Driving Alignment Through Sales Operations Efforts

Driving alignment should be a core tenet for sales operations. As a reminder, it’s our job to build, monitor and refine the selling system foundation across data, process, sales tech and go-to-market planning. We do this so the sales organization can engage with customers consistently and efficiently. And we do this in partnership with sales enablement and sales managers as well as with cross-functional teams from marketing, customer success, implementation services, finance, HR, IT and product.

What we do in sales operations is only as good as the alignment we can drive through the work we do and how we engage with others to execute it. (Click to tweet)

If we do what we do in a vacuum, in a siloed manner, we will end up with a foundation that begins and ends abruptly – one that does not take into account the continuity of the customer engagement experience across marketing, sales and customer success.

Alignment matters

In our 2019 World-Class Sales Practices Study, we asked survey participants to identify the top challenges standing in the way of achieving their objectives for the year. Organizational misalignment was one of them, which we will focus on today.

Organizational misalignment can lead to inefficiencies in internal operations, such as duplication of efforts because of unclear roles and responsibilities. It also can cause extra manual work in tasks such as compiling analyses and entering data in CRM. Such inefficiencies, in turn, can result in sales teams spending more time on non-selling activities. It’s no wonder that sellers spend less than one-third of their time selling, and managers spend twice as much time on internal work as they do on coaching (2018-2019 Sales Performance Study).

Organizational misalignment also can result in conflicting priorities across teams or, even worse, misaligned efforts toward a common goal. Take the example where win rates are low because of inconsistent approaches to opportunity planning. Sales operations, sales enablement and sales management all can influence this issue – sales operations through sales process adjustments and opportunity scoring tools, sales enablement through a new opportunity planning methodology, and sales management through coaching.

If these separate solutions are not aligned, frontline salespeople end up with a lot of disparate things to do. If the three functions are aligned in their efforts, however, salespeople can have a more unified experience where the new methodology is integrated into the sales process, reflected in CRM and coached to during funnel reviews with their sales managers.

In fact, when sales management, operations and enablement functions were effectively aligned to drive results, organizations saw a significant improvement in their sales results: 19.3% improvement in quota attainment and 16.7% improvement in win rates. (Click to tweet) (2019 World-Class Sales Practices Study)

How we do what we do also matters

It’s important to note that to effectively drive alignment through what we do in sales operations, we also need to be aware of the approaches we take in how we do what we do.

No matter how much of an expert we might be in what we do, it’s important to keep an open mind. (Click to tweet)

It starts with not working in a vacuum or in a siloed manner; rather, the key is to collaborate with others. Be more open to what else might be possible. Solicit input, and listen to feedback from others. You might be surprised with what you learn when you keep an open mind. To drive alignment, it’s also important to understand how what we do in sales operations might impact others.

Experienced sales operations leaders know that driving alignment as part of what we do has a substantial long-term impact. (Click to tweet)

Here are three things you can start doing immediately to better drive alignment:

Listen and solicit input… instead of just telling. (Click to tweet) A simple but often-ignored way to help drive alignment is to listen to others first, before you tell or announce something. If sales operations is working to improve something, it’s well worth the effort to solicit input from others and listen. It’s not uncommon for unknown impacts or additional challenges to be identified as a result. Also, by including others in the process and providing them with an opportunity to be heard, you are organically building support and driving alignment.

Think beyond sales. (Click to tweet) What we do in sales operations is in support of the sales organization. However, what sales does doesn’t happen in a vacuum – it touches and is linked to what marketing and customer success does, especially in relation to engaging with customers. Therefore, it is essential for sales operations to think beyond sales. This will ensure we are proactive in identifying any impacts to non-sales functions so that we can develop a plan to address them. As a result of addressing cross-functional impacts, we are driving alignment cross-functionally.

Communicate, even if it means overcommunicating. (Click to tweet) A key element to driving alignment is communication. Today, with so many communication technologies available – email, text message, social media, videoconference and phone, to name a few – we have become accustomed to tuning out much of what we see and hear. In such a state, it’s easy to miss an important communication. That’s why it’s important for sales operations to communicate consistently and repeatedly, even if it means overcommunicating. Make sure the communication reinforces – rather than repeats – what was previously shared. To do this effectively, develop a communication plan that takes into account the target audience (who), the message (what and why), timing (when) and delivery mechanism (how).

These three things might appear to be simple, but the challenge is in taking the first step to actually doing them. So sales operations leaders and practitioners… the next time you are working on a new project, challenge yourself to drive alignment through the actions you take.

 

Questions for you:

  • Is driving alignment a core tenet of what you do in sales operations? If not, why not?
  • Where does it make sense to drive alignment in what you do?
  • Think of a time when you accounted for driving alignment in your sales operations efforts and a time when you did not. Compare the results, and reflect on the difference.

 

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