If you're running a SaaS sales organization, we don’t need to tell you that sales operations are essential for success.
It’s how we fuel the sales cycle and confirm all the resources and strategies needed for optimal sales performance.
But what do sales operations entail for sales managers in the modern product-led growth (PLG) world?
Sure, you’re still treating sales operations as the processes, systems, and tools that support your sales team in driving revenue.
In a SaaS company, a high-performing sales ops team can be the difference between success and failure.
According to LinkedIn, sales operations has enjoyed a 38% increase in organizational commitment from 2018 to 2020.
Sales operations helps streamline the sales process, increase productivity, and improve customer satisfaction. With the right systems and processes in place, your sales team can focus on what they do best: selling your product.
However, having a well-oiled sales machine in today's market is not enough. SaaS companies increasingly turn to product-led sales (PLS) to fuel their business operations.
There are various sales strategies within PLS, but your product is always the primary driver of customer acquisition, retention, and expansion. This means that the customer experience with your product is at the center of your growth strategy.
Let’s redefine sales operations for your sales and CS teams with the help of a fantastic group of CEOs and sales and marketing leaders and set up the best sales methodologies in your SaaS company.
Let’s start with a sales operations definition, their key functions, and how they differ between sales-led and product-led approaches.
What is sales operations and what does it entail?
At its core, sales operations are the processes, systems, and tools that support the sales team in achieving their goals. This includes everything from lead generation to post-sales support, focusing on driving revenue and ensuring customer success.
The responsibilities of your sales operations specialists can vary depending on the size and structure of your organization but typically include:
- Developing and managing sales processes and workflows.
- Providing sales training and enablement.
- Managing sales data and analytics.
- Coordinating with other departments, such as marketing and product, to ensure alignment.
- Ensuring compliance with regulations and internal policies.
Efforts that might go to waste in a sales-led approach.
We spoke to Levi Olmstead, an Associate Directore over at Whatfix regarding the most important aspects of a PLG sales operation.
“PLG for sales teams means redefining how the sales cycle works by having leads actually use the product through a free trial to understands its benefits and value first-hand. This provides context to a prospect, allowing your product to drive the sales process.”
Levi Olmstead - Associate Director, Content Marketing at Whatfix
Regardless of which approach you take, sales operations plays a crucial role in ensuring the success of your sales team. The role of sales operations in the sales process is to streamline and optimize the sales process.
The problem with sales-led operations
Did you know that despite 90% of sales operations experts agreeing that regular planning is vital to success, just 35% aim to make it a quarterly commitment?
How do you define sales productivity?
In a sales-led approach, the sales team is the primary driver of revenue, with a focus on cold calling, lead generation, and closing deals.
While this approach may have worked in the past, it's becoming less effective in today's SaaS landscape.
Because customers are more empowered than ever before.
They have access to a wealth of information about your product, competitors, and industry. They can educate themselves and make informed decisions without ever speaking to a salesperson.
In fact, many customers prefer it that way.
This shift in power means that traditional sales-led strategies are no longer effective in driving growth for SaaS companies. Instead, modern SaaS companies must adopt a product-led approach that prioritizes the customer experience and leverages the product as the primary driver of growth. In fact, most organizations benefit from a hybrid approach utilizing the best of both worlds.
Customers are more informed and have higher expectations, which means a sales-led approach can come off as pushy and out of touch. Especially if your sales enablement teams are coaching your reps according to the classic sales funnel flow.
With the non-linear buying process in action, your sales operations leaders must anticipate leads jumping into the funnel at any stage.
According to Alex Kracov, CEO of Dock, the most effective sales strategies place their reps in consulting roles akin to a high-touch model.
“Because so much of the buying process is information gathering, the best sellers today are consultants. Top sellers collaborate with buyers to answer product questions and show how the product will solve their problems. They help reduce complexity for buyers by curating information, navigating features, and advising on the pros and cons of each decision.”
Alex Kracov, CEO of Dock
Harness modern sales technology in your market strategies
Your sales operations department must focus on delivering a customer-centric experience.
By understanding the customer journey and their pain points, sales ops teams can optimize the sales process to deliver a better user experience. This can lead to increased customer satisfaction, loyalty, and revenue.
“Create company-wide, easy-accessible dashboards that showcase 3-4 “big rock” metrics that power your PLS model, such as freemium download, number of freemium users converted to paid accounts, percentage of freemium users/paid accounts, and total ARR that has come from freemium-to-paid won accounts.”
Levi Olmstead - Associate Director, Content Marketing at Whatfix
A data-driven approach is essential to achieve this setup.
By analyzing your sales metrics, your sales ops teams can identify trends and areas for improvement, helping to optimize the sales process and improve the customer experience.
