Sales Operations has a different meaning for every organization. In some organizations, Sales Operations keeps the numbers—they provide all the reporting on sales attainment, the forecast, all other metrics. In other organizations, they are responsible for systems, programs, processes, and tools. In others, Sales Operations also provides training. In other organizations, they are responsible for pricing and coordinating responses to big deals.

Sales people have a love/hate relationships with folks from Sales Operations. “They keep harassing me for reports,” “All they care about is the systems and the numbers!” “They’re the back room operations people–they don’t understand what it takes to work directly with customer.”

But if we want to really understand how all the moving pieces of large sales organizations work, what’s happening across the entire organization, and where the best touch points are to help drive sales performance—Sales Operations can give you that insight.

As sales people and first line sales managers, we focus on the day to day—reaching customers, doing deals, making the numbers. It’s very tactical. While we should. we often don’t take the time to reflect on our own effectiveness or how we as an organization can work more effectively.

Go up the food chain just a little, the perspective doesn’t change–senior managers and executives tend to focus on the field teams and what deals are coming in. But in those reflective moments when they start looking at the overall organization, its effectiveness, and how to turn the crank further on sales performance, Sales Operations can really shine.

In any large sales organization, there are thousands of moving parts-sales people doing deals, great order flow (hopefully), forecasts, new tools, new processes, new programs. There’s the inevitable need for reporting and analysis. Then there’s the need to work with other parts of the organization–marketing, product marketing/management, IT, customer service, finance…..

Sales Operations is at the intersection of everything that goes on within sales and all the external–within the organization and to customers—links. A great Sales Operations executive has tremendous insight into where the bottlenecks are, where the challenges are, where we can improve.

Strong Sales Operations executives are becoming among the strongest leaders in helping the sales organization achieve the highest levels of performance. They have access to all the reports and data. They are the primary channels for many information and relationship flows within the organization. Depending on the organization, they may have responsibility for many of the key systems, tools, processes, programs critical to driving productivity.

Great Sales Operations executives not only have a broad view of what’s happening in the organization. They also tend to be able to blend the short term tactical–with longer term strategies.

The Sales Operations executive is a key person in the Sales Executive Management Team–and probably the key individual sales executives should look toward in driving overall organizational performance improvement.