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Sales Operations: Interview with Marci Reynolds

by Trish Bertuzzi on Tue, May 05, 2009


I'm a big fan of Marci Reynolds over at the Sales Operations Blog. So I asked her a few questions about something she knows a ton about: Sales Operations ideas, trends & best practices.

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At a high-level what is Sales Operations?
Sales Operations is a set of business activities that help Sales run more effectively and efficiently and support corporate business objectives. Sales Operations teams support Inside Sales, Outside Sales, Online Sales or a combination of all 3 groups. I often describe Sales Ops as "the backbone of a sales organization".

Why should companies invest in Sales Ops?
When companies invest in the right level of Sales Operations support and resources, they reap incredible benefits in the areas of:

  • sales productivity
  • efficiency
  • strengthening customer relationships
  • improving employee morale

In these difficult economic times, many companies are looking for areas to cut back on- and unfortunately the support areas, like sales operations are often effected. However... this is the worst time for a company to cut back on Sales Operations!

Sales Operations activities can help give your company a competitive edge. New technologies, new processes and new methods to enable your sales teams- will help your firm drive more sales in a more efficient manner.


Specifically what does Sales Ops do?
The activities vary from company to company, but often include 8 categories:

  1. Sales Strategy: Design, Planning & Execution
  2. Measurement of Results: Reporting, Analytics & Sales Data
  3. Compensation, Quota, Policies
  4. Technology & Tools, including CRM
  5. Training & Sales Communication
  6. Territory Design & Optimization
  7. Contests/Spiffs
  8. Lead Generation/Sales Programs

Can you give me some examples of how Sales Ops support Sales Management?
When Sales Leaders are also tasked with functions like reporting or territory design, their time is diverted from coaching and selling. In this challenging economy, we can't afford to waste a moment! We need Sales Leaders 100% engaged in selling activities.

Here's another example: have you ever had to wait for months to get a new "Management Dashboard" KPI report? Do your Sales Reps continually ask for tweaks to your CRM screens and data elements, but nothing gets done?

Many of these tasks require a very unique and specialized skill set that your Sales Operations team members will have - From expert level Excel skills, to technical savvy to business writing. Your Sales Operations personnel should also have strong relationships with IT, Marketing and Product.

If you are serious about raising the bar and transforming your sales organizations, hire experts for key sales operations roles. And hire enough of them. i.e. the right number of resources aligned with the amount of work required to complete.

Sales operations tasks will get done faster, stronger, better! And, as mentioned above, sales productivity will increase.

What were some of the more interesting Sales Ops projects you've been involved with?
I've had the opportunity to participate in two different sales reorganizations- one for a Business Services firm and another for an Internet Services firm. In both cases, Sales Ops partnered with Sales Leadership to define a new "go to market" strategy then worked together on the planning and implementation.  Some of the specific actions included redesigning sales territories and aligning the right resources to the right opportunities, implementing new CRM systems and launching a new Sales Intranet site and internal communication work flow.

These were very strategic initiatives that had a direct and positive impact on the company's performance.

How does Sales Ops support Executive Management?
A pet peeve of many business leaders is when you ask a few different employees a quantitative business question, ex. "What were last week's sales revenue numbers?" you get many different answers. The Sales Manager answers $5M. The Finance guy answers $4.7M. The Sales Reps add their individual sales and end up with $5.5M. Each has their own method of calculating and could be pulling from different data sources.

In order to make sound business decisions and lead sales departments effectively, Sales Leaders must have good data. By centralizing and streamlining data and reporting functions, integrity and consistency will improve.

Why should companies invest in Sales Ops now?
[Marci was kind enough to record a short video with her take.]

Topics: inside sales management, ask the experts

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