Most organizations today have a sales operations function: nearly 70% of organizations have a dedicated sales operations team, and of those that don’t, 10% plan to add one within the year, according to the 2nd Annual Sales Operations & Technology Report from Miller Heiman Group. But only a third of these organizations meet the majority of their sales operations objectives.

How can sales operations leaders improve their performance and meet their targets? Check to see whether these three common mistakes are stalling your progress—and learn the sales operations best practices that you need to leap forward.

  1. Sales Organizations Fail to Invest in a Data Strategy 

Although our 2019 World-Class Sales Practices Study identified having a data strategy as a best practice of world-class sales organizations, only 30% of respondents reported that they had a data strategy. This feeds a concern that respondents noted in our 2nd Annual Sales Operations & Technology Report: even though the average sales organization uses 10 sales technology tools on average, they aren’t generating usable data. Often, sales organizations struggle to collect, analyze and use the data they have because it’s stored in disparate systems. Without that data, they lack the fuel needed to power artificial intelligence (AI) technologies that could inform their sales strategies and help them achieve better results.

Before an organization implements an AI tool, it must ensure that it is effectively managing its data. To do so, it needs a sales data strategy: a documented framework that explains how a sales organization manages and uses its data as an asset to improve its decision-making. Organizations should take four steps as they create their data strategy:

  1. Define roles and responsibilities, with ownership from the CSO
  2. Determine how the organization will use its data
  3. Set up a structured approach to ensure data quality and process and system integrations
  4. Commit to continually monitoring and fine-tuning the strategy

As a bonus, organizations with a strong data strategy also strengthen their customer relationships and outperform their peers in quota attainment and win rates.

  1. CRMs Lack Reliable Data

Data problems also permeate sales organizations’ CRM systems, which often house data that is incomplete, outdated or, if salespeople are worried about how their sales managers will view their results, even mischaracterized. Most organizations—75.8%—lack confidence in their CRM data. Yet they still try to use that data to inform their sales forecasts. No wonder only 39.3% of organizations say that their CRM increases their salespeople’s productivity.

To improve the data in their CRM system, sales organizations should take steps to deduplicate and cleanse data; where possible, they should employ data augmentation. Organizations may also consider improving data entry processes, such as integrating the CRM with other technology to automatically feed the system email and calendar appointments. Finally, supplementing the CRM with a predictive analytics tool, such as Scout, adds context to sales data and helps fill any gaps.

  1. Too Few Sales Organizations Align Objectives to a Functional Business Plan

A goal without a plan is just a wish. Though many organizations set objectives for their sales operations function, only a quarter create a business plan to support those objectives. It’s hard to attain an objective, much less achieve buy-in for it from sales leaders and managers, if no one understands what to do next.

A proactive plan should include short- and long-term goals, a mission and vision to support those goals and the metrics that the organization needs to measure to demonstrate progress and results. Potential goals might include increasing win rates or selling time for salespeople, acquiring more new logos or expanding existing accounts. Whichever goal your organization prioritizes, sales operations leaders can then study performance data to optimize targets and hone strategy in concert with their sales leaders. Sales leaders, in turn, can use this information to understand the role of sales operations in their organization and determine how to best work with their operations teams to achieve those results.

Avoid These Pitfalls and Take Your Sales Operations to the Next Level

Ready to take the next step in evolving your sales operations team? Download the 2nd Annual Sales Operations and Technology Study to learn more sales operations best practices.

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