If sales is both an art and science, then sales operations is very much the science of sales. Sales operations uses historical performance and yields and proven best practices to build sales and lead plans, along with incentivizing schemes to architect success that matches business objectives. Performance against those plans is measured using a number of leading indicators that allow the business to course correct before poor quarterly results are reported.
While sales operations can ideally pinpoint what is wrong, or what is going wrong, it all means nothing without the ability to make changes that will drive improved behavior. This is where sales ops’ best friend comes in: sales enablement. Sales enablement focuses on training, coaching and empowering sales to do their jobs easier. If sales ops is about measuring the ‘what’ to improve, then sales enablement is about ‘how’ to engage. This framework is often delivered at sales kickoff, but it’s important to ensure those directives are pushed throughout the year with constant coaching and guidance.
At many companies the line between sales operations and sales enablement is a blurry one. The staffing will depend on the size of your organization, but in recent years it has become clearer that these are two distinct functions, even if someone is wearing two hats. A few years back, working as a Head of Sales Operations, I did a global road trip with my sales enablement counterpart. It was probably one of the most productive times I’ve spent in the field. The trip really proved to me the 1-2 punch that sales ops and sales enablement can provide an organization.
Here are 3 ways the two functions intersect and how they can improve sales effectiveness and efficiency.
Many first line sales managers are really overwhelmed. They are usually former sales superstars and adapting to their new role. While most act as amazing mentors for their team, some struggle with the training and coaching element of their role. It is this audience that often needs the most support in an organization, and spending time individually with them enables you to provide the guidance they need to support their teams of sellers. On the trip, we did individual sessions with line managers to promote using a data driven approach to identify issues, as well as to offer personalized coaching tips. Most managers were covering pipeline reviews with their teams, but not many were providing real 1:1 meetings and coaching. Of all the work I’ve done with sales audiences, first line managers to me are the most important group to spend time with. To drive a successful program, sales ops and sales enablement need to work together to ensure that the process and behavior you are driving centrally is being enforced at the ground level.
2. Interaction with Marketing
Many sales organizations have a frustrating relationship with marketing. Both sides can feel like the other one is not holding up their end of the bargain. Sales ops and sales enablement can both provide an important link between sales and marketing. Sales ops can work with marketing to ensure aligned lead plans and processes. Sales enablement can ensure the right content is being delivered and also that marketing developed content is being used by sales. Working together to develop frictionless cooperation between sales and marketing is a great sales ops and sales enablement collaboration.
While the sessions were incredibly productive, it wasn’t exactly scalable. Providing personalized suggestions for each manager on their team was very time consuming to prepare. While we setup the framework to repeat the analysis and coaching, there wasn’t quite enough to support them to do so. If you think sales enablement tools are perhaps a ‘nice to have’ for your organization, I would challenge you to ask a sales operations lead to do their job without a CRM system. Personally, I would flat out refuse. However, sales enablement leads often have an uphill battle selling the same benefits of technology to support coaching and driving sales behavior. Companies such as Seismic work to empower and champion sales enablement leaders to better support their sales populations by encouraging the right behavior, personalizing the right content, and delivering collateral and messaging at the right time, as well as allowing managers to coach deficiencies.
Sales ops uses data and analysis to identify issues, and sales enablement is the perfect function to target training and coaching to address those deficiencies. This partnership can really drive change and improvement in an organization. To be a strong partnership, it is important that both functions have the staffing, tools, and influence they need to be effective.