How Data Drives Sales Operations

In 2012, Matt Heinz wrote, “Sales Operations may very well be the most important and unsung hero for sales teams big and small” and “[they] have more-than-material impact on your sales team’s efficiency and success.” Five years later, Sales Operations is more important than ever.

With the rapid rise of cloud-based applications, social media and powerful analytics - it amounts to a lot of sales data. This is where Sales Operations comes in, as the crucial intersection between data, Sales and the rest of the organization.

Last week, we co-hosted the SF Sales Operations Happy Hour with AlwaysHired, which included a panel discussion with leading Sales Operations professionals who discussed the importance of the role and its relationship with data.

The panel discussion included:

  • Meredith Schmidt, EVP of Global Revenue Operations at Salesforce
  • Ksenya Ruban, VP of Sales Operations and Enablement at Shape Security
  • Carolyn Patterson, VP of Revenue Operations at Yelp
  • Tom Melbourne, VP of Sales and Sales Operations at Chartio (moderator)

Data is a Competitive Advantage

As the intersection between data and Sales, Sales Operations is a key component to driving revenue and growth for their organization. During the panel discussion, the first topic of conversation was data and how Sales Operations should leverage it.

While creating and capturing data has become easier with technology, it also means that Sales tech stacks are expanding as well. With that, data management is a crucial responsibility for Sales Operations, particularly around centralizing data and information that will help generate revenue.

If you can capture sales data one time and tell it what to do - that’s very powerful and that’s what drives the entire company,
— Meredith Schmidt

“If you can capture sales data one time and tell it what to do - that’s very powerful and that’s what drives the entire company,” said Meredith Schmidt.

Alongside leveraging data to drive revenue and company growth, the panelist shared best practices in the following:

  • Single source of truth: While unclean data is inevitable, in Sales Operations, it’s important to have your source of truth, stand firmly and build from there.
  • Manage duplicate accounts through maintenance: Establish a process for data cleansing and keep it clean. Think about the data that you have in your data source and ask critical questions:
    • What are you doing with the data?
    • Is it useful?
    • When was the last time you pulled a report using this data?
  • Data integrity: At Yelp, Carolyn Patterson shared that the Sales Operations teams runs daily data integrity checks to make sure that data stays clean and advises all Sales Operations professionals to do the same.

KPIs to Track

While data management is a crucial responsibility for Sales Operations, the other part of the equation is transforming that data into insights and KPIs. To deliver the highest impact, Sales Operations knows they need to be a strategic partner to the sales team they support.

On the analytics side, this means creating dashboards that tie back to what’s at stake for the Account Executive. At the individual level, it’s important for Account Executives to understand their performance in a single-view dashboard showing:

  • Pipeline: a visual representation of where prospects are in the sales funnel, or sometimes represented in dollar amount based on deal sizes
  • Quota attainment: a visual representation of where an Account Executive is in reaching their targeted quota
  • Territory: For larger sales teams, Account Executives typically get assigned a territory (SW, West, NW, East, etc.) and know the number of potential deals within their territory
  • Win rate: The percentage of opportunities closing

These are just a small handful of KPIs to track, and can vary in granularity and definition based on your business. Having said that, it’s important to drive a data competency within the entire sales organization and improve efficiencies.

Improving Sales Productivity Through Data

Among all the mission-critical responsibilities that Sales Operations is tasked with, the overall goal can be summed up in three words: improve sales productivity. We’ve previously touched upon how data management and tracking KPIs achieve this, there are ways that Sales Operations can achieve this.

Give your Account Executives relevant information around similar prospects and package data in a useful way, right when they need it.
— Carolyn Patterson

“Give your Account Executives relevant information around similar prospects and package data in a useful way, right when they need it,” said Carolyn Patterson.

Meredith Schmidt implemented a similar strategy at Salesforce, “put the data into a single view and tell them where to focus and if they’re going to make their number.”

Conclusion

As Sales Operations moves from the back office to the front office and really sets the stage for high-performing sales teams, it’s important for Sales Operations to analyze data. Because if organizations don’t leverage data, the panelist warned, those companies are at risk of being left behind.