Earlier, the math was easy; increasing number of salespeople selling out there raised the number of sales made in direct proportion. In today’s ever-evolving world of all things sales, it is no longer that simple. Therefore, as Sales becomes more than a numbers game, Sales Ops too has moved from the sidelines to the center stage.
Almost every industry segment is looking at the increased cost of sales due to one reason or the other. Many experts cite longer buying cycles as the reason for this increase while others find dealing with global competition to be the main challenge. An increase in the buying cycle directly relates to increased awareness among the buyers and availability of comparative analysis of various tools and solutions.
A large part of this scenario is driven by technology advances, which has pretty much changed the way business is done. Some might argue that with an eye on the bottom line and increasing sales costs, is it fair to add Sales Ops as another cost? With changing requirements, Sales Ops too has shed its tactical avatar and is ready to join the sales strategy table.
1. Sales Ops leverages technology to provide a strategic advantage to Sales. So much data gets poured into any system that it is hard to see clearly which strategies are working and which need more tweaking. Feedback from direct and indirect channels also comes in and is usually left up to the customer service people to handle it in ways they see fit. Sales Ops steps in to make sense of the data and offer Sales a better understanding of their customers’ needs. Essentially, it arms the sales force with the required information and other assets to perform their jobs better and more efficiently.
2. Sales Ops builds processes to align strategy and operations. Creating an effective sales strategy is just one end of the process. With the sales reps already under so much pressure, they end up taking the short-sighted approach of filling quotas and hitting the numbers within or as close to the prescribed timetables as possible. The functions that need a long-term vision, such as, building relationships and pipelines, studying the market trends, working with other departments, etc. tend to take a back seat. Sales Ops takes care of these important aspects and allows the salespeople to focus better on doing what they do best.
To create an effective Sales Ops functions, you need to take care of some basics:
1. Setting effective incentive plans and compensation processes: One of the main components of Sales is compensation management. Sales Ops is responsible for creating the right incentive plans for the sales force. They have a clear vision of the strategy and the capabilities of the salespeople. The right incentive programs deliver the desired sales behaviors. It is equally important to create the right processes to quickly and correctly distribute payouts to the sales force. Disputes and delays are never good for the team morale – an efficient Sales Ops knows this and build the rights systems with the right tools.
2. Alignment with sales strategy: A well thought out and well-executed sales strategy is at the core of driving sales, and the way to do so is by setting up effective sales operations functions. Once the vision is clear, it is easy to set up clear and definite objectives for Sales Ops. The process will ensure that the right expectations are established for all teams up front.
3. Collaborating with other departments: Sales Ops collaborates with a lot of different departments within the organization. Many functions of Sales Ops overlap with or need to be in sync with Human Resources (HR). For example, even though Human Resources department handles the recruitment, Sales Ops sets forth the requirement and manages the talent to ensure efficient utilization of resources. Similarly, choosing the right sales tool needs active collaboration with the IT department.
4. Making sense of collected data: Data Analytics is a major part of Sales Ops. It is one thing to collect data and quite another to understand what the data is communicating. For example, collected data may show a sudden dip in sales in a particular territory. It is up to Sales Ops to identify the reason for the decline and point towards the source of the issue. Needless to say, such contributions impact Sales productivity positively.
5. Dealing with Sales challenges: Turnovers among reps, compensation disputes, changing market trends, customer demands, recruiting the right people – all come under the scope of Sales Ops. Streamlining processes and keeping track of all activities is the only way Sales Ops can manage these challenges so that Sales can focus on selling, and not worry about these other crucial details.
6. Managing talent: Since Sales Ops supports Sales in all ways possible, it makes sense to hand over recruitment, training and orientation of salespeople to them. Sales Ops teams know the product, the market and its people the best, and are therefore best suited to select the right training programs for the salespeople.
The reasons why you must develop your Sales Ops function are quite clear. The equations are no longer straightforward – you cannot throw more salespeople into the mix and expect the sales to increase. If you can set up the Sales Ops functions well, increase in both productivity and revenue will follow.