How Sales Operations Leaders Can Drive Impact in 90 Days

By Erica Abt on May 24, 2021

4 Minute Estimated Read Time

Over the last few years, we’ve received an increasing number of questions about how to structure and/or optimize sales operations and enablement roles, while also observing an increase in the decision influence and authority of these roles. As such, we recently embarked on a project to document what success looks like for Sales Ops leaders, including how they can effectively drive impact in their first 90 days on the job. The culmination of this project is an eBook, "A Sales Operations Leader's First 90 Days", which includes a supporting set of frameworks and tools to help Sales Ops leaders establish quick wins and longer term strategy.

Through our project, we interviewed numerous sales operations, enablement, and effectiveness leaders from a variety of industries and sizes of companies in the US and UK. We collected a significant amount of feedback across strategic, organizational, process, technology, and skills-related considerations.

Read more for a high-level overview of our eBook, including a summary of the recommendations and tools we've developed. Each tool links to a download of our eBook and toolkit.

Before Day 1

While the intended focus of the eBook is how to maximize the first 90 days, Sales Operations leaders across the board made recommendations of what to do before even taking the role (during the interview process) or prior to the first day (after you’ve accepted the job). The advice? Drive for as much role scope clarification upfront in order to draw a very clear picture of the job and expectations.

To help do this, we developed the Sales Ops Leader’s Onboarding Checklist, which contains the top 10 questions to ask as early as possible about the job, in addition to several other pieces of information to collect and analyze before Day 1. 

Days 1 Through 30: Meet Your New Organization and Manage Transition Chaos

The first month of a sales ops leader’s new role should be focused on developing a deeper understanding of the role and starting to invest in key relationships. We recognize that sales operations roles look different at every organization, so it is critical to spend time early on clarifying the role, including who the sales ops leader is accountable to, internal customers he/she serves, functional partners he/she must work with, and the team he/she manages.

Developing strong relationships with new colleagues will take longer than 90 days; however, in the first month we recommend identifying the people who will help the sales ops leader be the most successful. We built a Sales Ops Leader’s Functional Relationship Planning Tool to help determine who to build relationships with, as well as what topics to cover or questions to ask in first interactions with various stakeholders. Whether sales ops leaders use this matrix or something else, our recommendation is to have a plan for developing key relationships by the end of Month 1.

Days 30 Through 60: Identify Sales Operations Priorities

After managing (at least some of) the transition chaos, sales ops leaders will inevitably start to identify a laundry list of priorities that they could start tackling. Our advice? Don’t take action too quickly. While it is important to show value early, sales ops leaders must secure the right depth of sales organization understanding before making any significant changes.

Many leaders we spoke with have a framework for assessing or understanding sales organizations. We recommend the Sales Ops Leader’s Guide to Understanding the Sales Organization Tool, based on the Symmetrics Group “Way of Sales” framework, which looks at four big buckets of sales effectiveness – Strategy & Structure, Process & Technology, Enablement & People, and Metrics & Management. When an assessment of the sales organization is complete and understanding further developed, we recommend the Sales Ops Quick-Win Decision Grid, which anchors on seven factors to help decide whether potential priorities are worth the investment of time and resources.

Days 60 Through 90: Determine Long-Term Objectives

Priorities that do not meet the “quick-win decision criteria” may instead need to be long-term objectives. It’s incredibly important that sales ops leaders be intentional about setting long-term objectives, as this reflects their understanding of the organization and can set the stage for success or failure.

For potential long-term objectives, we recommend using a tool, like the Sales Ops Impact vs. Effort Matrix, to determine which long-term objectives are best for your sales operations team to tackle. Between this tool and the Sales Ops Quick-Win Decision Grid mentioned earlier, sales ops leaders can clearly sort out and communicate which priorities should be tackled in the short term vs. long term.

By Day 90 and Beyond: Develop a Sales Ops Strategic Plan and Roadmap

In month 3, a high-performing sales ops leader will shift focus towards solidifying a sales operations strategic plan and roadmap. This time frame may accelerate or lengthen slightly depending on the time of year joining the new organization. Regardless of any quick wins tackled in the first 90 days, colleagues will be eager to see longer-term plans – no pressure!

With personal job performance expectations and KPIs in mind, we recommend sales ops leaders spend time developing a sales operations strategy that cascades from top-level organizational objectives. Given the sales ops leader’s primary focus on serving the sales organization, the cascade should look like this: Organizational Strategy & Objectives > Sales Strategy & Objectives > Sales Operations Strategy & Objectives, plus supporting KPIS/metrics. In the eBook we share some examples of how other sales operations leaders are doing this today.

Once the sales ops strategy is developed, best practice is to summarize the strategy down to one page, if possible, so that it can be easily and succinctly communicated to internal customers and functional partners. We recommend the Sales Ops Shareable Strategic Plan template to do this.

While I will save more detailed recommendations for the eBook, here are a few nuggets of advice from the sales operations leaders we interviewed:

“When in the interview process, ask about their pain points and based on what they say, tell them ‘this is what I need… can you support me?”

“If you’re coming in from the outside, it’s easy to get pushed to the corner office with the corporate team. You must understand what the pain points are in the field and find out what they need and/or want.”

“Be sure to demonstrate empathy and partnership with sales; That doesn’t mean rolling over and just doing what they want. But work to be part of the solution, not the problem.”

“Show that you have love and passion for the job and your customer’s job (the sales team). Do that by showing that you can be a trusted leader and have a strong work ethic. Jump right in and get involved with as many people as possible.”

Sales Ops Leader eBook

To create your own 90-day plan, download the A Sales Ops Leader’s First 90 Days eBook which also includes the accompanying A Sales Ops Leader’s First 90 Days Toolkit. We hope you find this resource useful, and we look forward to hearing your thoughts or advice as we continue to share best practices for sales ops organizations.

Erica Abt

Written by Erica Abt

Erica Abt is passionate about both the macro trends and the ‘nitty gritty’ of sales effectiveness. At Symmetrics Group, Erica might be found examining the generational impacts of Millennials and Gen Z on sales forces across America. Or, she might be building a detailed process inventory and training curriculum for CRM effectiveness. She brings her experience as a quota bearer and sales manager to help clients tackle complex business challenges, such as account and book of business planning, client service and retention strategies, as well as sales coaching and training.

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