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The Revenue Operations Blog

Sales Operations Best Practices

June 5, 2019
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Sales operations is so much more than just the team who provides reporting. It's a multi-faceted job that involves liaising with many people across the organisation, strategising, enabling salespeople and more.

We spoke to our community of sales operations leaders to find out what the best practices are that make up this role.

1. Get to know your salespeople

Stephen Haltom, Director of Sales Operations, AppDynamics

It’s about getting into their world and speaking theirlanguage. I think that really comes across when you present the data to them.By living in their world, you naturally have a lot more conversations with themand often you can vet your approach before you even start. It’s aboutdeveloping rapport and trust from the onset so that when you do have somethingchallenging, you have a lot more credibility.

Catherine Mandungu, Director of Sales Operations, Ometria

You will do things quicker if you understand sales. Salesops is there to support the sales reps. If you don’t understand them, you can’tsupport them. And if you’re just implementing things because you think it willbe quicker, but you don’t understand the salesperson behind it, problems canarise. When you’re first learning about sales it might slow you down initiallybecause it’s a learning curve but, in the end, you’ll be quicker because youwill understand exactly what tech stack to employ, which processes to employetc.

Nikesh Shah, EMEA Sales Operations Analyst, Salesforce

Because I came into Sales Ops from sales rather than comingfrom an operations background, I understand what it’s like to be on the frontline of sales, which I think is crucial and has helped me in my role. I cantake a step back, put myself in the salesperson’s shoes and understand thedynamics between the salesperson and sales manager.

2. Be in tune with top-level company objectives

Brandon Bussey, Director of Revenue Operations, Lucid

One of Lucid's founders came from Google and a lot of our culture has come from the Google model, a key example being OKRs (objectives and key results). Every quarter, we look at what our objectives are and the results that define those. As we’re studying our OKRs, we make sure they impact each of those four metrics, although culture and transparency are not as quantifiable.

It’s crucial to make sure you’re not creating your OKRs in avacuum but thinking of the wider company objectives and making sure yourobjectives align to those.

Claire Maisonnave-Couterou, EMEA Sales Operations Manager, Kyriba

The most important pillar of sales operations is tounderstand the business and the needs of the customer. This is really importantfor each analysis. Everything you do should be geared towards aligning yoursolution with the customer’s needs. After that, the priority is revenue butfirst of all it’s the customer. In sales ops, you need to be customer centric.

Nikesh Shah, EMEASales Operations Analyst, Salesforce

Being in tune with top-level company objectives is crucialfor a couple of reasons. Firstly, the sales ops function will build crucialprocesses and suggest different strategies. Being in tune with companyobjectives will help to measure the impact and value of this. Secondly, anychanges or suggestions put forward may affect the rest of the business. If youdon’t have a commercial leader in place whose sole focus is to oversee theentire commercial operation of the business, which in relatively early stagestartups you sometimes don’t have the luxury of having, then Sales Ops willneed to understand how changes in the sales team will impact marketing,customer success, product and the subsequent top-level objective.

Stephen Haltom,Director of Sales Operations, AppDynamics

In my experience, a lot of sales ops leaders come in Gung Ho with great ideas about how they’re going to change the world of sales. And a lot of it winds up not resonating, not being relevant, and not being the top priority for the sales leader. If you have your priorities and they’re not aligned with the core concerns and the priorities of the sales leader, it doesn’t invalidate the work you’re doing, but it’s just less likely to make an impact with them. For me, it’s really important to align with what your sales Leader cares about, not just what you think is important.

Philip Minasian, Sales Operations & Inside Sales Manager, Gigster

If you are a new sales ops person, start slow. Make sure you are tackling what the managers care about and then, not only provide them with the numbers, give them insight and analysis. Understand why you are pulling a metric is more important than how many you pull. Because at the end of the day, you could pull everything but it is not going to matter unless you can actually make a recommendation from it. That’s why sales ops has a job. Because it has to be accompanied by a recommendation. Otherwise it is simply just a metric. 

