Sales operations cover a lot of ground in the business world. With the rise of big-tech and highly sophisticated sales tools, sales operations have become a vital part of the success of most businesses.
As sales operations is such a broad term, the question remains: What are the responsibilities of sales operations? What does a sales operations manager do? These are questions that we will aim to answer today.
But first, let’s briefly define the four basic roles in sales operations.
Sales operations roles
To fully paint the picture of sales operations responsibilities, we must first understand the basic roles. This isn’t as simple as assigning generic titles like a manager, operator, etc. Because sales operations teams reach their goals through several functions and procedures like data analysis, team training, forecasting, and more, we have to generalize their roles.
Sales operations roles fall under four basic categories. In no particular order, those categories are as follows:
Because each sales operations team is different, you might find that most people on a certain team fall under one category or that a sales ops team has one person in each category. Many categories in a business can lead back to sales operations.
Sales operations, in short, is all about data management. Of course, there’s a lot more to it, and we’ll get into it, but it’s important to go into this article with this fact in mind. As your business scales up, garners more customers, and hires more sales representatives, sales metrics will become increasingly difficult to track and act upon.
It may seem counterproductive, but as your team scales up, you’ll want to simplify your sales data as much as possible, which is where the sales operations team comes into play.
Your sales performance management and the data that follows should always be improved. If you want to maximize success and minimize the effort it takes to close a sale, then your sales operations team must enact their five key responsibilities with accuracy and determination.
The 5 responsibilities of sales operations
Now that we understand some of the roles in a sales operations team, we can better understand their responsibilities. In truth, many tiny details glue together a proper sales ops team, but these are the five key responsibilities you can expect them to cover.
- Get accurate and up-to-date visibility of the sales team’s performance
- Compare performances within the sales team
- Help your sales team work better with forecasting
- Create and compensate understandable goals
- Choose and maintain sales tools
Before we dive into the five key sales operations responsibilities, one important thing needs to be pointed out. That is the difference between sales operations and sales enablement.
While these two teams are very similar on paper, they focus on things differently. Sales enablement teams focus on sales on a team level. Sales enablement is all about enabling sales representatives with guidance and assets to properly nurture leads through the buyer’s journey and close more deals.
Sales operations teams, on the other hand, typically assist sales managers with implementing the right methodology and all the little details that follow. Let’s dive into a little more detail about that now.
1. Get accurate and up-to-date visibility of the sales team’s performance
Every salesperson has goals for the year, quarter, week, and so on. Setting quotas is an easy way to set yourself straight and get a clear overview of where you are and where you need to be as far as your goals are concerned.
Are you setting goals for the entire sales team? This is a crucial responsibility of sales operations and is incredibly important. Tracking and gathering data on the team’s performance is impossible without these goals. You can’t report on their progress if you don’t know how they’re progressing.
Whether you have a sales team of 3 or 300, keeping track of this data can be overwhelming. On top of that, as you’re scaling your team, adding new sales team members can only add to the equation. If you want to keep your head above water, you will need two things:
- A good CRM
- A rock-solid sales process
A good CRM can be defined differently depending on who you’re talking to. What makes sense for one team might not make sense for you at all. In that light, you must find the one that suits your team the best. This will undoubtedly involve a lot of trials and some time for testing. Nonetheless, you must have a CRM in your stack of tools.
For sales operations, a good CRM will allow you to compare the performance of several sales representatives across the board. You can generalize the data to include everyone in a single team or multiple teams if you wish.
A good CRM doesn’t mean much to your team if there isn’t a solid sales process. This is another sales operations responsibility that falls under this category.
Your sales process needs to be well defined, tested, and improved constantly. Incorporating sales ops KPIs that are easy to track and act upon is essential here, too. Every sales team member needs to be on the same page, following the same process and aiming for the same goal.
We’ve gone over how to build a B2B sales process in great length in another one of our blog posts, so be sure to check that out.
2. Compare performances within the sales team
Gathering the information above wouldn’t mean much if you didn’t use it to improve the sales team. Comparing the performances of each sales rep will help you better understand who is doing what and give you valuable insight.
For example, if you have one or two people performing extraordinarily well, it’s worth investigating to see how everyone can perform in the same way. Perhaps, they are using a certain kind of language when speaking to clients, or maybe, they know the product better than anyone else. Whatever it is, you need to know if it’s helping sell more and satisfying more clients.
On the other hand, if you have a sales representative that is underperforming, you need to know, too. Maybe they aren’t confident in what they’re selling or just having a bad week/month. Knowing how every person on the sales team is performing and comparing their performances is the best way to find ways to improve.
Your team might be having issues bringing leads past a certain funnel point. If this is the case, perhaps the sales process needs to be tweaked. In many cases, you may not have problems with your sales reps at all. If you’re not having any problems with lead generation, but you’re not seeing many qualified leads, that should throw up a red flag.
You need to compare each sales rep’s performance to see what needs improving. In some cases, finding these performance overviews is as simple as going into your CRM and seeing each sales rep’s performance laid out next to each other. This just highlights the importance of having a CRM that makes sense for your team.
