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Sales Operations Strategy: A 6-Step Process for Sales Effectiveness

Sales operations are the backbone of the sales team. Hidden in the shadows, they often don’t receive credit for their impact. However, their influence on a company can’t be understated. 

Think of any sport. All athletes have coaches and trainers. They’re never in the limelight, but they play a major role in their strategy and performance. 

A boxing coach knows their trainees’ strengths and weaknesses, analyze the opponent, and puts together a program for the big fight.

The sales operations are like the coaches for the sales team. They are designed to help sales reps achieve their goals. 

Sales ops will analyze the data, simplify the sales process, automate tasks and even provide training to reps. 

This guide will provide you with a high-level overview of how to develop a sales operations strategy to enhance your sales organization, which ultimately maximizes their results. 

What is sales operation?

While most companies have a sales process, many don’t have a sales operation strategy to manage the efficiency of their sales team. 

The sales operation department enables and supports sales reps by helping them to sell more efficiently. 

Thoroughly the implementation of strategic software tools, company training, process, and analytics and reporting, sales ops helps them to drive better results. Their objective is to eliminate inefficiencies in the sales process and system, so mundane tasks don’t bog down the sales team’s tasks. 

Additionally, the sales ops help to guide sales reps along the way. Whether they’re falling short of their monthly targets or continually run into bottlenecks in the customer journey, sales ops will identify the root cause and help address the issue. 

There are four primary elements that make up sales operations: 

  1. Strategy: Sales ops can create unique strategies to help sales team perform better such as sales process optimization and data analysis. 
  2. Technology: They implement the right tech stack to help automate and support sales activities. 
  3. Operations: Operation involves recruitment and onboarding, market intelligence support and even sales training. 
  4. Performance: This means evaluating your sales team performance and adopting the right KPIs and metrics. Also, it means offering coaching and optimizing sales workflows to ensure sales activities are efficient. 

According to Brian Selby, Expert Partner from McKinsey & Company, the sales operations team has two massive benefits for the sales team to driving results: 

  1. Impact top-line revenue by giving sellers more time to spend with their customers. (most sales reps are spending less than 40% of their time speaking with their prospects or customers.) Sales ops help to eliminate administrative tasks and improve sales coordination. 
  2. Optimize the infrastructure and resources in place to support the sales team. This means implementing streamlined sales processes to improve efficiency or provide better training or sales material. 

Responsibilities of a sales operation

Understanding the role and responsibility of a sales ops team will allow you to hire the right people for your business and set clear boundaries as to who should work on certain tasks. Here are the core functions of sales ops: 

Product Training

Sales operations are responsible for developing sales training for the entire team. The product training is focused on informing the team about the benefits and features of their product along with the latest development. 

Furthermore, this training aims to clarify how it solves their prospect’s unique problems. It may include comparison charts about their competitor products and even how to tackle doubts that prospects may raise.

The key is to prepare your sales team to showcase how their product is unique and different from the competition and how it’ll solve their biggest problems. 

For example, Sabre is a leading technology solutions provider in the travel industry. They implemented a Learning management system to significantly shorten sales cycles and increase the number of closed deals. 

Sales Ops aims to find the right type of sales training methodology to engage sellers. It could be through gamification, learning management systems, or incentives. 

Market Intelligence Training

The best sellers know the industry inside and out. The sales operation’s job is to supply the sales team with market intelligence such as competitor features, product intelligence, and current trends. 

Sales reps shouldn’t be spending time researching on their own. Instead, the sales ops aim to compile the information to ensure consistency across all reps and provide impactful knowledge that helps during their conversations with prospects. 

For instance, Crayon is a software that fetches and categorizes intel across the web, alerting you of competitor strengths and weaknesses, their product strategies, and even their social media campaigns. 

Source: Crayon

Sales Forecasting

By analyzing performance trends and past data, sales operators can predict future goals impacting their business decision-making. If the trajectory doesn’t meet the business objectives, the sales ops can spot potential problems to avoid them. 

