Automating Sales Operations: Why & How

These days, few if any organizations are still manually managing their sales processes. 

That being said, let’s state the obvious: using Excel to do anything is computer-enabled manual processing, but it is not automation.  Nor is using fragmented and dis-integrated tools for all of the elements related to sales and selling.  Just as the chain is only as strong as its weakest link, automated Sales Operations management is only as useful and effective as its weakest element.

The goal of selling is to generate more revenue and profits by acquiring, retaining and enhancing profitable customer relationships.  The goal of Sales Operations is to enable the information integration, relationship and opportunity management, pipeline tracking, analytics and forecasting, sales and performance management, and process standardization required to make selling as precise, timely and relevant as customers demand it.

Truly automated Sales Operations makes the sales force more informed, more powerful, more nimble, more responsive, more accountable and ultimately more effective and productive.  Those who have implemented and operated fully automated Sales Operations functions largely conclude that most sales ineffectiveness and failures results from dis-integrated execution of sales-enabling functions, not the sales efforts themselves:  no matter how hard you pump the bike pedals, you’re not going far if the gears are broken.

So, for selling to be optimally effective, the full Sales Operations value chain needs to be aligned and automated.  How?

First, Sales Operations needs to be concurrently data-centric, customer-centric, and sales/service-force-centric.  Every interaction/transaction by every entity/participant in the sales/service process needs to be cross-referenced at its most granular level.  That way, interactions/transactions can be multi-dimensionally utilized in all processes (i.e. opportunity management, pipeline tracking) and for all events (i.e. forecast, analytic and performance reporting).

Second, Sales Operations must be fully integrated with marketing campaign and customer service management automation:  for most verticals, most sales revenues comes from existing customers, so it is ridiculous to isolate sales and Sales Operations management from marketing and customer service.

Third, the velocity of Sales Operations should be fully harmonized with the velocity of customer expectations and interactions.  If sales happen fast and frequently, Sales Operations needs to happen real-time: post month-end sales performance reporting is irrelevant (and, thus, largely useless to the sales force) for a business where sales results are influenced hourly and daily.

Finally, your fully integrated Sales Operations automation solution (and, they do exist on the market) needs to be dynamically adaptable to change.  Products, prices, territories, organizations, participants, processes, goals, and compensation each change all of the time in response to volatile market and competitive conditions.  Your sales automation solution must be able to, as well.

Generals can send the best-trained force onto the battle field, but if they are ill-equipped with battle-irrelevant information and tools, they will not succeed, no matter how brilliant the battle plan.  In sales and selling, automated Sales Operations management is the not-so-secret weapon of choice.

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