To be a successful business, you need to have some level of agility. The way you sell will change as your business scales and the market you’re operating in shifts. Neglecting your operational systems (which include both processes and platforms) will impede your ability to adapt to change.
You need operations in order to constantly maintain, analyze and optimize what’s going on. Additionally, having a dedicated neutral party who’s invested in the sales team’s success but not compensated based on sales performance helps you gain a more holistic understanding of where areas for improvement exist.
Operations offers that neutral outlook and ensures accountability for sales and sales management. Additionally, operations removes manual work by setting up systems that increase reporting visibility for management while improving day-to-day efficiency for reps.
Here are five steps to follow when planning sales operations processes.
1. Discovery and Audit
Before you can make a change, you need to understand the systems that are currently in place. It’s critical to have a holistic understanding of what is actually happening, what management thinks is going on and what everyone wants to come about moving forward.
Your audit should be as substantial as you can make it, digging into the setup and utilization of your sales platforms. If possible, you should interview members of the sales team and sales management about their processes and shadow reps to observe how they follow the process firsthand.
This step also includes creating documentation on the current systems.
2. Ideation of Change
Once you have an understanding of the shape your systems are currently in, you have to determine what changes need to be made in order to reach your goals.
As you’re determining how to change your processes and platforms to attain your goals, you also need to define the confines you’re working under. Can you financially motivate sales reps to work more leads? Can you eliminate restrictions around discounting that add friction for reps? What are the business requirements that you can’t change?
Then you’ll use all the information you’ve gathered to draft a process for bringing about your proposed change and establish your timeline for success.
3. Building and Implementing
Next it’s time to put your ideas into action and design a new system or update an existing one.
Depending on what you’re trying to achieve, this step can require different amounts of work and time.
For example, if you want to increase lead follow-up speed, you could set up an automated workflow to notify reps when leads come in. Or, you can alter the process for how leads are distributed. Or, you could create sales enablement assets like templates that make it easier for your reps to respond to new leads.
4. Beta Testing
Before sending a change or new system live, test it to ensure it works as intended. If your change is small, like building a new workflow, you can run tests in the platform you use. But, if you’re changing a process or adding a new tool for reps to use, you should have a portion of the team beta test it before you roll out the new system to the entire team.
Most sales teams have a rep or two who are interested in trying new things. They’re less change averse and willing to alter their process if it can improve their performance. Having these reps test out your change will not only help you ensure everything is working as intended but also provide you with champions who can help roll out the change to the rest of the team.
Having a champion group helps you build excitement for the change and equips you with some extra support since those testers can help their peers with the new system.
While you’re in the final stages of testing, it’s important to be transparent and set expectations for when the shift will impact everyone. However, if your beta test is not going as planned, don’t force the change. If your solution isn’t helping your team reach their goal, it’s better to go back to the ideation stage and re-evaluate how you can reach your goals.
5. Rollout and Communications
After you’ve tested everything and made updates based on what you learned in beta testing, it’s time to roll out the new system or system update. This involves looping everyone in, and the communication medium you choose will impact how successful your rollout is.
If the change is anything of substance, an email or Slack message won’t be sufficient. Text communications are open to interpretation, and you can’t be sure of how closely your team will read your messages. An in-person meeting or training will be most effective, though a video can also suffice. Work with sales management and your champions to ensure adoption, and make sure the team knows how to reach out if they have questions or concerns. It can be helpful to set designated support office hours when a change first rolls out.
After the rollout, you’ll need to continue to conduct quality assurance testing, since a much larger group will now be impacted. You should also collect feedback on how change is working through interviews and surveys.
Evaluate how the results of your change compare to your timeline for success, and determine how frequently you want to re-evaluate that system. If everything is working well, you can keep going. If not, you can adapt or start over.
Whenever you make a change, you’re going to have some productivity decrease as people learn the new system. But, without planning operationally, that decrease will be even bigger and team morale will likely drop.
Sales operations planning enables you to understand how your company will be impacted by a change before it happens. Planning will also help you keep your efforts in line with your original goal, provide visibility into what’s being done and streamline the change process.
Pat is the Revenue Operations Manager at New Breed. He specializes in optimizing software stacks, maintaining reporting integrity, implementing process changes and supporting our clients' needs.