I don’t sell software anymore — I make everyone else sell software better. I joined sales ops because I was ready to give up carrying a bag — but not the tempo of sales. In doing that, I’ve moved from a “hunter/gatherer” to “strategy/financial/business consultant” for the sales team. Sound interesting? I’ve laid out the skills and experiences that will help you in sales ops and what will hold you back.
What is sales ops anyway?
Sales ops covers all the areas that support the sales team; the exact functions differ slightly based on each company’s specific needs. At Five9, it includes deals/transaction management, compensation/commissions, sales enablement, forecasting/planning, data analysis, and sales systems (like Salesforce, commissions systems, etc.). Sales Ops partners across the company with marketing, finance, support, product development, etc. to help drive process improvements.
You need diverse skills. First, systems. You need to master your CRM/pipeline/prospecting systems like Salesforce.com. It’s a balance, though. You need to offer tools that help you and sales management analyze sales successes and shortcomings, but not over-burden reps with data entry.
And there will be no shortage of vendors telling you they’ll make your world better. When you’re inundated with vendor promises, it's your job to evaluate and implement tools that will make a massive impact.
- Where in the sales process are deals getting bogged down? Why?
- Are we anticipating the customer’s buying process?
- Does sales have right materials at each phase of the buying/selling process?
- How accurate are reps’/teams’/regions’ forecasts?
- Does our comp plan(s) incent the right behavior and reinforce company goals?
- How do we compare to last quarter/year — what can we learn from that?
I saved the best for last: Your ability to collaborate with your teammates may be more important than whether you can answer those questions. You’ll fail if you can’t work with partners and other departments like finance and sales to push through cross-functional initiatives.
If all this strikes a chord, a few positions make the transition to sales ops easy. In my next post, I’ll go through each one in detail.
Ari is the Vice President of Global Sales Operations for Five9 and is responsible for leading his team in support and growth of Five9’s sales teams. He brings over 20 years of experience in sales, marketing, business development and strategic initiatives and holds degrees in computer science and economics from Brown University.