Sales operations managers are often the sales profession’s unsung heroes. They’re tactical experts who solve process-related problems, identify and research tools, and implement solutions to help sales and marketing teams reach their full revenue-driving potential.
If you haven’t already hired a great sales operations manager, chances are you may need one soon. To find out more about what it takes to succeed in sales ops, I spoke with Degreed’s Director of Sales Enablement Jeff Lamb, who offered valuable insight into how he got into sales ops and what qualities to look for when on-boarding a new sales operations manager (FYI: they may already be working at your company!)
RingDNA: How did you get started in sales operations?
Jeff Lamb: I started as a sales development rep and found that success wasn’t so much determined by what I said on the phone, how I articulated our value proposition, or handled objections, but rather how I followed a successful methodology and process. I determined that my level of influence in the company would be a lot greater if I could help build an effective process that we could plug any rep into and find success. From that point I started pursuing more of a sales operations type of role.
RingDNA: Which qualities set you apart from other SDRs?
Jeff Lamb: There were other guys I worked with that made 100 dials per day, reading off a script and going through the motions. And looking at my numbers, I was doing less —making less dials and sending less emails—but my results were a lot higher.
RingDNA: What do you think led to those better results?
Jeff Lamb: I was following current methodologies and processes, taken from books like the [Brent Adamson and Matthew Dixon’s] The Challenger Sale, Aaron Ross’ Predictable Revenue, and Jill Konrath’s “Snap Selling.” After determining the process to take I measured my performance against the KPI’s the company had set for me along with KPI’s that I set for myself. Most organizations have a one size fits all approach when setting KPI’s but it’s best to understand each individual rep and territory and adjust KPI’s accordingly. After building out this sales machinery for myself I decided that I could do more in sales operations to help the broader team and company than I could as an individual contributor.
RingDNA: How can sales operations managers can add the most value to their sales organizations?
Jeff Lamb: The most important thing we can do to enable sales is to help implement a strong sales process. Following a process is more important than selling ability. [Sales reps] are all usually really good at communicating, presenting and relating to clients. But often they need a framework in place to help them focus their energy. Our sales process is very detailed with sales milestones, sales content to support and move the deal forward, and key metrics to determine where deals are getting stalled or falling out. A well-defined process can bring about more success than communication skills alone.
RingDNA: Beyond instilling a well-defined sales process, what are some of the ways that sales ops can help their sales teams succeed?
Jeff Lamb: Just enabling reps with the content and tools they need can make a big difference. I try to put anything they do that’s not selling on my plate, whether that’s automating things through Salesforce, helping them realize opportunities or making their day more efficient so they can focus on closing deals.
RingDNA: Do you have any advice for the qualities that sales leaders should look for when hiring sales operations managers?
Jeff Lamb: Whether it’s someone currently on your team or an outside hire, look for great problem solvers. Sales operations managers need to be really tactical, but to also understand the overarching strategy. I often act as the middle man between executives and sales reps. When executives bring up a problem, it’s up to me to actually solve the problem by not just understanding their strategic objectives, but also how to implement them.
RingDNA: Is there anything specific you’ve done recently to help Degreed’s sales team improve?
Jeff Lamb: I set up workflows in Salesforce to email the reps specific content depending on where they are with an opportunity. We initially had difficulty getting reps to update Salesforce and I wanted to find a way to deliver value to them vs hounding them to enter their data. I have an email that is sent out when a deal enters a certain stage to let them know what resources are available and what milestones need to be completed. I also have emails to send competitive intel when reps update the “competition” field, technical docs, prospecting scripts, etc. This way we are getting the data we need and they are better equipped to close deals.
Looking for ways to enable your sales team? Check out our eBook on how to use compensation plans to motivate your sales team to success!