Give your Sales Ops team these 5 tools and you will hit your target every single time... ignore them at your peril.
Who the Heck are Sales Operations Anyway?
Let’s be clear, sales operations exist because sales leaders demand answers to what seem on the face of it to be simple questions. The reality is however, getting meaningful answers to these questions is far from simple.
Sales leaders will always crave a deeper understanding of their sales process and their buyers. I don’t know of any sales leader that doesn’t want to discover how to:
- Get more healthy deals into the pipeline
- Make existing deals move faster
- Make existing deals bigger in value
- Drive greater repeat business
- Achieve forecast precision
As a result, sales leaders ask questions such as these:
- How do I make every one of my reps successful? (get more deals into the pipe)
- Why do some deals close much faster than others? (go faster)
- How come some reps are great at upselling and others are not? (go bigger)
- How do we avoid toxic deals that unravel after closure? (customer sat & repeat business)
- How can I accurately predict what will close so I can invest in growth? (forecast precision)
Enter the world of ‘sales operations’. Personally, I think the folks occupying these positions should take a collective bow, right now. This is the team that, like swans gliding across the surface, somehow manage to provide meaningful responses, fashioned from a far than adequate and mostly incomplete data landscape.
The answers to these questions lie deep in the analysis of the sales data they bravely attempt to collect and analyse. Let me expand…
Take A Step Forwards, Sales Operations
The function of ‘sales operations’ or using its shortened moniker ‘sales ops’ is taking a pivotal role in shaping the modern revenue-generation engine.
Sales ops are the guys and gals who are driving success in their organisations by:
- Designing the sales process
- Managing the technology that enables the sales team
- Analysing the data used to optimise the sales process
- Serving as a trusted adviser to sales leadership for key decisions
Sales ops execs know that every sales process will be unique to any given organisation. There is no one-size-fits-all approach as traditional sales methodology vendors, born out of the 80’s era of selling, would have you believe.
There are many constantly shifting factors that will come into play:
- Maturity of the market you are selling into
- Buyer persona and habits
- Competitive landscape
- Existing sales culture
…to name but a few. Let’s just dwell for a moment on why the sales process rather than the outcome is so very important:
- There must be a starting point from which to measure progress
- To measure success requires data
- The volume of data collected drives the accuracy of your sales process
- Constant monitoring allows you to tune the process dynamically as market forces change
If the focus and target is outcome driven only, we have no foundation upon which to build sustainable improvement.
It’s All About the Sales Data
In a recent whitepaper ‘The Sales Operations Playbook, By Sales Operations
Professionals’ the authors mention that:
‘Sales Ops pros told us that they see their role as using data to understand everything about the selling process. What went into successful deals? What can we learn from unsuccessful ones? What could we have done better? What can be tweaked? Answering questions like those help organisations predict, with a greater degree of certainty, what might happen with future deals.’
Clearly, we need to track the core sales process but we also need to investigate around the edges. For example, wouldn’t it be helpful to learn what our top performers do that makes them so successful? We should also seek to track both positive and negative sales traits so that we may identify and eliminate sloppy sales behaviours.
In a constant process of refinement, sales ops are continually looking to tweak the sales process, monitor success and refine again. They are focused on creating the magic winning formula that works for your business, in your market – tailored and tuned for you.
But what happens when that data isn't reliable, is patchy or is out of date? Most sales organisations struggle to get their reps to follow their sales process and to record progress in their chosen CRM system. This often leaves sales ops attempting sales process alchemy - trying to piece together the complete picture using spreadsheet models – at best a guesswork based approach. Forecasting on this type of data is simply unreliable.
Why Won’t You Follow my Process?
The simple answer, I hear you say, is just to get your salespeople following the sales process as it was designed. This would capture all the necessary data one needs. However, in a sales culture where you're a hero if you bring in the money, this often proves a difficult task. The overemphasis on the destination rather than the journey is still prevalent in most sales departments.
Yet paying more attention to the journey will pay huge dividends in the long run. Managing by the KPIs that make up the journey drives organisations to consistently and reliably close deals. It also avoids wasting valuable resources on deals that never had a chance of being won in the first place.
Managing deals using sales process KPIs allows organisations to identify in a timely way those red flags, those warning signs that indicate the deal may not be as healthy as your sales person would have you believe. Equally, following the sales process will help you to construct an accurate picture of how likely it is to ever close. After all, following the sales process also means qualifying out when there is no chance of winning, concentrating valuable resources on winnable deals.
Yet, we still target our sales reps only on closed revenue… we place no emphasis on the journey or the quality of the outcome. We celebrate as the deal closes but how many of us have seen toxic deals that slowly unravel after the fact because the basics were not covered along the way? The subsequent lost cycles spent trying to recover the situation are hidden from view. The rep feels no pain, they have closed the deal and already walked away from the car crash with their commission cheque intact. Others are left to pick up the pieces whilst their behaviour will remain the same on the next deal in their queue.
How Do We Gain Insight and Promote Engagement with our Process?
How do you easily gain that insight into the sales journey? How can you easily track whether the behaviours expected at any given sales stage are being followed? This is not something that can be delivered from your CRM system. CRM systems are great at logging historical ‘tasks’ and showing a view of where the deal is today. CRM systems cannot tell you the journey the deal has been on nor can it tell you if the right (or wrong) sales behaviours have been applied.
And of course, deal insight is only one side of what's needed. Sales reps need to see a reason to follow your sales process. The infamous ‘what's in it for me’ dilemma! Most sales reps still view CRM systems as a sales tracking tool for management. Our saintly sales ops folks work tirelessly at making the tool fit for purpose. Sales enablement (another topic entirely) spend endless cycles explaining the sales process. Yet it appears that this effort makes little difference to CRM adoption at the coal face.
It’s high time that we got accurate answers to the typical 5 questions raised by sales leaders at the top of this post. It is also time that we helped our beleaguered sales ops colleagues by giving them:
- The data they need to determine if high-value winning (and losing) sales behaviours have been applied to deals
- The ability to really uncover what it is that top performers do
- The opportunity to tune the sales process based on data driven evidence
- The ability to motivate reps to engage with every step of the journey
- The capability to track and manage to sales process KPIs
Sit down sales ops and stand up SuMo Motivate … stop managing by the outcome alone and start managing (and motivating) your sales journey. You will be glad you did.
What Have Others Seen?
I am going to just pick one example from over 250 customers. SixPack Shortcuts doubled their average sales price & cut 59 days off their sales onboarding time. Who wouldn't want results like those?
The sheer volume of behaviours, Sales KPIs and data can be daunting at best. To put your mind at ease, we have put together a checklist of Leading Sales KPIs you should think about tracking to ensure your team is on the right path to bust the quarter.