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With new trends in sales and marketing constantly emerging, it’s no surprise that organizations have had to adapt their sales operations to increase revenue. From process optimization to forecasting and data analysis, sales operations are now essential for successful sales teams. If you’re reading this, you probably already understand your sales team is the engine of your business, and their success relies heavily on the efficiency of your sales operations (sales ops). If not, it’s time to ensure your business has a solid sales operations strategy.

Imagine you and your sales team are a well-oiled machine where everyone is on the same page, communicating effectively and making informed decisions — all in real-time. This is what effective sales ops is all about — its primary goal is to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of sales force operations by streamlining processes and providing support for the sales team. Nonetheless, for sales operations to run smoothly and efficiently, you must follow certain best practices. While each business’s particular needs are unique, there are a few core principles that you may want to consider.

This article will discuss some of the most important aspects of sales operations and the sales operations best practices to consider when devising your strategy.

What are Sales Operations (Sales Ops)?

Before getting into sales operations best practices, let’s start by taking a closer look at what sales operations is. Imagine your sales team working without the support of a streamlined sales ops process. It would be like a flock of birds flying in different directions, ultimately leading nowhere and with zero productivity. Sales operations, at its core, involves developing and implementing processes for sales teams to help them reach their goals and ultimately improve productivity and revenue. It’s about finding the right balance between resources, tools, technology, and processes to enable a successful sales process.

Gartner defines sales operations as a “strategic function that supports, enables, and drives effective sales objectives, strategies, and programs.” In other words, sales operations is a critical part of the sales process that ensures your sales team members are well-equipped and have access to the resources and technology they need to hit their sales targets. It’s a department or business unit that helps sales teams stay organized, efficient, and informed.

Sales Operations vs. Sales Enablement

Though some sales organizations may use them interchangeably, sales operations and sales enablement differ. Sales operations are the processes, systems, and tools that support sales teams. It centers on ensuring that the sales force operates effectively and efficiently by constantly evaluating, refining, and improving processes.

On the other hand, sales enablement focuses on improving sales performance. It ensures sales teams have access to the necessary resources and training to succeed. Whereas sales operations focus on optimizing processes, sales enablement focuses on improving the performance and effectiveness of salespeople.

Roles and Responsibilities of Sales Ops in the Sales Process

The sales ops team plays a vital role in supporting and enabling the sales team during the sales process for maximum productivity and increased revenue. It’s responsible for various activities, including process optimization, data analysis, forecasting, and more. Here are some of the most common roles and responsibilities of sales ops in the sales process:

Sales Team Management and Organization

One of the primary responsibilities of a sales ops team is to manage and organize the sales team. This includes setting up workflows, ensuring all reps are on the same page, and staying on top of all activity within each sales cycle. Think of the sales ops team as a project manager — they ensure things get done on time and according to plan.

Lead Management

Lead management is a crucial component of sales operations. The sales ops team is responsible for maintaining an accurate and up-to-date database of qualified leads using tools such as customer relationship management (CRM), assigning and routing leads to the right sales reps, tracking lead progress through the sales cycle, and more. This way, sales ops can ensure that salespeople focus on the right leads, freeing up their time and energy to focus on selling.

Sales Data Analysis and Forecasting

Sales ops are also responsible for crunching the numbers. They analyze sales data to identify trends, uncover opportunities, and better understand customers’ behaviors. By leveraging data from team sales, marketing, revenue, and other departments, the sales ops team can create accurate forecasts that help guide strategic decisions for better team productivity.

Process Optimization and Automation

The sales ops team is also responsible for streamlining and automating sales processes. They ensure that the right resources and technology are in place to help salespeople with their daily tasks and that all processes related to selling run smoothly. This helps create a better customer experience and facilitates better communication between teams in the business.

Strategy and Planning

The sales ops team plays a crucial role in the management and execution of sales strategies. They use data-driven insights to develop strategies that can help optimize sales performance and increase revenue. They also provide input in the sales planning and goal-setting, ensuring that sales teams are well-equipped to reach their targets.

Setting Metrics and Tracking Sales Performance

The sales ops team is also responsible for setting up metrics and KPIs to track, measure, and report on sales performance. They help sales reps prioritize tasks and set achievable goals. Using these metrics, they can track progress, stay on top of sales targets, optimize processes, and increase revenue for the business over time.

Training and Support

Lastly, sales ops provide training and support for sales reps. This includes developing onboarding programs, providing resources and tools, and helping reps stay updated on key industry trends. They also provide feedback which is a good way for salespeople to continually improve their performance, talent, and productivity when selling to customers.

Sales Ops Best Practices

Your sales ops team structure, roles, and responsibilities will depend on the size of your organization, the complexity of your sales process, and other factors. However, a few core principles can help ensure successful sales operations. Here are some sales operations best practices to help you start:

Establish Strong Leadership

The first step to successful sales ops is to make sure it has strong leadership in place. A good place to start when selecting a leader is choosing someone who can guide the team, set clear objectives and targets, foster collaboration and communication, and ensure that resources are allocated to benefit the entire organization. Moreover, strong leaders will also be able to lead by example and create an environment where salespeople feel motivated and supported.

