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Expert Tips for Improving Sales Operations Efficiency

Posted in:  Sales and Marketing Management, Sales Enablement Strategy

Sales operations teams frequently encounter hurdles such as juggling too many tasks, outdated procedures, insufficient data management, and communication breakdowns. When sales performance starts slipping, it’s a call to action for a sales operations strategy makeover.

Read on for practical tips to supercharge your sales ops and turn obstacles into opportunities for revenue growth.

The Important Role of Sales Operations

Sales operations (sales ops) works to ensure the sales team functions smoothly. They oversee behind-the-scenes activities and administrative tasks so sales reps can focus on lead generation and closing deals. Sales ops streamline sales processes, manage sales technology, monitor sales metrics and dashboards, and align sales strategies with business priorities.

By working closely with stakeholders across the organization, sales operations enhances sales success, improves customer relationships, and significantly impacts the company’s profitability.

Common Problems With Sales Operations

Operations teams are busier than ever. From managing evolving sales technology to responding to the changing pricing strategies and expectations of business leaders and customers, there is an endless demand for attention and action.

Let’s look at the common hurdles that sales operations teams encounter:

Juggling Competing Priorities

Sales operations managers face a whirlwind of duties and the challenge of wearing too many hats. This can lead to prioritization issues, where critical tasks are dismissed in favor of seemingly urgent but less important activities.

Shifting Customer Expectations

Digitized selling has changed customer-business interactions. Modern customers expect personalized, connected experiences across multiple channels, from online to in-person. This creates complexities for companies that are not easily solved.

Maintaining communication cohesion across all touchpoints is a struggle without proper solutions. As a result, data silos emerge. A LinkedIn report shows that 58% of sales ops professionals have a difficult time finding accurate, up-to-date data due to data silos.

Additionally, there’s the challenge of adapting business processes to the needs of diverse customers, complicating the desire for a unified customer experience. For businesses to thrive, they must fully understand customer needs to deliver tailored experiences.

Sales Ops stat

Source: LinkedIn

Keeping Up With Evolving Sales Technology

The rapid advancement of tech challenges sales operations to remain current. This constant evolution requires sales ops teams to endlessly evaluate and modify their tech stack to secure the most innovative solutions. Failing to keep pace can impact the sales cycle, resulting in missed opportunities and competitive losses.

Forecast Inaccuracy

Sales ops is responsible for ensuring sales forecast accuracy. Forecasting predicts future sales volumes over a period. To do this, they analyze sales data, market trends, and historical performance. The forecast guides budget, staff, inventory, and other operational decisions. An inaccurate sales forecast can have significant consequences.

For example:

  • Misaligned resources: An overestimated forecast can lead to excess inventory and underutilized staff, whereas an underestimated forecast might result in inventory shortages and insufficient staff to meet customer demand.
  • Missed opportunities: Inaccurate forecasts can cause sales teams to miss out on potential sales opportunities due to a lack of preparedness or to pursue unrealistic sales targets, wasting effort and resources.

Communication Barriers

Communication is complex in busy organizations, especially when misalignment between teams or the team-to-team or peer-to-peer handoff is not working well. Information is lost, follow-up is delayed, and the entire sales ops process is disrupted.

Manual Processes and Disconnected Systems

Manual processes and disparate systems can slow things down and introduce inefficiencies. This often leads to data entry mistakes, unreliable insights for making decisions, mix-ups when handing over tasks, and inaccurate forecasts.

Lack of Visibility Into Sales Metrics

Without real-time, accurate sales metrics, decision-making is guesswork that hinders growth. Ops leaders cannot evaluate the business’s performance or identify improvement areas. This gap can lead to misused resources, investing too much in poorly performing areas while neglecting those with potential.

A lack of visibility into these metrics makes it difficult to set goals, which can demotivate the sales team or set them up for failure. Inadequate visibility into sales metrics can complicate compliance efforts and lead to legal or financial repercussions. Teams waste time gathering data manually, reconciling discrepancies, and making decisions based on outdated or incomplete information, leading to delays and increased costs.

Practical Tips to Improve Sales Operations

Dealing with the complexities of change management and overcoming resistance requires simple, practical solutions. We’ll talk about how good leadership, special sales incentives, and clear jobs can help make sales ops better.

1. Strengthen Leadership Skills

Implement development programs for sales leaders. Focus on strategic thinking, problem-solving, sales tools, and communication to guide sales ops through challenges and foster a culture of continuous improvement.

2. Streamline Sales Processes

Conduct regular audits of sales processes to identify and eliminate tasks that do not directly contribute to sales outcomes, such as process bottlenecks, redundant data entry, or unnecessary meetings.