For example, let’s say your team uses the length of the sales cycle forecasting model, which uses the age of each opportunity to predict when it will likely close. 

A salesperson that has spent two months on an opportunity that typically closes in four months means the forecast will indicate a 50% likelihood of closing.  

Here’s an example of what the length of sales forecasting looks like: 

Source: SmartSheet

The objective of sales ops is to use an accurate forecasting model to predict sales by analyzing their past data and current opportunities. 

Sales Tech Implementation 

Your sales ops are solely responsible for the implementation of sales technology. The first step to choosing the right sales technology is looking at the customer journey. 

Think about how all the data can be integrated so that salespeople are just as informed as the marketers. Also, how can you make you simplify the sales process to make your rep’s lives easier? 

A business that leverages outbound sales would use prospecting tools to easily find leads to contact so that sales reps don’t have to spend time researching leads. 

Conversely, inbound sales teams might want a live chatbot or automatic booking system to get interested prospects to speak with your sales rep quickly. 

There are dozens of tools sales ops need to consider, such as CRMs, analytics and reporting, live chats, and more. 

How to create a sales operations strategy in 6 steps

Whether you already have an existing sales operation or planning to build one, it’s important to structure it the right way. That means having an overarching vision of how the team should be and a sales operation strategy so that the team can carry out its responsibilities effectively. 

Here we’ve outlined the important steps to creating a sales operation strategy: 

1. Create a mission and objectives for the sales ops 

Creating sales operations without a mission statement can cause chaos and confusion. This leaves leadership to argue about the direction of the team and whether it’s worth the resources invested in the department. It’ll also divert valuable resources away that could be used to enhance the sales team. 

A mission statement allows you to generate specific goals, strategies, and tasks that correlate to the mission. 

For example, your sales ops team may create a mission statement like

  • Automate and streamline non-related sales activities to improve sales-rep efficiency
  • Optimize sales processes, technology, and training to maximize revenue 

Once you’ve generated the mission statement, you can develop subsequent objectives that make achieving the grand vision possible. 

For example, these objectives may include: 

  • Increase close rates by 5% this quarter 
  • Reduce sales cycle by automating email prospecting 
  • Increase cross-sell and upsell by 5%
  • Increase call-time (rep time spent talking to prospects) by 10%

These objectives will lay the foundation for generating strategies to achieve the result. To increase the close rate, you may want to provide sales enablement content, integrate marketing data into your CRM, and offer additional sales training. 

2. Evaluate sales team performance 

Once you’ve decided on the mission and objectives, you must evaluate your current sales team’s performance. This entails measuring their success with clear metrics that move the needle in the business. 

There are two types of commonly used metrics: performance and efficiency: 

Performance metrics are: 

  • Pipeline Value: The estimated value of their pipeline, which accounts for the estimated value of each opportunity 
  • Deal Size: The average deal size that a sales rep has in their pipeline
  • Win Rate: The number of won deals in comparison to the total number of deals 
  • Sales Quota Achievement Rate: The percentage of sales reps who have hit their sales quota during the specific time period
  • Forecast Accuracy: The rate of error of predicted sales forecasts compared to actual sales won 

The top efficiency metrics are: 

  • Selling Time: The time that sellers are selling (having conversations) with prospects or customers compared to other non-sales activities such as administrative tasks, meetings, and training. 
  • Prospect Meetings: The number of meetings that the sales reps set in proportion to the total prospecting activity 
  • Length of Sales Cycle: The average time it takes for sales reps to close a deal 
  • Lead Response Time: The time it takes to respond to interested leads 

Once you’ve determined your KPIs, sales ops should be reviewing performance on a monthly or quarterly basis. Many tech stacks such as CRMs or sales analytics tools will keep these data points in an easily accessible dashboard to reference at any time. 

