Once upon a time, we had separate Sales and Marketing departments. We had VPs heading up each department, and they often competed for budget, each claiming to be more important for the company’s success.
Back in those days, we had well-defined roles, both in Sales and Marketing. One of the key roles was Sales Operations, an individual or team whose job was to support the sales effort in many ways. As time passed, we moved on to more hybrid roles, with sales reps expected to manage their own data and sales content through CRMs and sales enablement apps.
Have we gone too far in that respect? Have we hamstrung our sales teams with technology and data management and in doing so lost the art of the sale? Is it time to re-introduce Sales Operations into our sales and marketing mix?
What are the Responsibilities of Sales Operations?
Back in the day, Sales Operations specialists and managers assisted the Sales team by providing them with product collateral, event support, designed presentations and assistance with data collection and management, such as prospect and customer lists. Sales Ops folks would work closely with both sales development reps and more senior account reps to provide them with whatever they needed to identify high-potential prospects, set up appointments, provide the latest product presentations and even carry out demonstrations.
Today, Sales Operations has become more technical, with the proliferation of CRMs and marketing automation platforms integrated with business systems and on-demand strategic reporting. Every facet of a modern business must be visible and accurate to prevent lost opportunities and ensure accountability.
Sales Ops professionals manage the same types of data, prospects and customers, but now the information is being updated in real time as contacts engage with your website, blog, social media profiles and online paid media. Now your sales team needs instant notifications and value assessments as their assigned leads move through the buyer journey.
A short list of required activities includes:
- Managing and supporting the CRM and integrations with other systems
- Training and supporting the sales team on using the CRM and other apps
- Troubleshooting and fixing errors in the lead database
- Setting up lead scoring, lead assignment, segmentation and notification workflows
- Working as a liaison between Sales and Marketing to enhance alignment
- Setting up easy access to sales content and tracking prospect engagement
- Reporting on sales performance and recommending process improvements
- Assisting the sales team in events, demonstrations and evaluations as needed
What Are We Missing Without Sales Operations?
Without filling the Sales Operations role, companies put in jeopardy the efficiency of their sales team and also risk missing important sales opportunities. If you ask sales reps to do too much data management and spend too much time sorting through reports, they tend to withdraw from the critical person-to-person skills still needed in sales, especially B2B sales. They spend more time staring at their desktops and smartphones and less time thinking about how to engage with a good prospect and address their pain points. They rely too heavily on time-saving approaches like firing off emails and wonder why their close rates keep going down.
With data-driven Sales Ops people focused on systems, data and processes, sales reps are freed to do what they do best—engage in real conversations with prospects and customers that add value and build trust. Another important advantage they bring to the table is making better use of the technology to beat the competition to key opportunities. With accurate, timely data, sales reps get an immediate heads-up when their leads are engaged, what they’re seeking and why. Armed with that information, they can reach out quickly and start solving customer problems on the spot. Sales Ops professionals also provide accurate, up-to-the-minute reporting on KPIs that matter to sales managers and executives, so the sales process can be continuously improved.
In the old days, we had time to plan out thoughtful sales campaigns and let our sales professionals do what they do best. Now, we still need good strategy and great communications, but do we have time to execute them well? Have we overwhelmed our sales team with technology and data? Maybe it’s time to consider adding technical sales operations to the mix and let your sales reps do their thing.