The Official Handbook to Sales Operations

Karina Corona
Sales Operations

As business needs evolve, so is the role of sales operations. What was once a supporting sales role has now become a strategic competitive advantage that drives sustainable business growth. 

In this post, we’ll break down what you need to know about sales operations today, sales ops role and responsibilities, why it’s critical for business success, and best practices for a successful sales operations team.

What is sales operations?

Sales operations — also known as sales ops — refers to the strategic function, processes, activities, and teams within a sales department. The purpose of sales operations is to support the overall sales teams to achieve goals, execute strategies, and create alignment between business and sales objectives. 

Sales operations support frontline sales teams by: 

  • Overseeing sales performance and market/trend analysis
  • Evaluating, guiding, and executing the sales strategy
  • Identifying opportunities to streamline existing sales processes 
  • Applying data-driven insights to improve sales performance
  • Collaborating with recruiters, HR, and People Ops teams to hire the best candidates
  • Improving sales rep onboarding and training 
  • Managing team organization and resource needs
  • Partnering with sales enablement teams to build buyer journeys that convert leads into customers

Sales operations vs. sales enablement

Depending on your company’s definition and role breakdown, these two terms may mean similar or different things. It’s common for sales operations and sales enablement to be used interchangeably due to some overlap between functions. However, it’s worth noting that there are clear differences between sales operations vs. sales enablement. 

Sales enablement is a more tactical function that prioritizes supporting frontline sales teams or reps during the early stages of the sales funnel. Sales enablement is primarily focused on providing sales teams with what they need to better target potential customers and close more deals, including content, information, and tools. Examples of sales enablement include: 

  • Developing and executing a sales enablement strategy to better target key audiences
  • Identifying revenue-generating opportunities
  • Collaborating with the marketing team to create content assets that address customer needs or interests
  • Highlighting and distributing customer success stories 

Sales enablement teams complement sales operations teams and are necessary for supporting sales teams and increasing sales team efficiency, productivity, and overall business performance. 

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Why is sales operations important?

In addition to ensuring objectives and strategies are met, the sales operations team is important because it enhances sales effectiveness and productivity by helping frontline sales teams understand gaps in their performance data and providing solutions. 

When a sales operations team is needed 

If your company doesn’t already have a dedicated sales operations team, it may be time to build one. A sales operations team is needed if: 

  • A business is rapidly growing or planning to rapidly grow.
  • Sales processes are not performing well.
  • A sales department is being restructured. 

Adding a sale op team to your organizational chart will help guide your business through rapid growth or changes by helping scale and manage the chaos that typically follows these types of business transformations

How does sales operations work?

The sales operations team is a data-driven and analytical necessity for informing how to improve sales productivity and performance. This allows the sales ops team to accurately measure the quality and effectiveness of existing sales data, processes, and resources — like technology, software, and team structure — to determine strategic direction. 

What does a sales operations team do?

The sales operations team is responsible for both tactical and strategic sales team support. This is why a role in sales operations requires a wide range of knowledge and skills in not only sales strategy but also business operations. This breakdown is key to understanding how a role in sales operations works

For example, the strategic aspect of sales operations helps optimize the sales team size and organizational structure to produce the best results. On the flip side, the business operations aspect is part administration and part management, like administering the incentive compensation plans and managing business process automation initiatives.

StrategyTechnologyOperations
– Data management and analysis
– Sales forecasting 
– Sales planning 
– Alignment and execution
– Personalization and adoption 
– Software 
– Automation 
– Stack extensibility
– Collaboration with sales enablement
– Frontline sales training 
– Product training

Essential skills of a sales operations team

In addition to the standard skills required for a sales rep, such as negotiating and effectively communicating, requirements for a successful sales operations team include being data-driven and analytical. 

To fulfill these requirements, essential skills include data management, forecasting, and trend analysis.

Sales operations roles, and responsibilities

These roles and sales operations team structure is subject to change from company to company, but below is an example of a sales op team structure, roles, and responsibilities.

Sales operations representative

This is typically an entry-level position that helps support the larger sales operations teams and carries out tasks outlined by the sales operations manager. This role is very tactical and administrative.

Responsibilities include handling customer service, conducting research, and collaborating with the operations team. 

Sales operations analyst

While the role of an analyst may seem similar to that of a representative, the role requires slightly more experience and is less administrative.

