procedure:
CRM administration and optimization
Integration and coordination of different technologies in the technology stack
Sales process optimization and implementation
Improve reporting workflow and accuracy
Knowledge management and content assets administration
Manage talent development and compensation
Sales Operations & KPIs
Metrics are determined by the needs of each team and business. These critical metrics provide insight into improving win rates and how the entire process might be optimized for sales operations. The following are only a subset of all metrics that many sales operations units use to evaluate past performance and establish long-term organizational success:
Salesforce Quota Achievement Rate
The sales team’s quota achievement rate is the percentage of the sales team that has achieved 100% of their quota during a specific time frame.
Average Win Rate
The win rate measures how successful a trader is at closing won deals compared to the number of won and lost transactions.
Average Sales Cycle Length
The average sale cycle length is the average time it takes to complete transactions.
Average Deal Size
The average deal size is the average value of deal sizes that vendors are managing throughout the process at any given time.
Time Spent Selling
Is the time it takes you to sell your products or service compared to other activities such as internal meetings, training, and administrative duties.
Lead Response Time
The time it takes for leads to respond positively to a pitch or a call to action is known as Lead Response Time.
Weighted Pipeline Value
The weighted pipeline value is the estimated value of the pipeline at a specific time in the process, which is used to produce profit/loss predictions.
How efficient are sellers at managing their pipeline?
The rate of error in prior forecasts compared with actual outcomes or performance is calculated by Forecast Accuracy.
Number of Prospect Meetings per Period
The number of prospect meetings per period is a metric that measures prospecting activity by comparing the number of meetings that individual sellers were able to set in a specific time frame.
Difference Between Sales Enablement & Sales Operations
Sales enablement and sales operations are not synonymous. They do, however, have several things in common. Naturally, they both strive to improve the sales force’s performance.
The difference between sales operations and enablement is that the former focuses on the entire organization while the latter focuses on sellers’ efficiency and effectiveness.
You may consider sales enablement as a component of sales operations in this case. Many organizations have created sales enablement units that are part of the sales operations department. However, this is not always the case. Some organizations keep the two branches separate and equal parts of the Sales Department.
The responsibility of sales operations is frequently concentrated on the operational components of selling (including territory planning, deal and account allocation, transactions management, compensation, and general business administration via IT systems and technologies).
On the other hand, sales enablement is concerned with elements that immediately impact sellers’ performance (including employee training, sales communication, customer engagement tools, and process efficiency).
Sales Operations Best Practices
The sales operations unit was formed to bring systems, science, and best practices into the world of selling.
However, while sales ops have become an integral part of the sales organization, structure, role, and implementation vary across businesses and industries. One approach of organizing a sales operations team may work well for one firm, but not for another.
The ideal sales operation structure for any organization is determined by a number of criteria, including corporate culture, size, target markets, and sales maturity. The four most important observations that today’s leading sales enablement software solutions concur on are as follows.
Best Practices 1: Work with Sales Leaders
The Sales Operations and Sales Leadership teams should work together to develop short- and long-term game plans based on sales leaders’ field knowledge, market empathy, domain expertise, and data-driven insight from the sales operations unit. The following are some of the critical inputs provided by sales ops:
The predictability of results and performance is improved.
Key Performance Indicators (KPI) are essential in identifying and implementing.
Review territory allocation and account assignment plan.
Sales processes and salesforce structure evaluation.
Development and implementation of sustainable sales compensation plans.
Go-to-market strategies and methodologies to evaluate.
Best Practices 2: Work with Rising Talent
Creating a culture of shared responsibility to ensure that everyone in sales is working together. Sales operations may help teams develop and execute tactics to enhance the value they provide customers and better align with the overall sales strategy. Sales operations may handle the following processes:
Recruitment and onboarding
Best Practices 3: Work on Efficiency
Sales operations can help salespeople be more efficient and passionate. They may do so by handling the following tasks:
Administration of CRM and other tools
Automation for routine, non-core tasks
Before distribution and evaluation of external, consumer-facing communications
Best Practices 4: Work with Marketing
Sales operations may collaborate with marketing to fine-tune brand messaging and content. Because sales operations have access to a large number of clients’ behavioral data, they can work with marketing partners.
Shifting from a Funnel to a Flywheel model
What should a Sales Operations Manager do?
Sales operations management is concerned with reducing friction in the sales process so that salespeople may be more successful. A sales operations manager must manage a sales operations specialist team, establish KPIs and goals, create revenue expectations, and optimize the sales process, which necessitates leadership abilities.
1 Increase Accuracy and Greater Transparency in Sale Performance
The manager is responsible for monitoring the team’s performance and reporting on that progress. Each sales staff member should create monthly, quarterly, and yearly targets. Should you make sales operation KPIs and goals for the entire team?
Goals for each member are essential, but having team goals will help you keep track of their progress and pinpoint areas that need improvement. You’ll need three things to manage team objectives effectively:
Have a solid sales process
Use a CRM that fits your needs
Implement tech to help monitor rep & team performance
2 Help optimize the sales funnel
As the sales operations manager, it’s your job to refine the sales funnel. You should make sure that all of your contacts go through the company’s sales funnel without any hiccups.
