What is Sales Operations?

The role of sales operations continues to grow and evolve. So what is sales operations?

Back in the 1970s at Xerox, J. Patrick Kelly established a sales operations group to take on sales planning, compensation, forecasting and territory design. Kelly described his responsibilities as ‘all the nasty things you don’t want to do, but need to do to make a great sales force.’ Ten years ago only the most advanced sales organisations had a distinct function and even a few years ago many had never heard of sales operations. At the same time, the science of sales operations is growing and new technology, new thinking and new buying trends means it’s even more important to ensure your sales organisation is properly enabled and supported.

So, What is sales operations? In recent conversations I’ve heard:

  • Oh, that’s like, Salesforce.com stuff, right?
  • Commissions, that’s not Sales Ops work, is it?
  • Isn’t that sales management’s job?

Sales operations often looks different at every company. There are different levels of maturity, which I will cover and there are also different levels of depth. For the purpose of this whitepaper I want to mostly focus on what sales ops looks like at its best.

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