Responsibilities include analyzing marketing data and drawing insights, creating and sharing sales reports, and working with the senior analyst to identify opportunities to increase company sales and revenue and improve sales processes.

Senior sales operations analyst

At this level, the senior analyst role becomes more strategic and visible within the team and business. This role requires advanced data collection, analysis, and market research, and an understanding of how to turn complex information into actionable sales team insights. The senior analyst role will usually require advanced education or certification.

Sales operations manager

The sales operations manager leads strategy execution and makes strategic decisions that will impact the frontline sales team. The ability to analyze data and troubleshoot complex problems is essential.

VP of Sales Operations

As the head of the sales operations team structure, the VP — or sometimes director — will work with all the aforementioned roles to inform, guide, and fulfill the strategic vision for a company’s sales department. 

This highly analytical leadership role includes developing sales KPIs and goals that align with key business objectives and collaborating with analysts to identify and resolve challenges. Due to this role’s responsibilities, this position requires the most experience and a proven track record of success and strategy development and execution. 

Important tools for a sales operations team

Whether you’re building from the ground up or revamping your existing sales operations team, an effective and efficient sales operations technology stack is essential. Below is a list of some common sales operations tools and uses. 

Sales customer relationship management (CRM) software

CRM software is a great solution for organizing and centralizing customer information, but the greatest benefit is its ability to help sales teams design better buyer journeys and customer experiences by keeping a close eye on the sales pipeline.

Sales enablement software

Sales enablement is essential to supporting frontline sales teams with the marketing assets and sales collateral they need to inform prospects, nurture leads, and close deals. But in order for sales enablement to be successful, it requires silo-free collaboration between sales and marketing departments. With sales enablement software that centralizes requests, marketing teams can easily create and share sales enablement assets. 

Sales intelligence software 

Sales intelligence software helps sales teams pull key customer data insights to improve sales targeting. While benefits may overlap with CRM benefits, it’s common for teams to use sales intelligence software to complement CRM systems to draw more actionable insights. 

Sales forecasting software

Sales forecasting software uses sales process results, such as deals won over deals lost from the last three months,  to help predict expected sales revenue results. This software is ideal for high-level predictions or estimates to help with strategy building. 

Bonus: Low-code process automation software

Sales agility is key to closing deals when lead interest is at its peak. But legacy sales processes can be difficult to manage or improve, let alone automate, without the delay of being added to an already packed IT backlog. 

Low-code business process automation software solves that challenge and empowers sales teams to identify and implement process improvements that drive pipeline performance. Key steps like prospecting, lead nurturing, follow-ups, and time-consuming manual or repetitive work can be easily automated so that prospects don’t fall by the wayside and key sales opportunities aren’t missed. 

Find out how low-code business process automation empowers team agility and ignites digital transformation
Definitive Guide to Business Process Automation
Download guide

7 sales ops best practices

Here are some best practices to drive sales performance and maximize the benefits that come from having a fully staffed and well-structured sales operations team. 

1. Set clear and defined sales ops goals and objectives and accountability. 

2. Don’t confuse sales ops with sales enablement.

3. Prioritize business solutions, not quick fixes. 

4. Don’t let revenue leaks turn into major losses. 

5. Invest in the right technology to best support frontline sales teams. 

6. Build data-driven processes that sell.

7. Eliminate silos that prevent SDR, AE, and marketing collaboration and negatively impact opportunity management.

How to make your sales ops team successful

Running a healthy sales team is to streamline workflows, reduce waste, and automate processes. This means embracing the expanding role of sales operations by embracing new technologies for sales performance management and sales planning support. 

Pipefy makes process automation and management easy by centralizing interactions and deal information into a single source of truth. Stay up to date with every deal as they move through the pipeline, easily generate advanced reports, manage SLA tracking, and centralize your database all in a single safe place. 

Improve customer experiences and drive sales performance by integrating your existing sales ops tech stack with Pipefy to improve how your team monitors sales performance, identifies inefficiencies and improvements, forecasts future sales, and develops strategies that generate sales revenue. 

Build better buyer journeys and customer experiences with PipefyLearn more
Written by
Karina Corona
Jr. content writer @ Pipefy. I write about process optimization, digital tools, and how teams can leverage automation to free themselves from hours of boring, repetitive work.

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