One of the many roles that sales operations professionals play is that of liaison between sales and other departments. This role serves a vital sales operations goal: lubricating the sales engine by reducing interdepartmental friction.
What are some best practices in this area? In addition to the classic sales operations approaches of aligning processes, coordinating metrics, and facilitating timely information flow, attention should also be paid to corporate culture. The challenge boils down to this question: “How do we get sales and other departments to view and interact with each other in a manner that promotes sales productivity?”
Here’s an answer that gets to the heart of the matter…
Sales professionals must treat people in other departments with respect and gratitude and people in other departments must treat sales professionals with trust and urgency.
Let’s break this statement down and discuss how we can make it happen.
When a sales professional says they need something quickly, it’s important that other departments be able to trust that there is a valid reason. The eagerness that other organizations often experience from salespeople is because they are trying to respond to a prospective customer’s request. The maxim that time kills all deals is why a sense of urgency is required to proactively support sales.
This trust can be broken, however, by sales professionals who have poor time management skills. It’s an unfortunate fact that some salespeople seem to light a fire every day, treating every request as urgent. These individuals need some quality coaching from their managers. More broadly, sales professionals must show respect for other people’s needs and the time scale on which other departments operate.
For some requests, advance warning is absolutely mandatory if you’re not going to tick people off or interfere with their department’s operational processes. Showing gratitude is, of course, a great way to build positive relationships and entirely appropriate given how much successful selling is a team effort.
Anything that sales operations can do to help other people understand the challenges that sales professionals face can go a long way toward justifying the need for timely responses to their requests. The perception that salespeople are overpaid or spoiled can be checked by reminding others that a notable portion of their income relies on their ability to achieve sales goals. More importantly, other departments need to recognize that failure to achieve those goals can put everybody’s job at risk.
A few other considerations:
Sales professionals are typically the ones who spend the most time in direct conversation with the people we want as customers. As such, they are getting first-hand feedback from prospects. Other departments should trust that sales has important information to share if we want to be truly customer focused.
Sales professionals need to understand that their viewpoint is often constrained by their particular set of customers. Marketing professionals, for example, are looking at target populations more broadly and may well have good reasons for not agreeing on how a product or promotion should be executed. To avoid appearing overly self-interested, salespeople need to respect these differences and act accordingly.
The respect that sales professionals should demonstrate also come from an understanding that other people have their own jobs to do and are inconvenienced when they must drop everything to respond to a request. When others respond with a sense of trust and urgency, sales professionals should express gratitude. They need to say a sincere “Thank you,” send a note of thanks, relay a positive comment to their manager, and most importantly – give credit where credit is due when a deal is won. Patiently articulating the need for timeliness and showing abundant gratitude when other people are responsive isn’t just common courtesy, it’s good sales practice.
As sales operations leaders, we are uniquely positioned to lead this cultural transformation. To make it happen, we need executive support and a shared conviction that this is a critical path to sales success. Meeting with key department heads, coaching first-line sales managers, and selling them all on the value of this approach will allow you to lead the creation of a sales-driven corporate culture. A well-oiled sales engine will be the welcome result.
About the author:
Brian Geery is Managing Partner and lead sales management consultant at Sales Productivity Architects. As a consultant focused on sales management challenges, Brian’s expertise has been tapped by CEOs, Sales Executives, and Sales Operations professionals at over 100 technology and service companies.
He is passionate about the importance of developing a corporate culture that is sales driven, where all employees are focused on customer acquisition. Brian helps his clients assess their existing corporate culture and lead the process of re-architecting process, automation, and personnel to increase per rep productivity. Brian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org