How does a sales operations team relate to a sales team? How does a sales ops team impact the B2B sales process, lead generation, and performance?
In this article, you'll find the answers and learn the definition of sales operations. You'll know more about the structure of a sales operation team and the best practices of its management. In brief, sales operations teams:
- Communicate with sales teams.
- Monitor sales processes.
- Budget sales and operations.
- Generate leads.
- Optimize tech stack for sales managers.
- Recruit and train new sales reps.
- Analyze sales-related information.
- Manage compensations for sales agents.
- Improve sales productivity.
What Is Sales Ops?
The sales operations department deals with everything related to sales in a company except for direct interaction with a current or potential customer.
For example, a sales ops manager develops a sales operations strategy, defines sales operations roles, and ensures an effective sales operations team structure.
A sales operations analyst prepares data-driven reports for top managers, uses best practices, and monitors every sales operation process. A senior sales operations analyst with an operational and quality-control mindset chooses the appropriate CRM and motivates their proposal for the sales operations manager.
So, from top-level sales forecasting to lead generation and crafting scripts for sales agents, the sales development team embraces the entire sales process and leaves to sales agents only the first-hand communication with a buyer. Someone calls the sales ops team "support" or "business operations," and the primary purpose of this department is to let agents spend more time actually selling.
This way, sales managers can better focus on contacting clients and creating personalized offers. However, sales support specialists don't directly interact with prospects, leaving this responsibility to the sales enablement department. And, before we learn what a functional sales ops unit does, let's find out more about sales enablement teams.
Sales Enablement Functions
Sales enablement ensures that a sales agent has all the resources for an effective sale. These can be brochures with product descriptions, links to case studies, sales playbooks with scripts, and so on. This department also conducts sales training to teach salespeople how to use relevant data and help them understand the sales funnel better.
This way, sales enablement focuses on resources needed for external communication with clients. Sales operations team enhances internal sales-related processes, develops strategies, and implements revenue-generating techniques.
Managers can also call a sales enablement professional a "sales specialist." This department goes hand-in-hand not only with sales teams but it also collaborates with marketing professionals. Sales specialists use content to support conversations with buyers.
So, sales enablement makes marketing and sales meet and keeps their efforts aligned. And here are the main responsibilities of this department:
- Crafting the content for sales conversations.
Sales specialists from the enablement team work closely with the content makers to equip sales managers with effective promoting materials. Together with marketers, they analyze which phrases, slogans, and even color schemes work best to attract potential clients.
This way, enablement reps make sure that sales agents provide prospects with highly convertible copy. They use case studies, interviews, press releases, conference proceedings, and other relevant documents during the sales pitches.
- Onboarding and training of sales representatives.
Sales professionals from the enablement department ensure that their sales specialists get the proper and timely guidance to engage buyers effectively. They're also responsible for creating the sales playbook.
This document includes examples of successful emails, scripts for various customer journey stages, FAQs, the ideal customer profile, relevant metrics, multiple strategies, and so on.
- Ensuring sales use the right tools for presentations.
When you prove to potential buyers that your product can solve their problems, such a demonstration should be flawless. Sales enablement makes sure that you get the ideal tech support (for instance, there aren't any presentation disconnects) and keep the focus on the potential customer.
Also, this team arranges test demonstration sessions (or dry runs) at the offline location once your lead asks for this. And they always have a plan B if anything goes not as planned.
Returning to Sales Operations Teams
Though there's some overlap between the functions of the two teams, using the terms "sales operations" and "sales enablement" interchangeably wouldn't be quite correct. But some companies mix the roles and tasks bridging the two, so now let's define the responsibilities of the sales ops teams.
Roles and Responsibilities of Sales Operations
A sales ops unit aims at the back-end of sales processes. It covers administrative, strategic, communicative, and tech tasks offering a sales team more productivity and better performance in B2B sales.
But what exactly are the responsibilities of a successful sales operations team working on the B2B market? You'll find them referring to four areas: administrative, strategic, performance-assessing, and technical.
