The world is constantly changing. Customer behavior, selling environments and the sales process can’t help but evolve. Data and strategy are now indispensable to any high-performance sales team — which is why businesses need a robust sales operations setup.
Sales operations (sales ops) professionals produce actionable intelligence to fuel your sales reps’ productivity on the frontline.
A sales ops role typically requires you to track the team’s performance, maintain CRM data, create insightful reports, forecast sales and prepare the groundwork to meet the expected targets. Put simply, sales ops is the technical and strategic wing of a sales team.
If you’re planning to carve out a career in the sales operations field, we’re here to walk you through everything you need to know to get started.
Building a career in sales operations
A sales operations team designs the process supporting everyday sales activities. Overall, you develop workflows, reduce areas of friction and optimize the sales performance.
Here are some responsibilities you’ll take up as a sales ops professional:
- Analyze and optimize the sales pipeline to shorten the sales cycle.
- Generate and qualify leads through strategic prospecting.
- Maintain the CRM database and create analytical reports.
- Measure the sales team’s performance through relevant metrics.
In essence, sales ops manages the efforts that help sales executives sell more efficiently.
Careers in sales vs. sales enablement vs. sales operations
The sales process has come a long way from the interrupt-pitch-close equation. Modern sales teams follow a buyer-centric approach that requires them to be more attentive to their prospect’s pain points.
Given the amount of research and analysis required on the backend (on top of the need to accelerate the selling process), sales can’t work in a silo.
Sales reps need a greater degree of support to do their jobs. This is where the sales enablement and operations team come in. While sales enablement helps implement tactics and enhance effectiveness, sales operations focuses on strategy, process and structure.
In simple words, sales enablement optimizes buyer-seller engagement while sales ops streamlines all workflows so that reps can sell smoothly.
Let’s compare sales enablement and sales ops.
What are the must-have skills for a sales ops career?
Sales ops requirements divide into four distinct brackets. While each position might vary slightly, these fundamental skills are a must.
A sales ops team is responsible for continuously refining the sales process against trends and changes in the landscape.
As a sales operations executive, you should have the organizational proficiency to identify and improve the finer details of any sales setup. You’ll also need this skill to manage and organize data for informed decision-making and strategizing.
Analytics and reporting
In sales ops, you’ll implement your CRM to stay on top of sales activities. A sales ops professional must find and understand actionable analytics and reports from the CRM tool to forecast sales, measure performance and create strategies.
You also prepare strategic reports based on the results of those metrics. These reports will serve as a guidebook for the sales department.
People and data management
While you’d naturally start at an entry-level position, scaling up the sales ops ladder would mean working with the entire sales team.
As a sales operations manager, you have to incentivize maximum productivity, reward good performance and address a lack of efficiency. You might also be required to train recruits. All these responsibilities require strong communication.
Moreover, you’re not just responsible for collecting and analyzing the data — you have to set goals using these insights. Goal-setting demands an accurate assessment of what your team can do.
Strategizing and planning
Lastly, a traditional sales ops role will brainstorm and outline strategies to enhance the sales process and fuel conversions.
A knack for high-level planning is essential to creating a realistic roadmap and meeting all targets. You’ll need to assess the climate and develop strategies that balance your team and technology.
Five sales operations career options you can pursue
Sales operations is a specialized role that requires systems thinking and business acumen. Wondering if this career path is for you? Here are the five most popular sales ops roles to pursue.
1. Sales operations specialist
A sales operations specialist is an ideal entry-level position. This role includes all the general responsibilities of a sales ops professional with a primary focus on collecting and dealing with data.
You can expect to create sales forecasts, prepare budgets and assess the accuracy of forecasted data. You’ll also monitor the quality and consistency of all sales processes through a set of key performance indicators (KPIs).
- Maintain the CRM tool and adjust the database according to requirements.
- Generate granular insights about the target buyer to enhance sales productivity.
- Garner and qualify leads through in-depth analysis and strategic prospecting.
- Monitor key sales metrics to drive strategic decision-making.
- Identify gaps and opportunities for improvement in the sales process.
2. Senior sales operations analyst
Experience: mid to senior-level
An operations analyst has a more metric-driven responsibility – they often work in sync with accounting and marketing teams. In this role, you evaluate data and set benchmarks for effective performance. It involves conducting market research, team analysis and decision-making.
Along with developing team goals and responsibilities, you’re the implementing authority for removing bottlenecks and maintaining optimum productivity.
- Studying the market trends and sales reports to understand the team’s capabilities.
- Setting attainable goals and designing a proper roadmap to achieve them.
- Evaluating individual and group performances to ensure expected outputs.
- Visualizing data interpretations into high-value reports for senior leadership.
- Leveraging technology and resources to streamline all sales processes.
3. Sales operations manager
Experience: mid to senior-level
The managerial profile is the bridge between upper management (the decision-makers) and the rest of the team (the implementers).
Sales team management includes a combo of several defined and undefined responsibilities. So, while you’ll likely oversee the sales data and enhance forecasting, you’re also responsible for maintaining real-time visibility into your team’s productivity and efficiency. Then, you’ll measure efforts against periodic goals to gauge success.
This fluid role performs varied duties based on specific organizational needs.
- Oversee the sales process, define KPIs and manage performance.
- Train new hires and identify underperforming reps for coaching.
- Develop and enforce goals and incentivize the team to meet the targets.
- Ensure high sales productivity and staff enablement.
- Leverage financial knowledge to connect sales operations with the org’s revenue targets.
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4. Director of sales operations
A director is the right hand of the head of sales operations. You invest your time toward brainstorming solutions for increasing revenue, creating sales opportunities, adapting to changing environments and similar concerns.
Reporting and planning become more intricate as you paint the organization’s bigger picture. You’ll strategize, then set and communicate clear goals for a monthly, quarterly and yearly timeline.
- Discover trends in data to modify and enhance the sales process.
- Redefine territories to target and update the plan of action at regular intervals.
- Work collaboratively with HR and finance teams for talent acquisition and compensation changes.
- Evaluate emerging tools and technologies and identify the need for additional resources to modify the tech stack.
- Lead the sales operations team while assessing sales performance.
5. Head of sales operations
In a traditional org structure, the head of sales ops sits at the top. This role supervises the department’s primary activities and initiatives, connecting them to bigger business goals.
You’ll prepare the team structure, designate responsibilities and determine policies. Naturally, this requires years of experience and a high level of knowledge and accountability.
You have to position yourself as a mentor to align goals and efforts. From data management and reporting to planning and implementation, everyone should understand how they fit.
- Facilitate ongoing improvement and training for sales personnel.
- Execute a customer segmentation plan and allot resources as needed.
- Enhance data collection and reporting while constantly examining sales effectiveness.
- Build and manage pipeline between sales ops and sales reps.
- Conduct and participate in topical workshops, seminars and conferences.
A career in sales ops
The sales operations domain had a 4.8x growth ratio from 2018 to 2020. As a vital function of any sales team, it’s no surprise that the demand continues to rise. Start your sales ops journey with an understanding of the options and expectations needed to prepare for a long-lasting career.