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How the sales operations role is evolving in 2020

6 min readJanuary 14, 2020

Sales operations will continue to be an essential role in sales teams in 2020. Many sales ops decisions often determine whether the sales team hits their yearly targets or not.

Anyone in a sales ops role is facing some unique challenges in the next year. These are brought on by increasingly complex sales technologies, as well as the need for better reporting and analysis on company data.

We’ve spoken to a few sales operations leaders to understand how the sales ops role will evolve in 2020, and here’s what we found.

Consolidation of Sales Technology Tools

The sales technology space is starting to see consolidation as more and more vendors are looking to build the Swiss Army Knife platform for sales reps.

“I expect that we will see a consolidation in the sales technology industry. The biggest headache for someone in sales operations is to implement, configure and manage many different tools.”

“We will see a lot of vendors who currently solve one small piece of the puzzle start to move towards getting all of the pieces together, whether this is through acquisition or building their own product. In my last position, I had four different tools to do something that I do with just the Revenue.io platform,” said Jake Spear, Senior Manager of Sales Operations at Revenue.io.

Sales Cadence Tools Are Still Key

Sales cadence tools are some of the most popular software for inside sales teams. The trend will continue in the next year, according to sales ops leaders.

“Sales cadence tools will be pivotal to sales ops managers in 2020, just as they have been in the last year. Any serious sales team needs a tool that organizes a sales rep’s day, and a key component of that is Artificial Intelligence,” said Steven Wellman, Director of Operations for FreshLime.

Artificial Intelligence Will Be Everywhere in Sales

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has caused a huge buzz in the business world, where its uses are varied. One survey found that 63% of executives who have implemented AI in their business reported it led to an increase in revenue.

“Artificial Intelligence will absolutely continue to be a trend, however, where and how it’s going to be used in sales is up to debate. We are already seeing it being heavily used in analyzing sales conversations to determine the best closing strategies and faster training and onboarding. I think we will see it make its way into all aspects of the sales process, it is just a matter of which ones and when,” said Jake Spear.

Personalization at Scale

As account-based sales is an increasingly popular strategy, sales representatives are finding that they need to personalize messaging at scale. Not an easy task, and sales operations leaders are looking for solutions.

“We are seeing people trying to mass personalize sales outreach. There’s a hunger for trying to make it seem that you’re reaching out only to them, when talking to a prospect. Sales reps spend a lot of time thinking and reading and trying to sell to them. There is an effort to get sales reps to do that at scale,” said Jake Spear.

Evaluating Sales Activity Quality Over Quantity

Evaluating sales performance is one process that needs redefining in the next year. Many managers are focusing on the quantity of sales activities, and not on quality, added Jake Spear.

“Companies today are trying to map out as much data as they can as to how their sales representatives are performing. However, most of the data from vendors shows how much a sales rep does, as opposed to how well they do it. I expect in 2020 that sales operations will implement a strategy to fix the quality, because it seems at this point that quantity has been solved for,” said Jake Spear.

Business Intelligence Tools

Reporting and analytics are an essential function of the sales ops role, and business owners rely on them to get info on where they need to improve.

Although the terms are used interchangeably sometimes, they do not refer to the same concept. Managers can pull reports from the CRM (customer relationship management software) about sales performance. However, sales operations rely on data analytics to surface the insights that lead to critical business decisions.

“Business Intelligence (BI) tools are really important and will continue to be important in the next year. CRM data is not structured so you can easily build a report that tells you what you need. BI tools help you tie multiple sources of data together. The CRM just doesn’t do that, especially in the context of multiple data sources for large organizations,” said Steve Wellman.

Sales Automation and Marketing Automation

Sales automation is another popular term for tech enthusiasts. Some aspects of sales though, are most likely not going to be automated, according to sales ops leaders.

“There should be a really strong automated marketing function in any organization that is working through tens of thousands of leads. The education about your prospects and lead qualification needs to be a well-thought-out, and an automated process. You can’t really automate a sale, so the sales representative role isn’t going anywhere anytime soon,” said Steve Wellman.

Onboarding and setting up products could be automated, added Steve. “You can’t always do this, but constant outreach for added value or up-sells should be automated. Reports about how a business is doing, compared to benchmarks in the industry – these should also be automated,” he added.

Training Sales Reps to Work With Tech Tools

Complex systems that combine the CRM with automated nurturing functions are a great opportunity, but also a challenge. Training sales staff to use these systems will be a test for sales ops.

“As these systems become more advanced and powerful, the challenge will be in the training of the sales personnel. We use HubSpot, and they have a complete virtual academy for the training and certification of personnel who will be using the software platform. The overall success of any of these robust systems will be dependent on adequate training and implementation,” said Ron Humes, VP of Sales Operations, Southeast Region for Post Modern Marketing.

The Essential Skills for Sales Ops Roles in 2020:

To successfully work in the current sales tech space, sales operations specialists need solid technical skills. But more than anything, they need to have a knack for solving complicated problems.

“Sales operations managers need to be fairly technical. They need to understand software, they have to be numbers savvy and understand how to analyze data. You have to be good at spotting patterns within data so that you can draw conclusions and make changes to your process. A sales ops person needs to be incredibly detail- oriented and rigid in terms of their own process, because that’s what they need to instill on the team,” said Jake Spear.

“I don’t like to think about education or certifications, when I talk to people. I think a good sales ops manager has the desire to solve complicated problems and an analytical approach to solving them. Anything else can be taught,” said Steve Wellman.

Sales Operations Will Make or Break Your Sales Team in 2020

The best sales teams are the ones supported by a strong operations teams, added Wellman. Sales leaders need to have the data available, the technology in place and the advice of a good operations team. When they do, reaching sales targets is intentional, and not a happy accident, he adds.

“People aren’t really scalable, so having a system in place that can help pick up the load, qualify leads, take care of customers, without having people interact constantly is important. That is the difference between companies that grow and those that just fumble along,” concluded Steve Wellman.