Essential Skills of Winning Sales Operations
Sales operations are an increasingly vital part of any sales department.
What may have been written off ten or twenty years ago as an unnecessary support role or specialized personnel reserved for larger corporations, is now a major driving force behind most successful sales teams.
It’s common for departments to have a full team for sales operations, cross-functioning with a traditional team of sales reps.
So, what do Sales Operations entail?
Sales operations in a B2B environment include quality lead management, strategic territory planning, contract and proposal management, forecasting, reporting, CRM management, and more. The definition of sales operations continues to evolve and expand to alleviate growing sales processes. Sales ops relieve sales reps of tactical responsibilities allowing them to focus on relationship building and closing deals.
Skills of a Winning Sales Operation
We’ve put together 6 commonly-seen skills of sales operations functioning at their best.
1 Formal Vision Building
It is every sales operations team’s responsibility to develop an overarching vision for the department. They say hindsight is 20/20, but what if your sales operation team honed their ability to plan to meet their future goals? Before you can deploy strategies and enlist new technology you need to know where you are headed first.
- Look at the existing data
- Think in quarters, years, and decades
- Make sure you have the resources to scale your short-term vision
Departments waste significant time and money annually backtracking and pivoting strategies. While it is good to remain flexible and adaptive, it is equally important to create a solid sales vision that considers everything from hiring to forecasting to CRM practices. High-level strategizing is a skill that is crucial to sales optimization.
2 Establishing Tech Infrastructure
You might have the most talented sales team, but you could still be out-paced by competitors with superior technology. In just the past two years alone the industry has seen an influx in available applications and tools to help support sales operations. Improved data analytics and more intelligent CRMs can be incredibly advantageous but also keep in mind that too many complicated interfaces can potentially bog down the team.
Technology strategies should focus on:
- Integrating apps and tools
- Customizing to meet team needs
- Automating superfluous tasks
- Improving analytics and reporting
The sales stack should be substantial enough to upgrade all pipeline processes, but sleek enough that the benefits far outweigh the learning curve.
3 Training & Hiring
Sales operations teams need to be experts in hiring and training, helping to absorb the administrative responsibility the often lengthy process involves. Sales ops are the in-house product gurus that know what it takes to close deals with specific personas. They have intimate knowledge of the statistics associated with the current team and should make informed hiring decisions based on this information.
- Create established best practices
- Formalize onboarding thru initial training
- Support new sales reps
This might be the most overlooked sales ops function despite how crucial putting the right personnel in place is to have a thriving sales team. Sales operations should establish best practices for onboarding, training, and retaining the best sales talent.
4 Lead Generation
Lead generation skills start with a value proposition, which is a formal explanation as to why your product meets the buyers’ needs and details the delivery process. Having a solid value proposition is just the start to quality lead generation. Creating quality inbound marketing materials and collecting data throughout the lead generation process to refine your leads are both important aspects. Not all leads are created equal, quality over quantity improves sales reps chances at closing deals.
- Maintain accurate data for informed decision-making
- Curate quality content and branding to bolster lead generation
- Underpin your strategy with a strong value proposition (see #1)
Having a strong sales ops strategy to generate hot leads or enlisting the help of third-party lead generation professionals are two ways to make sure your department does not go without this vital skill.
5 Customer Happiness
Sales ops not only has to help the sales reps generate leads, but they should also support relationship management for those leads that have turned into sales. Customer service skills aren’t just for the customer service department. Nearly every part of the sales process involves the customer and therefore requires high-level customer etiquette. This begins with knowing the customer base and target personas. The sales ops team are already the data experts and should use this to their advantage to take a quantitative, yet personal approach to support sales reps and improve sales outcomes with strong customer service skills.
Some tips for sales ops professionals:
- Provide useful statistics to help close deals
- Know the client base
- Take ownership of customer happiness
One of the best skills for your sales ops team to have is the ability to collaborate, specifically with the marketing department. Marketing departments build the brand and attract leads organically through design and quality inbound materials. They can also help circulate campaigns and collect data relevant to their advertising efforts. Marketers, like sales reps, are communicating directly with consumers to generate leads.
Here is how to join forces for better sales outcomes:
- Share metrics and data across departments
- Discuss what is working and what isn’t on a qualitative level
- Talk about clear strategic priorities
While marketing and sales might seem different at a glance, the two teams are working towards a common goal. Just using different processes, tools, and data. To reach optimal operational effectiveness, the departments must collaborate as they towards increasing overall revenue.
In its essence, sales operations is a team of sales support all-stars that keeps the company on track to meet goals in the short and long-term. To deploy sales ops effectively, it is essential to build sustainable strategies, find the right tools, hire qualified sales reps, retain customers, and collaborate your way toward success. Sales ops are entirely people-driven. And function from in-house personnel down through the client base.