Organize Your Sales Operations Team Structure

Don’t let sales ops tasks fall on sales reps!

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The role of sales operations has been growing in significance for organizations involved in selling. In fact, according to LinkedIn, the number of sales operations professionals around the world increased by 38% from 2018 to 2020, which is almost 5 times faster than the increase in sales functions overall. It’s no wonder that in our ever faster paced digital world, companies see the value in devoting a Sales Operations team to continuously optimizing the sales process.

What does a sales operations team do?

A sales operations team adds structure to the sales department; it plays a key part in maintaining processes to help front-line sales representatives sell better and work efficiently. Sales ops also take many non-sales activities off of reps’ plates so that they can focus on selling.

While functions will vary from company to company – and we have broken it down in a very thorough guide here – these are some of the responsibilities a sales operations team typically covers:

  • Sales staff recruitment, onboarding, and training
  • Integration and administration of the CRM and other sales tools
  • Reporting sales KPI
  • Optimization of the sales process
  • Sales coverage model and territory planning
  • Sales forecasting including data-driven forecasting
  • Management of customer contract life cycle
  • Implementation of compensations and incentives

Additionally, sales enablement tasks also fall under sales operations. Sales enablement specifically focuses on providing additional support for sellers to do their jobs, including establishing sales processes and the use of sales tools.

Roles in sales operations teams

Who, specifically, is facilitating all of the above for sales teams? There are several key roles in a sales operations department:

  • Sales Operations Manager: This is a critical role for effective sales operations department structure. The SO Manager should apply their sales knowledge to develop a sales strategy, divide territories, and create a sales plan with a forecast.
  • Sales Operations Analyst: Evaluates and organizes data, analyzes market trends, provides support to marketing and accounting teams, and identifies opportunities for automation.
  • Technical Operations Advisor: Harnesses technology to remove bottlenecks and boost efficiency, tracks KPIs and metrics and acts as a go-to CRM administrator.
  • Sales Planning Specialist: Compiles pricing and contract information to aid sales reps, updates and manages customer communication plans, assists with organization and collaboration, coordinates scheduling and forecasting as defined by the SO Manager.
  • Sales Effectiveness Manager: Typically added after the sales ops team is already established, this person takes over the design and delivery of sales training, handles onboarding, and enhances results of the sales department by reviewing practices.

Depending on the size of a company, it may not need to hire every single one of these people – or it may be necessary to add roles, such as a Senior Manager and even a Sales Operations Director. The most important part is that there are adequate staff to cover each needed responsibility.

Models for sales operations departments

The roles listed above are in no particular order. It’s up to each company to create a sales operations organizational structure that suits their needs and values. We’ve compiled a few example structures that are well-established in the sales world.

The Assembly Line

Popular for medium-sized businesses as well as SaaS startups, this model breaks up the sales process into individual roles and a person or team of people is responsible for that task – much like an assembly line in a factory where different people are in charge of different stages of their product.

The success of this strategy is due to its predictability; steps and roles are easy to define and it’s easy to pinpoint any issues in the assembly line. However, management may find challenges with this model as the segmented roles can be hard to connect. Finally, this setup is difficult to construct if the department is too small.

The Island

Companies hiring their first sales reps are likely to begin with this model, which consists of several team members reporting directly to the manager. Each person is responsible for a range of activities in the sales operations process and is usually assigned to cooperation with specific sales representatives.

This system requires minimal management and works well with simple sales processes; however, once a company grows, so too does its sales ops department, potentially leading to convoluted roles and lack of uniformity.

The Pod

This final main sales operations organization structure separates the team of a typically larger organization into separate “pods,” with each pod handling all steps of the customer journey. Within each pod, every team member has their own role in the sales process.

The Pod model works well for a large enterprise and can be thought of as a more advanced version of the Assembly Line model. Compared to The Island, it encourages more collaboration within the pods. When implemented and monitored correctly, it also encourages healthy competition between the pods. However, this model leaves each team member with many functions compared to the Assembly line, and it is harder to pinpoint or reward individual successes.

Tips for running an effective sales operations team

As with any team, purpose and goals should be well-defined and team responsibilities should align. Implement KPIs early on – and measure success. Staying on top of metrics to consistently hone strategy and the sales process is one of the most important functions of a sales ops department.

Enable your sales operations team to accomplish what they need by providing them with the right tools. Softwares like Revenue Grid offer relevant tools such as team analytics for tracking team performance and data-based forecasting. This technology not only incorporates real data in real time; it adds structure to sales operations, who can strategize from a bird’s eye view.

Thank your Sales Ops team!

51% of sales operations employees feel undervalued compared to sales reps despite the former’s critical role in sales teams’ successes. Sales operations departments not only proactively plan for sales strategies – they also reactively fire-fight problems that pop up! Hence, don’t forget about these guys when it comes to incentivization.

Sales operations are like the gears that keep a sales machine running. Without this work going on in the background, sellers wouldn’t be able to do all that they do.

Report by Forrester: Revenue
Operations and Intelligence

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