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Sales Operations and Enablement: Why Accurate Data is Critical

Both Sales Operations and Enablement are key to a successful sales organization. Here's what you need to know about why data is critical for the success of both teams.

8 min read

As Xactly’s VP of Operations and Enablement, my overarching goal is to ensure the efficiency and effectiveness of my company’s go-to-market teams. Being in this role requires me to operate in two separate mindsets. I manage my team’s day-to-day responsibilities in addition to constructing the bigger picture and strategy for Sales Operations and Enablement. 

In Sales Enablement, I make sure Xactly’s reps are knowledgeable on what types of solutions are available to sell and that they are able to deliver the intended message to existing and potential customers. Additionally, I help make sure my organization’s plans and processes are running as intended via business strategies and objectives in the Sales Operations department. It’s data that makes this possible.

In my experience, when Sales Operations is done correctly, it puts you in a position to provide critical insights for growth and inspiration within your company. However, without a focus on detail, data, and utilizing available analytical tools you are going to be hard-pressed to provide or communicate the intended value of a well-oiled Sales Operations machine.

In my current position I am always answering the following question: How complex is the world of Sales Operations & Enablement, and where are these lakes of pertinent data?

Accurate Sales Forecasting

Accurate pipeline predictions and forecasts are a large part of why Sales Ops exists as a function separate from, let’s say, Financial Planning & Analysis. At Xactly, the data for sales forecasts comes from several different areas:

  1. A forecasting automation tool that monitors all forecast categories and sales stage movement in order to learn seller behavior to give accurate & predictive forecasts.
  2. Salesforce.com opportunity level attributes like bookings amounts, team members, and activities.
  3. Third-party buyer behavior tools that indicate whether buyers are showing signs of engagement.

In my experience, at minimum, at least two of the above are required for accurate forecasting, while being able to hit all three in real-time is optimal (mandatory in my opinion).

Let’s be honest. if your data isn’t on target or accurate, then what’s the point of having it? None of us wants to be the source of incorrect projections, misguided forecasts, inaccurate pipeline activity, or missed opportunities, but that could be the position you find yourself in if you’re not taking advantage of the data available to you.

Sales Quota and Capacity Planning

Another aspect of my role that requires me to have constant access to data is looking at territory production and seller attainment against current plans at any given time; both from historical and projection viewpoints. 

For example, I need to be able to look at the historical performance of my reps and territories because what can appear as small change, could lead to major impacts down the line. The aforementioned sales projections also allow us to run commission forecasts—often another siloed area found in Finance and Accounting but reliant on Sales Ops for data inputs.

As a leader in the sales operation space, these analytical views on the execution side of business help me prepare better Enablement and Operational plans. 

Improving Sales Enablement & Training

I define Sales Enablement as the overarching strategy to improve the performance of our sales team and make sure all teams have the right tools, training, and support to guide leads through the sales funnel and close deals.

A common struggle for Enablement teams is showing the effectiveness of delivered training. We call the measures of Enablement effectiveness our “engagement” data. We monitor reps participation in our 2x per week sales training, two-week boot camp, virtual classroom sessions, 90 & 180-day onboarding KPIs, and ongoing certifications. These 15 measures are then overlaid on top of the production metrics mentioned in the Sales Forecasting section which include activities done, opportunities created, moving, closed deals, etc.

This cross-tabulation of execution with engagement data allows us to diagnose early signs of slower than expected ramp time for new reps in addition to identifying veteran reps who might need a bit of encouragement. 

Sales Operations Provides the View from the Bridge

Overall, Sales Operations provides the barometer for all go-to-market related efforts. This spans from the executive staff needing to know potential outcomes, down to the individual sales rep knowing what he or she can earn for a given transaction.

The information my Sales Ops team presents is a direct reflection of us, our employees, our processes, and our plans. These data lakes allow us to take an honest look in the mirror and adjust when needed. At the end of the day, in order to stay ahead of the competition, we need access to real-time bits and bytes.

Unfortunately, becoming a data-driven organization is a continuous effort; you’ll never reach a level where you’re finished. One dataset has to inform the next, which means creating meaningful outputs that only build one layer at a time. Fix the data attributes, build reports, filter the reports, build the visualizations, receive an ask for how does ‘X’ relate to ‘Y’, go fix data attributes in ‘Y’, build reports...rinse, repeat. 

I’ve found that alignment between Sales Enablement and Operations teams allows your entire company to set up lines of dominoes that when pushed, fall together to make a functional, effective sales organization. 

Want a deeper dive? Take a look at our guide for Sales Operations Leaders!