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Can We Finally Agree on What Sales Operations Does?

May 19, 2016|Steve Silver

  • Sales operations originated as a mostly tactical function designed to manage day-to-day business activities and processes
  • The changing b-to-b landscape requires sales operations to adapt, evolve, and be much more strategic in its’ focus
  • New demands on sales operations now require a higher degree of specialization to conduct in-depth analysis, articulate a technology strategy, drive planning initiatives, and accelerate growth

At SiriusDecisions we created the Sales Operations Sunburst Model™ to answer the often pondered but rarely answered question, “What does sales operations do anyway?” We created this new model because our research and observations show that over the last decade a variety of complex factors are forcing sales operations organizations to rethink their approach to problem solving and take a more visible leadership role in sales and across the company. While the exact accountabilities of sales operations vary from company to company, these five key trends are influencing everybody:

  • Digitization of the buyer’s journey. The vast amount of information readily available about products, services, and offerings has dramatically changed the relationship between buyers and sellers, forcing sales operations to redefine sales processes to align with the buyer’s journey.  
  • Proliferation of analytics and big data. The advent of powerful analytics tools requires a shift from mere report production to the delivery of predictive insights and intelligence for sales reps and sales leaders.
  • Focus on customer success and lifetime value. While always important, customer success management is emerging as a new specialty focused on customer onboarding, retention, growth and lifecycle management. Simply leaving this responsibility to sales can have a direct impact on productivity.
  • Democratization of IT. Software-as-a-service and bring your own device (BYOD) have loosened the central control structure of IT departments. The collective or individual choices of users may not fit the roadmap for IT investments, and user preferences can change as quickly as new solutions appear.
  • Millennial-ization of the user experience. Millennials, having grown up with mobile devices, easy-to-use technology and video games, make up the largest percentage of the workforce. They have different expectations and have no patience for antiquated processes and systems.

Other factors impacting sales operations are the rapid rise of inside sales, the emergence of sales enablement and marketing operations as unique functions, the explosion of new sales technologies, and the growing trend towards outsourcing and offshoring.

While these changes are creating organizational upheaval, many sales operations leaders are still trying to figure out exactly what their organizations’ accountabilities should be. Our research shows that sales operations has converged around seven major accountabilities, which include:

  • Strategy and planning. Development and implementation of short-, medium- and long-term plans that align with corporate objectives and lead to achievement of sales goals. 
  • Sales intelligence. Development and distribution of information and insights about prospects, customers, sales activities and assets that improve sales performance.
  • Process design and management. Development, automation, governance, measurement and improvement of sales and revenue execution processes.
  • Support and administration. Management of personnel and functions that execute sales support and administrative activities.
  • Deal pursuit. Design and administration of sales opportunity related activities that result in higher win rates and increased profitability.
  • Technology. Selection, implementation and administration of sales technologies that deliver user and business value
  • Project management. Planning, execution and oversight of projects that improve sales performance, reduce administrative burden and/or improve profitability. 
To learn more about the results from our sales operations research and the newly released SiriusDecisions Sales Operations Sunburst Model, attend our session on this topic at SiriusDecisions Summit 2016 next week!

Steve Silver

Steve Silver is a Senior Research Director of Sales Operations Strategies at SiriusDecisions. Steve brings with him more than 20 years of executive-level experience spanning sales operations, sales and product marketing. Follow Steve on Twitter @jstevensilver.

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