Strategic and Top-Level Assignments
- S&OP (Sales and Operations Planning).
S&OP is a complex sales forecasting process that considers market demand and available supply when estimating future revenues. The Sales and Operations Planning task makes sales operations important for business development. That's because ops analysts help top managers make data-driven decisions like growing capacities or increasing the number of employees.
Since the S&OP involves managers from financial, marketing, sales, and other departments, this task requires collaboration from all top managers. While sales support specialists are in charge of proper communication, coordination, and data management throughout the planning process.
- Working out an overall sales strategy.
No business growth is possible without a clear sales strategy. It helps you identify risks, focus on weaknesses, and minimize efforts to reach your target revenue. SDRs can secure the sustainable growth of your company.
These employees continuously learn from industry leaders and understand which stages of your customer journey require more attention. For example, you need to improve the lead generation process or hire more customer support specialists.
Sales Data Analysis
- Analyzing the sales process.
Making the sales process clear is vital for the efficiency of sales teams because it shows how far you are from closing a deal. What prospecting methods, lead qualification criteria, or points of contact do your sales rep prefer? How do they pitch, treat objections, close the deal, and do the follow-ups?
The answers to these questions allow sales agents to improvise while talking to a lead but still follow the corporate approach to the sales process. Every prospect is different, and scripts may not always work brilliantly with unexpected objections.
- Assessing sales productivity.
Tracking the productivity of a sales team is vital because your business success depends on several key parameters. Monitoring these metrics helps identify weak and strong stages of your sales process, giving possibilities for improvement.
Your sales ops manager assumes that the number of calls and their duration represent the effectiveness of their sales team. But call outcomes matter even more since they directly impact conversions and, consequently, profits.
Technical Stack Support
- Ensuring usage of advanced and relevant tech tools.
A sales technology stack of your sales team is all automation tools that help them sell more. Picking up advanced platforms and their maintenance let the sales operations manager free the sales team from non-sales tasks.
Your tech instruments usually include several tools.
- The first one is the CRM that simplifies and speeds up work with leads.
- The second one is the program for product demos that allows sharing screens and special content.
- The third one is the call recording and analysis software equipped with real-time reports and predictive analytics.
- Hiring new sales managers.
Though the enablement sales specialists train and coach your sales team, sales ops reps do the hiring. They may not place the vacancy on various portals but help prepare the job description and ideal candidate profile. Thus, operations specialists cooperate with the HR department before recruiters start sourcing candidates.
Also, sales ops managers run interviews and craft test tasks for new salespeople according to the internal hiring procedure. And, once all the official requirements are met, sales specialists from the enablement team onboard and train the newcomers.
- Structuring sales teams.
Since sales specialists from the operations team analyze top-level sales data, they can estimate the number of leads that need to be contacted. And, considering the key metrics, sales ops leaders can optimize the structure of a sales team. That's why this task is the prerogative of the operations team.
They know how many specialists your B2B lead generation or sales development teams should include. Or whether, for example, you need two or ten account executives and if five customer success reps will secure the planned upsells. That's how your company leverages the right sales organization structure.
- Consider remuneration for salespeople's performance.
Developing compensation plans for sales teams is essential for their proper motivation. And remuneration approaches differ depending on the industry, company, corporate processes, and product or service. Making commission plans beneficial for employees and acceptable for employers is a challenge that sales operations specialists accept.
Operations reps know when to distribute commissions to sales agents based on territory volume or profit margin. They also know when to offer the advance payment and set rate, build in bonuses or use other approaches to encourage your sales agents to perform at their maximum.
- Generating leads.
Regarding lead generation, sales operations help salespeople so that they don't have to take on lead management tasks. This way, your sales team can concentrate its efforts around conversations with potential buyers.
It would be good to formalize when your sales team should start working with a lead qualified by marketers. Aligning sales and marketing teams this way makes your sales process more streamlined and focused on leads that can bring the highest value.
