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Building a Career in Sales Ops

With experience ranging from sales operations recruiting, to overseeing operations management, to sales operations consulting, panelists at the Sales Operations Meetup Wednesday were well-equipped to hand out actionable advice for building a career in sales operations.

The panelists, including RJR Partners’ Alba Holsworth, Optimizely’s Hiliary Robertson, and Candescent Strategies’ George Erskine, discussed two key themes: how to effectively launch a career in sales operations, and how to thrive in sales operations and accelerate your career.

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Effectively Launch a Career in Sales Operations

Land the job:

All of the panelists agreed: being able to tell a story is key. The successful candidates, they said, are the ones who can tell a story with their resume, in their interview, and with the data. Holsworth emphasized this from a recruiting standpoint.

“Telling a story is huge,” said Holsworth. “Not only in the interview process, or as you draft your resume, but also when you are talking to recruiters. Tell the story of every step you’ve made along the way.”

Erskine emphasized that the importance of “storytelling” doesn’t stop in the hiring process. Those who are successful in the role are those that can “tell a story from the data and show the action it drove.”

Other takeaways for launching a career in sales operations:

  • Hard skills that look good on a Sales Ops candidate's resume include: Excel and Salesforce Admin credentials. Be sure to include experience making Executive Presentations on your resume if applicable.
  • “All hiring managers want to see metrics.” The most common edit Holsworth requests from recruits - metrics.
  • “Say who you support and list their title.”
  • 20% of the Sales Ops roles that Alba places in SF are specialized roles, but panelists encouraged everyone to focus on being a good generalist: “if you know the foundation, you can always pivot and learn.”

Thriving in Sales Operations and Accelerating your Career

Understand the technology

Both Robertson and Erskine offered anecdotes about the importance of understanding the technology. For Robertson, that knowledge enabled her to drive a new process and be an asset when upending the system.

Comparing it to carpentry, Erskine explained how a basic technical knowledge of Salesforce, marketing automation tools and APIs, sets you up for greater success.

“It’s like when you know basic carpentry, you can keep your contractors honest and move projects forward.”

Find good mentorship

Entry level sales operations hires should make a point of shadowing sales reps.

“Get mentored by the best sales reps. Learn how to sell. If you can show that you know that, even though that’s not your job, that will give you so much credibility.”

Good mentors for sales ops in a company include the CFO, FP&A manager, or COO. When choosing who to mentor, pick someone in a position you aspire to.

“In a leadership role, you are surrounded by experts, in a junior role, you should surround yourself with expert mentors,” said Erskine. “Seek out someone who is in the role you want, who has the behaviors you look up to.”

Drive long-term career success

When asked if they would still be in sales operations in five years, all of the panelists agreed that sales operations was an excellent foundation for building a career.

“Sales operations is a springboard to c-level positions,” said Erskine. “It’s proving ground for COOs, CROs, and CFOs.”

Forward-thinking startups are recognizing the value of hiring for sales operations earlier

Most startups in San Francisco don't start hiring for Sales operations until their Series B, but wish they had hired someone after their Series A.

“A lot of Series B companies delay the process of hiring for sales operations and regret it,” explained Alba. “The smart ones though, are saying after Series A, ‘find me someone who can head up sales ops, do the tactical tasks and when I grow to the next step, get me to the next level as a company.’”

Curious to learn more, or want to get involved with Sales Optimization Meetups? Email marketing@datafox.com for more details.

To learn more about sales operations, make sure to stayed tuned for the April Sales Optimization Meetup theme and location!