Salespeople sell, coders code, and marketers market; so, what exactly does a sales ops professional do? It’s hard to come up with a pithy answer.

There’s probably no corporate role as vitally important, with as much of a diverse and flexible charter, as sales ops.

And that’s a good thing. Why? Because its multifarious nature means that it’s very hard to commoditize, automate, and outsource. It can and has advanced into a very strategic role within companies due to its position as a key nexus point for generating revenue.

But sales ops is not guaranteed to ascend to those strategic heights—it’s a function of the sales ops leader’s willingness to take it there.

In a recent webcast, SiriusDecisions and CallidusCloud helped sales ops navigate from point A to B.

The first step in this journey toward a “vital strategic role,” is to get a handle on exactly what sales ops does and prioritize those tasks. SiriusDecisions divided it into 7 neat categories:

  1. Strategy and Planning
  2. Sales Intelligence
  3. Process and Design
  4. Support and Administration
  5. Deal Pursuit
  6. Technology
  7. Project Management

Just listing them out underscores the jack-of-all-trades aspect of the sales ops role. Sales ops professionals need to be experts in the technology of platforms, be it CRM systems, sales enablement, or incentive compensation. But they also have to know how to measure activities, get results, use numbers in an insightful way, and guide deals through to close, while being a coordinator and project manager. And of course, a good sales op manager always leaves room to respond to on-the-fly requests and events.

So how should sales ops teams properly prioritize, given that resources—including human resources—are always going to be limited?

First of all, because each task is a vital part of the whole, the proper way to succeed is not to denigrate any individual task. A better way is to divide what is repeatable—and therefore susceptible to automation—from what is not.

SiriusDecisions, by way of the US Federal Reserve, has a quadrant to judge activities according to what is routine and non-routine (on the X Axis) vs. cognitive and manual (on the Y axis).

Evolution of Sales Ops: How to Get Strategic Fast

The quadrant is not meant to imply relative importance of any tasks—it’s not a Magic Quadrant. For example, Manual Routine tasks are extremely important, but they are the most susceptible to automation solutions, such as software and/or outsourcing. Cognitive Non-Routine tasks are the least susceptible.

The first step in the journey to strategic nirvana is to list out the tasks that fall into these quadrants; then, devise a plan to either automate or apply the appropriate labor arbitrage based on that.

For example, onboarding may be “Manual Routine.” The same goes for paying out commissions. An insightful report may be “Cognitive Routine.” Dealing with ad hoc requests or emerging problems may be either “Manual Non-Routine” or “Cognitive Non-Routine.” As many sales ops professionals know, there are a lot of tasks to deal with; so, if you’re one of those professionals, get busy writing down your tasks.

The next blog post of this series will look at the options for either outsourcing or automating some tasks and how to set up a system that gives back time and resources to perform the most strategic tasks without starting from scratch.

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