Storytelling: The next major sales operations innovation

By: Arshad Carim Sales Operations

Does your Sales Operations team focus only on classic functions like data management, reporting, enablement tools, sales comp, quota, territories, and the like? Does your sales organization cull the right insights from data and reports created by Sales Ops? Alexander Group research shows that there is a great chasm forming between what the sales organization needs and what the Sales Operations team is capable of delivering. More and more data is available and the sales organization needs help turning mindless reports and spreadsheets into real insights. Sales needs to be told what the data means and how to use it to drive incremental growth.

Enter the Sales Operations Storyteller.  This is a new breed of Sales Operations talent combining business acumen, customer knowledge, data manipulation skills and sales savvy. Typical qualifications include an MBA, expert skills in manipulating core company/sales tools, and an uncanny ability to translate varied bits and bytes of information into a compelling whole that creates differential value for sellers.

Storyteller’s Role.  Instead of classic data management activities including churning out management reports, pipeline statistics, and forecasts, the Storyteller is focused on helping a sales rep determine the next key growth opportunity in an account or territory. Sales leaders tell The Alexander Group that the best Sales Operations teams flawlessly execute the classic functions and have evolved to bring this type of next-level value. They equip the rep with compelling statements backed by credible data. What should be sold to a particular customer next? What is a customer willing to pay for the newest technology? What hard recurring savings can a seller promise to a customer based on investment in the firm’s product?

Clear Focus on Sales Results.  For Storytellers, the ultimate measures of success rest in their abilities to consistently drive higher than average win rates, increase sales productivity, and reduce sales cycle time through undeniable insights unique to the market. They are held accountable for results like their sales counterparts.

Where do Storytellers Belong?  Storytellers must be very close to the sales organization to drive impact. Although some would quickly categorize the role of Storytelling as a Marketing function, this capability needs to be sales driven and therefore reside in the Sales Ops organization. Storytellers must be able to zoom out and understand strategy and growth opportunity at large but also zoom in to translate strategy and data into territory and account level execution.

What’s in the Storyteller’s Arsenal?  Recent Alexander Group research revealed a number of tools to support the Storyteller. They are armed with slick software platforms to manipulate and present the story. Examples include Tableau, Qlikview, LinkedIn paid tools,, and Anaplan.

More important than any tool, however, is the capability to access “clean” data from multiple sources to fuse an integrated story for sales to deliver. This requires core “tablestakes” capabilities such as a single customer master, reliable CRM data, and accurate sales results by product or SKU. Without these core fundamentals, the Storyteller’s efficacy is greatly reduced and may make the investment in storytelling a losing proposition.

Storytelling Increases Sales Ops’ Value.  Companies that are embracing this function believe they can separate themselves from competitors by building a strong and compelling storytelling capability. They believe this role scalably infuses much needed discipline – a data-driven way to drive sales growth – into the sales organization. Storytelling creates a great opportunity for Sales Ops to elevate its role in the organization as a strategic weapon that transcends traditional core responsibilities such as territory design, quota allocation and compensation administration.

Learn more about The Alexander Group’s perspectives on Sales Operations.

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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.