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Approaching sales operations in a purely systematic manner can only get you so far. And, as we all know, “so far” isn’t good enough. To really make a difference to reps, leadership, and your reputation as a sales ops virtuoso, you need to fuel your company-building process with empathy.

Though finding space for empathy when you’re slammed 24/7 sounds laughable to some, the best sales ops pros know that a deep, near-firsthand understanding of reps’ needs is key to designing successful systems.

Like product managers, ops people create a product (workflows, processes, and insights) for an end user (reps or execs). This means they need to take a page from the product management book and embrace servant leadership, learn the ins and outs of users’ pain points, figure out solutions, and iterate on said solutions until they’re virtually perfect.

Read the quick primer below to kick your sales ops game into gear.

Bring On the Empathy

Though they might not be quick to admit it, sales ops professionals often view reps as an “other.”

They see reps’ work as unrelated to their own, and struggle to withhold judgement about what salespeople do and don’t know. Maybe you’re guilty of this, maybe you’re not. In any case, the above attitude creates a mental wall between ops people and those their systems need to serve. Not only do salespeople have plenty of sharp, useful insight, they have the same overarching goal as sales ops experts: make it rain sales. After all, if sales stop, everyone is out of a job.

Once you’ve adopted this new mindset, set aside time to shadow reps.

Listen in as they make their calls and watch them update Salesforce (we recommend tracking how long each update takes). You’ll be surprised to see how many clicks are needed to complete a single task and how many errors sneak by because of some poorly planned validation rule.

Next, dig deeper by scheduling 1:1s with a diverse sample of reps

New reps and seasoned ones, high performers and low performers — talk to them all. Really delve into their systems and get to understand their workflow. Ask questions like:

  • What’s your process for taking notes on customer calls and putting them in Salesforce?
  • When did you last read through Activity History to get up to speed on an account? How did that go?
  • Tell me about the last time you had to update your forecast. What steps did you take?
  • How do you typically exchange info with a colleague when you collaborate on a deal?

Don’t be startled if these questions result in some ranting. Be calm, let the reps blow off steam, and take notes. Their feedback and ideas will go a long way in helping you design a system that works for, not against, your team.

Let the Selling Begin

Now that you’ve got the lowdown on empathy-driven recon, start putting it to use stat. Once you take the time to connect with those you support and understand their work processes, motivations, stumbling blocks, and needs, you’ll be able to construct sales-boosting systems—and win yourself some major kudos in the process.

Soon, I’ll be following up with tips on how sales ops can most effectively develop solutions, so stay tuned.

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