Some people think that a successful sales rep is like a gunslinger in a Western movie. He works alone. He live by his wits. He is entirely responsible for his sales success. He doesn’t need anyone’s help.

That’s a fantasy.

Yes, it’s true that top sales reps have great skills. But they could not succeed without an effective sales operations team to support them.

Sales Operations Is Key to Sales SuccessSales Operations, or “Sales Ops” (also known in some companies as “Sales Enablement”), is the glue that holds the sales organization together. It gives sales reps the direction, tools, processes, and support they need for sales success. And it gives sales leaders the information they need to manage the sales team.

Without Sales Ops’ support, many, if not most, reps would flounder. In fact, many would fail.

At the same time, without Sales Ops, managers couldn’t run the sales organization effectively. They wouldn’t have the data needed to hold sales reps accountable and to keep the CEO informed.

Larger companies have dedicated Sales Operations departments. Smaller companies may outsource this function.

If you don’t have an internal or external Sales Ops team, your sales organization may not be as effective or efficient as it could be. That means lower revenue and higher sales costs for your company.

How Sales Success Is Driven by the Six Areas of Sales Operations

The graphic below shows Sales Ops’ six areas of responsibility, and it is followed by a description of each area and the role Sales Ops plays in each area.

Sales Strategy

An effective sales strategy is a prerequisite for a successful sales effort. The sales strategy answers three questions:

Six Functions of Sales Operations Critical to Sales Success
Six Functions of Sales Operations Critical to Sales Success
  • Who is the target prospect?
  • What is the offer (product, positioning, and price)?
  • How do we deliver the offer to the target prospect?

A well-designed and well-executed sales strategy ensures that sales reps are selling the right things to the right people with the right message.

Without a well-communicated sales strategy, a company is basically inviting reps to make up their own strategies. This means reps decide on their own whom to call and what to offer—which is a recipe for confusion, if not failure.

Sales Ops Role: Assembling data to help the CEO and sales leader develop and communicate the annual strategic sales plan.

Sales Tools

Sales tools are the instruments sales reps use to sell, and sales leaders use to manage.

Sales rep tools include:

  • Sales materials (brochures, presentations, sales letters).
  • Contract and proposal templates.
  • Sample kits.
  • Territory and account plans.

Sales manager tools include:

  • Reports and forecasts.
  • Compensation plans.
  • CRM Systems.
  • Territory and account reviews.

Good sales tools help sales reps sell more effectively and more efficiently. You don’t want your reps wasting time designing brochures or presentations.

And you certainly don’t want them creating their own proposals and contracts. That could put the company at risk as well as waste time.

Sales Ops Role: Creating and maintaining a suite of tools for sellers and managers.

Sales Programs

Sales programs support the sales effort by promoting offers, opening up new markets, educating buyers, and creating awareness. Programs include: email campaigns, advertising, trade shows, articles, and sales contests.

Your sales team can benefit enormously from effective sales programs. However, you don’t want sales reps running their own sales programs. That would not be a good use of their time.

Sales Ops Role: Developing sales programs and working with the marketing department to execute them.

Sales Processes

Sales processes define how the work gets done. These processes ensure a consistent sales effort.

If you have an effective sales process, you want all your reps to follow it. They should all use the same contact, documentation, and follow-up procedures.

If each rep has a different way of dealing with prospects, you won’t get consistent performance leading to sales success. Some reps may use the CRM. Others may use spreadsheets or keep manual records. The better organized reps may excel. The others won’t.

Without consistent processes, you won’t get the information you need to manage.

Sales Ops’ Role: Designing the processes and then making sure the sales team follows them.

Sales Analytics and Metrics

As the old adage goes “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” Sales managers need good information for a variety of reasons: evaluating performance, creating sales forecasts, and calculating compensation.

Without good information managers can’t manage toward sales success. They won’t know what’s going on.

Sales Ops Role: Developing reports and analyzing data.

Sales Training

You can have a great sales strategy, fantastic sales tools, and super-efficient processes. But it won’t matter if your sales team doesn’t know how to use them.

You need to train your sales reps on your entire sales system. At the very least, sales reps need annual training sessions to refresh their memories and learn about new offerings and programs.

Train your sales managers separately. For sales success, they need intimate knowledge of the company’s sales systems so they can coach their sales reps throughout the year.

Sales Ops Role: Developing the training programs and hiring trainers to conduct the programs.

To make your sales organization is as effective and efficient as possible, spend the time to make sure your Sales Operations team is in place and ready to support the sales reps and sale managers to drive your sales success.

Read more: Sales Compensation Plans