3. Implement Proactive Management Practices

Be vigilant in identifying negative trends before they lead to losses and avoid short-term fixes in favor of sustainable solutions.

Imagine sales ops identifies a decline in quarterly sales for two quarters, traced through metrics like lead conversion rates and win rate. Data analysis reveals a drop in the conversion rate due to a new competitor’s lower-priced solutions. A root cause analysis shows the sales team needs better materials for competitive positioning. The company responds with a targeted sales training program to enhance negotiation skills and product differentiation. Sales ops closely monitor sales productivity post-training, evaluating the interventions’ impact.

The proactive approach allows the company to reverse the declining sales trend.

4. Personalize Sales Incentives

Sales ops teams, with their access to sales data and analytics tools, are uniquely positioned to transform incentive programs. They are primarily responsible for ensuring that the sales infrastructure, processes, and strategies are aligned. This responsibility includes working on incentives that motivate and reward sales personnel for their performance.

5. Invest in the Right Tools

Invest in integrated tools that centralizes data and automates tasks, such as CRM systems, sales enablement analytics and automation tools, and AI. These tools help break down silos, automate manual tasks, and provide valuable data that can lead to new sales. Sales reps can spend more time selling and less time searching for and entering data.

A prime example of the impact of integrated platforms comes from Oxford University Press’s experience with Highspot. Highspot equipped the sales team with interactive, readily accessible product information integrated into their daily workflows and tools. The integration with Salesforce was essential, a fundamental tool for their sales reps. As Lisa McCarthy, Director of Sales Operations at Oxford University Press, highlighted, integrating Highspot with Salesforce was a game-changer, offering a unified source of truth and significantly streamlining sales workflows.

6. Promote Cross-Functional Collaboration

By acting as a central hub that connects different departments, sales ops ensures that the sales strategy is well-coordinated with other business units. Aligning sales with marketing, finance, product development, and customer service fosters a more unified execution of sales activities.

7. Define Sales Ops vs. Sales Enablement Roles

Define clear roles and responsibilities for sales operations and sales enablement. Each team must have distinct objectives and metrics for success while setting up regular collaboration meetings to align strategies and share insights.

Recognizing the difference between sales operations and enablement allows each function to specialize and excel in its respective area. Focus on defining sales operations as the backbone of the sales organization that handles strategic sales planning, analytics, CRM management, forecasting, and internal processes. This team is responsible for the infrastructure that supports sales activities, ensuring that sales departments have the data, tools, and processes needed to operate.

Then, position sales enablement as the function dedicated to empowering sales professionals. This includes training and development programs, content creation (like messaging, sales playbooks, and case studies), tools for engaging prospects and customers, and strategies for improving sales conversations and conversions. Even though the roles are distinct, ensure regular touchpoints for teams to collaborate.

8. Cultivate Continuous Learning

Develop a structured training and coaching program that covers the latest sales methodologies, product knowledge, and customer engagement strategies. Host regular refreshers and assessments for team members to ensure skills remain current and buyer conversations are relevant.

What Good Sales Onboarding, Training and Coaching looks like CTA

9. Align Strategic and Tactical Objectives

Document a plan that breaks high-level business goals into smaller initiatives that teams and individuals can complete and measure.

Here’s a breakdown of what this looks like:

  • High-level plans and goals: Broad, long-term objectives set by senior leadership to guide the organization’s direction, such as increasing market share or achieving revenue thresholds, which dictate resource allocation across the company.
  • Low-level plans and goals: Specific, short-term plans focusing on daily operations and immediate actions, like meeting sales targets or launching marketing campaigns, with an emphasis on execution details and operational tasks.

10. Standardize Sales Operations Function

Implement standard operating procedures and sales playbooks that outline the sales process, simplify complex tasks, and standardize best practices across the team to improve cross-departmental collaboration. A robust feedback loop within internal teams and with customers allows for collecting valuable information and pinpointing enhancement opportunities.

11. Optimize Performance Management

Develop a comprehensive performance management framework that includes setting clear sales goals, tracking performance through key metrics, and establishing accountability mechanisms. Couple this with regular feedback and coaching sessions to align sales operations with business objectives and enhance outcomes.

For example, define sales readiness metrics during new rep onboarding. Measure and reward success, but also monitor trends to identify training gaps or new opportunities. Provide sales management with information for data-informed coaching, mentoring, and process adjustments.

Supercharge Sales Operations With Highspot

Understanding the symbiotic relationship between sales operations and enablement is fundamental to sales success. Jo Stewart from Micro Focus points out that aligning sales strategies with operational goals and KPIs is essential. This alignment is where Highspot shines, seamlessly integrating sales enablement into sales operations to make salespeople successful.

With Highspot, organizations can turn sales ops challenges into business growth opportunities. Request a demo today.