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Sales Operations Functions: Measure Twice, Cut Once

Feb 13, 2017
5 min read
Sales operations is a relatively new position in organizations. Here is everything you need to know about the role and the benefits of adding it to your team.

What is Sales Operations?

Sales Operations is tasked with helping sales organizations run effectively and efficiently while supporting business strategies and objectives. It's a vital role; with functions that serve to elevate an organization from a reactive state to a proactive position.

Sales Ops opens all sorts of new avenues for growth and inspiration within your company, and without them dedicated to investigating the data and utilizing all available analytical tools, you are going to be hard-pressed to achieve any real growth or positive success.

Here’s the deal with Sales Operations: this dynamic role fulfills many critical functions, and to succeed in Sales Operations Management, you need to know what each team member’s tactical and strategic role is, and how best to help them leverage their assets and abilities to the advantage of your company at large. Obviously each team will be unique, but here are some commonalities we found when it comes to Sales Operations functions: 

Sales Operations Functions


On the one hand, Sales Ops is supportive – they provide empirical, analytical insight to your teams on the ground, helping them to operate at peak performance power. When sales reps head into a meeting with a prospect, they’re going to look to Sales Operations for buying patterns and prospect histories. As with most elements of the

Sales Ops role, it’s going to come down to the data that your team is monitoring and curating, and they’re going to need access to tools and data that are quick, user-friendly, and valuable to your reps. Sales Ops is well known for their data focus, and the strategic role inherent in this relationship between Ops and data. But you may be surprised to learn about the interdepartmental mediation role that Sales Operations can fill, and the important impact it can have on your company.

Go to Market

Marketing is the home of all customer facing content – the front-line of lead generation and personal interaction. Through marketing efforts, leads are drawn into the pipeline, to be qualified and converted, and hopefully transitioned into closed deals. There is a whole glut of valuable information to be tracked here, and building a solid relationship with this department will allow quick and easy access to this data.

Marketing and design also have the responsibility of creating the vital collateral that helps Sales capitalize on every meeting. By interfacing between Marketing and Sales, you can curate a whole stable of quality content - tailored to the needs of your Sales teams and geared towards the interests of the prospects. Sharing this information between the two departments allows you to increase speed, accuracy, and the value of data driven content. Your intermediary position is key with this relationship.

Band of Brothers

Sales and Finance are a family – the whole organization is. But as with any family, siblings are bound to bicker, and Sales and Finance are notorious for their combativeness. But this doesn’t have to be the case, and by tracking the right metrics and data streams, Sales Ops can be the glue that holds these two parties together.

The inherent issues remain: Sales wants to push their commission and prospecting spend to the limit to achieve stellar results, while Finance wants to protect the business, keep revenue in a solid, profitable place, and understand the risk management strategies in every maneuver. This has put the two departments at odds for a long time, but it’s time to rewrite history.

A customized incentive compensation solution can calculate commissions quickly and accurately with just a few clicks, ensuring that Finance is aware of the incoming payouts months before a surprising end of quarter bump. Modeling and analytical forecasting allows your Sales Ops team to take clean, empirical data and leverage it to guide Sales and assure Finance.

With accurate, on-time incentive compensation accruals, Finance will be happy, plus Sales will feel supported with inspired comp plans (learn about sales compensation plan differences here).

Objective Behavior

The buck stops with Sales Ops when it comes to paying people their correct incentives, commissions, and bonuses. This was not always an easy task to tackle as older, manual systems made it nigh impossible to pay people in an accurate or timely manner. As you can imagine, this led to some issues, namely between Sales and Sales Ops, who must be working together - always.

The struggle came from managing too many spreadsheet-based comp plans, leading invariably to human errors on the front end, and vast delays on the back end. Not only did this hurt successful sales reps that were relying on their commission checks to arrive in a timely manner, it also actively dis-incentivized them from performing in a way that supported corporate objectives or goals, instead of reinforcing desired behaviors and best practices.

This kind of system is ultimately detrimental to any business looking to grow, expand, and inspire performance, and it’s where the strategic nature of Sales Operations comes into play. By designing incentive compensation plans that are scalable, engaging, and game-able (in a good way! Just ask our CEO Chris Cabrera), you can push your Sales team to succeed, compensate them in a fair and timely manner, and create best practice behavioral loops that push your company towards success.

Sales Operations Pitfalls to Avoid

Even the most seasoned Sales Ops pro might be hindering their success without even knowing it. To ensure you're fulfilling these aims and avoiding common Sales Ops errors, check the list below.

Ignoring the Day-to-Day

We know, we know, sales reps are always badgering Sales Ops for reports and compensation details, and often, the last thing Sales Ops might feel like doing is spending more time together with reps. But if they do, their entire perspective might change. Taking a day to get out in the field with a rep will give Sales Ops new insights into the ways in which the two departments can best align and work together strategically.

Keeping Too Many Fields

Sales Operations has an immense amount of data to keep track of; think about all the fields you enter on forms and reports. Are there any that never get filled in, or don’t seem important to the needs of the organization? Remove them if so, and save time and wasted energy.

Not Engaging

At work, our departments become our little homes away from home. We feel comfortable talking to the people in our department, and we often see things from the same perspective. While this can be comforting, it’s a major missed opportunity not to branch out and see things from a new perspective. Talking to people in different roles is a good chance to figure out their pain points, and perhaps find a way for Sales Ops to ease the pain.

Resisting Change

Heraclitus once said, “The only thing that is constant is change.” Rarely is this truer than in the business world – especially in tech. If you resist change, you’re doing yourself a major disservice. While it’s easy to get stuck doing things the way you always have, new tools that automate manual processes can completely revolutionize the way you do business and improve your interactions with sales.

All this work takes careful consideration and management, and requires access to the kinds of best practice tools and insights that elevate the industry and make lives easier in the process. A Sales Operations team is successful when it follows the data, monitors it closely, curates it properly, and leverages it valuably. In this sense, it pays to follow the adage: Measure Twice, Cut Once.

  • Incentive Compensation
  • Sales Performance Management
  • Sales Planning
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Xactly News Team

The Xactly News Team reports on the latest product, events and market trends taking place within Xactly and throughout the revenue intelligence industry.