3. Be transparent and communicate with other teams

Robin Yeoman, Director of International Sales Operations, Snowflake Computing

In my six months at Snowflake, I’ve noticed a few disconnects between things like who owns finding accounts, who owns the data behind that etc. And if those things don’t align then you get conflict. So I think I learned very early on that in order to make those things work, you’ve got to be fairly transparent. And you’ve got to form these partnerships with people, so for instance, I’ve been working very closely with the account-based marketing team. My job is to ensure that the data they’re giving sales in order to run campaigns is also good enough for us to run territories.

And if we’re not seeing that as a joint product and a jointproject for us to get together on, it falls between the cracks a little bit.It’s about managing those conversations. People have different aims in theirprojects and it’s about making sure that they come together close enough foryou both to get a win out of it.

Michael Newton, Sales Operations and Analysis Manager, Perkbox

At Perkbox, we’ve formed an Operations Tribe. We have some unorthodox organisational structures where we arrange our seating by topics, rather than departments. If there is a particular topic you want to work on, such as operations, you might get Sales Ops sitting with Marketing Ops and our Data Analyst, all on one table.

An issue that we’re also hoping to solve with thisOperations Tribe is the gaps in our software. Pieces of software are owned bydifferent departments so we thought that by doing this we could pool all oursoftware together.

Brandon Bussey,Director of Revenue Operations, Lucid

Together with our Head of Enablement, I sit with product marketing at least once a month and we also have weekly meetings to ensure that we’re constantly working in alignment. And then the demand gen side works closely with the SDR team. We all meet at least monthly to talk about initiatives.

Cris Santos, Director, EMEA & LATAM Sales Strategy & Operations, Docusign

At Docusign, we set up a pipeline council meeting. These are weekly meetings for marketing, sales and sales ops discuss how we’re tracking against our pipeline targets. It’s a forum for accountability and for people to discuss what activities they’re doing. Even if all lights are green, we can analyse which events have been successful and then it’s about replicating them.

At the end of the day, organisations are made of people, so we need to make sure we get those people together. We have the marketing team spread across different countries so they’re not sitting here with the main sales team, but we go and see them all the time, they come to see us, and we have regular contact over the phone. I think that explains a lot of the success here at DocuSign; people are very open to dialogue and willing to cooperate in a holistic way.

4. Master your sales stack

Jay Khiroya, Head of Operations, Doctify

Start at the very top. Look at marketing, MQLs into sales funnel, their journey throughout the whole funnel and how the various tools help and impact this.

Go to stagger tools in phases. Don’t buy or invest in twotools at once. Have it as a road map. For example, my biggest problem could be“my biggest customers can’t print or sign”. Then fine, invest in an e signaturetool, make sure you implement it effectively, it fits in your workflow andpeople are effectively trained.

Then go to the next stage and implement the next tool.

Shadow the entire lead/prospect journey, assess the tools,and ensure they are making people more not less efficient.

Justin Kersey, VP of Sales, Merrill Corporation

There’s definitely a trend of throwing technology atsalespeople and eventually that becomes cumbersome for the seller to actuallydo their job. They don’t know which tool they’re meant to use to do research,to get historical data, to get analytics, to push a quote through. They’rebombarded with information. So, I think now sales ops has to pump the brakes alittle bit and peel some of that back to make it a more efficient and effectiveprocess. It’s about leveraging the CRM to serve up information that’s relevantdepending on the stage within the sales cycle, the nature of the client, theterritory that we’re selling etc.

Brandon Bussey,Director of Revenue Operations, Lucid

For 2019, I’m looking at purchasing a sales enablement toolto evolve our tech stack and enable the sales reps. Rather than me doing abunch of demos, I put together a team of sales leaders and reps and presentedfive categories (including enablement software, insight management, callrecording etc) and we discussed which would be the most useful and chose acategory. Then enablement and I surveyed the market and came up with who wethink the top two to three players are for us and we had them come in and rundemos with that same panel. We’re currently at the stage of doing the POC. ThenI’ll sit down and find out what they thought. This is proving to be a much moreimpactful approach because the sales leaders and sales reps have moreinvolvement. It doesn’t feel like Brandon from his glass castle is makingdecisions by himself. It’s their choice as much as mine.

