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High-Growth Companies Share how to Grow Sales Operations at Startups

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Navigating sales operations at various growth stages can be a challenge for startups — from knowing when to make that first sales ops hire, to whether or not to use apex code to customize CRM reporting.

August’s Meetup: Growing Sales Ops at Startups, featured a panel of sales operations pros from Docker, Recurly and InvisionApp who shared how their high-growth startups successfully tackled these challenges. The panelists included: Director of Sales Ops at Recurly, Jennifer Yelton, Director of Sales Ops at InvisionApp, Ryan Meeker and April Larsen, Senior Director Global Sales Ops at Docker.

alt Sales ops professionals networking at DocuSign's Downtown San Francisco office, prior to the panel discussion.

Here are the main takeaways from the discussion:

It’s almost never too early for your sales ops first hire

Every panelist agreed, getting a sales ops person in as early as possible was critical for business.

“As soon as you start using a CRM and selling a product, then you need a sales ops hire,” said Larsen.

It’s possible for the company to not be ready for a director level hire, but Larsen explained, but this shouldn’t be a deterrent for hiring someone to cover the sales ops function, such as an ops analyst or manager.

Sales ops first course of action? Locking down Salesforce and defining processes

Meeker explained that it’s problematic to have too many Salesforce admins - his first course of action was to take away admin access to regain control of the CRM. The panelists agreed, when it comes to the first action sales operations should take, it all starts with gaining control of the CRM and implementing consistent processes.

“It didn’t matter that I could run a forecast report because it didn’t mean anything if everyone was doing something different,” said Yelton. “We had a lot of data but it wasn’t the right data.”

To coordinate the discordant data and get accurate insights, sales operations must make sure definitions and processes are synced across the sales org. Clarify the simple ubiquitous things like when to put an opp into a particular stage, and what different stages mean to each sales person.

“Getting analytics out won’t matter if you don’t put a process in place,” said Larsen. “Setting the processes up goes hand-in-hand with analytics.”

For small companies, keep your CRM processes and analytics simple and in sync

A common problem the panelists experienced when they arrived at companies was that they had overcomplicated their CRMs. For smaller, growing companies, the panelists advised: don’t do too many customizations.

“When we a giant sales ops team, cooking with gas, then we can get into the customizations like apex code,” Yelton said.

What qualities should companies look for in that first critical sales ops hire?

-Analytical

-Equal parts strategist and tactician

-Excellent communication skills

-Customer service mentality

-Someone who has empathy for the seller, with a healthy respect for salespeople

“Without great salespeople, you don’t have a company. Nothing else happens.” said Yelton. “You need someone who understands that.”

General Advice from the pros:

  • Sales ops best skill is learning to say no. Never say yes immediately, ask the requester to tell you more and why.

  • Don’t come to me with your solution, come to me with your problem.

  • Do find that a lot of times we can make changes that seem obvious, important to give people the big picture.

Stay tuned for our next Sales Operations Meetup! Next Month’s will be held in New York. Subscribe to the DataFox podcast to get the recording.

Interested in all things sales ops? download our ebook: The Complete Guide to Sales Operations.