3. Help your sales team work better with forecasting
Forecasting is the process of using historical data to predict the future of your business. Businesses use forecasting to determine how they should allocate their budget and further plan for anticipated costs for an upcoming period of time.
One of the best performance techniques in sales is to encourage a little friendly competition. This can be tough to balance, as you don’t want things to get out of hand. But, lighting a healthy little fire under your sales team is a great way to see improvements both in the short-term and long-term.
Accurate business forecasting can help in this regard. If you’re not forecasting accurately, you won’t be setting the proper budgets, and the goals for the team will come out as unrealistic. This setting can quickly discourage the team and make matters even worse.
A good example of how inaccurate forecasting can greatly affect business comes from the popular clothing company H&M. Due to inaccurate forecasting, H&M predicted a massive increase in sales. As a result, their warehouses were packed to the brim with stock, but there weren’t enough customers to sell to. In turn, H&M had a massive profit dive.
On the other hand, if your forecasting is accurate, you’ll be updating your CRM, setting the right budget, and creating challenging but realistic goals. The goals you’re setting based on this forecast shouldn’t be impossible, but they will certainly give the team the push they need to really make an impact.
There are tools out there to help you forecast. Again, each one of them is slightly different than the last. Just like your CRM, make sure you’re doing your research.
4. Create and compensate understandable goals
One of the biggest sales operations responsibilities is creating goals that are easy to understand and follow. More than that, you must ensure these goals are communicated and compensated when met.
A good way to do this is to create a layered structure that compensates the individual making the sales. For example, you could tie something like 75% of the sales person’s compensation to their individual target and the other 25% to the team’s target. Of course, you can change and adjust these percentages based on the performance of the individual and the team, but this serves as a good example of how it could be done.
Another way to do it is to structure the compensation based on the individual’s performance, but add bonuses based on the team’s goals when they are met. This will encourage personal growth and a balanced team at the same time. The more experienced representatives will act as mentors to the juniors in order to meet the team goals, and everyone will strive to meet their personal goals. In this scenario, no one is left out, and everyone gets decent compensation.
In reality, there are many ways that you can compensate your sales team. No one solution is better than the other. It all depends on your preferences and how your team performs based on their compensation.
These goals and compensation should be clearly outlined. This is a key responsibility of sales operations. Have a document where anyone on the sales team can reference this data. Include it in the onboarding process, and make sure it’s updated.
5. Choose and maintain sales tools
Tools not only help the sales operations process, but they also help the sales team do their job.
Depending on who you talk to, the right sales tool can either make or break a sales team. You have to make sure the tools you’re using make sense for your applications, but you also have to ensure everyone on the sales team is comfortable and familiar with them.
A key sales operations responsibility is to pick the right sales tools and maintain them. You need to gather information from the sales team and understand what they like and don’t like about each tool they need to use. You can even use the data gathered from their performances, as we mentioned above, and make changes via sales tools based on that.
For example, if you’re sales team isn’t happy with the email platform you’re using, it might be time to change it up, and go with an email tool that scales with your business.
Likewise, if your sales reps don’t like the CRM you’re using, you have to consider changing it. You need a CRM that offers full transparency and divides leads evenly and fairly. If not, a sales rep might feel like they’re being cheated and given bad leads that will poorly reflect their performance.
Again, a good CRM gives sales reps the confidence they need and the ability to assess the quality of their prospects. They need to know that their efforts are being seen.
Putting all of this into consideration, sometimes there is just a bad rep. That’s not to say they’re out there to harm your business, but maybe they aren’t cut out for the sales department. Either way, without the right tools in your arsenal, this is an insight that you may never get.
How to maintain success in sales operations
As a sales operations manager or a contributor to the sales operations team, one of the most important responsibilities is maintaining your own success. In short, here’s how you can manage that:
- Establish a clear mission for the sales team, and communicate it well.
- Clearly define the best practices and processes, and make that document easily accessible.
- Differentiate between your own responsibilities in sales ops, and those of the sales enablement team.
- Focus on and prioritize customer success and retention.
As a sales operations team member, these should be your own personal responsibilities, no matter what position you hold within the team. Your success means the sales team’s success. If you fail, they might fail, too.
Conclusions and takeaway
While the responsibilities of the sales operations team might seem endless, what I’ve mentioned above are the five key responsibilities that everyone on the team should be focused on.
It all boils down to good data and how you act upon it. As a sales ops manager, your primary goal should always be to drive growth — both within your team and the sales team. You should never use inaccurate data, as it will quickly overwhelm you. Your process should be fast, reliable, repeatable, and easy to change if necessary.
At any given time in your career, all of this could be an extreme challenge or be as smooth as butter. The data might be difficult to handle when your company is expanding and scaling. On the other hand, once the process is refined and running properly, your sales team might sit comfortably, giving you an easier time reviewing and improving data.
All of this to say that the entire process will be made a lot easier with the right tools on your belt. With these tools, you can measure success and monitor performance, accurately forecast for better budgeting, encourage growth and change, and compensate where needed. With the right set of tools, sales operations responsibilities can be made much easier, no matter how fast your company grows.