At a recent Chief Sales Executive Operations Forum, Alexander Group identified the three top sales functions for Sales Operations. Identifying customer needs and enhancing sales productivity were the first two of these roles reviewed. The final function of Sales Operations is to create the messaging, resources and tools to increase sales.

Phase III Sales Operations groups look at enablement in a holistic way. It begins with one objective: help sellers deliver things that their customers value. Through this lens, Phase III Sales Ops groups consider investments in sales enablement that fall into three interrelated categories:

Marketing delivers messages that are often product-centric. Sales Ops is in the business of developing sales messages that are customer-centric. Messages developed by Sales Ops derive from a deep understanding of customer needs and how their company’s products can help to address them. Brian Frank of LinkedIn tells us that the messages his team develops fall into three categories;

1.    Transactional/price-centric
2.    Gee whiz product/feature-centric
3.    Potentially disruptive to how important business processes are conducted

The “disruptive” idea and messaging is critical to differentiation. To populate the disruptive message inventory, Sales Ops dedicates resources to customer research to find out what they value most. Often working with marketing and top sellers, Sales Ops helps craft configurations of products and services that deliver the advantages that customers say they value. They also tailor the messaging and collateral needed to capture the imagination of these target customers.

In cases where Marketing and Sales have consistently teamed to create value for customers, companies have combined Sales and Marketing Ops organizations to facilitate resource sharing and commitment to production of disruptive messages.

In many cases Sales Ops is a home for highly specialized resources whose mission is to make sellers more productive. These resources come in three flavors:

1.    Data Specialists who can help sellers sift through raw data (customer, market, sales, cost, etc.) to spot trends and opportunities to add value. Said one executive, “Our close rate is 35 percent higher when we team sellers with data specialists who can spot and quantify value opportunities.”
2.    Inside Sales teammates who can create and qualify leads and handle SMB or remote customers, saving outside sellers’ valuable time.
3.    Renewal Specialists who help get sellers out of routine transactions so they can focus on opportunities to add more value.

Sales Ops creates tools that sellers can use to take full advantage of the complex array of power messages and resources that are now available. This includes:

1.    Playbooks that articulate the steps, resources and timing needed to execute complex sales processes
2.    Cases, references, up-to-date product and solution documentation, all available via mobile devices

To recognize the role of Ops in enabling sales results, many Ops leaders indicate that they (and many in their function) are now measured and incented similarly to sales management and front-line sellers. In several cases we learned that Sales Ops has both significant incentive risk and upside that depend on reaching or exceeding the sales goal.

One Operations Forum attendee noted that Sales Ops is emerging as a “cultural architect” that “re-engineers” how functions like Sales, IT, Marketing, Finance and HR interact “to better deliver value to customers instead of accruing power to their silo.” High-impact Sales Ops functions are influencing their company cultures by turning critical functions away from internal issues toward teaming for the benefit of the customer and ultimately themselves. Put another way, Sales Ops is fostering “enlightened self-interest.”

Such customer centricity is enhanced, even enabled, by Operations groups that do several things well. They develop compelling sales messages. They help manage the resources and build the tools needed to deliver such messages well. They build the IP needed to provide the value behind the message. And they enable their companies to spot new value propositions early and deliver them before the competition.

That is the value that top Sales Ops functions provide. By combining analytical expertise with customer savvy, they help their company better leverage its strengths by bridging internal barriers to deliver knowledge-based value to customers.

The best Sales Operations groups provide a basis for real and sustainable competitive differentiation.

Read Part 1 or Part 2 of this blog series or download the full executive summary whitepaper.

To learn more about Insight-led Selling, join us in November for the 2014 Chief Sales Executive Reinvention Forum at the Eau Palm Beach.

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