The Importance of Sales Operations to Success


The importance of sales operations cannot be overstated. Have you devoted enough resources to making sales operations a success in your organization? As the B‑to‑B sales process evolves and becomes more technical, the most efficient organizations track what’s happening with prospects to keep the momentum going. The process of defining, valuing and tracking prospects has become too complex and time-​consuming for sales reps to manage. Their time is better spent selling to the most valuable prospects. Your sales operations professionals can optimize outcomes by focusing on lead management. 

The Importance of Sales Operations Optimization

McKinsey analysts have spent plenty of time measuring and reporting on the importance of sales operations improvements. “In our experience, companies that build world-​class sales-​operations functions can realize one-​time improvements of 20 to 30 percent in sales productivity, with sustained annual increases as high as 5 to 10 percent in some cases. Our research also shows that companies that invest one resource in sales support for every front-​line sales resource drive significantly higher sales productivity than companies that invest less.” One key sales support activity centers on how businesses define leads. Proper lead definition and scoring allows market leaders to differentiate themselves from the rest of the pack. Make sure to assign this critical function to a specific staff member. You can identify the best candidate for this work by using a sales hiring test for sales operations.

Defining and Classifying Leads

When leads generated by the marketing department’s efforts come in, sales operations pros who agree on how to classify them have a leg up. Companies that are selling new products to their existing class of customers have an advantage. They can review the personas of existing customers to understand who the new buyers might be. Using data from their previous marketing activities, they’ll know the percentage of leads that converted to clients.

Specifically, they’ll pay attention to the kind of content these clients accessed while they were prospects. With historical knowledge, sales ops pros should be able to track the content and touchpoints that cause current prospects to engage. With good modeling, they can predict the percentage of current leads that will convert to customers.

When companies are selling new products in a completely new market, it may take time to learn how to score leads. You may not know right away how to determine whether a lead is qualified. There is no substitute for having plenty of data. Over an extended period of time, at least one complete sales cycle, sales ops pros must look at which prospects closed and which ones didn’t and classify the differences.

For example, you may find that leads coming in with generic email accounts instead of their business email address aren’t so valuable. And you may also learn that businesses in some verticals are showing more interest — such as signing up for webinars or a trial. Understanding this data and communicating it to sales managers help them direct their reps to focus on the right leads.

To avoid organizational conflict, sales ops and marketing leaders should agree that not all contact data generated from a webinar or conference can be counted as true leads. If the information coming from marketing efforts isn’t solid enough, the organization may need to shift strategy to attract attention from a different kind of prospect.

If you’re embarking on a new product release and an accompanying marketing campaign, the importance of sales operations critical. But who will you hire to take on this project? Should you look for a data wonk? Typically, the answer is yes.  Before you start, write your job description and understand the key qualities that you’ll need in employees who will work in the department.

Sales Assessments and Making Sales Operations a Success

A sales assessment test can help you identify candidates that are naturally suited to operations work. When hiring for a staff position, you may need to look for individuals who show above average attention to detail in their work. If you expect this staff member to work with sales reps and marketing team members in terms of valuing leads, pay attention to assessment results that show high scores for collaboration.

When you hire the right people and establish guidelines for how to define and classify leads, you are on your way to making your sales operations a success.

Kathy Crosett
Kathy is the Vice President of Research for SalesFuel. She holds a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Vermont and oversees a staff of researchers, writers and content providers for SalesFuel. Previously, she was co-​owner of several small businesses in the health care services sector.