We recommend evaluating your sellers by identifying the reps that are improving and reps that are declining in performance. It’s useful to track the growth or decline of reps, so you can identify the salespeople that require more attention or training. 

Below is a graph that displays how you could organize a graph to identify these sellers.

Source: Kamil Franek

You could categorize your sales reps into four types: 

  • Rising stars: High-performing reps that have increased their sales in the last quarter
  • Falling stars: High-performing reps that have shown some decline in the last quarter
  • Improving laggards: Under-performing reps that have shown signs of improvement
  • Deteriorating laggards: Under-performing reps that have further declined in performance

This allows sales ops to focus on sellers who have regressed performance and understand what isn’t working. On the same token, you can also analyze why some reps are succeeding. 

3. Create a strategy for optimizing the sales process 

Sales ops are responsible for optimizing the sales process so that reps can obtain a certain standard of performance. The sales process is the opposite of a sales funnel. 

The sales funnel outlines the journey prospects go through to become customers. In contrast, the sales process is the steps sellers go through to convert their leads. 

The sales operations team can help their reps by implementing specific strategies so that they can perform their best. Here are the various ways you can optimize the sales process: 

Sales onboarding, training, and knowledge

Many organizations have a bad habit of throwing their reps into their new role without properly preparing them to succeed. Sales onboarding and training should go well beyond just two or three days of orientation-style lectures. 

Sales ops teams can collect call recording examples of “good, bad, and mediocre” calls to highlight different examples. Using situational call recordings can help reps gain experience handling different types of customers or situations. 

Also, have continual product training throughout their tenure with the company. Reps should always be learning about the product and the industry. The more informed sellers are, the better they can communicate the value of their product to explain why it’s a great fit for the prospect. 

Reporting and forecasting

Leaders should know what their expected revenue is for the coming month or quarter. This allows your organization to allocate resources appropriately. If you’re predicting a high volume month, you’ll need to ensure you have the customer support team and product fulfillment team ready to deliver on your promises. 

However, a low anticipated forecast means you’ll need to work diligently to address potential roadblocks. For example, if there aren’t many deals in the pipeline, it could mean that reps aren’t using their time efficiently or need a better sales strategy

Commission calculations and compensation plans 

Salespeople are money-motivated. That means the sales operations must develop an attractive commission and compensation plan to fairly pay different sales reps for their contribution to the organization. 

The easiest way to compensate employees is through base pay and commission. The base pay can be set based on their position or experience. Depending on their position, you can increase the pay and targets. 

For example, a junior sales executive might have a target to sell $10,000 a month. If they reach their target, they earn a commission of 10%. 

Conversely, a senior sales executive could have a $25,000 a month target. However, this factors in their increased skill level and higher quality distribution of leads. And if they hit their target, they also earn a 10% bonus. 

Depending on your product, industry, and organizational needs, your compensation plan will differ. It’s important to analyze the best compensation plan for your company. 

Sales process management

Sales process management means managing all aspects of the sales cycle. Here are the following stages of the sales cycle for sellers: 

  • Preparation – study the product and market
  • Prospecting – find leads 
  • Approach – outreach to prospects 
  • Pitch or Presentation – understand the prospect’s pain point and offer your solution  
  • Objection Handling – alleviate their concerns 
  • Closing – ask for the sale and close deal
  • Follow-Up – nurture customers and upsell 

Sales ops must carefully examine where sellers are going wrong. Perhaps, they aren’t following up with leads. 80% of deals require at least five follow-ups. If the forecasting is wrong, maybe reps are struggling to close deals due to the inability to handle specific objections. The sales ops team can provide better training to improve their performance. 

Source: The Brevet Group

Tech evaluation and selection

Having the right sales tools can dramatically increase your team’s results. A CRM can shorten sales cycles by 8-14%. A tool that increases lead response time like chatbots can further increase your sales. 

It’s the sales operation’s job to evaluate the needs of the sales organization. Where are the roadblocks in the sales process, and how can they use technology to drive efficiency further? 