Sales Ops Team Structure
Sometimes, you can have only one sales development specialist to perform several tasks. But as the volumes of clients and information increase, you'll need to grow the sales ops team, too. But, basically, your sales operations roles can be these:
- Sales Team Lead.
A sales ops manager develops the sales strategy. This team lead takes on many responsibilities, proving that the candidate has extensive experience running his own sales ops team. This professional arranges the smooth and continuous movement of contacts and leads through the sales funnel. They can also effectively detect where the company loses deals.
The operations team leader keeps the sales efforts optimized while constantly looking for new opportunities. This is possible with the proper CRM full of consistent and updated contact data. Ops manager also keeps the salespeople aware of its performance, motivating sales agents to improve their KPIs. On the other hand, the ops team lead shares core metrics and valuable performance insights with the stakeholders.
Strong leadership and organizational skills, understanding the sales representatives' motivation, considering their needs, and aligning them with strategic business goals are essential requirements and challenges of this role.
A team lead’s routine responsibilities include generating reports for salespeople and executives.
- Sales Operations Associate.
This professional closely cooperates with sales agents supporting multiple areas of the sales process. They take part in the sales organization, manage daily communication with sales professionals, and deliver timely resolutions to their issues, queries, and arising problems. Associates are also responsible for sourcing leads to relevant sales professionals through the corporate CRM platform.
People working in this role develop proposals to clients and prepare contracts with customers in collaboration with legal representatives and financial managers. An associate takes the documents through the approval cycle, considering each department's recommendations before the agreement execution.
To make sales projects more productive, this person will set priorities as per the top managers' requirements. An associate will improve sales procedures to get maximal efficiency from the sales representatives. So, a collaborative mindset, the ability to effectively resolve multiple tasks and do that quickly, and CRM experience are fundamental for this position.
- Sales Ops Analyst.
Embracing sales forecasting, these specialists play a strategic role in sales operations teams. That's because they assemble, structure, and analyze sales data from various sources. Data management and assessing sales performance are the key responsibilities of ops analysts. Your reports will help C-level managers understand what works better for revenue generation and make data-driven decisions.
Ops analysts can also develop metrics for assessing specific sales procedures and show visualized reports to decision-makers. They'll also expect you to identify opportunities and offer solutions to improve certain stages of the customer journey. That's because learning market trends, interpreting relevant information, and incorporating the advanced technology stack help sales departments stay open to sales innovations.
- Sales Ops Representative.
This role is for technology lovers with excellent analytical skills who can easily communicate with managers of other departments. This rep may have little or no experience in operations, monitoring sales accounts, and analyzing sales metrics. However, the ability to approach large datasets and proficiency in Excel are crucial for these specialists.
Since this is often an entry-level position, companies can enroll ops representatives in their training programs. These can include studies in a class and shadowing the day-to-day duties of more experienced teammates.
This employee will gain expertise to level up and join the routine sales operations process from installing platforms to building sales reports.
A candidate for this role should possess a relevant bachelor's degree, be interested in the latest trends in sales, order processing, and customer support. An analytical mindset with a focus on problem-solving is also essential to succeed in this position. The ability to perform multiple tasks and simultaneously concentrate on details are the necessary skills for the role.
KPIs and Metrics for Sales Ops Effectiveness
Once you incorporate a sales support team to assist your salespeople, you’ll need to measure how effectively they work. You may customize performance indicators according to your needs and goals, and here are the ones applicable to any company, industry, or product and aligned with the sales strategy.
- CAC (Customer Acquisition Cost).
This parameter shows how much you spend on acquiring a new customer. It's calculated for a certain period: you need to divide the investment in marketing and sales by the number of new customers.
CAC may not be so crucial when your company is small, but it can show opportunities to cut costs as the business grows. And cost-effectiveness is the main factor of your revenue growth and overall business success.
- LTV (Customer Lifetime Value).
