Sales Operations varies from company to company and industry to industry. However, in my experience, the two overarching themes that I’ve found regarding Sales Operations essentials are Sales process and analytics. An understanding of both has informed how I think about hiring and training the people I work with.
One of my favorite interview questions when hiring someone to join a Sales Operations team is, “do you like to cook?”
You can tell a lot about a candidate by their answer to that question. While I anticipate a Sales representative to respond, “I mostly eat on the road,” for a Sales Operations position I am looking for these four magical words: I like to bake.
Am I looking for someone to bring cupcakes and cookies to the office? No… Well, yes, obviously, but this answer also tells me something very important about how this person thinks. It tells me if they are more quantitative or qualitative-minded in their approach to problem-solving. Why does that matter for a Sales Operations colleague?
Qualitative-minded candidates will typically find more comfort in expression through words, based on experience. They will work better determining quality and providing descriptors but not necessarily generating measurable data. When creating a dinner recipe, there’s no need for precise measurements because questions like “does this need more paprika?” arise from the opportunity to improvise (and, can almost always be answered with a resounding yes).
On the other end of the spectrum, a quantitative-minded candidate is more comfortable with more rigid process and analytics. They like working with data that is generated by a carefully calculated process and measured every step of the way. When following a cake or cookie recipe you don’t ask yourself “should I add 1/2 cup more sugar” because the science behind the recipe is exact, because the chemistry of your dessert relies on pre-determined proportions and cooking methods. There’s less room for improvisation—unless you’re a king of the craft, unless you’re Paul Hollywood, Mary Berry or Prue Leith.
In Sales, most representatives will be qualitative-minded, so it is important for Sales Operations personnel to bring balance to the team with quantitative outlook. When you have both perspectives, you can paint a comprehensive picture of the market you’re in. And when you have both approaches to problem-solving, you can implement effective solutions.
For any company, Sales Operations functions to build the Sales process from start to finish, meticulously analyzing each and every step to make corrections where necessary. At any bakery, you’ll see the same approach to process. Any baker will tell you that you can’t add eggs to a batter before you add butter and sugar, that you must mix flour with salt and baking powder before adding them to your wet ingredients, and that knowing when to stop mixing is key. What ingredients you use and how you prepare them together is critical for achieving your desired final result.
In both baking and Sales Operations, process is everything.