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    What is a Sales Operations Manager, and Why You Should(n’t) Hire One

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    Here’s a problem we frequently see: Companies come on board with Membrain and our partners, and then they make more sales and recruit more salespeople. This is exactly what we all want, but it also brings growing pains.

    As customers invest in improving their sales effectiveness, their revenues grow. As revenue grows, the company grows. As the company grows, so does the sales team. As the sales team grows, so does their investment in the sales process, methodology, training, and coaching.

    And as these things grow, so does the need for someone to manage sales operations.

    This is one of the challenging “good problem to have” problems that sales teams don’t anticipate but definitely have to deal with when they get there. Tasks that were formerly manageable in a small amount of time by an existing member of the team begin to take more and more time. Or those tasks don’t get done, and sales growth stalls.

    This is the point at which companies begin to consider hiring or contracting a sales operations manager. Here’s what you need to know when you reach that point.

    According to McKinsey & Company, companies with world-class sales operations teams improve sales productivity by as much as 30%, which makes it an important function to consider as your company grows.

    What is Sales Operations?

    Sales operations refers to the business function of supporting the organization’s sales execution efforts in alignment with the business strategy. In short, it’s all of the “backoffice of sales” that isn’t actually sales or sales management.

    What Does Sales Operations Do?

    Sales operations manages the sales systems and technology, using data to inform hiring, compensation, and territory strategies, and ensuring that salespeople and their coaches have all of the process, methodology, training, and enablement tools and content they need to do their best work. It also includes assisting leaders in optimizing the sales process and ensuring the best use of technology and data on an ongoing basis. And the work of helping align marketing and sales, at least from a systems perspective.

    What Is a Sales Operations Manager and What Do They Do?

    The sales operations manager is exactly what it sounds like–the person responsible for managing the sales operations. In many growing companies, however, the sales operations manager doesn’t actually have the title “Sales Operations Manager.”

    In fact, the tasks of the sales operation manager often fall onto someone else’s shoulders, such as a sales manager, director, or the head of revenue, or perhaps a tech-savvy person in marketing. This makes sense for smaller teams, initially, because the sales operations job isn’t always a full-time job, and the expense of recruiting, hiring, onboarding, and keeping a full-time employee is often not justified by the extent of the task.

    Companies with world-class sales operations teams improve sales productivity by as much as 30%.
    McKinsey & Company

    But as sales teams grow, the job of the sales operations manager becomes larger and more complex. Scaling a sales team often involves making strategic decisions about how to manage this growing role, and how and when to bring a full-time sales operations manager on board.

    When Should You Hire a Sales Operations Manager?

    The decision to hire a sales operations manager is a significant one. As with any hiring decision, it comes with the cost and risk associated with recruiting, hiring, onboarding, and payroll. And, in many cases, the job becomes a significant burden on existing staff long before it justifies a full-time hire.

    This is especially challenging in companies with a focus on continuous improvement. Continuously improving sales strategy, process, methodology, training, tools, coaching, and enablement naturally leads to growth within the company. Growth leads to new hires. And continuous improvement demands that onboarding new hires be smooth and maintain consistency.

    In order to scale up a sales team effectively, you must have processes, documentation, strategy, training, tactics, and playbooks that are embedded into salespeople’s workflows. If you’re using Membrain, you’ll have these built directly into the software that salespeople live and work in every day. This enables you to bring new salespeople onboard faster and more effectively, and have them producing results quickly. It also helps ensure that everyone on your team is always rowing in the same direction, and that your managers can coach effectively.

    However, as the systems that support the team expand to support the team’s growth, so also does the job of sales operations. What once was a simple job manageable by a sales director or sales manager, becomes a much larger and more time-consuming job.

    You need someone to document and configure new processes and tactics, add custom fields, set up dashboards, and manage the workflows and the information passing through them. In short, you need a sales operations manager.

    Or do you?

    How to NOT Hire a Sales Operations Manager

    Earlier this year, one of our channel partners came to us with the sales operations manager question from one of their clients. The client had implemented our partner’s strategy, process, and training on their sales team, and executed it using our platform. As a result, they experienced extraordinary growth, which was a great problem to have–but put them in the position of needing someone to manage the sales operations on their behalf.

    They didn’t feel quite ready to add a full-time employee to manage their sales operations, but they also knew they couldn’t continue on as they had been, if they wanted to continue to grow.

    We worked together with the channel partner and their customer to develop a scope of work that encompassed their sales operations needs. We realized that we already had all the relevant skills and resources inside our company to deliver their sales operations as a service, and save them the cost and risk of hiring the position, while providing them the benefits they needed.

    Why Sales Operations As a Service Might Be Right For You

    Not everyone needs a sales operations manager, and not everyone needs the role as a service. If your sales system is small and your processes simple, you can probably get by without a specific sales operations role in your company. If you’re very large and sales operations is a full-time job, then you probably need to hire the role.

    But if your team falls somewhere in the middle, and you need sales operations to be handled effectively in order to grow, then sales operations as a service may be the right choice for you.

    For those who need it, we’re proud to be able to offer this straightforward solution and integrate it with our platform and channel partners. Please reach out if you’d like to know more.

    George Brontén
    Published November 16, 2022
    By George Brontén

    George is the founder & CEO of Membrain, the Sales Enablement CRM that makes it easy to execute your sales strategy. A life-long entrepreneur with 20 years of experience in the software space and a passion for sales and marketing. With the life motto "Don't settle for mainstream", he is always looking for new ways to achieve improved business results using innovative software, skills, and processes. George is also the author of the book Stop Killing Deals and the host of the Stop Killing Deals webinar and podcast series.

    Find out more about George Brontén on LinkedIn