“Leverage social proof to build a sales operation for product-led growth successfully. By incorporating social proof like customer reviews and testimonials, you can showcase other customers' success with your product. This helps establish your product as a trusted and reliable solution in your prospects' eyes, potentially leading to increased conversions and sales growth.”
“Social proof breaks down barriers to adoption, as prospects are more likely to try a product that has been proven successful by others. This is vital in a product-led growth strategy, where the focus is on building a self-serve buying experience that empowers customers to try the product first-hand.”
Riva Jeane May Caburog Account Manager at TriBu LinkBuilder
It’s a great way to expand your sales territories and enables your teams to make truly informed decisions and track the success of their efforts over time.
How to build a high-performance sales ops team
Great, you've recognized the importance of building a high-performing sales operations team for your product-led SaaS company.
But how do you create this team and ensure they have the skills and knowledge necessary to drive your product-led growth strategy?
Focus on your growth areas
How can we begin helping the 36% of sales operations pros that can’t find the sweet spot between strategy and operation?
First, it's important to identify the skills and qualifications needed for a sales ops team for your PLG motion.
In addition to strong analytical skills and attention to detail, sales ops team members should also have experience in sales or customer success.
“In my experience, the best way to build a sales operation for PLG is to put customer success before sales in the customer journey. I've seen many companies try to build a strong sales team by focusing on the "sales" part of "sales and marketing." They think that if they're able to get their product in front of more people, then more people will buy it—and that will lead to more revenue.”
“But this isn't how it works. First of all, you have to understand what makes a good salesperson. It's not their ability to talk people into buying your product; it's their ability to get your product into the hands of the right people at the right time.”
Gauri Manglik - CEO & Co-founder at Instrumentl
Your SDRs and AEs should be familiar with the product, understand the customer journey, and communicate effectively with other departments, such as marketing and product.
Who to hire in a sales operations role
When it comes to recruitment, it's important to focus on finding the ideal candidate with the necessary skills and qualifications that align with your company's culture and values.
Have you ever thought about using behavioral-based interviewing to evaluate a candidate?
You’re looking for signals proving their problem-solving skills and ability to work collaboratively.
It's a fantastic way to gain insight into a candidate's decision-making process and how they handle challenges. You’ll learn more about a candidate's past experiences and get a better sense of how they would perform on the job.
Just don’t fall into the three biggest hiring traps:
- Focusing too strongly on personality: The human touch is part of the responsibilities of sales operations, but don’t let charisma sway your decision. Make a candidate’s regular sales performance reviews your litmus test.
- Hiring reps whose values clash with yours: An efficient sales process is a united one. Candidates who haven’t already internalized your motivations will likely cause friction in your sales operations management.
- Deprioritizing your product: You want your candidates to live, breathe, and eat your product. So, make sure you use your wares as a major selling point and ensure a candidate appreciates their value.
Don’t forget about training
One alarming stat from McKinsey regarding the glaring skill gap in today’s workforce reveals that 40% of employers can’t find the right talent. A deficit impacting the sales world, too, as the industry becomes increasingly demanding and technical.
Once you've built your sales ops team, provide them with effective training and development strategies to ensure they stay up-to-date with product knowledge and sales tactics.
This can include onboarding sessions, ongoing training sessions, and opportunities for mentorship and coaching.
“Offer training and support to your sales-led team to better understand what product-led growth is and how it can benefit the company. The team may initially be hesitant to adopt this new approach, but they'll be more confident once they realize how it can help them smoothly deal with customers. It will also let them see the bigger picture and understand how a product-led approach can support their sales goals.”
“The training should include teaching your sales-led team the pillars of product-led growth. You can also encourage them to share their learnings and best practices with their colleagues. That way, it will be easier for the team to identify areas for improvement and collaborate to drive better sales outcomes.”
Milo Cruz - Writer, CMO at Freelance Writing Jobs
To build a team focused on product-led growth, consider creating a culture of experimentation and data-driven decision-making.
And by experiments, we mean behaviors like actioning a data-driven insight.
Encourage your sales operations managers to test new sales activities and tactics and to analyze the results to determine what works best. This will drive innovation and create a more collaborative and supportive work environment.
Another effective strategy is to involve your sales ops team in the product development process. This will give them a deeper understanding of the product and the customer journey, enabling them to optimize the sales process better and provide valuable feedback to the product team.
5 strategies for sales process optimization
Why is it that 51% of sales operations experts feel they aren’t getting enough resources to do their jobs properly?
Sure, we could all use a bit more help - regardless of our position. But the shrewdest sales leaders know how to make a little go a long way.
As a SaaS sales leader, you understand that optimizing your sales process is crucial to your company's success.
But how do you ensure that your sales process is effective and efficient?
By implementing the right strategies, your sales ops team can help you streamline your sales process and maximize revenue with actionable insights.
