How a Modest Investment in
SalesOps Pays Off Big

Robert GammonPractice Leader, Revenue Operations

March 7, 2024 in Revenue Operations, Sales

This article will share some relevant insights and observations made recently through my work in the lower middle market. Businesses aspiring to grow can only do so by considering foundational roles such as Sales Operations (SalesOps).

Mid-market companies’ Executive Leadership Teams (ELT) need data insights to stay informed enough to make strategic decisions.

We see this consistently in our work in Go-To-Market transformation. This problem is complex but imperative to solve if you’re going to scale. I’ll outline a few simple misalignments I see in this space that often stand between the ELT and getting this role opened and filled.

Sales Operations is a strategic function if done correctly

If you aren’t familiar yet with the role, here are the highlights Sales Operations should be responsible for (at least):

  • Sales Data Management
  • Pipeline / Forecast Reporting
  • Sales Team Organization and Communication

This article focuses on Sales Operations as the foundation to start with. Revenue Operations (RevOps) is ideal as a wholistic approach for the entire Go-To-Market motion. Below is the differentiation between the two levels of operations.

The Sales Operations role is held accountable for the data the sales process produces. This oversight creates insight required to understand the selling team’s who, what, and when and their process. Owning the data (or lack thereof) plays a critical role in the strategic value created by Sales Operations. While your sales leader may be brilliant, their time is likely better spent focusing on what to do with the data and where they need more or better visibility.

Pipeline reporting is often the first hands-on job for any Sales Operation. Managing the frequent inspection of leads and deals and reporting on stagnation or blockers is a crucial strategy. This enables your sales leaders to coach and remove blockers efficiently, rather than spending hours sifting through numbers and emails.

Understanding how deals flow and identifying the necessary data to discern patterns or trends in sales force productivity are essential. This knowledge leads to an appreciation of the role that Sales Operations play in the organization and management of the team.

A few of the organizational disciplines you should leverage your sales ops team for are:

If poorly implemented, the Sales Operations role transforms into a support team for your sales reps. Often, the program can devolve down to executing only the busy work your sales team decides is not a valuable use of their time. Your Sales Operation must maintain a strategic vantage point. Suppose your Sales Operations function begins to get pulled into day-to-day tasks and fails to provide the strategic advantages above. In that case, it might be time to expand that function by adding an analyst or sales support specialist reporting to Sales Operations.   

The impact can and should be immediately recognizable

A talented Sales Operations resource should be able to take over pipeline inspections within a week or two of joining your team. For a more novice individual, if the correct profile was hired, they should start to own pipeline inspections within a month. This role’s most valuable skill is the adamancy that most good decisions are made with data. They should focus on what the data tells them rather than the story. Within the first few weeks, your Sales Operations team will begin setting up frameworks for reps and their managers to look closer into what’s driving a deal forward. If not already established, some tangible artifacts you should expect from them are:

  • Recurring pipeline inspection and a standard opportunity management process
  • Sales and marketing lead SLA
  • Standardized reports and or dashboards to inform the ELT

While Sales Operations are productive for the ELT, their impact on the front line will also be evident quickly. The relationship-building skills needed to understand and influence the sales team effectively is another attribute of a strong Sales Operations hire. Most of the great Sales Operations leaders I have enjoyed working with are celebrated amongst the Sales team. Keeping territories aligned, leadership informed, and data clean are reasons Sales loves Operations. Recently, a company I work with rolled out the “Friends of Sales” presidents club nomination. Members of Sales Operations were nominated by top producers and invited along for the celebration with the very top sellers who relied so heavily on them to make their targets. 

Oversight, Governance, and Accountability WILL slow down a disorganized sales motion (but that’s a really good thing)

A common theme in companies that invest in a Sales Operations function is the intentionality of their Go-To-Market motions. This can be transformational to a disorganized or dysfunctional sales team. If your sales team manages deals by “gut,” a Sales Operations function can be disorienting. I realize time kills all deals. Slowing down and thinking through qualification criteria is worth it. Understanding your buying decision teams or specific deal dynamics proven to convert is worth it. 

“Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast” emphasizes the significance of precision, uniformity, and a steady tempo in performance. The quickest path to achievement isn’t through hurried actions. Rather, it involves sustaining a consistent flow and seamless operation that enhances pace and productivity. In the context of Scaling Up, this principle is referred to as a cadence.

Sales Managers are more confident in their forecasts once they are based on facts and supported by processes. This will undoubtedly slow down the pace of chaotic, just-in-time decisions. This is also where a robust CRM comes in handy to enforce data governance. A good process is made even more effective with technology. Yes, reps may moan about entering their data into a system, but it’s arguably the most essential part of the process. Slow down, and do it correctly. 

The best reps rely on trusted intel and stable data to help them focus on the best deals with the best prospects. Sales Operations formulates governance for the sales teams, ensuring adequate decision-making data is readily available. As mentioned before, Sales Operations is accountable for the data the sales team and its process produce. When executed correctly, Sales teams will notice a slowing of stressful calls throughout the day from managers wondering where this deal or that deal is. Sales teams begin to regularly report their production or identify gaps predictably so they can avoid throwing presentations or reports together at the last minute.

To close, the clients I work with who invest in Sales Operations are significantly more productive than those who do not. ROI and general revenue gains quickly dismiss the anxiety of spending when you position Sales Operations as a strategic partner to your sales leader. I have seen this role be successful in every industry. I have also seen it misallocated, so if you want to gain the most from your Sales Operations team, keep them accountable for the process. Insulate them from being “sales assistants,” and they will yield dividends.