Sales Operations 101: Guide, Examples, Metrics, Roles & More
Sales team not reaching its potential? A sales operations team can change that.
A long-term approach will always see better results than a one-off fix. That’s what sales operations does for your team — streamline the process with a long-term view that will ultimately help your team close more deals.
Ready to increase performance for your sales organization? Let’s dig into the wonderful world of sales ops and how it can make the difference for your team.
What is Sales Operations?
In short, sales ops helps sales teams close more deals faster.
For a sales process to run smoothly, there are many administrative tasks that need to be handled. When these tasks are removed from the plates of your sales reps, they can focus on what they do best: closing deals.
A sales ops team covers these tasks within the sales process while also optimizing processes and structures outside the sales process that are vital to keep the team running smoothly.
Sales Operations vs. Sales Enablement: What's the Difference?
Sales enablement is the strategic process of giving reps the resources and training they need to effectively close deals. This includes creating onboarding materials, setting up regular sales training initiatives, and helping the team work together through peer mentoring to improve overall performance.
In basic terms, a sales ops team handles the big picture, while sales enablement helps reps complete day-to-day activities. The difference between the two is often minimal, though, and some people argue that sales enablement is part of the sales operations process.
Of course, sales operations and enablement aren't mutually exclusive—you can use both to improve your team's performance.
That said, in many cases, you can get sales enablement content without bringing on a sales enablement team. So I recommend getting your sales ops up and running first.
Key Responsibilities & Roles of a Sales Operations Team
A sales operations team can be responsible for many different tasks, including:
Sales operations teams often work closely with sales leaders to help them create sales goals and strategy, and align those with the company's overall business goals. A good sales operations team can provide data-driven insights into more effective strategies.
Sales Process Optimization
A sales operations team has a high-level view of the sales process and its key metrics. They optimize the sales process by identifying areas where it's not working as well as it could. This can include identifying aspects of the sales cycle that take too long or cost too much money, or using automation to streamline repetitive tasks in the sales process. It can also involve improving customer satisfaction and increasing sales revenue.
Figuring out how much you're likely to sell is a complicated process. But because sales ops has access to so much data, it's a great team to task with predicting your revenue using the right sales forecasting strategies.
This means knowing how many leads you need to acquire each month, how many of those will convert into opportunities, and how many of those opportunities will result in closed deals. By helping you better forecast sales volumes, the sales operations team can help your organization make better business decisions.
Sales Tools & CRM
Sales technology is becoming an increasingly vast expanse of specialized tools and plug-ins. It’s the job of a sales operations team to make sure your reps are using the right tools, and getting the most out of the tools they’re using. The ops team monitors sales productivity and continuously works to set up a tech stack that enables the team to perform at their highest potential.
Data Management & Analysis
Using data to make better decisions is key to the success of your sales ops team. a growing trend in sales operations. The best sales operations teams can provide insights to improve your performance by analyzing sales trends or providing insights into customer behavior, answering questions like: Are reps making the most of their time? Are our customers delivering maximum lifetime value? Are we reducing turnover?
A good sales operations team can help your organization understand what data is most important to you. They can then use that information to help build tools and processes that make sense for your business. This could mean creating reports and dashboards that provide key metrics or making changes to your CRM system based on the needs of your sales team members.
Sales reporting is an important piece of the puzzle regarding sales operations. It's not just about providing data—it's also about making sure the right people have access to the data they need, and know how to use it.
And this isn’t just for the sales team: Whether your executive team wants to know this quarter's numbers or the board needs information on the direction of the sales strategy, ops is prepared. They create both high-level and very detailed presentations and reports to get people the information they need.
Lead Generation & Lead Management
A sales operations department is responsible for automating those early-stage sales tasks, such as working alongside marketing to generate new inbound leads, and linking those efforts to the customer relationship management software your sales team is using.
Everyone in your company is invested in sales, so they want input to the strategy process, reports on how things are going, and more. Your salespeople don't have time for that — that's a job for ops.
A large sales operations department may cover all of these tasks and more, while smaller sales teams with a sales operations analyst or manager working directly with the director of sales may need to share some of these tasks. In the end, you define what sales ops means inside your sales organization based on what your team needs and what it’s capable of doing.
Sales Operations Roles for Small, But Growing Sales Ops Teams
Many small companies get by just fine with one person in sales operations, but as your team grows, it's a good idea to start thinking about expanding your sales operations team. Here are three key roles in the sales operations team:
- Sales Operations Manager: This person will ensure that the sales team is set up and ready to go. They'll be responsible for building out your CRM system, ensuring that all of the data is accurate, and training new hires on how to use it effectively. They might also assist with sales planning by helping the rest of the team develop those plans based on what they see coming through their systems.
- Sales Operations Analyst: This person will work closely with the Sales Operations Manager, but they'll focus on building the systems themselves and ensuring that they are set up correctly. This includes creating reports to track sales performance by territory or account type, developing a workflow for how new leads should be managed (including who should be responsible for reaching out when), and ensuring that everyone is working within the same guidelines.
- Sales Operations Specialist: This person will work on the frontline with sales reps, helping them set up their systems and ensure they are using them correctly. They'll also help with training and coaching to ensure that new and entry-level reps understand the best ways to use their tools and how they can hit specific goals.
Some companies may include other sales operations roles, like "coordinator" or "business development/sales and operations rep." Most of these roles align with those listed above or form a combination of them.
When you're starting your own sales ops team, start with a sales operations manager. They'll help you build out the rest of the team.
So where does your sales ops team fit in with your sales and marketing structure? There's no right answer. Companies have different needs and existing sales team structures. But here's one way you might structure your team:
The KPIs & Metrics Any Good Sales Operations Manager Should Track
Once you start your sales operations program, you need to keep track of key performance indicators (KPIs) to make sure it's working. Here are the seven most important sales operations analytics to monitor to get a handle on how your sales operations model is working. A sales dashboard can help you always stay on top of your KPIs.