Lead scoring/qualification process for SQLs

If sellers are complaining about their lead quality, the sales operations team may want to evaluate the company’s definition of a sales-qualified lead. 

When a prospect submits their information on an online form, they turn into a marketing qualified lead (MQL). However, the nurturing process from an MQL to SQL can be subjective. Unless the MQL explicitly asks for a sales rep or books a demo call, it can be difficult to gauge which leads are truly interested in buying. 

Sales ops can work with both sales and marketing to better define the lead scoring and qualification process. 

They can come up with different qualifications that would add or subtract points. Once a prospect has a specific score, they can be handed off to the sales rep. 

Examples of lead scoring criteria might include: 

  • Visits pricing page: +10 points 
  • Email open: +1 point
  • Email click-through: +3 points
  • Inaccurate company details: -5 points
  • Fits buyer persona: +5 points

Encharge allows you to set your lead scoring criteria and automatically perform actions based on their score. For example, high lead scores can be sent to the CRM database and assigned to a sales rep. 

4. How to Structure the Right Sales Operations Team

Putting together a new sales ops team can be challenging. Let’s look at the primary sales ops positions you should hire in the right order. 

Below we’ll cover the key positions of sales ops so that you understand each role. Depending on your sales team’s needs and company size, some positions will come as a greater priority than others. 

Technical Operations Adviser 

Often, the technical operations adviser is the first hire for many sales teams. This position must have analytical skills to handle all the analytics and reporting to track the sales KPI. They must look for patterns and trends in the market along with their reps to advise on business decisions. 

The technical operations adviser also acts as the CRM administrator to manage the system and optimize the platform so that all pertinent information is readily available to the sales team. 

Sales Operations Analyst 

The sales operations analyst helps the sales and marketing teams by improving the sales cycle and managing the sales process workflow. These professionals may be responsible for activities such as generating sales reports, sales forecasts, project management, budget planning, and client communication. 

Sales Effectiveness Manager

As your organization continues to expand, you’ll want to hire more sales reps to scale your business. This means you’ll want to hire a sales effectiveness manager. Their entire role is designed to improve the performance of sales reps, which requires extensive sales knowledge. 

They are responsible for designing useful sales training and onboarding new sellers and will continually offer training to boost the skill set of the entire sales department. 

Sales Operations Manager

Once the sales operations team becomes bigger, there is a need to hire a sales operations manager. The manager oversees the strategic vision of the sales team by overseeing the entire sales funnel. They are responsible for implementing a compensation plan for reps, dividing up territories, working on the sales forecast, enforcing the sales process, and deciding on new technology for the sales team. 

5. Select the right sales tools

Sales tools are an integral part of any sales team. It helps to automate mundane tasks that distract sellers from having more conversations with prospects. Also, sales technology can provide insight and organize leads so that reps can work more efficiently. 

We’ll cover the primary categories of sales technologies that you should consider in your organization: 

Analytics and reporting tools

Analytics and reporting software is designed to help companies organize and interpret the mountain of data gathered during the sales process. It pinpoints where the strengths and flaws are in the process. 

With analytics, you can understand how many demos a seller needs before closing a deal. You’ll also notice channels or sales strategies are most effective. Data can tell you the type of customer who brings in the most money. Leveraging data and analytics can help scale your business. 

CRM software 

CRM tools allow sellers to manage all interactions with their prospects and customers. It’s a singular platform to store customer data, allowing reps to be more personalized in their approach. 

Sellers can save documents, track emails and even add notes to each prospect’s profile in the CRM. As a result, reps can build a better relationship with their prospects, which translates to more sales. 

Ideally, you’ll want CRM software that integrates with your marketing automation so that sellers can learn how the prospect has interacted with your brand. Encharge offers Hubspot, Salesforce, and other CRM integrations, allowing seamless data transfer. 

