In the first of a series of articles on sales operations from FunnelFox, we look at the role of the sales operations manager.

Good sales operations managers are more than number crunchers. They’re secret superheroes.

They, alongside their teams if they have them, are typically behind the scenes. They don’t typically get the glory of closing deals or the credit that comes with it. But, those that do would not be able to do so without the sales operations manager helping them. They perform an essential role.

In this article, we’re going to explore:

  • What a sales operations manager actually does
  • How they fit within the sales team and wider organisation
  • What a sales operations manager needs to do to perform their role successfully

First, let’s briefly examine what sales operations is.

What does sales operations involve?

Different organizations use sales operations in different ways. But in general, the role of a sales operations team is to increase the effectiveness, efficiency and output of the sales team.

Here are some features of the sales process often covered by sales operations:

  • Inventory management
  • Pricing
  • Developing sales and revenue generation strategy
  • Formulating sales territories and quotas
  • Devising comp plans
  • Data analysis
  • Running the technology side of the sales team (CRM, sales enablement software, reporting etc.)

Within the wider organization, sales operations will often be based within the sales team, but will act as the conduit between sales and other departments, such as IT and finance, where there is some overlap.

You could say that if a sales team is a racing car, sales operations is the driver and technology is the fuel. You won’t win a race without a combination of all three. Plus, the higher the quality of all three, the better the performance. Sales operations guides the car around the track, keeping it on the racing line.

Sales operations has become a vital function.

What does a sales operations manager do?

First and foremost, the sales operations manager is responsible for running the sales operations team. Like any other manager, their priority is their people. After that, it’s all about technology and data.

Combining knowledge of sales with knowledge of sales technology, they will know about sales methodologies, and how salespeople turn prospects into customers.

Sales operations managers will also be CRM experts. They will know how a CRM can streamline your sales process and how the smart use of data can improve results.

Responsibility for choosing which one to use, implement and roll out will fall to the sales ops manager. They then ensure that it works. Whether it’s managing leads, looking for errors or implementing the API, it all goes through the sales operations manager and their team.

Tech purchases and implementations will come under the sales operation managers’ remit. They will build the sales stack that helps the sales team perform to the highest standard.

The sales operations manager will work with other sales managers to make smarter decisions. In today’s world of sales, data should be the primary factor in the decision-making process. They will make sure everyone has the right data, pulled from the CRM or other software, and collate properly. They will assist other sales managers to interpret the data, making sure they are focusing on the metrics that matter.

Finally, the sales ops manager will often be the liaison between sales and the wider organisation. They will provide the sales data which shows the C-Suite how well sales is performing. They will work with the finance department on technology procurement and IT on implementation.

3 Ways to go from good to great

There are many factors that separate a great sales operations manager from the crowd.

Firstly, a successful sales ops manager will define a clear role for themselves and set boundaries as to the purpose of sales operations.

Sales operations are not merely assistants to the reps or number crunchers. They play a big part in the success of the sales process within their organization.

There is often confusion between the roles of sales enablement and sales operations, because they are both behind the scenes and often tech-based. However, a good sales operations manager will set lines of demarcation.

Next, a great sales operations manager will define a mission for themselves and their team, by asking the following questions:

  • Why is there a sales operations team at all?
  • Is it to take the number crunching tasks away from the customer-facing team so they can actually sell? Or is it more strategic?
  • Are you driving efficiency or moving the sales team towards a more data or tech-oriented sales process?
  • Make sure you, and the rest of your organisation, know what you are doing.

A passion for tech

The most important factor for a successful sales operations manager is an understanding of technology.

They should be passionate about technology and how it can improve the sales process. They will stay ahead of trends and understand how it may be able to help.

Sales operations manager happily using technology

The sales operations manager will understand that you need to have a reason to bring in new tech. For example, automation software, as well as automation features within your CRM can bring many benefits to a sales team. Social selling is currently in vogue.

Lead by example

A sales operations manager will lead and encourage reps who may be reticent to use technology by demonstrating how it produces data for the greater good. They will help with training and make sure the sales team has all it needs to succeed.

Never stop moving forward

Finally, a great sales operations manager will proactively look for ways to improve – continuously. They will spot clues in the data that other people may not be able to see.

They will identify new software developments that no one else thought was possible to deliver benefits. The best sales operations manager won’t just report data; they will put it into a context and make recommendations on how to improve.

The unsung heroes of sales

Ultimately, while the sales operations manager may be in the background when it comes to helping customers and closing deals, the sales team would suffer without them.

Sales operations manager are the unsung heroes of sales

As technology and data become ever more vital to the sales process, the influence of the sales operations manager will grow and grow.

It’s great to have automated systems that minimize menial tasks for reps, and provide them with all the information they need to help customers.

However, there is always a need for someone to run these systems smoothly and look for ways to improve. That’s why the sales operation manager role is here to stay.