Is It Time to Invest in Sales Operations?

BY Tim Londergan
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Your sales organization relies on data to succeed. And the available data from your internal sources have likely increased exponentially in recent years. Combine that with files from vendors and data providers, and you are awash in information. Consequently, a problem arises when someone must interpret all of that for the greater good of your enterprise. With that in mind, it’s no wonder that sales operations are increasingly important. In fact, over the past two years, the number of sales operations professionals around the world has increased by 38%, according to the LinkedIn State of Sales Operations Report. In addition, the report claims this stunning figure is 4.8 times the pace of the increase of overall sales functions. When companies invest in sales operations, they support their sales teams. But in a larger sense, they simultaneously improve a wide range of business functions.

Invest in sales operations for your company’s future

All businesspeople can expect continued and constant change going forward. That is to say, the accelerated pace and disruption fraught in business today will become customary and routine. Therefore, you must prepare to meet it head-​on. Steve Silver, vice president and research director for Forrester, suggests that sales operations work with marketing operations and customer operations to form a revenue operations team. He states that, “A revenue operations function brings together the processes, metrics, technology and data that support an efficient revenue engine.” Silver understands that an investment in sales operations creates an alignment between marketing and customer success. This, in turn, supports growth objectives for the whole enterprise.

The value of sales operations

The primary objective of sales operations is to collect and analyze data. The result is on-​demand insight for sales leaders, their teams and interested stakeholders. With a bias for action, sales operation professionals provide a number of valuable services. They may schedule planning, identify high opportunity accounts, plan territories, route and validate leads, and segment customer markets. To invest in sales operations is to exploit this wealth of available data. In addition, these professionals establish a unified view across marketing, research and development, and customer success. Most importantly, sales operations professionals bring fundamental change to the traditional sales mindset and provide a new vision for data-​driven selling.

The challenges of sales operations

The LinkedIn report reveals many challenges for these professionals. Primarily, as they streamline sales processes and synthesize available data, they run into confounding challenges related to budget. Not surprisingly, 42% question whether they have the right tools to do their job. Relatedly, 40% wonder if they have the right data. To provide relief, 39% of companies are planning to increase sales operation budgets. Likewise, 34% plan to increase the departmental headcount. Specifically, 39% of companies plan to invest in sales training and certification and 37% in sales engagement tools. As these companies invest in sales operations, they set a priority to recruit and retain sales operations talent.

Examples of valued sales operations functions

Over the past ten years, B2B sales operations have matured. Formerly seen as mostly tactical, they have evolved to a more complex, integrated function. This unit now informs and enables sales strategy and drives change across the entire organization. Subsequently, when companies invest in sales operations to enhance data-​driven selling, they can expect to reap the following rewards:

  • Improved clarity in annual and quarterly plans
  • More accurate sales forecasting
  • Dynamic and more frequent sales planning sessions
  • More efficient use of CRM systems
  • Improved identification of potential customers
  • Innovative sales compensation design
  • Improved quality and compatibility of data from internal and external sources
  • Greater contribution to AI enhanced sales coaching platforms
  • Improved distillation of insight from complex data
  • Hygienic email lists

To learn more about hiring people to fit your sales operations endeavor, check our free white paper, “The Four Fits of Hiring Salespeople.”

Photo by Firmbee​.com on Unsplash