The opposite to the CAC is the LTV number. This metric shows the total revenue you get from one customer from the first to the last deal. LTV is essential for predicting revenues and budgeting. However, similar to the CAC calculation of LTV isn't always straightforward.
For example, in the case of a prepaid annual SaaS subscription, it's easy to plan revenues. But you can only estimate when customers will switch to paid offers after free trials or decide to upgrade their current plans.
- Average sales cycle period.
This parameter shows how many months your salespeople need to convert a lead to a customer. And, the shorter period it takes to close a deal, the more effective your salespeople work.
Moreover, in combination with other metrics, this indicator will let you see if you're on your way to achieving business goals. This KPI helps to budget revenues and find more effective ways to approach potential customers at the final stages of the sales funnel.
- Close rate.
The close rate gives a general view, yet it's very informative for assessing the overall sales performance. You may need to get down to segment details, lead source, or calculate this number for every sales rep, of course.
But the ratio of new customers (closed deals) to the number of generated leads (made proposals) in a period shows how many new contacts you need to communicate. So, the converted ones could bring you the target revenue.
- Lost deals.
Lost deals show the opposite side of the win rate, and this metric is crucial for sales agents' productivity. While the close rate accounts for closed deals, the number of lost opportunities considers all prospects who didn't buy.
The reasons behind refusals are various: lack of funds, poor customer care, a more promising offer from your competitors, and so on. But it's always necessary (if possible) to learn the motivation of the customers you failed to win — to avoid that mistake in future.
- The number of calls, emails, and booked demos per rep.
You can estimate the effectiveness of each of your sales employees by the number of made calls and sent emails. This way, you can track their activity, effectiveness and evaluate customer engagement rates. Audience reach indicators will be email open and reply rates and set appointments.
However, when assessing the effectiveness of cold outreach, the straightforward approach as "the more, the better" isn't always informative. You need to compare the KPIs against the set benchmarks like, for example, cold emails to cold calls ratio and research the reasons for deviations.
- Average profit margin.
In contrast to revenue, this metric shows the average profit you gain from each product or service that you sell. So, this parameter is especially valuable if you offer various pricing models, sell multiple products, or allow discounts.
This way, top managers can track each service pack or see the product’s value. Also, they can use this parameter to assess the individual performance of sales agents and profits generated by customers belonging to certain territories.
- Churn rate.
Though churn happens naturally, losing customers hurts, and you need to control it. One way to know the charm rate is to deduct the number of customers at the month-end from the same parameter at the beginning of the month and then divide it by the beginning-of-month number.
For example, if you had 100 clients on January 1, and on January 31, only 90 of them extended the subscription, you lost ten customers, and the churn rate was equal to 10%. You can also calculate this ratio using revenue.
There are many more indicators evaluating sales activities, and each company definitely has its own combination of KPIs for each role in a sales and ops team. Moreover, the nature of your product or services, industry standards, and best practices will always impact the exact metrics to assess the operations and sales departments.
Developing the Sales Strategy with Your Sales Ops Team
Supporting your company with the operations team is a great idea that requires significant investments and a step-by-step realization. Below, you'll find a 5-step guide on how a sales development team can equip your business with top-notch sellers.
- Choose relevant metrics to assess your sales representatives.
In the previous section, you learned several vital metrics that can help you measure your salespeople's performance. And you need to analyze which of those indicators will reflect your team's productivity. For this, you'll have to look through many documents and, of course, engage in the sales process.
This can include listening to pitches during cold calls, reading the selling resources, email templates, watching a couple of demos, and following each stage of customer agreement drafting and execution. Once done, you'll consider all these aspects to create a set of necessary KPIs.
- Create your ideal candidate profile, hire, and train your sales personnel.
The next step is hiring a team of salespeople. For this, you need to define required skills, describe responsibilities, and specify the compensation plan. And then, together with recruiters, craft the job description and post it to job portals and social media.
