I often refer to myself as working in the “sales back office”. Many people call it their sales operations team. The back office is often the missing piece for smaller teams, especially ones that aspire to big growth.
Many large companies invest in teams for their sales back office, and for good reason. The contribution is growing revenue and significantly improving sales productivity. In the recent Miller Heiman CSO Insights study, they say nearly 66.7% of organisations have a dedicated sales operations team, with a further 9.8% intending to create one in the next year. But with smaller sales teams there often isn’t the scale to make big investments in the back office, nor the experience to establish this team.
The SalesPOD capability model highlights areas often included in the Sales Back Office. The CSO Insights study points out that for smaller teams these activities may be partially picked up in other ways, by sales managers, finance or IT, or not done at all.
In my experience, a highly skilled and experienced sales back office can deliver even more value to a small and growing sales team. Much more value than just covering the functions at a minimum level in other areas.
What happens under each of these headings that is so valuable?
Process management and enablement
- The sales back office will help to define the right sales process and get it used by your sales team. Good sales processes increase the speed of deals converting through the pipeline and improve conversion rates. The result: helping sales teams achieve their targets and growing revenue.
Note: there is no “one size fits all” sales process. The right answer for your team must be aligned with your customer’s buying process.
- A good sales process becomes strong when paired with sales enablement initiatives. Sales teams are given centrally created selling tools and resources that help the customer move through their decision-making process. The combination increases the rates of speed and conversion even more.
Customer, territory and team support
- Managing your customer database well can boost sales productivity. Systematic customer segmentation is the start, putting customers into related groups. Ideally, these segments can identify how the customer will buy, and how profitably. You can then allocate the right amount of sales resources to match the needs of the customer and deliver maximum profit. There is no results killer like spending hours on prospects that will never make you any money, if you could have known that ahead of time.
- Strong territory management can bring huge productivity gains. Territory management looks at the size, structure and role definition within the sales team. A case I saw where territory management helped to grow sales was when sales territories were unbalanced. Rep A has a territory that is too large. Opportunities (and dollars) are left on the table because there is not enough time to work all the potential. Rep B has a territory that is too small. Time is wasted working with less profitable customers and the reps gets less return on their selling time. The problem sounds obvious when laid out this way, it is sometimes hard to see across a sales team without systematic analysis of the sales potential of each territory.
- Strong team support includes creating and administering sales compensation programs to both motivate your sales team and align their efforts to deliver the most profitable outcome. There is nothing worse than paying out a lot in sales bonuses and commissions when the company outcome is poor.
- Professional sales back office support for the administrative activities such as quoting and tendering can often be much more efficient and effective than having each salesperson individually re-inventing the wheel for these processes.
- Sales are easy to measure right? I mean, every salesperson just gets a sales result? True, but only partially. If you are happy to spend your time wondering what happened after every quarter of sales results, stick with sales results as the only metric. A good sales back office helps you define leading metrics. Leading metrics indicate what your sales result will be, and you can drive the selling behaviour that you know will bring sales results.
- A single sales result might be the main metric for your sales team, but almost everyone compares sales to a target. Setting targets fairly and accurately, both for the team as a whole and also for individual team members, helps targets hit the “Goldilocks” sweet spot. Not too big to be out of reach and unmotivating; not too small to be easily achieved and not rewarding your high performers; but just right. An experienced back office has mastered both the art and science of target setting.
- Similarly, many companies live or die by the accuracy of their short- and medium-term sales forecasts. The sales back office has specialised skills to analyse pipeline data, sales trends, seasonality, and all the other factors in a reliable, accurate sales forecast.
- Finally, all these numbers are just numbers. A great sales back office helps sales managers read the insights from the numbers. The information becomes an important input for decision making. You find the real gold here from a sales back office investment.
Technology and data administration
- Do you have the best technology for your business? Does your team extract the most value because the technology is implemented and managed well? It is harder than it sounds – there is so much technology out there, choosing the right thing at the right price that will deliver the most value for your team is not always easy. A lot of time and money is wasted on technology that is not used by your sales team. It quickly becomes a white elephant. An experienced back office team is the critical link between sales and the technology providers, to have the right investments made at the right time.
- When technology is in place, it only works as well as the information put into it. The sales back office can manage data quality issues like duplicated records and poor quality information. They work with the sales team to make sure the data in the systems is correct and useful. Having high-quality information requires coordination, oversight, and expertise that are hard to put together in other teams.
Watch out for some upcoming more detailed case studies in how other sales teams have unlocked new revenue growth and sales productivity using sales back office capabilities!
If you can’t wait, and would like to learn more, contact us today: info @ salespod . com . au
Finding an Extra Gear: 2nd Annual CSO Insights Sales Operations & Technology Study, Miller Heiman 2019.