The Anatomy of a High Performing Sales Operations Team
Do you have a sales operations team? Do you have a revenue operations team? It’s what all the fashionable sales teams are wearing this season.
Think of a high-performing operations team as the “sales enabler,” according to Matt Cameron, Managing Partner at Sales Ops Central, and right-hand-person to a Chief Sales Officer (CSO).
“If the CSO is weaving the blanket of revenue that keeps us all warm, then sales ops provides them with the pattern and tools to get it done.”
No single person could accomplish all the tasks of sales operations (unless your company is extremely small). These duties include:
- Sales process development and improvement
- Reporting and analytics
- The CRM database
- Sales efficiency tools
- The widgets that draw marketing content into sales functions
- Sales training and certification
- A framework for strategy and planning
No single set of best practices is going to fit every sales organization, but there are some things that high-performing operations teams have in common:
Keep Your CRM Data Clean
In quality management, there’s something called the “1-10-100 rule,” and it goes like this: it costs $1 to verify the accuracy of data while it’s being entered, $10 to correct erroneous data in batch form, and $100 per record if the goof remains uncorrected. The latter amount represents costs associated with low customer retention and process inefficiencies that dent performance.
So you have a big incentive to keep your CRM data clean.
But let’s face it: everyone’s CRM database has errors. Sales staff aren’t perfect, and they are often rushing data entry on their mobile device.
While careful data entry is still important, Artificial Intelligence (AI) can help clean your CRM data automatically. In addition, AI-powered sales apps can identify lagging entries and adjust weekly activity levels to accurately reflect the entire week’s efforts. It also can identify erroneous and inconsistent entries and flag entries that are missing key data.
Find the Right Number of Tools
Most large CRM platforms today support a variety of tools, apps, add-ons, widgets and gimmicks that (ostensibly) allow operations to use their data better. Individual salespeople may have their own personal favorites, or they might even be using tools unsanctioned by the company.
The truth is that too many tools can kill performance rather than improve it. An Accenture study by Jason Angelos found that 59 percent of sales reps reported they are required to use too many tools. Furthermore, half of respondents felt that using too many sales tools was an obstacle rather than a facilitator to sales performance.
Assess Team Mood
Since your sales representatives aren’t robots, intangible, qualitative factors like team mood will have a direct impact on sales.
While nobody expects the operations manager to quiz each team member about how they feel each morning, it’s a mistake to discount team mood from a sales process development.
By analyzing a variety of activities, AI engines can accurately determine the team mood so it can be used as a factor for decision-making. Sentiment detection can analyze sales staff’s communications to determine the state of mind of individual reps and the sales team as a whole.
Determine How Much Value Each Person Contributes
“But I can’t quantify all my resources,” is a cry heard in sales departments around the world. It should be a core sales ops duty to find a way to do so.
For example, if you’ve just closed a big sale that came from a hot lead sent over by marketing, the lion’s share of the value of that sale should be attributed to marketing. If the sale came from a cold lead a sales team member carefully researched and nurtured into a sale, the value of that sale belongs exclusively to sales.
AI-powered apps help companies understand who is contributing what to revenue by measuring the value generated by every person whose activities touch the sales pipeline (directly or indirectly). This makes factors such as closing ability, product knowledge and work ethic visible in your CRM. This way, managers can analyze each team member’s skills and attributes and hold them accountable for what they really contribute.
Accurate forecasting is a goal that all sales organizations chase, but some sales organizations do a better job than others. When a sales organization understands the value of every element of the sales pipeline, forecasting becomes much easier.
Too much time spent on quantitative factors can produce lopsided and even wildly inaccurate sales forecasts. It’s operations’ job to ensure that qualitative factors are being appropriately weighed in sales forecasts.
Solve Sales Performance Traps
Performance traps arise when human and business resources are not properly aligned. AI helps sales organizations understand the incremental value created by all sales and marketing leads, whereas managers can ensure that team members are avoiding activities that lead to little or no sales revenue.
It’s not enough to estimate the average value of leads. For real sales performance, you need a way to determine how good a fit the lead is to your product or service, what that lead’s current level of interest is, and the true potential of the lead. When you know these factors, you can assign the lead a more precise value, and then rank leads on the to-do list. You can even understand which rep has the best chance of converting those leads to sales.
Deconstruct and Rebuild Sales Processes
Your sales operations manager needs to be prepared to take all the data you have and find a meaningful way to look at and use that data. A new breed of sales performance apps such as Cien can help sales operations do all the hard work of deconstructing existing sales processes and rebuilding them in a way that drives maximum revenue.
Sales operations teams are both useful and needed–but only when managed right, and with the right metrics.
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