Here are five effective strategies for optimizing your operational tasks.
1. Establish clear sales goals and targets
One of the key roles of sales operations is to help establish clear sales goals and targets.
This involves setting targets for sales reps and tracking and analyzing their performance. Having clear goals in place motivates your sales reps and helps them stay focused on achieving their compensation targets.
We recommend the Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) framework to order your business acumen. OKRs are a strategic function for big names like IBM and Google.
Here’s how to set them up:
- Objectives: The goals that motivate your territory design and create a path forward for your sales department. “Where are we going?”
- Key Results: The steps you’ll take that create a measurable progression to your sales wins. “How do we know we’re making progress?”
- Initiatives: These are the jobs to be done that achieve your Key Results. “What can we do to win?”
2. Implement effective sales processes and methodologies
Within your SaaS company, your sales floor is always buzzing as your reps do their best to boost your recurring revenue.
Sales operations can help you establish effective sales processes and methodologies tailored to your product and customer base.
“The freemium version provides prospects with most all end-user features, but with only a certain allotment of workspaces, videos, designs that can be created with that freemium account.”
“Outside of unlimited workspaces, these platforms all gate their “team”-based features that allow them to collaborate and share and brand workspaces.”
Levi Olmstead - Associate Director, Content Marketing at Whatfix
This involves identifying the key stages of your sales process, and creating a standardized process that is easy to follow and track.
Streamlining your sales process can reduce the time it takes to close deals and increase overall efficiency.
3. Analyze and optimize sales data
One major sales function is identifying opportunities for customer success and expansion.
But how do you work strategic insights into your territory planning and land and expand opportunities?
Sales operations can help you analyze and optimize sales data to identify opportunities for customer success and expansion.
“Demonstrate the value of customer data to encourage sales-led teams to consider product-led growth. By showcasing how customer data can provide insights into customer behavior and preferences, sales-led teams can better understand their customers and improve customer satisfaction.”
“A product-led approach can help sales-led teams collect and leverage customer data to improve their sales process. They can also use it to shorten sales cycles and boost upsell opportunities. This allows sales-led teams to match their sales strategy to align with customer needs, which leads to better retention and overall customer experience.”
Allan Stolc, Founder and CEO of Bankly
By tracking customer behavior and engagement, you can gain insights into how customers are using your product and identify areas where they may need additional support or training.
This can help you identify opportunities for cross-selling or upselling, and ultimately increase revenue.
4. Align sales and marketing efforts
Want to create a seamless customer journey centered around your product?
Sales operations can help you align sales and marketing efforts to create a seamless customer journey that is centered around your product.
By working closely with marketing, you can ensure that your messaging is consistent across all channels and that your sales reps have the tools they need to effectively communicate your product's value.
This can help you eliminate silos between sales and marketing, and create a more cohesive customer experience.
And you’ll be amazed at how quickly your marketers will be identifying potential product-qualified accounts once you’ve set the foundations.
5. Develop effective sales enablement tools
Finally, sales operations can help you develop effective sales enablement tools that emphasize the value and usage of your product.
This includes things like product demos, case studies, and customer success stories.
By providing your sales reps with these tools, you can help them better communicate the value of your product to prospects and close more deals.
Let’s upgrade your sales tech stack.
The best tools for automating your sales process
Salesforce’s latest State of Sales report finds that nearly 90% of sales professionals consider sales operations a non-negotiable aspect of their growth.
However, no company can grow without the right tools, and equipping your sales operations pros with the right software is vital for their success.
Picture this: you've got a fantastic product that you're ready to share with the world. You've spent countless hours perfecting it; now it's time to start selling.
But how do you make sure your sales process is as efficient and effective as possible?
By automating your sales process, you're setting yourself up for success and paving the way for product-led growth.
Luckily, many powerful tools are available that can help you streamline your administrative tasks, enable accurate sales forecasting, and ensure your customer service leaves no one out.
“Investing in sales automation and enablement tools streamlines the sales process and improves efficiency. This equips your sales team with the essential knowledge and resources to successfully carry out their tasks. It also helps scale your sales operation for product-led growth to meet the demands of your growing customer base.”
Sam Tabak, Board Member at Rabbi Meir Baal Haness Charities
Here are some of the best sales tools for your PLG tech stack that your entire team can benefit from.
Clearbit is a powerful enrichment tool that can help you better understand your customers and prospects.
By providing detailed information on their job titles, company size, and other important data points, Clearbit can help you tailor your sales and marketing efforts to meet their needs better.
Pre-sales and post-sales CRM: Breyta
Breyta is a pre-sales and post-sales CRM that can help you manage your entire customer journey, from lead generation to customer success.
