Sales used to be so simple. Companies hired reps for their sparkling personalities and contact lists knowing that good sales people and a good product were all it took to drive revenue and close deals. Now sales is more complex and complicated than ever.
What changed? The digital age came and disrupted everything. The world turned to the internet to post, like, share, buy, sell, learn, and everything in between. Sales processes quickly followed suit; landlines and contact lists were replaced with computers, power dialers and CRMs, which is where things started to get messy.
With each new piece of technology, a new step was added to the sales process. And with each new step in the process, dozens of new tools were put on the market. Sales became a never-ending cycle of “stay ahead or fall behind.”
With digitization well underway, companies were trying to scale as quickly as possible, but many companies experienced growing pains that came with the rise of the internet. Digitization allowed every click, like and scroll to be tracked and businesses were collecting more data than they knew what to do with.
The aggregation of data was too much for many organizations to handle, new companies took notice and saw this as a business opportunity and built products that helped them sort, collect and measure these masses of data. Sales and marketing tools emerged into the space at a rapid pace and a new problem was on the horizon.
Boom of marketing technology
To better understand the problem in sales, lets first look to what happened in the marketing industry. The MarTech 5000 is a diagram created by chief marketing technologist, Scott Brinker. The goal is to categorize all of the tools available to marketers and show the rapid growth that followed the digitization of business processes.
Between 2011 and this year, the number of marketing tools multiplied nearly 47 times! The landscape went from about 150 tools to almost 7,000 in just eight years, and will likely keep growing. With thousands of tools to choose from, marketers have become overwhelmed with tools and have been fighting an uphill battle to decide which ones work best for their teams.
New wave of sales tech
The SalesTech landscape is showing a similar pattern of advancement and we predict that rapid growth will occur with sales tools as well. In 2015, there were just over 300 sales technologies and by 2017, there were over 700.
These two SalesTech landscapes show a similar number of logos as the early MarTech landscapes (between 2011 and 2014). Very soon sales technology will skyrocket in the same way the MarTech landscape is, with thousands of tools being available to sales organizations.
Today, there are complex and specific tools for nearly every aspect of the sales process (prospecting, engagement, scheduling, CRM updates, you name it). Since there’s so much noise in the sales tech space, finding the right tools has become a full-time job.
Rise of sales operations
In recent years, sales organizations have also become helpless when it comes to the tools they have to choose from and that’s when sales operations rose to the challenge. Their job went from simple logistics to a powerful data analysis, automation and reporting unit that provides critical insight into the sales organization.
Because these individuals are data and process driven, they naturally emerged into this leadership role. As the new owners of the tech stack, they work to unravel the complicated web that the sales tech landscape and sales process have turned into. They know their process inside and out and can select the right tools to meet the ever-changing needs of their team. And since they’re data focused, they know that success needs to be measurable, so they leverage data to track the efficiency of each tool and step within the process.
And their responsibilities don’t just stop with fine-tuning the tech stack. They improve sales efficiency across the board by using data to build territory boundaries, handoff strategies, incentive and rep training programs, revenue forecasts and sales reports.
Sales operations is the new hero of the sales organization since their actions can make or break the entire process. Their new mission is to support, enable and drive sales productivity within the team. To do that, not only do they need a data analytic mind, but they also need to be a sales technology expert, a data engineer, a system integration specialist and an AI and automation addict.
We see this role expanding and adapting even more as business processes and customer demands change with the coming of “Business 5.0”. This is a term coined by our CEO that expresses the next evolution of business process automation. We borrow it’s meaning from the previous industrial revolutions (see Industry 4.0), but this is different since it focuses on the development of organizations. In the coming years businesses will go through another digital transformation as artificial and augmented intelligence tools become commonplace.
Future of sales ops
As we said earlier, sales technology will further overwhelm the sales organization much like MarTech has in marketing. Sales operations needs to be able to cut through the noise more quickly and precisely as tools start flooding the market. They need to understand every step of the sales process and how each potential tool could fit in.
All the tools need to work together seamlessly and integrate into the process perfectly. Sales operations needs to be the lead when it comes to finding the tools, but also collaborate closely with IT when it comes to installation, configuration, maintenance, training and support of these systems.
AI and automation:
Sales AI is going to be at the forefront of the sales process in the coming months. Sales operations needs to find automated solutions that alleviate repetitive tasks and increase sales rep productivity.
Sales ops will need to work on collecting, storing, processing and analyzing huge sets of data that provide insight to company leaders and influence important decisions. They need to make sure the data is clean to provide accurate insight.
The new sales operations role has grown to cover a lot of tasks in the last few years, making it one of the most intricate in the sales organization. Their job will evolve and change as the sales process continues to conform to customer demands and development of new, complex tools multiplies.