It was hotter than the sun the day I met Jay, Head of Operations at Doctify. As I weaved my way through the eclectic Camden High Street, I wondered how Jay might approach the fundamentals of sales ops given his experience at giants IBM, followed by tech start-ups like GoodLord and Triptease.
As I waited, iced coffee in jam jar and paper straw at the ready, Jay soon emerged, cool as you like in a crisp white granddad collar shirt, and ready to talk all things Sales Ops.
After the usual niceties, we got to it…
Rory Brown (RB) – So Jay, when should businesses consider sales ops?
Jay Khiroya (JK) – Companies are slowly realising that they need sales ops earlier in. I’ve seen and spoken to businesses who have grown and are at the point where they’re saying, “so many things are going wrong with our processes, we’re inefficient, we can’t scale, our CRM is all over the shop, we have 100 tools and that’s making us even more inefficient”. Then you’re hiring someone who has to come in and fix it, when they could have been two or three steps ahead by now.
I think if you’re a young business and you’re looking to develop revenue, instead of just adding another sales head, consider bringing in sales ops and asking, “how can we make these processes more efficient before we invest in scaling?” “How can we make our current people as efficient as possible so that we can replicate this?”
I think there is a shift in this direction, and ultimately their thought process should be around how they get salespeople 80% selling and 20% doing research, admin and CRM entry etc.
RB – Great stuff, Jay. For a SaaS business, what are the modern fundamentals of the Sales Ops role?
JK – I don’t think the role of Sales Ops is all that clearly defined. Fundamentals depend on the business priorities, but I’d probably split it into 3 different areas:
Firstly, I’ll look to answer some key questions:
1. “What does your pipeline look like?
2. What do you define as the different stages in your sales process?
3. Where are you in terms of conversion rates between each sales stage?
4. What’s your win rate?
5. Where do you drop off in the pipeline?
RB – So, a very simple starting point. Why is this the first thing that you do? What does the business then do with this information?
JK – This has the biggest impact in a short space of time. As soon as I know where our pipeline drops off and why, that data-point is what I’d then go to the VP Sales with to advise on how we improve that. And, if we improve that by 2-4%, you can say “Hey, I’ve been here for two to three months and I’ve already helped you convert x amount.”
RB – Right, so the basics are most impactful?
JK – Yep. I think where a lot of business go wrong is that they try to make things so complicated. I think many Salesforce instances you see will have 600 reports and they’re all over the place.
What does this report do? What are you getting out of it? What are you going to do with it? Three simple questions… why do you have 600 reports?
Keep it simple then you’ll make the best decisions that drive results.
RB – How do you turn this into improvements?
JK – It’s all about small % gains. You’re never going to improve negotiation to contract sent by 40%. Create some marginal gain and move onto the next bottleneck.
Too often in SaaS, if you miss your number for two or three quarters you’re out, right?
But this is where we need to think about sales enablement. Are we looking at the areas of the pipeline? Are we helping and coaching in the right areas?
RB – This is all great, but how would you structure your approach?
JK – I tend to look top down. Okay, so here is the area within the business where the biggest loss is, now let’s look at the individual and those who have a great % of doing that versus the ones who don’t and say:
“Hey, what are you doing that makes you so good at converting at this stage?”
If you then share, learn or copy what seems to be working. Hopefully, you’ve then fixed that person’s metric.
RB – Wise words, indeed. While we’re on the topic of sales stages, what work do you do around this area?
JK – Often I see people putting a deal in a sales stage, but not fully understanding what that sales stage means, or what the business thinks it means.
I would recommend any VP Sales or Sales Ops going into any business to clearly define your sales stages.
Enter and exit paths. The only reason it would enter this stage is for these reasons and the only reason it would exit this stage is for these reasons.
For more on this, read my guide to designing and rolling out the ideal sales process.
RB – So that’s point one dealt with. What do you do next?
JK – Understand the priorities of the VP Sales, General Manager, whoever you’re supporting. A lot of what I’ve seen is “how do I make the team more productive? We’ve bought these tools and our processes are all inefficient.”
Typically, I find this is because they’ve implemented more than one tool over a short space of time.
E signature, analytics tool, click to dial, too many, and therefore you’ve made your team inefficient.
RB – OK, so where would you start when it comes to sales tech?
JK – Start at the very top. Look at marketing, MQLs into sales funnel, their journey throughout the whole funnel and how the various tools help and impact this.
Go to stagger tools in phases. Don’t buy or invest in two tools at once. Have it as a road map. For example, my biggest problem could be “my biggest customers can’t print or sign”. Then fine, invest in an e signature tool, make sure you implement it effectively, it fits in your workflow and people are effectively trained.
Then go to the next stage and implement the next tool.
Shadow the entire lead/prospect journey, assess the tools, and ensure they are making people more not less efficient.
RB – Gold
RB – Right, I’m waiting with baited breath for your third and final item.
JK – How do you get the business to become predictable?
RB – Pfft… Go on
JK – The sales function pays everyone’s salary in the business. Pressure is always on. And if you have a bad month, they start to not trust the sales function. That’s what I feel.
The way I believe you can become predictable is using data. First point around, using conversion rates between each stage.
Then down to metrics.
Set up Salesforce in a way where you can record these activities. Okay, so, how many activities, to meetings, to opportunities created? What is our conversion?
And if you know your sales cycle is say 30 days, you know by the end of July, “Okay team, we should have already done x amount of activities, because we know that’s going to lead to x amount of meetings and that will lead to x amount of opportunities, which should then set you up for success in the next month.”
RB – What would your advice be to someone starting their first sales ops position?
JK – Keep it simple. If you’re moving from sales to sales ops, take all the things that have frustrated you about that role but keep it separate from what you’re about to do. Take it easy and start at the top line. Look at pipeline, look at sales stages (to find bottlenecks) and how can you help the team update the system.
Speak to your VP Sales and understand their top three priorities that you can support. Typically, they will be about growth, so then you’d go back and look at pipeline and your six stages and what is required.
RB – What sort of tools have you implemented and used? What’s your perfect stack?
1. A CRM system you are able to modify to fit your business. Salesforce are doing very well at this. Perhaps Pipedrive and co. could fit better.
2. Marketing tools which could be the likes Marketo, Pardot or Mailchimp. There are so many companies out there, so don’t always go for the name.
3. Prospecting tool. Things like a Sales Loft and sales enablement tools like a Jiminny or a Refract. Don’t be afraid to partner with a newer vendor as you’ll often find they have better service and are listening to their customers to adapt the product. Jiminny for example are excellent at this.
4. Analytics Tools – the likes of Kluster and Insight Squared
6. Proposal documents like Proposify
RB – Bit of fun here, Jay. What famous duo would you liken to a typical Sales Ops/VP Sales relationship and why?
JK – Harvey Specter and Mike Ross from Suits.
RB – Reasons?
1) Great Team
3) Protect one another
4) Support one another
5) Learn and bounce ideas
7) Have fun…
RB – Jay, it’s been a pleasure. Thanks for coming out in the searing heat.
JK – Not at all, really enjoyed it!
1. Start your sales ops function early to drive efficiency and scalability.
2. Keep it simple, focus on sales stages, and identify the key bottlenecks in the sales process that you can improve.
3. Review your tech stack and make sure it is making your sales team MORE efficient.
4. Align with your VP Sales so that you’re working towards the same goals.
Want to get more insights from the sales ops leaders? Read our other posts in the sales ops interview series.