This is the first of a multi-post series on Transformational Leadership in the SALES WORLD. So, stick around there is lots to talk about.
Sales Operations? Strategy? Sales Planning? Enablement? OH MY! It’s amazing how many organizations are expanding their sales organizations to not only include roles focused on these critical functions – but how much of a priority it is as a part of their overall business strategy. The adoption of sales operations reminds me of the evolution of ‘procurement’ with the adoption of supply chain and strategic sourcing. As companies shifted more focus to the bottom line, EBITDA, and working capital – things like inventory turns, cash flow, cost deflation, and leveraging buying power became crucial and necessary for growth.
Quick example comparison, if interested, but feel free to skip: Despite their recent struggles and criticism, no one can argue that General Electric has been a well oiled machine for over a century; holding a spot in the top 10 of the Fortune 100 for over two decades. If you have ever worked for, or done business with this powerhouse you know that two of the most respected business functions is Human Resources and Sourcing. While GE was demonstrating the results that come from a focus on strategic sourcing for decades, the rest of the world was still trying to grasp the concept. Now, all of a sudden carrying a masters in Supply Chain Management is one of the most respected and universal fields of study for business operations. I continue to be puzzled by the lack of even undergraduate field study options in sales, but my prediction is that in the next 10 years this will be common for sales operations and strategy, and sales masters programs will follow. NO disrespect or discredit to those marketing degrees, I’m simply saying sales studies should be a more narrowed focus. [end rabbit hole]
Isn’t That The Sales Manager’s Job?
According to research in an article published by McKinsey & Company, “companies that build world-class sales operations functions can realize one-time improvements of 20 to 30 percent in sales productivity, with sustained annual increases as high as 5 to 10 percent.” But wait a minute, isn’t Sales Operations just the administrative “non-revenue” reporting data tasks? That improvement rate can’t possibly be accurate! First, I’d like to start by debunking the idea that sales operations is nothing more than sales administration/reporting; and an even more common misinterpretation that sales operations is sales enablement, vice versa – or that sales management is all of the above. If you see any of these things as one in the same, or as interchangeable then you’ve just successfully killed your chance at ever having a world-class sales organization, before you even got started. They are not the same, will never be the same, should not be treated the same, and they are certainly not interchangeable. In fact the opposite: they are all critical, both individually and as a whole. A common example I hear is that “it’s the managers responsibility to institute selling strategies”- man, if I had a nickel! The person who says this does not understand how many different sales methodologies are out there or how they are constantly evolving as the market does, and that you can have success with more than one. How can a manager successfully institute ANY selling methodology if they don’t understand what the business and organizational strategy is? How about a segmentation strategy, as another example. A sales manager that creates a territory strategy without data, a plan to execute or a program to scale will never become anything more than a colorful map. If you are too focused, or completely lack focus in any of these areas, the others suffer immensely and so does the performance of your sales team. Sales operations is about optimizing, sales enablement is about scaling the optimization, and sales management is about maximizing both. From this point on, when I refer to Sales operations, enablement and management this is what I mean:
For quick clarity, it’s important that I mention that this illustration is absolutely NOT suggesting that things like process, data, and strategy are not factors of sales enablement or management. The illustration represents the role in which each fundamental is the starting point, if you will. All sales folks, should absolutely have the ability to use data analytics or create repeatable processes, as examples.
So Then What Is It
1. make the best or most effective use of a situation, opportunity, or resource.
How can you maximize and scale anything before you have optimized it?
Breaking It Down
As I mentioned earlier, this is a multi-segment series, on applying transformational leadership in the sales world.
Step 1: Setting up a structure that creates world-class sales organizations and cultivates transformational leadership.
This starting point is really pretty simple. Even the MOST successful sales manager in the world cannot, and should not be expected to, incorporate a focus of sales operations with their regular day job from the side of their desk, nor should any organization want them to try! “But we can’t allocate the budget it would take to do this”… you might be saying. That’s the thing though: this is an investment, and just like any investment you need to understand your return.
Stay tuned… more to come in the next post.