2016 Sales Operations Trends Survey Highlights: Do More With Less, and Scale

By: Arshad Carim Sales Operations, Sales Productivity, Sales Strategy

CArim blog image 20160830The Alexander Group (AGI) recently completed its 2016 Sales Operations Trends Survey. Responses from 78 companies with median revenue of $1.5B provided insights on many aspects of sales operations, including structure, functions, tools, staffing levels, priorities and challenges. Three-quarters of respondents to the survey lead a sales operations department. Their plan for 2016 is clear: do more with less—and scale.

This article details a selection of highlights from this year’s survey.

HIGHLIGHT 1: Sales operations asked to do more with less
Organizations expect sales operations departments to handle ever-expanding responsibilities with little to no budget increases. The majority of survey respondents report a 0-5 percent planned decrease in 2016 sales cost and sales operations budgets. This surprising finding underscores the need for efficiency drivers such as cutting-edge tools, well-defined processes and scalability within the sales operations organization.

CHART 1: 2015 & 2016 Changes in Sales Costs & Sales Operations Budgets

HIGHLIGHT 2: Sales operations teams are spread thin, often global, and typically owned by Sales
Sales operations teams are small and relatively highly leveraged:

  • 81 percent of responding sales operations departments have fewer than 50 people with a median of 10 heads (Chart 2)
  • 13:1 is the median sales to sales operations headcount ratio (Chart 3)

CHART 2: Sales Operations Headcount Rangessales ops headcount ranges-rev5
CHART 3: Ratio of Sales Operations to Sales Headcount
sales ops headcount ranges-rev4
Additionally, sales operations teams must typically operate globally and cross-functionally within the sales organization:

  • 68 percent of sales operations departments have global responsibilities
  • 72 percent of sales operations departments report into the sales organization

HIGHLIGHT 3: Resolving data issues, minimizing ad hoc requests, and showing sales tool adoption are critical challenges for responding companies
Managing data is critical for sales operations department success. The biggest challenge is data cleanliness–87 percent of respondents indicate data integrity and clean-up is a significant issue. Ad hoc reporting, which can be a laborious and error-prone process when data is “dirty,” also ranks high among top challenges, with 58 percent of respondents citing ad hoc requests as a key issue.

Sales operations also faces tool management challenges–both getting tools adopted (64 percent list driving tool adoption as a stumbling block) and obtaining investments for necessary tool upgrades (53 percent indicate hurdles with securing investment dollars for sales operations tools).

HIGHLIGHT 4: Learning and development initiatives and new-hire onboarding lead the pack among planned enablement investment priorities
Over 60 percent of respondents indicate learning and development (training) investments will occur over the next two years; 44 percent indicate new-hire onboarding as a two-year investment priority. In other words, organizations target significant budget dollars toward increasing sales force productivity, a key objective and measurement yardstick for sales operations.

The highlights above represent only a sample of the full results received by participants. We look forward to sharing more of our sales operations research findings with you in future articles, and encourage your participation in the 2017 Sales Operations Trends Survey.

How does your sales operations function compare to the study respondents’ organizations? To learn more about AGI’s Sales Operations practice or to join our sales operations studies, contact Kahla Cooper at kcooper@alexandergroup.com.

Arshad Carim and Matt Greenstein lead the Alexander Group’s Sales Operations practice.

Learn more about the Alexander Group’s perspectives on sales operations or schedule a briefing with one of our practice leaders.

Alex Tolmasoff, a consultant in AGI’s San Francisco office, contributed to this article.

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Arshad Carim

Arshad Carim is a principal in the San Francisco office, with over 24 years of business and consulting experience. Arshad leads the firm’s health care efforts in the Western region. He also leads consulting engagements and teams, manages key account relationships, drives business development activities and supports talent development. With experience across multiple industries including life sciences, medical device, high technology, and general B2B, Arshad leverages his cross-industry depth to create and implement high-impact solutions.

Prior to joining the Alexander Group, Arshad spent six years gaining experience in various marketing and sales management positions in the telecommunications industry. Arshad has directly managed a large regional wireless company’s local market sales force, providing leadership to a team of sales representatives. He managed major nationwide product launches and developed marketing plans for new feature releases. Arshad holds an MBA from the University of California, Berkeley Haas School of Business, a B.S. in marketing/management from the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business, and a B.A.Sc. from the University of Pennsylvania School of Engineering and Applied Science.