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Sales Operations Roles Increase In Scope and Influence

Data for this analysis was provided by sales operations job postings found on DataFox. This is the first installment of our five-part Sales Operations series. The complete analysis will be featured in our upcoming Sales Operations Ebook. Pre-register for your copy today!

Xerox established the first sales operations group in the 1970s. The group’s leader, J. Patrick Kelly, drove the initial vision of sales operations, describing his group’s responsibilities as: “all the nasty number things that you don’t want to do, but need to do, to make a great sales force.”

The group took on activities such as sales planning, compensation, forecasting, and territory design, according to “Spin Selling” author, Neil Rackham.

Today, a masterful grasp of financial analysis is still a critical element to successful sales operations, but thanks to advances in technology, the role has expanded beyond just crunching numbers. The core responsibility of sales operations is ultimately the latter portion of the quote — “to make a great sales force.”

As the responsibilities of the role have expanded, it’s no surprise then, that sales operations is growing in demand and influence.

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Nine Key Responsibilities of the Role Today

To better understand what proficiencies sales operations professionals need to succeed, we analyzed DataFox-tracked job postings from small, midsize and enterprise companies. We then parsed the data to reveal commonly stated role functions, responsibilities, and technologies desired in sales operations hires.

Our analysis revealed nine key responsibilities of the sales operations role:

Infrastructure: 12%

Tech Stack: 16%

Forecasting: 11%

Process: 10%

Marketing: 12%

Territory Planning: 10%

Data Integrity: 9%

CRM Management: 13%

Dashboards: 7%

Often companies don't hire for sales operations until they are later stage, but as the role has grown and expanded to include core strategic infrastructure and process related tasks, they often wish that they had hired someone early on.

Alba Holsworth, a recruiter for RJR Partners’ in San Francisco, specializes in the placement of sales professionals in the software industry. She has placed numerous sales operations roles and can speak to this Silicon Valley trend firsthand.

“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.”

What does this mean for future sales ops leaders?

This growth means two things for emerging sales operations leaders: the role is in high demand in Silicon Valley and offers plenty of opportunities to grow a successful career. Ultimately, the sales operations leadership of tomorrow is equal parts analyst and strategist.

To learn more about how to excel in sales operations and make yourself marketable in this rapidly growing industry, attend our monthly Sales Operations Meetup and stay tuned for the next segment of our five-part Sales Operation series. Next week’s installment will cover Careers in Sales Operations, What is Your Next Employer Looking For?