How best to recover and reestablish the impact of the Sales Operations function.

It is axiomatic that the Sales Ops function should hold a valuable position in a B2B sales organization. Yet, they sometimes do not. Their role is diminished, their duties curtailed, their impact constrained. This can happen purposefully by a sales leader or management team that does not appreciate the strategic value of Sales Operations. But more often it occurs over time and without any ill intent. It is in those circumstances that a turnaround can be affected.


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First – Clear the Obstacles


There are a variety of responsibilities that should be delegated from the sales leader to the ops leader. Sometimes, though, obstacles arise that prevent an effective sales operations motion. Here are a few of the most common obstacles that Sales Operations face today.


  • Lack of Marketing Engagement. Sales and Marketing are becoming much more intertwined than ever before. And with this dispersion of responsibilities, the CSO has become reliant on marketing data integration. As the two operations groups continue to evolve towards a single revenue operations methodology, the initial steps should be to ensure a smooth flow of clean, metadata-rich, and timely data.


  • Lack of Effective Integration With Finance. The focus of sales operations is data. That data is used for a multitude of reasons that directly tie to Finance, including annual planning, revenue plans/updates, incentive compensation, forecasting, market segmentation, and pricing. Without a harmonious data relationship, characterized by a mutual agreement on one source of truth for all meaningful data, the inevitable result is conflict. And internal conflict breeds paralysis.


  • Disconnect with Sales Enablement and/or Learning and Development. Often, sales ops needs to move the sales force in one direction or another. That means behavior change. Without a close relationship with the functions that produce training and process guidance, sales ops is almost doomed to stagnation.


  • Insufficient Access to Buyer Data. For sales ops to impact revenue per head and costs of sales, it must have real-time access to all buyer-related data. This means the raw data to build personas, win-loss results/analysis, competitive intelligence information, segmentation models, customer churn, and sales/bookings data. Without these data feeds, sales ops is blind to the road ahead.


Next Step – Build a Charter


Assuming these obstacles have been mitigated or, hopefully, eliminated, the next step is to build a charter. This article captures the details of this important activity. The reason for this is that a charter can effectively “re-establish” the organizational justification for the Sales Ops group. This leads to the sales ops team being re-commissioned within the larger organization and sets it on a path for strategic significance.


Final Steps on the Road to Recovery


Once the obstacles are handled and the charter issued, the Sales Ops leader can then get down to the hard work of building the people, process, and technology to enable the function. Here are a couple of key thrusts of activity in that journey:


  • Improve the quality of data collection and metrics across all the revenue-generating motions (new bookings, upsell/cross-sell bookings, renewals, and pricing). Here is an SBI blog that touches on just one element of this metric focus.
  • Address Root Cause of all sales-related performance issues.
  • Create a RACI chart that defines roles and responsibilities for the Sales Ops team internally as well as the other functions. Such a tool will help map of handoffs and collaborations for Sales Ops and identify any potential friction points. Here is an SBI blog that discusses this approach.
  • Perform a technology audit.  Oftentimes there are substantial improvements in sales efficiency or effectiveness that can be gained through deployment of some software or automation
  • Inventory the existing processes that impact sales operations and improve them. These include Opportunity Management, Account Management; Deal Desk; CPQ; Win-Loss analysis; territory design, compensation planning, pricing/discount exceptions, and deal split agreements.


Sales Ops will always have a role in the sales team, but the amount or level of responsibilities varies by organizational structure.  By taking the steps outlined above, Sales Ops can add tremendous value to the company. Evaluate and outline steps to continue developing the function here. The CSO will see Sales Ops as vital to decision-making.


Now is the time for all Sales Operations leaders to act.


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Chad Wittenborn

Bringing growth leaders into alignment around emerging best practices, enabling them to outpace their competitors and make their number.

Chad deploys a highly analytical approach, leveraging a background heavy on growth strategy, sales effectiveness, and operations, to drive top-line revenue growth.  Prior to joining SBI, Chad held a variety of growth leadership roles in industries ranging from Manufacturing to Healthcare.  He has worked closely with sales, marketing, and operations leaders to identify obstacles to growth and to execute initiatives to overcome those barriers. Chad has delivered results by leading projects involving structural transformations of sales organizations, new service line launches, incentive plan overhauls, performance management programs, and CRM implementation and adoption.

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