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Building a strong sales operation centre


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Sales operations centre (SOC) is the heart of sales operations. Many companies do not realize the benefits of sales transformation because they under invest in SOC or do not plan & roll it out like a project. The result inconsistent sales reviews, inefficient controls and unrealized outcomes. In this white paper, Browne & Mohan consultants share the best practice approach to build a strong sales operations centre

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Building a strong sales operation centre

  1. 1. Browne & Mohan Board & CEO Advisors, Management Consultants Building a strong sales operation centre Nupoor Sinha and Suma Chebiyyam
  2. 2. Browne & Mohan Board & CEO Advisors, Management Consultants Introduction Sales is an area that most companies aren’t shy of investing significant resources and efforts. Sales transformation is one of the most critical changes a company goes through. While technology is just an instrument to formulize the changes and effects, human intervention is what makes these transformations successful. While companies put much effort in planning and rolling sales improvements including CRM, field sales gadgets and so on, an area that does not get sufficient focus in sales is the operations centre. Fundamentally, the role of sales operations is to capture the data related to sales activities, and help executives make decisions based on data. Most companies underplay the role of Sales Operation Centre (SOC) and consider it as an overhead. Sales operations is not just a data sink, but a system to optimize the work and improve outcomes. However, a strong SOC can not only strengthen the sales function but also harnesses the balance between technology and data to derive actionable insights for the sales team. Companies approach sales operations management in a piece- meal approach and without any formal framework covering resources, policies and implementation aspects of SOC. To ensure your sales operations centre is effective, see it from a change management prism. Starting from the resources that fit the role, right systems and policies that help to capture data and reporting, approaches & signals from management to make SOC gain acceptance, and influence, and finally drive outcomes independently, SOC roll out needs detailed planning and flawless execution. To create a successful sales operation centre you need to pursue it as a project, right from investing in the right resources, enabling them with appropriate process and decision rights, but also support it with right legitimacy and institutional mechanisms. Resources: people, technology & process On the resources front, people are the key lynchpins of the sales operations. They can make or break the sales transformation. SOC resources can be at a junior level (data analyst or sales support executives), sales operations analyst or sales ops manager. It is not important that you need to hire senior people for the role to work. What is important is how passionate and driven he is to get outcomes. An ideal SOC needs to be good at communication in order to be on the same page with management and the entire team. It also helps avoid unnecessary misunderstandings. The resource person needs to be good at decision- making and quick in analysing information. This helps in filtering and analysing the correct information and getting rid of the rest. Since, he needs to work with both people and technology, he needs to be someone who has a good bond with his co-workers, be empathic towards them, someone whom the team respects both formally due to position and informally as a person. He also has to be capable of grasping technology, implement and institutionalize it with the prime determined focus always being the task to be delivered. Sales Operation lies in between sales strategy and execution. Hence Sales Operation Manager has to continuously think of better ways to get things done. Technology & other resources to capture data, assimilate, analyse, and reporting also need detailed planning and execution. Investing in the right integration tools, for e.g. - CRM can feed data to the finance team for the direct invoicing; marketing team can get regular insights about leads generated from various marketing efforts, can make the operation seamless. Integration with Outlook or Gmail can reduce the redundancy of data collection and most of the CRM solutions come with calendar sync functionality which comes handy if there have been instances of missing the timelines. To avoid future conflicts, create a sales operations charter that defines the purpose, roles and rules of sales operations. While management is responsible to define the leads and opportunity stages, SOC owns the sales process, maintains and improves them in the CRM system. Data collection process is defined through these stages which should further be validated by SOC. The quality control and authenticity of data is continuously monitored by SOC. Post collection and validation integration with real-time events is done to generate the actionable insights. Once resource issues are addressed, it is time to prepare them for the intended applications. Pre Roll Out preparation SOC effectiveness is dependent upon how others in the sales team contribute and respond. To make SOC work smoothly, it is important to have buy-in from all the stakeholders. Prepare training sessions and all- hands. Management must plan transition stages and also run parallel operations (manual and IT systems led) till it
  3. 3. Browne & Mohan Board & CEO Advisors, Management Consultants reaches an equilibrium state. Prepare the sales teams for the new form of data collection, validation and report so that they are not caught unprepared for the new system. Conduct floor meeting and strategy meetings with all the resources concerned including SOC to detail out the role, process and expectations. Use these meetings to iron out any rough edges. Test reporting and review templates for data adequacy, and fine tune whenever changes are required. Test the IT systems also from big data and sharing perspective. Institutionalization and Empowered Decision Making Sales operations resources learn over time how sales work in their organizations and must be willing to explore “referral power” to pull things ups. Once the organization is prepped up for taking up the restructuring, role of management in empowering and institutionalizing the role of SOC becomes critical. Management must set the right expectations from all sales resources about their interactions with SOC. If SOC is a junior person, more so if homegrown, management must take extra care in positioning SOC role and reinforcing the behavior they expect all others to adapt. Sales operations should feel empowered to call for data, ask for additional information or provide necessary feedback without any hindrance. During the transition stage, and while running parallel operations, ensure the activities of SOC are conducted with utmost efficiency and high responsiveness. Management must delegate areas where SOC can take decisions on own and revert wherever higher decision rights are needed. Continuous Reinforcement Once the CRM roll out happens, and SOC starts compiling & reporting data, there are possibilities of fault lines emerging. This could happen when sales stars don’t adhere to the SOC charter or data integrity challenges emerge. Management has to step in at this moment right away to nip at bud any such transgressions. Management must use these moments to reinforce the role of SOC and the sales process alignment expectations. Training & development support SOC operations improve over time, from a reactive data house to “sense and respond” intelligence arm. For this to happen, sales leaders must identify the gaps in competencies and capabilities of the SOC team, and invest in appropriate training programs. Management must encourage SOC to come out with improvements in reports, analysis and responsiveness. Encourage SOC to go deeper on customer insights, including cycle time, payment timelines, etc. Following these steps will not only risk-proof the sales operations but will also enforce quality output with high accountability. All in all, the combination of technology and manual inputs implemented rightly would put your organization on the right track to drive long-term and sustainable growth. Selected Bibliography Adamson, B, Dixon, M and Toman,N. (2013) Dismantling the sales machine, Harvard Business Review, Nov 90-97 Dimatteo B C., 2006, Get employee buy-in for your vision, Worcester Business Journal, March 20. LaForge, R.W, Ingram, T.N. and Cravens, D.W (2009), Strategic alignment for sales organization transformation, Journal of Strategic Marketing, Vol 17, No3-4, 199-219. Piercy, N.F. and Lane, N (2005), Strategic imperatives for transformation in the conventional sales organization, Journal of Change Management, Vol 5, Iss 3, 249-266. Pink, D.H. To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others, Riverhead Books, 2012. Roberge, M, The Sales Acceleration Formula: Using Data, Technology, and Inbound Selling to go from $0 to $100 Million, John Wiley, 2015. Ross, A. and Tyler, M, Predictable Revenue: Turn Your Business Into a Sales Machine with the $100 Million Best Practices of, Pebblestorm, 2011 Browne & Mohan insight are based on consulting experience, for information sharing only and are not refereed papers. Open Universities and other academic institutions may use the content but with prior approval of Browne & Mohan. © Browne & Mohan 2018. All rights reserved Printed in India