Anna Inman, Sales Operations Director, Tungsten Network

If I had unlimited budget, I would implement somethingalongside every single stage of the sales process. There’s been someinteresting technology around lead generation process and how can you get thoseleads into the business at the right time for the customer and the right timefor you. Opportunity intelligence is an interesting area to look at as well.

It doesn’t make sense to buy tools all at once though. Youhave to learn what works in your sales process and identify the gaps. It mightbe that your team are great at looking at customer information. They know howto map their customers inside out. In which case you don’t need a tool for it.

5. Simplify and accelerate the sales process

Jay Khiroya, Head ofOperations, Doctify

Before you design your sales process, start by asking thesales team what they currently do to turn leads into customers, and what tasksand activities are executed along the journey. Ensure you go through each stepand task, asking what their thinking is behind each action they are taking.It’s imperative you do this with at least a few members (if you have that teamsize). Even with an embedded sales process, you will find each rep carries outdifferent tasks and activities to achieve certain milestones.

Start to map out all the steps and activities taken, and themilestones they achieve. Group them together, and you will start to slowly seeyour sales path.

Sales processes should be built and improved upon on a basisthat becomes a natural way of thinking. This is key to building a successful,efficient and productive sales process.

Ensure your sales stages are clearly defined and make sense(and can be taught extremely quickly) to anybody new that walks into yourorganisation. Designing a sales process is about growth, scale and making yoursales team efficient as quickly as possible.

6. Avoid analysis paralysis

Brandon Bussey,Director of Revenue Operations, Lucid

With Lucid’s land and expand strategy, we have a load ofdata on our users. If we were to just let the salespeople have full access tothat they would be overwhelmed. Wading through the noise is really critical.So, the trend that I’m trying to drive is not getting more data but trying toget less data that is more actionable.

Cris Santos, Director, Sales Strategy & Operations

Sometimes it’s not the amount of data you work on, it’s how much of that is actionable. I’ve seen, even here at DocuSign, my team create tons of dashboards. And you end up not talking about what those numbers actually represent. So, a measurement of success for us is continually making our reports more efficient and drive decisions and ideas around the trends we’ve identified.

Philip Minasian, Sales Operations & Inside Sales Manager, Gigster

My philosophy is never pull data for data’s sake. You never want to be the guy in the company that has all the data, but no actionable insights that come from it. For a new person starting in sales operations, it’s important to not go overboard on the metrics that you want the show your CRO or the sales manager. Sit down with them and align on the key KPI’s that they use to manage their team and take those as the lowest hanging fruit to what you can constantly report in on. You need to make sure that what you are doing is aligning how managers run and operate their day to day teams. If you throw too much at them, then they ignore it. No one wants to be completely inundated with 100 metrics but no insights.

7. Be tactful

Robin Yeoman,Director of International Sales Operations, Snowflake

The soft skills of sales ops are so important for anyonelooking to work in this space.

And I think that’s sometimes overlooked when you’retypically seen as a data cruncher with your head down in your laptop. Butactually, you have to deliver some fairly tough conversations sometimes. So,you’re giving people bad news, such as telling them this deal won’t work ortelling them they’re stepping outside of the rules. I always look for reallygood soft skills when I’m hiring. I assess whether they’re able to amend theirtone and their clarity and then making sure that they’re having the rightconversation with the right people. Because it’s a very emotive piece, asalesperson arguing with sales ops, and it happens all the time. But if you canmanage to take the emotion out of it and make it a very fact-based clearconversation, it makes things a lot easier. And that’s something I’ve learnedover the years. Once you figure that out it becomes, it becomes a lot easier.