Literature provides direction for meaningful exploration.....
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The role of Sales Operations is (thankfully) elevating. From driving operational optimization, sales operations is increasingly taking the “thought partner to sales” role. It’s moving from support to symbiosis. A few years back, the principal role of sales opns was to ensure tool function, perform administrative tasks and publish reports. A good sales operations function today does so much more. They work with sales to build short and long term sales strategy, articulate sales process, coach reps, hold sales management accountable, provide optimized sales support and drive technology adoption for ease of business.
The function itself is embedded in Sales (mostly) but sometimes in a central Operations or Finance function. The motivations and ambitions of the parent group also influence the role of Sales Operations. There is no right or wrong way to place the function in a company. It depends on the company strategy, company culture and other factors. But, there is a right way for the VP of Sales Operations to orchestrate the team’s relationship with sales. The right or wrong hire, at the leadership helm, means sales operations plays anything from watchdog to administrative assistant to strategic partner.
Who makes for a good VP of Sales Operations? We are solving for the strategic partner to sales. She needs skills and capabilities that are in demand for a senior leadership role – envision market and technology future, understand business trends, partner with teams internally and externally. She needs to appreciate and build a team skilled in both strategy/analysis and process/operational details. She needs political savvy to advocate for sales with the rest of the organization while having the courage to hold the VP of Sales accountable for his number.
I was reading Jason Lemkin’s old blog post on “10 Great Questions to Ask a VP of Sales in an Interview” and I got to thinking what would be 10 great questions I would ask a VP of Sales Opns if I were hiring one. This list is not exhaustive, of course you must test for industry/company fit and personality/ emotional intelligence etc. Some of these questions don’t have definite answers, but if you don’t garner logical thinking in the answer or worse, hear an answer that seems too good to be true or even worse, no answer move on.
Bonus question: Why do you really want the job? – tells you how authentic they are, if they can articulate how the business strategy/responsibilities tie back to outcomes they can drive, their values/passion etc.
The right VP of Sales Operations makes a critical difference to the charter of the Sales Operations team and its reputation/effectiveness both inside the company and with external stakeholders. Choose wisely!
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