Sales Operations: What It Is, Key Responsibilities & Why Work in It

3 min read

Joe Gates, Sales Operations Manager at Spendesk explains what sales operations is, the key responsibilities, daily challenges, and reasons to embark on a sales operations career.

Taking the glory is one thing but creating an environment in which people can win is another. Sales operations is an increasingly important function that helps sales teams perform consistently and achieve great things. Take any sports team. Their star player is heralded with all the glory, but they are only able to succeed due to the other players around them.

There are four key areas I will touch upon in this post: what is sales operations, what are the key responsibilities, some of the daily challenges and ultimately why you want to be in this fast-paced, ever changing role.

What is sales operations?

Sales operations is the support function enabling sales teams to work more effectively and efficiently. You may think this is extremely broad. But in fact, the role of sales ops can and often does encompass a large range of responsibilities. In sales ops, it is your job to enable your star players to perform at the best of their ability.

What are the key responsibilities of sales ops?

Whilst the scope of sales operations is extremely broad, I find that our responsibilities fall into 4 categories:

  • Strategy
  • Performance
  • Technology
  • Operations

Strategy

Defining a high-level sales and revenue strategy is crucial to the success of the business, and sales ops are in charge of guiding the salespeople in the right direction. This can be done in a variety of ways, from optimising the sales process, the sales methodology you choose to use, to deploying new sales strategies such as channel sales.

Performance

Performance of sales reps is key and providing visibility into their performance can help guide a sales rep in their daily activities and help them structure their often hectic schedules. The role of sales ops here is to firstly define KPIs and sales metrics and then to make this accessible for both reps and managers alike. Another key area of performance revolves around creating the right compensation plan to reward the reps properly, ensuring this keeps in line with what you want to achieve as a business.

Technology

The primary goal here is to manage the sales stack to keep the reps focused on selling and help them do this as efficiently as possible. Primarily, this is done by administering and customising a CRM but also through integration of additional apps and tools. One of the best tools I have purchased is called Atext. For $5 you can store as many keyboard shortcuts you want, saving you precious time.

Operations

Lastly is operations, the backbone of sales ops. This refers to administrative and operational tasks including onboarding processes as well as both sales training and product training.  It is important here to provide the reps with the skills they need to succeed.

What are some daily challenges of sales ops?

One of the biggest issues faced in sales operations is unclear scope. Often our work can overlap those in other teams, which can be confusing unless everyone in the organisation clearly understands the scope. On the plus side, this can lead to many opportunities to work cross functionally with variety of other teams.

It can be a difficult balancing act working simultaneously on a variety of different projects with many different people. Managing the complexity of the buyer’s journey alongside the different skill sets of your sales reps can be a tough tightrope walk.

The last common hurdle I face is getting buy-in for ideas and changes. People love structure, and adding change on top of salespeople’s busy calendars can be daunting. But ultimately, managing the implementation of new changes and getting people to adopt new ideas is highly rewarding.

Why work in sales operations?

Working in sales ops is like being the metronome of the sales organisation and the backbone on which people rely. This is one of the most rewarding feelings. And whilst it may not be all the glamour of closing a massive deal, you can bask in the knowledge that the processes you put in place or the technology you chose played a factor in closing it.

You also get to see huge impacts of your work and how you help to direct the overall strategy of the sales organisation. Not just thinking for the next quarter but for the years after that.

But perhaps why I love working in sales operations the most is that I can wear many hats. I am able to work on a variety of projects with many different collaborators and know that one week can be completely different to the next. You really do feel the benefit of having a far-reaching scope and the possibilities this brings.

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