The Digital Transformation of Sales Operations

4 min read

Cornelia Klose, Global Sales Operations Manager at Mailjet shares her account of the growing importance of Sales Operations and how, in a world where data is becoming the most important commodity, Sales Operations Leaders are facing a fundamental digital transformation.

Something inexorable is changing in the Sales Ops world.

When I started my first Sales Operations role seven years ago, the skills required were “a strong mastery of Microsoft Office and basic knowledge of one of the common CRMs”.

My best friends were Excel and Powerpoint and oh the good times we had crunching numbers and analysing forecast behaviours.

The evolution of sales

Over the last few years, however, sales has evolved.

Nowadays, SMarketing is not just a buzzword, but a reality. Sales teams are working globally and in a consultative approach. And outbound has shifted from cold calling to cold emailing, demanding high performing Sales Operations for high performing Sales teams.

Don’t get me wrong, Excel and Powerpoint are still my best friends. Yet, in a world where data is becoming the world’s most important commodity (some say the new water), Sales Operations Leaders are facing a fundamental digital transformation.

In this post, I explore the growth of Sales Operations throughout this digital transformation, looking at three key areas:

  • Traits of a modern Sales Operations Leader
  • Tailoring the sales process
  • Big data gatekeeping

Traits of a modern Sales Operations Leader

Empathetic

A good Sales Ops Leader understands the daily work and challenges of their salespeople. The digital transformation has seen an influx of software to help Sales Operations leaders do just that – help sales people in their daily work, lower their workload and allow them to focus on what really matters: their clients.

Analytical

An analytical mind has always been one of the main characteristics of a Sales Ops Leader. After all, they deliver intelligence to the CEOs and sales teams. They are the owners of the CRM. And number-crunching is one of their favourite tasks.

However, most of the data we have worked with in the past, is, well, of the past. Thus, creating forecasts about trends and habits feels a bit like looking into a telescope. The status quo is already out of date.

Now, Sales Ops Leaders are integrating new technologies and real-time data to enrich traditional data analysis. More than ever, we can be at the forefront of upcoming trends and subsequently, we’re seeing more agility in our sales processes.

Strategic

A bird’s eye perspective in Sales Operations is pivotal.

The shift in IT allows us to connect the dots and ask ourselves the BIG question. What does my team want and how can I get it for them with the help of Product, Marketing, and IT?

Curious

Good Sales Operations Leaders are solution-driven superstars. They want to understand why something is (not) working and how to fix or improve it.

They constantly analyse problems and processes, searching for a better way of doing it. And all these gadgets, add-ons and services give them a playground of solutions that help them find the perfect fit for their sales team.

Tailored sales processes

The first Sales Operations Managers were the super-admins of CRM. Now, thanks to the digital transformation, they are managing at least a dozen SaaS systems, Google add-ons and CRM extensions. So, the question arises of needs and costs.

For those out there lucky enough to use Salesforce, most of the integrations are easy to set up and will work seamlessly. But let’s be honest – Salesforce isn’t cheap. And how much more is a company willing to spend for a tool that claims to have all services included?

The oversupply of sales enablement tools gives Sales Ops the choice (and the duty) to understand their company’s sales process in granularity, hyper-personalising each step with the right tools.

Finding the right tools

But what are the right tools? Sorry to disappoint if you’ve heard this one before, but it really does depend. Does your Sales team need, for example, a digital signature tool to send quotes to clients? Or a marketing automation tool for their outbound activity?

The role of Sales Operations amidst this digital transformation is to choose and manage the right services.

So, my first tip? Try not to drown. See what’s out there, stay up to date with the latest tools and regularly review which of your tools might have become obsolete in your toolkit.

Here’s a list of questions to ask in all sales tool demos:

  • Can it improve the sales process or will it add an additional step?
  • Can it be integrated seamlessly with the other sales enablement tools? If not, how much manual work will it add to the sales process?
  • At what step of the sales process should the tool be integrated? Can it replace one step?
  • Can I calculate the ROI of the tool directly after its implementation or is it just a nice gadget to have?
  • Oh, yes. And, how much?!

Big Data Gatekeeper

When Xerox created the first Sales Operations position over 40 years ago, it was to manage “all the nasty number things that you don’t want to do, but need to do to make a great sales force.” (J. Patrick Kelly, Operations Manager Xerox).

Just 10 years ago, Sales Operations was seen as Sales Administration support, working under the Sales Manager, and only needed when a company and its sales team were at a certain maturity stage. (Some still refer to us as a Sales support to enter data in the CRM!)

Luckily, nowadays most companies understand the growing importance of sales operations. They see the impact Sales Operations can have on a company, especially from a data perspective.

It goes without saying that the data shift also brings a change in the Sales Ops profile. We have become the big data gatekeepers, consolidating and sharing information that otherwise would have been rotting in department silos.

Summing up

This is only the beginning. Think for just one second how AI could change the sales world… Hold on, what am I saying, it already has! Automated emails are now being sent to engage with customers and data-driven machines are learning how to find the company’s best profile to increase conversion rates. Now, Sales will finally be able to focus on what they are best at, human interaction.

So, who is there to manage the rest?

Sales Operations Leaders have never been as important as they are today. The digital transformation we’re seeing has made Sales Operations the secret weapon of a sales team.

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