For any business, getting to market fit is a significant milestone. Whether you are a product company or offer services, you toil to gain that pull from the market. There are potential customers signaling that they value your offering; that they are willing to pay for your products and services, and that they’re waiting for you to provide a meaningful business impact. You now have the launchpad you’ve been waiting for but are now stumped on how to actually grow and scale the business.
You’ve probably tried every trick in the book to get that first set of customers, bending over backward wherever needed to hold on to them and make them successful with your product. You also have some stellar sales guys helping you win deals. But, now you need more customers which requires you to grow your sales team, get a better lead pipeline with a repeatable, predictable process. You may have used spreadsheets quite effectively so far, but it’s noticeable that communication, collaboration, and coordination are starting to break. This is where Sales Operations (Sales Ops) comes in.
Don’t know what exactly Sales Ops does? Here’s how Hubspot describes their sales operations function
“…you will be the primary strategic and consultative asset to sales leadership in your Segment. You will work closely and collaboratively with executive sales leadership to provide business council & recommendations on GTM initiatives such as forecasting, lead and deal-flow bottlenecks, territory/organizational structure optimization and go-to-market planning. You will proactively monitor performance and drive accountability to ensure your business segment is enabled to exceed plan. Additionally, you will act as an extension of the sales leadership and operationalize the deal inspection process in conjunction with forecast methodology and accuracy…”
A word of caution though here, as I wrote in a previous post, Sales Ops is a strategic function and not a support function. You can see that sentiment reflected in the job description above, as well as those posted by Zendesk or McAfee.
Here are three ways the Sales Ops person can help
Strategy and Planning
Today there are various tools and technologies available to make the sales teams more efficient. These include the CRM, email management tools, meeting schedulers and dialers, deal management software among others. Depending on your target segment and business model, Sales Ops can select the toolset that makes sense for your company and the stage you’re at. For the growing sales team, you need a larger lead funnel too, both in quantity and quality. Your Sales Ops will help correct your lead qualification process. As you convert these leads into opportunities and customers, you’ll need a structured sales compensation and incentive plan with associated territory definition and assignment that the Sales Ops will put in place. As this is the time to grow, you will be creative in the deals you make, discounts may be steep and terms and conditions agreed upon will perhaps be non-standard. To support this your Sales Ops can draft discount & margin related guidelines and an approval process to ensure money isn’t left on the table as you speed forward.
As you bring more sales reps on board, you need to ensure they are selling right. They’ll come from different backgrounds and experiences, but you need them to operate with the same rigor and discipline as your existing team. I’m reminded here of this scene from the movie Days of Thunder, where Robert Duvall coaches Tom Cruise to get the best performance out of the car he’s driving. Sales Ops is akin to that character played by Robert Duvall, who doesn’t take away from the skill of selling, but provides your sales team with tools and strategies to use that skill to the maximum benefit. To this effect, Sales Ops will work with your marketing team to leverage the content they create, as ammunition for enablement. Equip the team with the right sales collateral including – elevator pitches, pitch decks, battle cards, brochures, playbooks; help them with all information they need to engage stakeholders and close the deal as soon as they can.
Reporting and Analytics
Well, you’ve put structure and processes in place but how do you know it’s working? If you don’t measure and track, you’ll not know if forecast will be met, who is performing well and who needs help. Which industry verticals or customer cohorts are you winning in and where you need to provide more support? Sales Ops comes to the rescue here as well by providing a ringside view on what’s happening in the business and identify failure points that need addressing. Sales Ops owns the accuracy of forecasts and hence runs the pipeline reviews to ensure the forecasts are met. They also help enforce the structure and process you’ve created, ensure that sales reps are following the scripts laid out, proposal templates used are the ones prescribed and the discount hygiene is being maintained. You not only need to ensure that your sales team hits their target quota but also make sure that short-term gains aren’t swapped for long-term business sustenance.
In summary, to scale you need repeatability, predictability and you need a process. Everything a Sales Ops person can handle. The best Sales Ops professionals allow their sales team to spend more time selling and less time worrying about reporting, cross-functional coordination and operational management. That doesn’t mean that Sales Ops does what the sales team doesn’t want to, rather, they enable the sales team to be more effective and efficient.
Image Credit: The U.S Army