You’ll want to look at conversion rates over time and all critical data to assess the influence on sales velocity. The insights from the study will assist you in making recommendations on how to improve the funnel.
3 Refine the sales process
The responsibilities of a sales operations manager include monitoring and optimizing the sales process. You probably already have a sales procedure in place for your company. However, have you gone over your sales procedure to ensure its effectiveness and make necessary adjustments?
A wonderful way to increase your income is to develop a sales system that can help you close more deals. Apart from identifying problems with your sales process, the sales operations manager may also offer advice on how to improve it.
4 Look after the sales tech stack
The responsibilities of the sales operations manager include providing your sales team with the technological stack, including applications and capabilities that assist them in performing their tasks.
The top of the selection procedure is to determine if your company requires additional personnel or offers you the perfect systems that you currently have. Furthermore, the manager should see whether your organization obtains and follows “best practices.” They should analyze tool capabilities and usage to assure success.
5 Accurately produce sales forecasting reports
Each member of your team may be focused on achieving their objectives. They should, however, be aware of the more significant aims they must accomplish. It’s feasible to evaluate everyone’s performance when you have reliable forecasting. As a result, you’ll set attainable and realistic team goals that are fair and difficult to achieve.
6 Manage other sales ops professionals
If you have a significant and complicated business, it might be challenging for one person to deal with all sales operations concerns. Having a team of skilled sales operations specialists offers the best results. The job of a sales operations manager is to ensure that all sales operations activities and responsibilities are completed.
What department does Sales Operations fall under?
Sales operations, or sales ops, are in the sales operations department. The department is in charge of many duties and activities, including increasing business. Sales operations jobs include sales training, sales strategy, lead management, sales process optimization, and data handling.
How do you manage Sales Operations?
These five steps detail how you can run a sales operations department in your organization:
1. Define the Sales Ops process
You must choose how your sales operations team will operate, what tasks they’ll do, and their responsibilities.
The following are examples of some of the activities and duties that your sales operations team may undertake: digital asset management, process improvement, and CRM administration and optimization. It also can assist you in developing and optimizing your compensation plan, presenting sales reports, finding resources, and tool administration.
2. Introduce Sales Ops KPIs
After you’ve established the sales operations process, you should choose your KPIs to analyze your sales team’s performance. You can use a variety of sales operations KPIs including:
average deal size
lead response time
sales forecast accuracy
3. Create a Team Structure
People with the following skills and qualifications are among the best candidates for employment in your company:
Sales effectiveness background
Operations and analyst background
4. Include Sales Ops Training
When you’ve got your crew together, ensure they get the proper training to do their tasks. Training also gives the team energy and inspiration to accomplish various activities and confront difficulties.
5. Apps for Sales Operations
It’s critical to your team’s success to get them the tools and technologies they need to help them reach their objectives. The correct technology also ensures that sales operations results are accurate.
Five major parts of Sales Operations
The five critical components of a successful sales ops team are as follows:
Analytics and Reporting
The use of analytics and reporting can assist you in determining which businesses are flourishing, where you are most likely to fail, and how to succeed. Analytics and reporting allow you to assess success and failure and aid in decision-making.
An up-to-date database is an essential component of your sales operation’s success. Furthermore, good data management may aid your company’s success since you have access to all the information you need to make decisions.
Pricing & Proposal Operations
It’s critical to have transparent pricing standards and proposal procedures in place. The guidelines should be precise, helpful, and produce valuable insights for sales operations.
Forecasting is essential for every business to succeed. An organization can either spend too much on margins or pay too little on sales if it does not forecast effectively. Forecasting will assist you in growing based on your expectations of quarterly or two-year sales figures.
One of the most significant reasons for a company’s unsatisfactory sales operations is a lack of accountability—inadequate responsibility results in higher expenses, lower margins, and less income. A sales operations manager may hold salespeople accountable for their performance and lift the entire team by providing them with strong leadership and support.
4 Components of a Successful Sales Operations Strategy
Running a sales operations team may be difficult. However, you may try out the following best practices to see if they help:
Make a formal mission for the team.
It’s possible to have a successful sales operation without having a clear goal and purpose. At best, you’ll be diverting essential resources away from other company areas. It will also create more work for the organization as a whole.
As you establish a sales operations team, make sure you have a formal objective statement and goals to help it function. A well-defined mission and purpose will impact the team’s decision-making, strategy, and activities within the company.
Separate Sales Operations & Enablement Responsibilities
Sales operations and sales enablement have similar goals and responsibilities. As a result, the two jobs might be mistaken for one another.
To prevent this, you’ll need to make each team’s core functions and duties apparent. They can collaborate more effectively for the benefit of the sales department by defining the roles of each team and each member.
Create best practices and scalable processes.
Managing and scaling procedures are one of the responsibilities of the sales operations team in the sales department. Your company’s best practices and standards should be driven from the ground up by sales operations.
Documenting, evaluating, communicating, and implementing the best practices in your company is part of every sales operation’s job. This will guarantee that everyone is on the same page and that best practices are followed consistently.
Delight your Customers
The ideal sales operations model should not only assist your reps in obtaining high-intent leads but should also aid you in retaining current consumers.
Customer retention is a bigger priority for sales operations since they have deep expertise with the customer base. The sales operation staff has the knowledge and data to assist with price disputes and complex negotiations.