Here are eight KPIs any good sales operations manager should track:
1. Conversion Rate and Close Rate
Conversion rate and win rate are both metrics that shows how well your sales team converts leads into customers. If you have a high close rate, your team is doing a good job converting leads into sales opportunities. It's also useful because it allows you to compare your company's lead conversion rates against industry benchmarks and goals.
Sales ops is invested in close rate. They can help adjust lead generation, qualifying, sales process, sales strategy, pricing, and a wide range of other factors that affect close rate.
Ops teams can also track conversion rates for each stage in your sales pipeline, and use that to optimize the sales activities and process that’s affecting those metrics.
2. Sales Cycle Length
The sales cycle length is a metric that shows how long it takes for your team to close a sale. It can be a useful KPI to track because if it's too long, you lose out on potential revenue.
Since sales ops is working to optimize the sales productivity and performance of your team, this is a great sales metric to track the success of their efforts. With better leads, more efficient processes, and more time available for selling, salespeople should be posting faster results.
3. Monthly Average Sales Volume
The monthly sales volume is a metric that shows how much revenue you make each month. This is a good KPI to track because it helps you see if your company is doing well or if you need to make some changes. You can measure this by tracking the total amount of money earned in a given month, then dividing it by the number of days in that month (assuming 30). For example:
Total Sales Amount / Number of Days = Monthly Sales Volume
4. Number of New Leads Generated Per Week/Month/Year
This KPI will show you how many people are interested in your products or services, which will help you determine if your inbound or outbound sales strategy is working, or if there are places where you could improve it. You can measure this by tracking the number of new leads who enter their information into your website each week/month/year, or by the number of outbounds that are converted into opportunities.
5. Sales Team Revenue Growth Rate
The sales team revenue growth rate is the number of new customers a sales team brings in each month/year as a percentage increase over the previous year. This KPI will show you how much revenue your sales team is responsible for generating and can help you determine if they need more people or maybe just better training.
6. Average Deal Size
The average deal size is the total revenue generated by a sales team divided by the number of customers they brought in. This KPI can help you determine how much money your sales team is making and if there are ways to increase it. For example, suppose you notice that one of your salespeople has a larger average deal size than another. In that case, they may just need more training, or the company needs to focus on selling higher-end products rather than cheaper ones.
7. Sales Forecasting Accuracy
Forecasting is a key role of sales operations. So, if you want to track the success of your sales ops team, you should be tracking how accurate their forecasts are. If forecasts aren’t accurate, dig into the reasons why and work to improve future forecasts.
8. Average Selling Time
Since ops is working to increase sales productivity and streamline repetitive tasks, tracking average selling time is a great way to see how the ops team’s efforts are improving the productivity of your reps.
Best Practices For Sales Operations to Succeed
Your business has many benefits when a sales team operates at full potential. You can expect an increase in revenue, which every company always wants. Empowered employees tend to be happier and more productive overall. They feel valued by their managers, who support them as they grow professionally.
Focus on the Right Metrics
Remember that sales ops isn't just about selling to more people. It's about bringing in more revenue. That might mean you need to decrease churn to keep more customers paying you, increase LTV to get more out of each sale, or shorten the sales cycle. All of the sales metrics we talked about above are good measures of how your ops team is pushing sales.
How to do it: Review your metrics regularly and make sure your sales ops team knows that's how you'll measure their success.
Nail Your Sales Compensation Strategy
Don't underestimate this point. The right salary and sales commission structure can make a huge difference in the performance of your sales team. That structure has to reward making the right kind of sales, not just any sale. And sales ops knows which sales you need to make.
How to do it: Your sales operations team will look at data from your industry, within your company, and in your part of the country to figure out the best system of compensation. For example, what a SaaS sales rep earns through salary and commission is different from other industries.
Set Up Automated Lead Distribution
In the past, sales reps had geographic territories. They still might today, but it's more likely that your sales technology lets them sell to anyone, anywhere, at any time. But that doesn't mean they all sell to the same kinds of people.
Whether assigning leads round-robin, or assigning them by specific types of sales and expertise of your team, sales ops should have a clearly defined distribution strategy.
How to do it: Learn six clear steps to set up your first automated lead distribution process here.
Spend Time on Pricing
How much time have you spent making sure that your pricing structure is the best in your industry? Probably not nearly enough. You're not selling on price—you're selling on value—but you need to have the price structure that brings in the most revenue.
How to do it: Your sales ops team has the data and the smarts to make sure your pricing structure kicks ass. Make sure they know it's a priority.
Work Alongside Marketing and Sales Enablement
Sales operations is a cross-functional team. They work with just about everyone, from sales to human resources. They can also be a huge help to both marketing and sales enablement teams.
How to do it: Your marketing team is invested in leads, managing a lot of data, and analytics, and so is your sales ops group. Get them working together to make sure they're both getting what they need to support your sales process.
Grow Your Company With Sales Ops + Close
Your sales team is responsible for bringing revenue into your company. Your sales operations team helps them do it faster, better, and with a lot less hassle. It's a crucial part of your sales organization.
Of course, for your sales operations team to perform at peak level, they need access to the right tools.
There are a plethora of sales tools made for sales operations teams, but if you’re just starting out, it’s best to keep it simple.
For sales reps ready to grow with their first operations team member, Close is an ideal CRM tool. As a CRM that’s communication and data focused with years of experience, your sales ops team will be able to track sales activity, monitor conversion rates and key sales funnel metrics, and set up a customized pipeline to guide reps through a more efficient sales process.
Get started with Close today to see how this powerful CRM for SMBs can level-up your sales org.