Five Sales Operations Best Practices that Drive High Performance

Last updated: 01-28-2020

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Five Sales Operations Best Practices that Drive High Performance

The latest Sales Operations & Technology Study from Miller Heiman Group found that roughly two-thirds of sales organizations have a dedicated sales operations team, indicating that this function continues to mature and play an increasingly integral role in a company’s sales success. Nearly 10% of companies who participated in the study indicate that they plan to add formal sales operations in the next year.

Which begs the question: What sets truly great sales operations teams from the rest of the pack? Follow these sales operations best practices, and you’ll ensure that your sales operations team achieves peak performance, year after year.

Two-thirds of sales organizations told Miller Heiman Group that their sales ops team takes a proactive approach to goal setting. In some cases, this means defining priorities with leadership. In others, they formally commit to a business plan using metrics. Whatever approach they use, proactively setting goals works. The study showed that sales organizations that took a reactive approach saw much lower sales performance, resulting in win rates that were 7.4 percent lower and quota attainment that was 14.3% lower than those who used a proactive approach.

Sales operations’ remit is massive—and it seems to expand every day. The study identified 21 activities that sales operations typically owns or extensively involves itself in across four categories:

On average, sales operations teams owned or played a heavy hand in managing 11 or more of those 21 practices. The highest performing sales organizations in the study reported that their sales ops team took the lead in more than 14 activities. They also played a larger role in strategic activities, such as sales insights and analysis or data strategy, versus the average sales organization.

Sales ops’ breadth shows no signs of slowing down—and the most successful sales ops teams embrace that approach, investing in owning or playing a significant role in more of these activities than their compatriots at the average organization.

Most sales ops teams focus on traditional sales operations best practices like metrics, forecasting, reporting, sales process and data management, but those teams that invested specifically on sales support activities reaped stronger performance.

Sales support activities include sales enablement (which continues to fall under operations in several sales organizations), proposal support, pricing, lead generation and prospecting. Strikingly, the highest performers in this study invested in this area of sales operations activities, covering nearly 75% of the practices that fall under it. The average for the full study was just over 50%.

Managing the sales technology stack increasingly falls under the rubric of sales operations, with the average organization using 10 tools with plans to add more than 4 in the next 12 months. CRM systems come the closest to being universally adopted among sales organizations, with 94% of study respondents indicating they used one. Yet a sales technology stack that integrates tightly with the CRM remains elusive.

Less than 30% of study respondents said their sales tech stack integrated tightly with their applications and their CRM. A similar percentage indicated that their tech stack aligned well to a seller’s workflow. This represents a missed opportunity as integration plays a major role in improved performance. Sales organizations that indicated they had a more integrated sales technology stack saw 9% higher win rates and 8% higher quota attainment.

In general, moving toward formal and dynamic sales processes results in higher performance. This is also true when it comes to sales operations, and particularly with sales forecasting. In 2014, fewer than half of sales organizations used formal or dynamic sales processes, but by 2019, that number rose to nearly two-thirds. By evolving from formal processes to dynamic processes, sales organizations can move faster, employing agility and analytics to continually keep up with buyers’ processes and expectations.

This is also true for sales forecast accuracy. A dynamic forecasting process bases uses predictive data, historical data and information from both sellers and sales managers to pull together forecast result. That approach literally pays off, as organizations that use formal and dynamic forecasting reported win rates that were more than 8% higher than those who took an informal or ad hoc approach. Just 21% of sales organizations in this study made that investment.

Sales operations continues to grow and with that investment comes opportunity. By following these five sales operations best practices, you can align your sales operations team to drive stronger performance and support to your sellers, resulting in a tightly aligned sales technology stack, a strategic sales operations model, and best of all, better quota attainment and win rates.

You can also create a roadmap for aligning your sales operations team to improve overall sales performance by using a tool that helps you understand your current performance and shows how you can evolve your sales processes. The Sales Performance Meter evaluates your organization’s sales practices and gives you insights into how to improve your strategies, sales operations model and build a sales technology stack that yields deal success.

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