What Is Sales Operations?

How your sales operations strategy can drive hypergrowth in the digital era

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    Sales operations provides the organization with the resources, processes, analytics and decision support needed to succeed. It’s important for sales operations leaders to assess (and reassess) the sales operations strategy to stay aligned with the ever-evolving selling landscape. 

    However, a shifting B2B market is presenting key challenges that put sales operations and strategies at risk. Leaders need to anticipate demand for digital interactions and virtual selling to prepare sellers for the future. Not to mention, the market for sales technology — including the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning — is rapidly evolving, causing B2B sales organizations to struggle in prioritizing their investments.

    Amid all this change, new business questions arise, prompting all leaders to clamor for improved analytics and insight. Yet poor data and analytics governance — coupled with low data literacy —  often prevent consistent and accurate analytics interpretation.

    Achieving hypergrowth in this digital era requires sales operations to address and overcome these hurdles by investing in and reorienting their sales operations teams. Only then will they discover a new source of competitive advantage in the marketplace.

    3 Ways to Drive Hypergrowth in the Digital Era

    Evolving sales operations from a reactive, transactional function to a proactive, forward-looking capability that provides increased strategic value to the organization has significant implications for the structure, size and capabilities of the team. Advances in analytical and administrative tools can reduce manual work, while the importance of building a team steeped in technology skills, quantitative aptitude and business acumen increases. Sales operations teams must consider these broad changes as they participate in strategic planning and make decisions about scoping, structuring and management.

    Questions to consider when leading sales operations:

    • How should we design and manage the sales operations team to support the
      end-to-end revenue process?
    • What new skills profiles will sales operations need, and where will we source tomorrow’s talent from?
    • What technology investments should we make to offset the increased costs of a higher-skilled sales operations team?
    • How should we prioritize the many capability-building initiatives that sales operations plans to execute?

    New data analytics and reporting platforms have provided impressive tools for sales operations, promising richer insights and direction to salespeople, sales managers and commercial leaders. In practice, however, an uncoordinated proliferation of data — often managed without quality standards and delivered without context — creates noise without helping those audiences achieve their objectives. It is important to provide actionable insights that will improve and expedite stakeholders’ decision making.

    Questions to consider to enhance sales analytics:

    • How do we prioritize the sales use cases where analytics will have the most impact, and choose the right combination of advanced and traditional analytics to support those use cases?
    • What governance policies must we implement to ensure sales analytics align with business goals and that data meets quality standards?
    • How do we improve low data literacy within our commercial functions — especially among sellers and sales managers — to amplify the value of sales analytics?

    Changes in digital buying, virtual selling and sales technology all have a huge impact on sales compensation. Sales operations teams that underestimate or fail to adapt to these changes will struggle to effectively motivate their sellers. Outdated compensation plans are designed for a different time, a different customer market and a different seller profile than what we have today.

    As the threat of seller attrition looms large, sales compensation becomes a crucial weapon in the race for talent attraction, motivation and retention. In the face of these challenges, progressive leaders are adapting their sales compensation designs to align with changing seller priorities, giving their commercial organizations a strategic advantage in a period of continued disruption.

    Questions Your Peers Are Asking

    • How can we incorporate the changes in technology, sales analytics and the sales talent pool itself into our compensation design process?
    • How must we adjust our compensation plans to account for go-to-market strategies that are more volatile than we’ve seen in the past?
    • What metrics should we adopt to evaluate the success of our compensation plans under changing conditions?
    • How do we set quotas that challenge and reward sellers, especially during times of high uncertainty?
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