Track all of your customer interactions in one place, identify opportunities for upselling and expansion, and ensure that your team is always working towards your product-led goals.
Marketing automation and support: Intercom
Intercom is a marketing automation and support tool that can help you engage with your customers and prospects at every stage of the funnel.
Automate your messaging and communication, provide personalized support, and deliver targeted marketing campaigns that drive conversions.
Data warehouse: Snowflake
Snowflake is a cloud-based data warehouse that can help you centralize your data, making it easier to analyze and act on.
Store large amounts of data in a scalable and flexible environment, and gain insights into your customers' behavior, preferences, and needs.
Product analytics: Mixpanel
Mixpanel is a product analytics tool that can help you understand how your customers use your product and identify areas for improvement.
With Mixpanel and its sales analytics, you can track user behavior, measure the impact of new features, and optimize your product to drive engagement and retention.
Product onboarding: Userflow
Userflow is a product onboarding tool that can help you streamline the user experience for new customers.
Create interactive onboarding flows that guide users through the key features of your product, reducing churn and improving adoption rates.
Stripe is a payment processing tool that can help you streamline your revenue operations, and enable fast and secure transactions.
Accept payments from customers in over 135 currencies, automate your billing and invoicing, and minimize fraud and chargebacks.
BI/Revenue intelligence: Metabase and ChartMogul
Metabase and ChartMogul are powerful BI and revenue intelligence tools that can help you analyze your sales and revenue data, and make data-driven decisions.
With Metabase and ChartMogul, your sales operations analyst can create custom reports, track key metrics, and gain insights into your customer behavior and revenue streams.
How to measure and monitor the performance of your sales ops team
Measuring the performance of your sales operations team is essential to ensure that your product-led growth strategy is on track.
Without proper monitoring, you won't know if your team is achieving their targets or where improvements are needed.
Here are some effective ways to measure and monitor the performance of your sales ops team:
- Identify key performance indicators (KPIs): Identify the KPIs that are most relevant to your sales ops team. These could include metrics like win rates, pipeline conversion rates, sales velocity, customer acquisition cost, and customer lifetime value.
- Use data visualization tools: Data visualization tools like dashboards, charts, and graphs can help you easily monitor your KPIs in real time. By using these tools, you can quickly spot trends, patterns, and outliers requiring attention.
- Conduct regular performance reviews: Regular performance reviews with your sales ops team can help you identify areas where they excel and areas where they need more support.
During these reviews, you can provide feedback on performance, set new targets, and discuss any challenges or obstacles that need to be addressed.
Coach sales managers and implement training programs
According to Salesforce, 75% of sales ops pros are actively handling novel responsibilities, and 64% expect even more change to come.
Coaching and training programs can help your sales ops team stay up-to-date with the latest sales techniques and product knowledge.
These programs can also help identify skill gaps and provide targeted training to improve performance.
Measure customer satisfaction
The ultimate measure of success for your sales ops team is customer satisfaction.
“Distribute social proof and trust signals to optimize the top-of-the-funnel sales process. SaaS reviews and ratings can resolve signup frictions in the Awareness stage. For instance, you can incorporate trust signals on your SaaS product page, including excellent reviews and five-star ratings.”
“Case studies and customer testimonials demonstrate past results and wins, boosting conversions in the next stage of the buyer’s journey. Share your story using these social proofs to make the customer experience more realistic for successful product-led growth and product-led sales.”
Simon Bacher, Co-Founder at Ling
By regularly measuring customer satisfaction through surveys and feedback, you can gain insights into the effectiveness of your sales ops team and identify areas that need improvement.
Breyta lets you create a live customer health score that lets you keep track of your customers’ engagement.
Staying on top of churn maintains your thriving customer base and a glowing net retention rate (NRR).
These aren’t reps - they’re operators
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Sales Operations and Research Analysts have enjoyed a 25% job growth spurt, triple that of the national average.
Don't underestimate the critical role that sales operations play in driving product-led growth for your sales effectiveness.
You need to consider the various strategies, tools, and KPIs that sales leaders should implement when building and managing an effective sales ops team.
By optimizing your sales process with effective sales operations and your insights on sales technology, you can achieve higher conversion rates, better customer experiences, and faster revenue growth.
While building your sales enablement strategy, don’t neglect your sales compensation design. Your teams will be working very hard to bring your strategy to life, and deserve adequate sales incentive plans.
One tool that can make a huge difference in streamlining and automating your sales process while streamlining your development to sales compensation is Breyta.
Breyta empowers you to track and manage your customers' journey, from initial contact through to renewal and expansion.
By focusing on the customer journey and adopting a data-driven approach to sales operations, you can build a sales engine that scales efficiently and drives revenue growth for your SaaS business.
Don't miss out on the opportunity to build a strategic asset that will lead your company to success.