Sales Operations: Best Practices (Short Term)
According to the major consultant firms — McKinsey, Bain, Deloitte — there are many significant adoptions of changes coming to sales operations, which will result in best practices in both the short and long term. Those which are required to build the foundation are presented as short term. Those that will build upon the infrastructure to transform retail sales are outlined in the long term report which follows. These two reports are not only best practices but a high level road map for implementation. The three short-term best practices are changing the sales operation, developing foundational capabilities, and implementing digital best practices.
Changing the Sales Operation
- The sales operation has grown in size and complexity in most organizations.
- Traditionally the sales operations team has operated in the background, undervalued and often seen as a nerdy group working with spreadsheets monitoring forecasts and tracking commissions.
- As a best practice, best-in-class companies are transitioning their organizational design to deal with this complexity.
- Companies are creating a commercial operations department which includes "elements of go-to-market strategy, many of the activities performed by sales operations and marketing operations, and a layer of digital applications and advanced analytics."
Building Foundational Capabilities
- Building a new organizational structure begins with building strategic planning capabilities and building a strategy. The most successful companies look for best-in-class talent to lead the new department.
- Companies leading the field are twice as likely to have best-in-class talent in their commercial operations teams and five times more likely to have a sufficient level of resources for their needs.
- The best teams have specialists in areas of strategic planning, sales and marketing integration and execution, talent and enablement, and advanced analytics for pipeline management.
- In building the teams, regardless of their expertise, the department finds employees that "combine strong intellect, creative problem solving, effective communication with colleagues and a willingness to roll up their sleeves to improve performance."
Digital Best Practices
- There are three steps to implement digital best practices. The first is to build a best-in-class digital infrastructure that includes appropriate governance, documenting the information architecture and the management of core customer, sales, and market data, keeping in mind the long term goals and the data relationships required.
- One company dealt with this challenge by creating a master data management team responsible for the oversight of customer data quality, stewardship, and use by the commercial organization.
- The second step is a review of the existing core commercial applications in use.
- Leading companies have realized that tracking sales and pipeline activity in great detail have gone too far in many cases. Leading organizations now have the goal of simplifying and automating the "mountain of call logs, account status updates, sales forecasts, and other administrative activities that burden the salesforce."
- To do that, leaders have a "best-in-class digital application stack." This stack is the integration of the bedrock applications of customer relationship management systems, business intelligence solutions, and marketing automation platforms. When these three are layered on top of a well-designed data infrastructure, these two best practices combined have contributed to a higher margin and share growth.
- The final digital best practice is to use the data that has been transformed by the applications.
- Leading commercial operations departments are using big data to solve sales and marketing challenges. They're using advanced analytics to find the ideal customers and increase cross-selling of the right products
- When the best practices of data science and analytics work with well-designed data infrastructure and efficient technology applications, companies have substantially boosted sales productivity.