After interviewing the candidates and signing the job offers, start onboarding and training your sales staff. You can sometimes send the employee handbook and training materials before their first day of work to help them understand the corporate culture and sales processes.
- Assign sales reps to specific segments of leads.
If you have several products or sell them to different groups of customers, think of relevant competencies that your sales agents should possess. For example, someone can be great at marketing to large corporations, while others are ideal for small businesses.
So, you'll need to ask your salespeople about which clients they prefer to work with and see if they really sell effectively to such prospects. And then assign them to relevant tasks in your CRM after the B2B lead generation and segmentation are done.
- Pick up the right CRM for sales process optimization and arrange training.
CRMs are crucial for proper customer data management and effective time allocation of sales professionals. And operations reps need to pick up the advanced tool that will serve both purposes. Moreover, they will have to ensure sales agents don't sink in figuring out how to do basic things and dream of Excel.
So, in addition to maintaining the CRM in good order, ops specialists need to train their sales representatives to use this instrument. Only then will this platform work in sync with people and enhance revenue-generating activities.
- Evaluate weak points in your sales process and fix them.
- Does each of your salespeople know the product well and keep that knowledge updated?
- And do they keep in mind the ideal customer profile and the motivation type while communicating with potential clients?
- Maybe some sales agents don't do enough follow-ups, get too emotional, or leave prospects without an apparent response to the offer?
Sales support reps should identify the downsides of their customer journey. And then approach those weaknesses with refreshed tactics, keeping your sales staff on the same page. Starting from the lead generation process and ending with customer retention — each stage of your selling process should develop your business.
Sales Operations Best Practices
Now it's time to learn how top companies treat their sales ops teams and encourage their reps to work at the maximum capacity. After all, sales teams generate revenue, so it is vital to ensure that these professionals are motivated. Thus, here are some tips from large organizations:
- Stay focused on closing more deals.
You can have plenty of minor targets, but to keep the operations team effective and aligned, remember about the primary goal — which is to help sales agents close as many deals as they can and do it faster.
For this, team leads need to identify critical parameters that will show the current status of sales. For example, the number of won deals can assess how close you are to the targeted indicators.
- Choose the right metrics.
Don't get trapped by the illusion that you sell effectively if your team reaches out to more people. Since the key business goal is revenue generation, you need to decrease the CAC and churn rate, increase the LTV, and minimize the sales cycles.
If your sales agents consistently focus on essential metrics, they'll start to impact them in their day-to-day job.
- Increase lead quality.
Unqualified or improperly qualified leads take a lot of time from your salespeople and bring no income. So, research leads with an ICP (Ideal Client Profile) in mind to compare potential clients against that profile. Also, set up the relevant triggers when using AI-based automation tools for generating leads.
- Regularly reconsider prices.
You sell the value of your product rather than the product or service. And this value can change with time due to various factors. You only need to reconsider the price structure from time to time to check if it remains attractive for prospects and still grows revenue.
- Collaborate with sales enablement and marketing teams.
Sales development reps often communicate with many departments when budgeting revenues or explaining the deviation between the planned and actual numbers. But since marketing and sales enablement closely relate to conversations with buyers and, thus, closed deals, make sure to engage in their activities.
- Develop your sales representatives.
Salespeople are always busy, and their managers are also packed with tasks. But to stay competitive and effective, you need to grow your skills and knowledge. So, encourage your staff for several training hours each month or quarter and make sure to teach them something precious.
- Automate routine tasks.
Artificial Intelligence can do routine tasks more effectively than humans, so incorporate them into your tech stack. Automate email outreach, lead generation, and segmentation to free up your salespeople. Choose the CRM that meets your specific business requirements, and use sales software to help your staff feel valued.
If you need to improve the B2B lead research and at the same time strengthen other stages of your sales process and grow revenues, hire a team. These specialists will equip your sales representatives with the right tech stack for pitching and keeping customers' data.
They will also identify key metrics to measure sales performance and optimize your salespeople's efforts. This way, your business will develop and revenues grow.