The Role of Sales Operations Specialist is the missing job function
Without a sales operations specialist or sales enablement person in your team, it can be holding your company back.
This is an increasing problem we are seeing in companies where their sales organisation has expanded but companies are following very traditional and dated structures. The habit of operating with legacies and tradition is pulling companies backward and putting up unnecessary barriers to growth, from human capital and financial perspective.
To put this in perspective, you need to ask yourself ‘what do we really require from the sales organisation?’ ‘Do you see a sales organisation as a group of people whose primary role is serving customers and sell them products/services? Is the sales manager/leader there to ensure the team attends to those customers? If you have answered yes to those questions, then you are part of the 90% of companies in the Asia Pacific region that view the sales organisation the same.
The question when then need to consider is ‘who is looking after the business side of the sales organisation?’ It is about how the company goes about operating the sales side of the company from an internal perspective and going out to the market.
When a company grows, often new roles are installed across different regions, and eventually, the role of a national sales manager emerges. The role is required to ensure the sales leaders are doing the right thing with customers in each of their market places.
The national sales manager predominately mirrors the sales leaders being a customer-driven individual who spends considerable time flying around the country, doing customer visits to win the favour of new and existing customers. Influencing the sales leaders and keeping them informed and focused on bringing in revenue goals. Although necessary, the focus is on customers and people servicing customers – not the business.
This approach does not address many of the internal business issues required to drive growth. In most cases, you are following the market not driving. At some point in time, a position must exist in the company that is dedicated to the business of your sales organisation.
This is the role that is missing and it’s called ‘sales operations specialist’. Its a specialist role and not that of an administration person.
In the USA and Europe, these are very common roles to have in place, but for the Asia Pacific region, there has been a slow uptake and priority placed on the role. It’s often seen as a headcount cost and not the actual asset it is.
If you look at recruitment sites, you will some very confusing advertisements drawing on those words as young recruitment executives popularise the words trying to find an edge for their advertisements with no real understanding of what the functions should actually be. It is very similar to the confusion related to salesforce effectiveness.
Only rarely do you see the role of sales operations specialist advertised for correctly, and typically in IT global companies with sales teams located here. The role of sales operations specialist is the glue that puts everything together from a business perspective. They do the leg work that enables quality decisions to be made and ensure the functionality of the sales business.
They do the desk work that requires a completely different set of skills to that of the national sales manager for most companies. If you have a team of ten or more salespeople, you should seriously be considering a sales operations specialist in the team.
To provide you with a brief overview of their tasks, you will instantly see how problems within your company could be avoided with the right structure in the sales organisation. Let’s look at a few tasks they perform.
Coordinates sales forecasting, planning, and budgeting processes used within the sales organisation. Proactively monitors and strives to maintain high levels of quality, accuracy, and process consistency in the sales organization’s planning efforts.
- Works to ensure all sales organization objectives are assigned in a timely fashion.
- Proactively identifies opportunities for sales process improvement.
- Works closely with sales management to inspect sales process quality and prioritize opportunities for improvement. Assists sales management in understanding process bottlenecks and inconsistencies. Facilitates an organisation of continuous process improvement.
- Monitors the accuracy and efficient distribution of sales reports and other intelligence essential to the sales organisation. Recommends revisions to existing reports, or assists in the development of new reporting tools as needed.
- Implements enabling technologies, including CRM, to field sales teams. Monitors the assigned sales organisation’s compliance with the required standards for maintaining CRM data. Works closely with sales management to optimize the effectiveness of the firm’s technology investments.
- Coordinates training delivery to sales, sales management, and sales support personnel in the sales organization supported.
- And there is much more depending on your specific industry and company.
Some may say the national sales manager should be doing these tasks. If you review them closely they are all time-consuming tasks, of great value, but require a more analytical approach. You may be asking the sales manager to complete all this but the tasks are greater than what they can physically do when you consider all the other functions they need to complete.
They would have to let something fall by the wayside and most often that is all the operational tasks, as they are more focused on the customers where the noise is occurring and revenue is derived from. That approach works for a short time but it fails the company on many levels.
The other assumption here is that your company has moved on from the dated thinking of sales being an autonomous role and people are free to roam the earth and do the best they can with their own interpretation of what is right and wrong. You have moved to a point of understanding that like all other areas of the company you need processes, disciplines, adherence, and most of all a highly effective sales process with supporting tools that represent the company correctly and ensures opportunities are secured and maximised.
Hiring a sales operations specialist is an important consideration and with that hire, you also need to have in place the tools and structure that will allow them to add value to the company too.
If you would like to discuss the requirements for hiring for the role of sales operations specialist, please contact our office.
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© 2014 Adele Crane. All rights reserved.