Sales operations and reporting are as synonymous as reps and cold calling. And just like cold calling strangers, sales op reporting can be a headache. And unfortunately, while the demands from sales op grow, access to best practice knowledge remains stagnant. We think the following tips and considerations will help fill out that knowledge gap.
What Is Sales Ops?
As a sales operations professional, you increasingly straddle the line between strategic advisor and on-the-ground tactician. On its worst days, the job may resemble what the group leader, J. Patrick Kelly, of Xerox’s first sales op team in the 1970s described as:
all the nasty number things that you don’t want to do, but need to do to make a great sales force.
But sales ops involves so many critical organizational improvements that the role's value becomes naturally elevated when properly executed. It's a vast and important job, covering sales territory planning, proposals, contracts, forecasting, and running sales compensation incentive and CRMs systems.
It’s this variety and focus on sales organization improvement that makes data, dashboards, and reports such a critical aspects of the job. Without the right data, it’s incredibly difficult to make the right choices. Before you can make these decisions, you need to equip yourself with tools.
Data Tools Let You Take Action
Sales ops' ability to tap into and communicate insights is par the course. There are two ways to do this: the excruciatingly manual way or with automated sales data tools. More automation creates more room for sales operations to take action. This extends beyond data tools to CRMs and even lead gen activities. In each case, the data acquired can effectively improve these areas in your organization:
- Optimizing sales enablement collateral and tools
- How wins and opportunities are communicated
- Sales territory definitions
- Forecasting through the use of big data
- Quota attainment strategy
- Sales cycle times
- Strategic alignment between departments
- Sales comp incentives
It’s easy to imagine the benefits of automation, but when your boss comes looking for a report on quota attainment you’ll need easy access to the numbers they’re looking for. You’ll need the go-to weapon of sales operation professionals around the world: the dashboard.
Your Dashboards Could Be Doing More
Many headaches could be avoided by having answers easily available. Pulling reports is rarely fun and often more an interruption from your daily work than anything else. Automation does lessen the blow here with out-of-the-box-reporting, but in most cases cannot cover or anticipate specific asks. This leads to a question of efficacy.
But what makes an effective dashboard for sales operations?
The answer can be summed up as scope. It’s easy to capture top-level data, e.g. open pipeline, closed business, and call count. But how much deeper can you go? Certain tools like Insights for Sales™, allows sales operators to get virtually real-time dashboards with drill down all the way to the rep level.
What this means is that you can view sales rep performance data—at a glance. With easy-to-read charts and graphs on a rep’s historical performance, incentive attainment, and quotas, sales ops can answer most questions and even some no one thought to ask. Often these unseen questions help sidestep manhole-sized mistakes that otherwise would have been missed.
Avoid the Common Sales Ops Pitfalls
As new as the official sales ops function is, it doesn’t mean you have to reinvent the wheel or play guinea pig. There are known and common pitfalls for sales ops. But once you know what to look for, avoiding them is relatively easy and many of the pains on the job disappear as a result. Here are some of the top pitfalls to keep an eye out for:
- Misaligned sales metrics and strategy: as the keeper of stats, you get an intimate look at what’s driving the business. When the metrics your sales teams are hitting are not aligned with overall business strategy, it’s your job to step in (with data) and get everyone on course.
- Fixing what’s broke: the data can lead to one of the most invaluable practices any sales org can have: a proven and repeatable sales process that works. Data can help you make the case for not breaking what’s moving along fine and bring attention to what is actually broken.
- Too much data: Data is good, but having too much just leads to analysis paralysis. The right systems though can tap into industry best practices to highlight what matters and provide predictive analytics for focus areas that make or break your sales org.
Sales ops plays a critical role in the success of sales. So it makes sense that ensuring sales ops is effectively (and painlessly) informed is crucial to your organization. For sales ops, this starts with data and ends with right decisions in the field. The trick and the point of this post is that while the numbers matter, how easy it is for sales ops to manage data can be the difference between a low performing sales org or record high quota attainment.