Do more with less — the new mantra in a pre-recession economy.
Resource-constrained companies can’t simply continue to expand account coverages, hire front-line sales reps, or overlay sales capacity.
In the modern world, sales leaders are forced to rethink how they sell.
That’s where sales operations come into play.
Sales operations has grown by 38% from 2018 to 2020, almost 5 times faster growth than the overall sales function.
Having an effective sales operation process can unlock sustainable growth by improving sales.
This guide covers the sales operation process and the four critical steps to developing one.
What is a sales operation process?
The sole purpose of the sales operation team is to build systems and implement technologies to ensure your sales teams hit their targets. In a nutshell, Sales Operations creates, implements, and optimizes the processes, data, and applications that support the sales team.
The sales ops team grounds their work in data by determining factors such as:
- What technology stacks to implement that best suits team goals
- How many reps to hire
- How to incentivize reps
Every sales operation needs a process on how they plan to improve productivity and efficiency.
While every company is unique, here’s a basic overview of what your sales ops process may look like:
- Your team gathers data to analyze how the current sales process is performing.
- Then, they’ll create and implement a sales operation strategy to optimize efficiency.
- Finally, they measure the results and restart the process again.
This basic process can be applied to various functions of the sales team.
Regarding technology, the sales ops can automate tasks, improve workflow and even implement sales enablement tools.
Another example is communication.
The sales ops team will facilitate better communication, ensuring that data is shared across teams.
Connecting your marketing automation tool like Encharge to your CRM system gives you access to a wealth of information, so sales reps can have a better plan of attack to close more deals.
Of course, this spans other functions such as onboarding, training, and managing sales reps. This means designing compensation plans to retain and attract the best talent possible.
And it involves sales reporting, forecasting, and proper lead allocation.
In short, the sales ops process involves taking the presented data, devising a plan, and implementing the strategy across all sales functions, such as hiring, communication, sales execution, etc.
There are plenty of best practices to improve efficiency and accelerate your pipeline.
Key functions of the sales operation process
Sales ops serve to smooth out the cracks in the sales process so salespeople can perform their role without worrying about behind-the-scenes tasks. There are several areas that sales ops must navigate, including strategy, technology, operations, and performance.
76% of sales ops professionals believe that managing sales tech is their most valuable task. Other essential duties include suggesting growth strategies and forecasting performance.
Sales ops must strategize how they can make the sales process more efficient. They use analyses to determine specific tactical moves that can improve sales productivity.
Here are strategic methods your sales ops could implement:
- Sales territory assignment and better lead distribution methods
- Sales enablement software and material
- Adoption of specific sales methodologies
Sales ops aim to manage and implement the software that sales use. They also have to access and interpret data to make improvements.
One of the first objectives could be to implement a sales automation tool. 61% of organizations that use sales automation outperformed their revenue targets.
Your sales ops team might manage platforms including CRM, data analytics, lead enrichment, communication, performance management, and lead generation software.
When building your sales tech stack, ask yourself the following questions:
- What tools will help you solve your sales team’s current roadblocks?
- Are your current tools working well for you?
- Do your tools integrate?
- Does the software offer training?
- Which tools can help your business get to the next level?
Read more: 10 Ways to Automate Your Sales Processes
Sales ops help to ensure new hires are well-versed in sales methodology, product knowledge, and the sales process.
It’s vital to offer cross-departmental training to provide new sellers with a complete view of how the entire customer journey works.
In the operations components, sales ops handle all administrative components to better prepare them for being on the sales floor.
Examples of Sales Ops responsibilities include:
- Implementation of compensation and incentives program
- Onboarding and training reps
- Maintaining communication channels with different departments
Sales ops continually analyze and report performance metrics to the entire sales department. While metrics are readily available through the CRM, it’s up to the sales ops members to provide insight and action steps based on the data.
There is a considerable discrepancy between sales forecasting and total revenue.
It can be due to inaccurate data inputs from reps. In this case, the ops can suggest how to report data accurately.
Sales operations members can also view their entire sales department metrics and tactics to decipher the strategies that are effective and non-effective.
For instance, they can analyze the top performers and how they spend their time compared to the bottom tier. Then, they can create training to improve everyone’s performance.
The goal is to take data, report the insights and then take actionable steps to improve sales performance.
4 steps to building your sales operations process
While sales operations is a broad concept, you can break the process into four distinct segments. Here are four steps to having a solid foundation for your sales ops strategy.
1. Data gathering
As sales have evolved, so has the customer journey. There is more data than ever.
Sales teams don’t have the bandwidth to gather and analyze data for insights.
Sales operations must make the data actionable to enable sales to make key decisions quicker.
In the data gathering stage, the sales ops team will collect data on sales team performance. They’ll analyze trends and report on forecasts for the upcoming quarter or year. This stage sets the foundation for future planning and strategizing.
First, it’s important to define the KPIs and metrics that matter. Look at the sales process and consider what metrics are moving the prospect down the pipeline.
The sales ops must assess the existing data. Here’s what you should evaluate in your sales platform:
For calculating demand, you want to look at the following:
- Lead account data: Evaluate your company’s lead and account data. Make sure that all of the data is accurate.
- Ideal customer profile: Segment your prospects based on similar categories to tailor your messaging to their concerns. Reps should be assigned to one category of prospects to effectively sell to one type of customer.
- Lead scoring: Using lead scoring with Encharge or another marketing automation tool, you can target the right prospects who fit your ideal customer profile and are potentially interested in what you have to offer.
