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Steve Silver: Sales Ops Leaders Seek a Combination of Cost-Savings and Subject Matter Expertise

Steve Silver has seen it all when it comes to sales. He has 20 years of experience in various sales, sales management, and sales operations roles. Currently a senior research director for the leading B2B research and advisory firm SiriusDecisions, Steve provides companies with essential insights to help them improve sales and marketing effectiveness.

We were curious to get Steve’s perspective on the changing role of sales operations in sales organizations and on what helps companies maximize sales performance. Read the full interview below.

steve silver

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

Seek organizational alignment, both within the sales function and with other functional teams such as marketing, product, and customer success. It should come as no surprise that our research finds that organizations with shared goals, objectives, incentives, processes and technologies consistently outperform organizations that operate in silos.

Within the sales organization, it’s important for the head of sales to embrace the head of sales operations as a key ally, stakeholder, and advisor. Sales operations should deliver insights and intelligence about markets, customers, and sales performance that supports strategic decision making and resource allocation from the senior sales leader all the way down to individual sales managers and reps.

You recently released the Sales Operations Sunburst Model™ and Sales Operations: Planning Assumptions 2017 and you often discuss the evolving role of sales operations to become much more strategic. What are the top three challenges you see your clients face as they try to mature this function within their organization?

With so many moving parts to the revenue engine, it’s tough to narrow the challenges down to just three, but here goes:

  • Being overly focused on the tactical aspects of the job. Of course leads still have to be distributed, orders entered, and contracts managed, but increasing the strategic contribution of sales operations has to be a conscious choice and takes place over time.
  • Failure to align with the Chief Sales Officer (CSO). As noted above, sales operations needs to be a trusted advisor to the CSO. This means moving beyond reporting to conducting analysis that yields insights and intelligence. It may also involve managing higher-level processes such as annual planning, budgeting, territory assignments, and forecasting.
  • Lack of the right resources to fulfill the sales ops mission. It takes a broad range of competencies, skills and knowledge to deliver on the accountabilities of sales operations. Sales operations leaders must evaluate the needs of the organization, assess that against current resources, and invest in employee development needed to bridge any gaps.

With that in mind, do you see an opportunity for organizations to seek outside expertise (both process and staff) to maximize the strategic contribution of sales operations more quickly?

At the risk of being slightly self-serving, yes. Our clients turn to us for benchmark research and best practices that guides their investments in technology and productivity improvement initiatives. In addition, during a recent study of sales operations trends, we noted the increasing trend among sales operations leaders to outsource or offshore certain functions such as order processing, compensation management, reporting, and infrastructure management. They are seeking a combination of cost-savings as well as the subject matter expertise that they can’t afford to hire or don’t need on a full-time basis.

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

I’m an avid reader of business and sales books, although I must admit I often skim them rather than do a thorough reading. I probably have 25 sales books on my bookshelf but I’m certain I’ve thrown out three times that many. Two of my favorite business authors are Malcolm Gladwell and Geoffrey Moore. I love their research-based approach and the thought provoking topics they address. I also listen to podcasts from TED (Technology, Education, Design) Radio Hour and Freakonomics Radio.

I’m also a minor history buff and just finished reading “Vanished: The Sixty Year Search for the Missing Men of WWII”, by Wil S. Hylton. Fascinating story, extremely well written, highly recommended!

Follow the SiriusDecisions Blog for more useful insights and check out the 12 Sales Effectiveness Experts to Follow if You’re in Sales Operations.

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