Sales Operations – the oil in the insight engineBy: Matt Greenstein Sales Operations
What happens when you start an engine without oil? It sputters, smokes and eventually stops. If you’re driving your sales force to adopt an insight-led selling approach, don’t try to start it without adding the oil – Sales Operations. A hot topic among sales executives right now is the shift to Insight-led sales. This means when sellers engage with customers, not only do they demonstrate an accurate and deep understanding of the customer’s business, but they also share insights on the industry; the market; and more importantly, how their solution will deliver positive outcomes for the customer’s business. Customers, in turn, open up and engage in a more meaningful dialogue on how they can work together. Sales leaders tell us the challenges faced when moving to insight-led selling include:
- Getting Sales and Marketing to collaborate effectively to source insights
- Collecting, packaging and curating insights to make them easily accessible to sales reps
- Coaching sales reps to adopt and deliver insights to customers
They also tell us that the key to overcoming these challenges is building a highly functioning “Engine” – a systematic way to enable sales reps with insights that help them win more often, increase average deal size and develop loyal customer followings. These Insight Engines source, package and deliver relevant insights to sellers.
The Insight Engine is not a tool or piece of software. Instead, it’s a process and a business discipline. The engine requires the smooth coordination of two components, namely Sales and Marketing. The engine features a regular cadence of meetings (e.g., quarterly) where Sales and Marketing stakeholders collaborate to develop the insights sellers need to grow pipelines, win more often and increase average deal size. Sales stakeholders include senior leadership and first- and second-line sales managers collaborating with strategic and product marketing stakeholders.
Research participants tell us Sales Operations must act as the oil to keep the Insight Engine running. Without the discipline and execution capabilities of a strong Sales Operations function, the Insight Engine quickly breaks down, like so many failed sales improvement efforts that went before it.
How Can Sales Operations Help?
- Manage the Process – Sales Operations must coordinate and facilitate the regular engagement between Sales and Marketing. The Sales Operations leader has the right charter to run regular meetings, document insights and coordinate action steps.
- Facilitate Insight Harvesting – They work with the Sales organization between sessions to bring together learnings from Win/Loss analysis, customer success stories and field tests. They champion the importance of harvesting and sharing insights, and thoughtfully leverage SPIFFs and recognition programs to support this effort.
- Facilitate Insight Packaging and Delivery to the Field – Sales Operations works with Marketing to inform insight codification, management and dissemination. They select the channels to deliver the insights to sellers including, but not limited to, training programs, field management coaching, sales meetings, email, CRM or a number of other tools and communication vehicles.
- Track and Measure Impact – Sales Operations collects feedback on the impact of insights. They track and measure results to help improve the process and the quality and effectiveness of the Insight Engine. Based on this feedback Marketing can effectively curate the portfolio of insights for usage, removing underperforming and outdated insights and refreshing with new points of view. The continual refreshing of the Insight Engine is critical to keep the field engaged and motivated to use insights on an on-going basis.
Gaining sustainable lift from Insight-led selling requires overcoming the challenges inherent in functional silos and product-heavy sales collateral. Sales leaders need to look no further than their own backyard (their Sales Operations function) to charter and activate an effective Insight-led selling program. This may require investment in different or additional Sales Operations talent. So tap your Sales Operations oil well and watch your Insight Engine purr!