The very first thought that occurs to you when your sales numbers arrive is, perhaps, “We could do better”. You ponder over the figures, trying to find out what is that one clot in the vein that keeps the sales from flowing smoothly.
You raise the targets for your sales force, push them to bag more deals, but you are possibly not even considering the fact that they may already be over burdened. Besides, if a salesperson could do all the tricks, there would be no need for people who support their efforts.
A Sales Operations team enters the picture at this juncture. It functions to provide the administrative and infrastructural support to the sales guys so that they can keep their heads out of administrative activities and simply focus on one thing - closing deals!
From strategic planning to tactical planning, from forecasting to sales reporting, the Sales Operation team does it all. They are those indispensable guys who do the back office work so that your boys can clinch more deals in the market.
Let us take a look at what are some important functions performed by the sales operations team:
Managing customer data – Sales operation team is responsible for making sense out of huge amounts of customer data the company gathers during the course of its business. They use their analytical expertise to bring out patterns in large sets of data. The results are then used to forecast numbers and gives direction to sales heads who in turn set targets for their teams.
Formulating contracts and pricing strategy – This is one of the major functions of the sales operations team. They formulate contracts and proposals keeping in mind the company’s objectives and its competitor’s strategies. After all, a well priced product will take lesser time to sell!
Sales Forecasting – The sales operations team feeds in sales data in the CRM tools which churns out projected sales figures. The data gathered in a CRM tool is used to find trends in sales and forecast future numbers. It is this figure, which then guides the sales head to set targets for his team.
Maintaining sales dashboard and reporting – The sales operation team records relevant data in the CRM application. It maintains a sales dashboard which guides the sales heads to take quick decisions. A constantly updated sales dashboard results in insights that help to detect probable deficiencies in the sales process and ways to rectify them.
Analyzing sales metrics – The analytics that the sales operations team produces, goes a long way strategic and tactical planning. The insights gathered from the analysis of a pool of data often help leaders at the helm to find out what is working and what is not in their sales process and find ways to shorten it.
Although some might argue that at the end of the day it is the sales guy who wins a deal and brings in the revenue, the sales operation team is no less important.
It is these people who predict the trends, filters out good leads from bad and informs your sales personnel of the same so that their efforts bear fruits. Now, given the importance of this function, it is pertinent that one ensures that the sales operations team is efficient and effective.
I have attempted to list down a handful of tips to improve the efficiency of sales operations:
Lay Down Your Objectives
The success of any department in an organization lies mainly on how well it lays down its key roles and responsibilities and the goals it seeks to achieve.
A company should clearly lay down whether it wants its sales operations team to engage in the strategic decision making process or just to carry out the tactical operations.
In most organizations, the sales operations team performs both functions. However, the activities it is required to perform both as a strategic as well as a tactical unit must be well defined. Too much focus on one may hamper the performance of the other.
Find the Right People
The skill sets desired in a sales operation guy is unique and quite different from that of a salesperson. The desired traits of a salesperson include good communication skills, product knowledge, aggressive approach and ability to work under pressure amongst others. However the same traits may not hold good for a sales operation personnel.
More than communication skills a member of the sales ops team is expected to have good analytical skills so that he can make sense out of a vast pool of data. He should have a knack when it comes to predicting trends and to forecast sales numbers.
Sales operations is not an isolated function of your organization. It has to work in coordination with the other departments if it is to work effectively.
For instance, the sales operation team may require data regarding the sales revenue generated from a product line in specific geographic regions to understand demand and consumption patterns in the region.
Based on this data, the team can then predict market trends in each region. Such data can be obtained from the finance department. Therefore, it is advisable that there is a proper interdepartmental communication channel to facilitate a smooth flow of information and better coordination.
It is absolutely essential that you know how much impact your sales operation department has made. Lack of performance measurement standards often hinders proper assessment of the effectiveness of a department. Make sure you set definite standards of measurement.
The parameters of performance measurement could be the number of new clients acquired, number of repeat sales made, the total amount of sales revenue generated over a period - the list is quite exhaustive. You are to select one of the parameters as a standard based on your long term business objectives.
When advancement in technology has made our lives easier in almost all aspects, why not use it to make sales operation more effective? There are many capable CRM systems in the market that are easy to use and economical.
These sales tracking software make the life of the sales operations team much easier. A CRM can not only be used to record large amounts of data, but also to churn out crucial metrics to track KPI.
Besides these, also remember to motivate your sales operation team just like you motivate your sales personnel. Carefully design the compensation package of your sales operations personnel because it is crucial to recruit and retain skilled employees with good analytical skills.
Follow these simple steps to boost the productivity of your team and see the sales figures soaring!