What is Sales Operations
The What, Why, How of Sales Operations
TLDR; Sales Operations is a strategic function within an organisation that optimises sales processes, systems, and resources to improve sales performance and drive revenue growth. Key tasks involve managing sales analytics, forecasting, and implementing sales tools and technologies.
Sales enablement and sales operations are intrinsically linked. Sales enablement is responsible for providing sales reps with the resources they need to close deals, while sales operations is responsible for ensuring that the sales process is efficient and effective.
While sales enablement and sales operations have different areas of focus, they work closely together to ensure that sales reps have the resources they need to achieve their goals.
Check out our eBook for a deep dive into the worlds of sales enablement and sales operations, how they exist separately, and how they collaborate.
So, let's jump in.
Sales Operations is closely related to Sales Enablement, with the two disciplines often working in collaboration to support the sales team and drive revenue growth. While they have distinct roles and responsibilities, their efforts are complementary and interconnected.
Sales Operations teams typically work closely with sales leadership, marketing, finance, and other departments to drive revenue growth and improve overall sales performance.
Why is sales operations important?
The sales operations function helps to improve the efficiency of the sales process within an organisation, deepening business impact in a cost-effective manner.
It improves efficiency in a number of ways:
- Streamlining of processes: By stepping back and evaluating sales processes, sales ops teams can identify and eliminate inefficiencies, bottlenecks, and redundant tasks. Streamlining processes such as lead management and sales forecasting reduces time wastage, enhances productivity, and ensures a smoother workflow.
- Technology: Through the use of salestech tools, repetitive tasks can be automated, thus reducing the time and effort required for admin, and eliminating common errors. Sales reps are then free to concentrate on the areas where they can excel: selling and engaging with customers.
- Performance analytics: Through analysis of data on key metrics around sales performance, sales ops teams can identify areas for improvement. This enables sales teams to prioritise efforts, target high-potential leads, and allocate resources efficiently.
- Territory and account management: By optimising assignments based on factors such as geography, industry, and customer potential, sales operations ensure a balanced workload and maximised sales coverage. This prevents duplication of efforts and enhances efficiency in customer engagement.
The roles and responsibilities of sales operations
The responsibilities of sales operations may vary depending on the organisation, but they commonly include the following:
- Analytics and reporting: Sales operations teams analyse and report on sales data to provide insights into performance, trends, and forecasts. This helps to identify opportunities for improvement and support decision-making processes.
- Sales process design and optimisation: Assessing and refining sales processes to enhance efficiency, effectiveness, and consistency. This may involve mapping out the sales cycle, defining sales stages, and establishing best practices.
A strong sales process helps reps consistently close deals by giving them a framework to follow. Repeatable and scalable processes enable sales teams to replicate the most effective and efficient ways of selling.
- Data management. Sales operations will often collaborate with other functions such as IT and marketing operations here, as sourcing and data quality affects all areas of the business.
- Tools and technology: Evaluation, implementation, and management of sales tools, software, and technologies that assist the sales team in their daily activities. Typical salestech tools may include customer relationship management (CRM) systems, sales automation tools, and analytics platforms.
- Sales forecasting and pipeline management: Supporting accurate sales forecasting by analysing historical data, assessing current opportunities, and monitoring the sales pipeline.
This also includes working with the sales team to provide visibility into future revenue and identify potential risks.
- Territory and quota management: Defining sales territories and assigning quotas to sales representatives. Monitoring and adjusting these allocations as needed to ensure a balanced workload and fair performance evaluation.
- Lead management: Capturing, tracking, and nurturing potential sales leads from initial contact to conversion or closure. This involves effectively managing the flow of leads, ensuring proper follow-up, and optimising the chances of converting leads into customers.
What skills do sales operations teams require?
Recent research by Gartner found that communication skills, planning, and problem solving are the most important skills.
However, with sales teams increasingly relying on data and handling increasing volumes of customer information, skills related to data management are becoming more and more important.
The ability to manage and analyse data, turning it into actionable insights for sales teams will become essential.
How sales enablement and sales operations work together
While they have distinct roles, the two functions are closely intertwined and collaborate to achieve common goals. This is particularly important in the sales process.
Sales enablement focuses on providing sales teams with the tools, training, and content they need to effectively engage with customers and close deals - everything they need to be successful in their role. This can include creating sales collateral, developing sales messaging and positioning, and providing training and coaching to sales reps.
Sales operations is more focused on the day-to-day management and optimisation of the sales process. This can include managing the sales pipeline, forecasting revenue, and setting sales targets.
It is also responsible for creating the infrastructure and processes that allow the sales team to work efficiently. Despite their distinct roles, sales enablement and sales operations are closely aligned in their objectives.
One way that sales enablement and sales operations work together is by collaborating on sales strategy. Sales enablement can provide insights into the sales team's needs, while sales operations can provide data on sales performance and market trends.
Sales operations will align closely with sales enablement to enable organisations to create a strong foundation of efficiency and to define clear and measurable sales goals and objectives that align with the overall business strategy.
Common tasks include:
- The creation of standardised sales processes and workflows that can be consistently followed by the sales team.
- Development and enforcement of sales policies and procedures that ensure compliance with regulations, laws, and industry best practices. Establishing systems for monitoring and reporting sales performance, including key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics that are regularly reviewed and analysed.
- Providing ongoing training and support to the sales team.
- Using data and analytics to gain insights into customer behaviour and preferences.
- Collaboration with other departments, such as marketing and customer service, to ensure a seamless customer experience.
- The continuous review and optimisation of sales processes and strategies to adapt to changing market conditions and customer needs.
By working together, these functions can develop a sales strategy that is aligned with the business objectives and optimised for success.
We have two in-depth reports on sales enablement and sales operations.
Our State of Sales Enablement: Sales Operations and Salestech Report 2022/23 looks at the current state of the industry, using a survey of sales leaders, and insight from industry experts.
The Sales Enablement & Sales Operations Best Practice Guide looks in detail at the five pillars that make up an effective sales enablement function.
LXA’s Certificate: Sales Enablement & Sales Operations Essentials is a 6-week course that will provide you with a holistic overview of the what, why and how of the operations, tech, content and training for sales.
Course instructor and LXA CEO Carlos Doughty will help you uncover valuable insight around auditing your sales maturity and developing your sales enablement, sales operations and salestech strategy.