In the last couple of years a number of different people, with different backgrounds, have asked what a career in sales operations is like and how to get into it.

I wanted to collect some thoughts around how someone might move into sales operations and what skills to accentuate if you are considering a potential move.

Typical Profile

There are a number of characteristics that I think a successful person in sales operations embodies.

  • Talented multi-tasker
  • Takes pride in helping/improving others
  • Fast learner or an ability to self teach and pickup new technology/methods/etc
  • Excellent communication skills

That being said, there’s a wide range in personalities of those within the function. And I’ve seen very ambitious people as well as those who took comfort in pride and didn’t aspire to the next level. There are roles fit for both.

Transition Advice

Those looking to move into sales operations should make themselves familiar with a sales environment and terminology. For those moving from a sales position this shouldn’t be hard. For those who perhaps have a more administrative role it would be good to spend some time in that world. If you have a sales operations function at your company, talk with your manager and ask to be a part of a project they are working on for about 10% of your time. Most managers will welcome the chance to develop your skills and help your career ambitions. I’d also suggest to ask to shadow some sales meetings. This will give you a good feel for the cadence of the business and the atmosphere.

Career Path

There is an increasing number of options for those with a background in sales operations. I’ve seen people move to a variety of positions including

  • Inside sales or sales development manager. These positions are a lot more metrics driven then other sales positions and so there is an easy synergy between the two.
  • FP&A or other financial functions. An understanding of complex metrics can be a great asset for advanced planning exercises.
  • COO of a start up. Sales operations methods and learning can be applied to a number of other functions and this can be a logical move.

If you have any questions about a career in sales operations, I’m always willing to provide some honest advice and mentoring. Please contact me at marissa@salesopshelp.com

  1. Sophie says:

    How do I make the transition fro Inside sales to sales ops – what courses do I need ? I’ve been in Inside Sales for 10 years – I have always exceeded my quota by 20% or more in the years I’ve been with the company I work for. I am metrics driven and would love to pass over to sales ops and create better tools for sales. I live in Quebec Canada but work for an International company.

    • Marissa White says:

      Hi Sophie. Congrats on all your success in inside sales – that’s an impressive track record. My suggestion would be to take on a project within your inside sales remit – that’s your expertise after all. Does your company already have a sales or revenue operations function? If so, I would approach them with some ideas for process improvement. If not perhaps you could approach sales management with your interest and suggest a few different initiatives. It doesn’t have to be as grand as a new system or wholescale change to a process. It could be something like introducing a new reporting suite, or perhaps highlighting some inefficiencies in a current process? Best of luck! Let me know how it goes! marissa@salesopshelp.com

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