To track your sales team’s performance, you’ll need to track goals and inputs.
Inputs include metrics like emails sent, demos completed, time spent on selling activities, calls made, proposals sent, opportunities created, etc.
The goals will consist of daily sales totals, total revenue, sales growth, win rate, etc.
Using your CRM, you can view most of these metrics.
2. Demand planning
At its core, demand planning involves getting ahead of the anticipated volume by preparing for future sales. Sales forecasting predicts revenue, while demand planning ensures you have the proper resources to fulfill those new sales.
Demand planning requires analyzing consumer trends, seasonality data, and historical trends to optimize your organization’s ability to meet customer demand efficiently.
It requires a cross-organization team of operations to work together to determine how much product demand there will be and when and where it will occur.
Demand can support the sales of services such as labor, where you need proper staffing for your team, or physical products like filling purchasing orders.
Here are use cases for demand planning:
Agencies or service-based businesses
You can book as many sales calls and clients as possible, but your team must be able to fulfill those contractual obligations.
Sales ops will work with the marketing team to determine the expected number of sales-qualified leads obtained over a set period.
Your sales ops will ensure that enough fulfillment, support, or third-party contractors are hired to satisfy clients.
Demand planning may not be as important for entry-level subscriptions. However, enterprise clients will require greater support and consultation. Therefore, the right number of support staff is needed to help high-end clients.
Encharge can help with demand planning by using the lead scoring function.
As you nurture your leads, there will be key indicators that signal demand.
You’ll have a good idea of the short-term demand for your product by scoring your leads.
All of the leads with “high lead scores” can help you forecast future sales, allowing you to create systems that support your sales team.
Connecting Encharge to tools like Slack and your CRM lets you connect high-lead score prospects to your reps.
3. Supply planning
Supply planning involves matching customer demand with product supply using pricing strategy, forecasting, and inventory management techniques.
The sales ops team and finance department will evaluate capacity. They’ll determine whether there are suppliers, people, or machinery constraints.
Demand planning focuses on customer demand, while supply planning looks into inventory control and internal processes.
Supply planning relies on accurate demand planning.
You can devise a better pricing strategy, a new launch, or promotional opportunities with supply planning.
Once you know the demand, you’ll need to plan how much production, materials, technology, or other supplies are needed to fulfill the demand.
While supply chain planning might seem irrelevant for digital businesses, there are many facets to the supply chain other than physical goods.
For example, a small company with only a few sales reps may decide to ditch spreadsheets for a more unified and cloud-based system.
A medium-sized or enterprise organization may decide that sales efficiency can be improved through a developed sales enablement team or software.
Developing a separate sales enablement team allows the sales team to reach their targets and meet the demand for their product or service.
4. Plan reconciliation and implementation
Once demand and supply have been accessed, the sales ops team can bring together the plan for adjustments.
Every organization will have a unique strategy depending on its demand and supply planning.
However, here are some general implementations that the sales operations team may execute. Larger organizations will dedicate staff to each one of these executions.
Also, enterprise companies may need c-level executives to sign off on these adjustments before they can be implemented.
Typically, it’ll require adjustments in these various components:
- Technology: Based on where your organization is currently at and your goals, what tech stack aligns with your sales team? The sales ops will add or eliminate technology to better facilitate automation or greater insight into sales performance.
- Sales process: Sales ops will aim to make their sales process more efficient. Perhaps assigning appropriate lead distribution to certain reps will allow for a higher conversion rate. Or incorporating more sales and marketing meetings allows the team to focus on better closing specific accounts.
- Hiring, onboarding, and training: Sales ops will develop hiring, onboarding, and training protocols to help ensure their reps are well-prepared to reach their goals. They might implement a new compensation plan that better incentivizes sales reps.
- Communication: Sales team should feel comfortable collaborating with other departments to help them reach their goals. Working with marketing teams for sales collaterals or product training better prepares sellers.
We can summarize the process in four steps:
- Gather data.
- Forecast demand.
- Forecast supply needed to meet the demand.
- Strategize and implement based on your findings.
The book “Sales & Operations Planning” by Thomas F. Wallace and Robert A. Stahl highlights a similar sales operation process.
Ideal sales operations team structure
Building your sales operation team depends on the stage of your business.
An organization with annual recurring revenue (ARR) of less than $1 million should hire a technical operations representative. This professional is responsible for managing the CRM for reporting and analytics, calculating commissions, and trying to implement a growth strategy.
Once a company reaches $1M to $10M ARR, it can hire a sales effectiveness manager responsible for onboarding and training the sales team.
Companies that reach $10M should hire a sales operations director to shape strategic decisions. They’ll help with the growth plan, territory design, sales force, compensation place, etc.
Every organization is unique in its needs. However, this matrix gives you an idea of how you want your sales operations team.
Use Encharge to enhance your sales ops team.
Data is the fundamental foundation for an effective sales operations team. Without data, your sales won’t have concrete information to drive growth decisions.
Your sales department is on the front lines talking to customers and focusing on their responsibilities.
An operations team is the brains of the operation.
With the proliferation of data, you need a sales ops team to synthesize that information to enable sales teams.
Tools like Encharge make that possible.
We integrate with all software platforms, from CRMs tools to marketing analytics.
The data collected gives your sales team more insight, so they can focus on activities that produce better results. Supercharge your sales ops team with Encharge. Sign up for a free 14-day trial today!