Define Clear Sales Goals and Objectives

The success of your operations sales team depends on how well-defined your goals and objectives are. Start by setting measurable goals you can track, monitor, and evaluate over time. This will help you stay on top of progress and performance. Setting goals can be tricky, so ensure they are well-defined and achievable. Here are some things to consider when setting goals:

  • Involve all stakeholders: Gather input from sales, marketing, management, and other departments to ensure buy-in.
  • Align goals with company objectives: Ensure your goals align with your organization’s overall goals.
  • Set realistic and achievable targets: Your sales ops team can’t do it all — set realistic goals that are achievable within the given timeframe and resources.
  • Identify the metrics you will use to measure success: Determine the KPIs and metrics you will use to measure success. This could include revenue, customer retention, win rate, etc.
  • Create a clear timeline: Set a timeline to close each goal with specific milestones and deadlines to help keep your team on track.
  • Prioritize your goals according to importance: Determine which goals are the most important and plan accordingly.

Create a Central Hub of Resources and Information

One of the critical aspects of successful sales ops is having access to the right resources at the right time. This means having a central hub of sales information and resources that sales reps can access quickly and easily. It should include sales collateral, data, customer contracts, and more. This will make it easier for salespeople to find what they need and stay up-to-date on industry trends.

There are various ways to create a central hub of resources and information. For example, you could set up a centralized knowledge base or document management system that all salespeople can access. You could also leverage CRM systems and other software tools to organize, store, and share data. Whichever you choose, the goal is to have a single source of truth that’s easily accessible to all sales reps.

Here are some things to consider when creating a centralized hub of resources and information:

  • Make sure the data is easy to find, access, and share.
  • Ensure the data is up-to-date and accurate.
  • Develop a system for organizing, storing, and sharing data across teams.
  • Use secure CRM software or tools to protect the data from unauthorized access.
  • Leverage automation to streamline data entry and other processes.

Leverage Automation Technology in the Sales Cycle

Automating sales processes can help optimize operations and save time for your sales reps. Many automation tools are available, such as CRM software, data integration platforms, analytics tools, and more. The right automation technology will help streamline processes and ensure data is up-to-date.

Nonetheless, it’s essential to make sure you don’t get over-automated — only automate processes that genuinely need it. With this in mind, you’ll need to identify the key pain points in your current sales process and decide which processes are most suited for automation. Moreover, too much technology can be a distraction, so make sure automation is as straightforward as possible.

For instance, when choosing automated technology such as a CRM, consider factors such as:

  • Data integration and synchronization: Consider the software’s ability to integrate with other systems and synchronize data across different departments.
  • Analytics capabilities: Look for a tool that can identify trends, recognize patterns, and provide actionable insights.
  • Ease of use: Make sure the system is easy to use and intuitive for sales reps.
  • Scalability: Choose a CRM software that can grow with your business and handle increased data and workloads.
  • Cost-effectiveness: Look for a cost-effective solution that provides value in return.
  • Security and compliance measures:  Ensure the CRM software has adequate security measures to protect data.

Encourage Collaboration

Collaboration is vital to a successful sales operations team. Ensure your sales operations team communicates and shares data effectively across other departments, such as marketing and management. This will help ensure everyone is on the same page and data flows freely between teams. There are various ways you can encourage collaboration among teams. Here are a few ideas:

  • Setting up regular meetings with other departments, such as marketing, to discuss progress and share best practices.
  • Establishing clear communication protocols for sales reps and management.
  • Using collaboration tools to facilitate interactions between teams.
  • Creating a culture of trust and openness within the team.
  • Creating an environment where salespeople feel comfortable asking questions and sharing ideas.
  • Ensuring the sales operations team understands the importance of collaboration for success.

Encourage the Sales Operations Team to Shadow Sales Reps

Shadowing sales reps is a great way to stay on top of processes and activities within each sales cycle. This practice can help you identify any emerging trends or opportunities that you may have overlooked. By understanding how your salespeople approach selling to customers and their activities within the sales process, your sales operations team can better tailor processes and activities to optimize performance and close deals.

When shadowing salespeople, be sure to:

  • Listen carefully and take notes on activities, conversations, and processes.
  • Focus on the customer experience — pay attention to how your sales reps interact with customers, their tone of voice, body language, etc.
  • Look for any areas of improvement or process optimization opportunities.
  • Look for any gaps in skills and knowledge — can you provide more training to bridge these gaps?
  • Provide feedback and suggestions to salespeople on improving their performance.

Innovate to Stay Ahead

Finally, one of the critical sales ops best practices is continuously innovating. The sales landscape is constantly changing and evolving, so your sales operations team must be able to adapt and stay ahead of the curve. This could involve experimenting with new technologies, leveraging data for better insights, or developing new strategies.

While innovation can help you stay ahead of the competition, it’s essential to ensure that any changes you make are beneficial to the team and aligned with your organization’s overall goals. Therefore, your sales operations team should focus on making small, incremental changes based on your existing systems and processes. This way, you’ll be able to optimize operations while continually minimizing disruption and improving performance.

Optimize Your Sales Operations

Behind every successful sales team is a well-organized and efficiently run sales operations unit. It’s, therefore, essential for organizations to have a well-structured sales ops team that is equipped with the right skills and resources. By following the above tips on sales ops best practices, you can make sure that your operations unit runs smoothly and that your sales team is well-equipped to reach its targets and close deals.

Ready to optimize your sales operations? Contact us today for help setting up a world-class sales ops unit.