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David Brock: Sales Leaders Must Reduce Complexity

Sales effectiveness and productivity thought leader, David Brock, author of the Sales Manager Survival Guide and founder of the global consulting practice Partners in Excellence, uses his decades of experience to help organizations achieve ambitious business objectives.

Between traveling, consulting, and sharing his knowledge with the world, David found some time to sit down with us and answer a few questions. We covered advice for sales leaders to drive sales excellence and the critical, changing role of sales ops in organizations.

David Brock

If you could give one piece of advice to sales leaders for driving sales excellence, what would that be?

The biggest challenge facing sales and business professionals now is complexity, both at an organizational and individual level. Driving radical simplification in each area is the only way they can survive, grow and compete. The research is saying we are “loving our people to death.”

All the stuff we think we are doing to help them is actually substantively decreasing performance. So the mantra is: do less, and the things you do, do right.

There is an ongoing conversation about the changing role of sales operations in organizations. How do you see the relationship currently between sales operations, sales management, and the broader organization?

We see the role of sales operations as being critical to the sales function and the organization. Field VP’s and executives typically have a view of their own part of the organization, but less of a big picture. Sales operations has a view of the total sales function. It is also an important bridge to the rest of the company — representing sales to the organization (e.g. marketing, product management, finance, etc.)

If you want to understand all the moving pieces of the sales organization, sales operations can give you that insight. Moreover, because it has that insight, sales operations can take the time to reflect on the effectiveness of the sales force and come up with solutions to increase performance. Sales management should leverage sales ops expertise as much as possible.

Sales operations plays a strategic role not only within the sales organization, but within the enterprise, as well. Since sales is responsible for the execution of the enterprise strategies in the face of the customer, sales operations performs the role of translating those enterprise and business strategies into sales plans and programs that sales can execute.  Also, sales operations plays an important role as “voice of the customer,” and “voice of the sales people” into the rest of the organization. Sales operations is critical for the tight alignment of the sales function with the business.

On that point, what do you think sales operations should do to maximize its contribution to improving sales performance?

There’s much to say about this, but here are four key areas:

  1. Maximize the productivity of all salespeople. One of the biggest challenges in organizations is managing complexity. A lot of the complexity is how the sales person gets things done within their own organization. This reduces time available for selling and dramatically reduces sales productivity. Sales operations can perform a lot of work in managing and simplifying the processes of getting things done.
  2. Leverage deep analytics about the performance of the organization and understand where they can drive improvements in sales performance and effectiveness. Sales ops must provide systems, programs, tools, training, processes to help drive performance, effectiveness, and efficiency.
  3. Help the top sales executive take a longer view of things, looking at what/where the function needs to be in the future, how it should improve, develop, even reinvent itself.
  4. Drive requirements and shifts needed by the company within the sales organization.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

That’s a lot of ground to cover. Do you see an opportunity for organizations to seek outside expertise (both in process and staff) to maximize the strategic contribution that sales ops can have?

Actually, a lot of our work is doing this. Many top sales executives are recognizing the leadership role of sales operations in supporting tactical performance and driving strategic improvement. They are putting strong sales ops executives in place and investing in these organizations.

Part of my mission is to get organizations to challenge the way they are doing things and look for simpler and more effective ways to solve their problems. There is no right answer when it comes to how sales organizations should define their sales operations function, but I think leaders have to keep the big picture in mind and decide what will ultimately help them achieve their goals.

You are a leader and influencer in your industry. We are curious to find out who influences you and why? 

The people that most influence our thinking are the actual practitioners, executives running sales organizations, executives running sales ops, executives running field organizations, front line sales managers, and sales professionals. They are seeing the changes happening with customers and sales first. Most consultants are just reporting on what these practitioners are seeing.

Thank you, David, for your useful insights! For more thought leaders to follow, see our 12 Sales Effectiveness Experts to Follow if You’re in Sales Operations.

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