In “Finding an Extra Gear: The 2nd Annual CSO Insights Sales Operations and Technology Study,” researchers from Miller Heiman Group lay out the sales operations best practices that companies need to pursue to grow this critical sales function.

“Sales operations is a long-standing function in most industries, with two-thirds of organizations having a dedicated team,” said Miller Heiman Group’s Seleste Lunsford. “The good news is that sales operations’ increasing influence has helped more organizations move toward formal and dynamic sales processes, which leads to more effective sales performance. But with advances in sales technologies, data accessibility and AI we also find significant opportunity for sales operations to drive even more success.”

The Broad and Diverse Focus of Sales Operations

Sales operations and sales technology management interrelate so much that many people tend to equate operations with managing reporting and the CRM —but that’s not the case. Sales operations has a much broader set of responsibilities, although managing the sales tech stack plays an increasingly large role. The new study found that sales operations’ already-expansive ecosystem continues to grow. Survey respondents—global sales organizations with dedicated sales operations functions—indicated that sales operations touches or owns 21 activities, divided into four categories:

  • Sales Performance Management, including sales metrics and analysis, forecasting and pipeline management, reporting, and sales leadership communication
  • Process and Technology, including sales technology stack administration and strategy, data management and data strategy
  • Sales Support, including sales enablement, deal desk, prospecting and proposal management
  • Sales Planning Support, including territory administration, sales quota setting, coverage design, and sales compensation administration and modeling

The study found that across all activities, sales operations teams focus most on traditional activities like metrics, reporting, forecasting, sales process and data management. Higher-performing organizations also saw their sales operations teams play a larger role in strategic activities indicating direction for future growth in operations.

The Role of Sales Technology within Sales Operations Best Practices

Amongst this broad mandate, the technology arena is experiencing the greatest amount of change. The sales tech landscape continues to expand rapidly. On average, sales organizations routinely use more than 10 tools, with plans to add more than 4 in 2020, similar to what we saw in 2018. However, there’s little consistency in sales tech stack tools beyond CRM, which 94% of sales organizations use. There’s also little correlation between sales success and the number of tools used, although the study found that sales technology stacks that integrate well with CRM produce stronger results—nearly 10% higher win rates and 8% higher quota attainment. Yet fewer than 30% of organizations reported tight integration between their sales tech stack and CRM. Just 27% felt their tools seamlessly supported a seller’s daily needs, which is a challenge when sellers spend only one-third of their time selling. 

“Sometimes, one part of the sales organization tests a tool or invests in something without preplanning. That siloed effort brings faster deployment, but it results in a disconnected tech stack,” said Lunsford. “A disconnected stack results in duplicated efforts, mismatched data and spotty usage—and when sellers are strapped for time, those short-term planning gains result in long-term challenges.”

Taking Sales Operations and Sales Tech to the Next Level

As sales operations continues to mature and expand, the study found areas in which operations leaders can invest in processes, tools and approaches that have an exponential impact. These include:

  • Leveraging AI and Analytics Only 5% of sales organizations use AI broadly within their tech stack, but nearly 30% have embedded it for specific use cases. There’s so much room for growth, particularly when sales organizations first invest in a strong data strategy to support these efforts.
  • Implementing a Dynamic Sales Process Dynamic processes are those that are agile enough to be continuously refined through analytics, but structured and detailed enough to drive how an organization sells. Such processes are more effective than just formal processes. This is true of the overarching sales processes as well as the processes underneath it, e.g. sales organizations that use a dynamic forecasting process see 7% higher win rates on forecasted deals than those with random approaches
  • Turn Leaders into Power Users By increasing engagement with sales leaders, sales operations leaders elevate their discipline within the sales organization, bringing more insights through the year and giving frontline managers and sellers the tools they need to be successful. In turn, this saves leaders time and creates a strong case for investing in sales operations.

Download the New Study for Even More Insights

For more detailed information on study results and the future of sales operations, download Finding an Extra Gear: The 2nd Annual Sales Operations & Technology Report from Miller Heiman Group today.

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