Prospecting tools

Outbound selling teams require identifying the right people for your products or services. Prospecting means finding people whose problem matches the solution that your company provides. Sales reps are speaking to potential candidates and seeing who qualifies as a prospect. For example, the prospect must be willing to pay for your type of solution and fit a specific demographic. 

Prospecting is tedious and takes time away from sellers doing what they’re best at. Fortunately, prospecting software can automate mundane tasks such as gathering information on businesses that match your ideal customer persona. 

These typically offer features such as: 

  • Outreaching to prospects on social platforms and emails 
  • Gathers prospects of leads to contact 
  • Verify emails and update their information 

6. Develop a sales forecasting process

Sales forecasting involves predicting future revenue for a business. These forecasts are created through a data-driven process such as current sales pipeline, industry trends, account historical sales, and more. 

Sales forecasting plays an important role for many organizations. Executive and revenue operations teams use forecasts to make data-driven decisions, finance departments use them for budgeting, and sales reps use them to create benchmarks. 

Shockingly, less than 25% of sales organizations have a 75% or greater in their forecasting accuracy. Companies have many reasons for inaccurate forecastings, such as incomplete data, outdated forecasting tools, and subjective information. A study from Gartner suggests that less than 50% of sales teams have confidence in their forecast accuracy. 

We’ll cover the types of best types of sales forecasting to use so that you can utilize different methods that work for your business: 

Opportunity Stage Forecasting

The opportunity stage forecasting is a method that takes into account the different stages of the sales process that each deal is in. The further the deal is in the pipeline, the greater the chance it will close. 

Let’s take the following example: 

  • Discovery call – 10%
  • Qualified – 20%
  • Product Demo – 40%
  • Product Trial – 60% 
  • Final Call – 80%
  • Deal won: 100%

While these forecasts are relatively objective and reliant on reps to regularly update their pipeline, they can be an excellent way to gauge future sales. A $1000 deal is worth $600 if the prospect makes it to the product trial stage. 

Intuitive Forecasting 

Intuitive forecasting is a method that relies on the sales rep and sales manager’s intuition. If a sales rep says, “I’m confident the prospect will buy within 30 days, and the deal is worth $10,000. 

Of course, this can be highly subjective. However, intuitive forecasting works for small businesses that do not have many historical data points to work from. As a result, a team of two salespeople will need some way to forecast their results. 

Historical Forecasting 

Historical forecasting involves looking at past data to predict future data. This method can vary depending on which data points you decide to use. 

For example, let’s say the last 90 days, you’ve averaged $1,000,000 in revenue. Let’s say you hire five new sales reps for this month. Assuming that new reps, on average, close about five deals in their first month, each worth $5000. You can assume that your next month will increase by $25,000. You can also account for growth trends. If your company is experiencing a 5% growth rate this year, it’s safe to assume that your sales can increase 5% as well. 

Here’s how the math works: $1,000,000 (avg revenue) + $50,000 (5% growth rate) + $25,000 (5 new sales reps) = $1,075,000

While your sales forecasting might not be 100% accurate, the goal is to be at least relatively close to your estimates. The key to forecasting is ensuring reps are honest and provide accurate data. It’s recommended that sales managers listen to calls and speak with reps directly about their pipeline to eliminate potential inaccuracies in the calculations. 

Improve the sales cycle with Encharge 

Sales operation departments have been integral to any organization for many years. In today’s age, sales reps can easily be overloaded with tasks that distract them from talking to prospects. 

Activities like LinkedIn posting, drafting emails, inputting customer information, and other non-selling activities can lead to an ineffective sales team. 

Sales ops are a key piece of the sales puzzle and must be treated as such. 

By leveraging data, technology, and insight, sales ops can drive efficiency and sustainable growth. Encharge integrates with a wide array of selling platforms, allowing you to seamlessly integrate your data across the customer journey

Sign up for a free 14-day trial with Encharge and optimize your sales process today!

Read next: The Complete Guide to Building Your Sales Operation Process

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