Why does sales operations look so different from one company to the next?

If you ask ten people to describe their sales ops organizations, you will get ten different answers. Various functions are included or excluded, reporting structures are different, strategic vs. tactical emphasis varies, and how the value of sales operations is measured in many ways. Why is this the case? Here is part of the answer: different sales motions. Sales operations needs can vary significantly based on the type of sales motions at work. Imagine a large electronics company selling everything from commodity components to highly specialized, expensive custom solutions. This company has to simultaneously manage both a “fulfillment” sales motion for the commodity components and an “innovation” sales motion for the custom solutions. Sales ops needs to tailor its approach to supporting sales for these two motions.

Motions:  Innovation vs. Fulfillment.  The “innovation” motion typically involves consultative selling, insight-led selling, complex solutions, and most often economic buying entities like C-level executives or buying committees. The “fulfillment” motion typically entails the provision of choice options, execution excellence, a shorter sales cycle, and simpler solutions primarily sold based on price and features. These two “motions” require very different sales operations people, processes and tools to support them.

Motion-Agnostic “Basics.”  To start with, some sales ops functions are “baseline” or table stakes functions needed regardless of the sales motion environment. These foundational functions typically include getting reps paid, providing basic product training and issuing quota letters. The baseline functions are the first, most fundamental tasks established under the purview of sales ops that transcend motion-specific needs.

Distinguishing Innovation vs. Fulfillment Motions – People, Process, and Tool Differences.  Beyond the baseline functions, however, sales operations must tailor its support and solutions for the innovation and fulfillment motions. Take a look at the sales ops areas and how they differ between these two sales motions.

Analytics & Reporting
As the above examples illustrate, the variance in your sales motions may dictate the mix of talent, activities and tools required to support the sales organization completely.

Investment and Measurement.  So, based on the sales motion, how should you invest in sales ops and measure success? For a fulfillment motion, the investment path typically includes early spend on key efficiency tools – to get basic reporting done, manage territories, support pricing, drive lead throughput, etc. The combination of systems/tools investment and resources to work the tools and produce the required analytics, reports and outcomes comprise the majority of the investments for the fulfillment sales motion. Measures of success include a number of efficiency metrics, such as number of leads, pricing adherence, order processing efficiency, timeliness of payouts, service reliability, net promoter score (NPS) and the like. In contrast, the innovation sales motion demands a more people-centric investment that aligns skills and talent to the complexity, size and longer timeframe of this motion. Investing in sales ops people with the right DNA is critical to success in staffing the types of roles needed for the innovation motion – people who can inject value into the sales process through more intimate customer knowledge, a deeper understanding of customer issues and company solutions, and an ability to marshal and mobilize key internal support to help close deals and increase revenue. Innovation sales motion measures of success will focus much more on effectiveness measures, such as deal size, solution breadth, lifetime customer value and adoption success.

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