How to Increase Sales Operations Success in 2023

By Steve Rietberg, VP Analyst, Gartner, Inc.
A hand guides a white queen chess piece and knocks over a black king chess piece on a black and white chessboard.

The B2B sales process, traditionally guided by seller activity, is instead becoming characterized by a mix of digital and human interactions. Shifts in external buyer preferences, internal collaboration requirements, and higher expectations of revenue technologies are all changing how the sales operations function supports the larger commercial organization.

Here’s how sales operations leaders can lead the operational transformation required to succeed in 2023 and beyond.

1. Identify the Trends

What trends are driving the sales operations leader role in 2023?

  • As commercial functions have more need for better internal collaboration, the scope of sales operations is expanding to have organization-wide impact. Buyers want to engage with suppliers via multiple channels, and they expect a seamless experience. As a result, internal collaboration is critical. On average, sales operations supports 2.5 functions, often including customer success and marketing. Today’s sales operations leaders find themselves at an inflection point of expanding responsibility and a growing opportunity to impact the business in new, meaningful ways.
  • The rise of “everywhere” buyers creates new requirements for sales operations to adopt a modernized revenue tech stack to share data and interconnect workflows in real time across functions. Improving customer experience (CX) via multithreaded engagements means seeking out technologies that encourage and enable better workflow and data integration in the end-to-end revenue process.
  • Market uncertainty – characterized by inflation, talent scarcity, and supply chain disruptions – has made it more difficult for sales operations to deliver credible and actionable insights. It also pressures sales operations to help improve sales productivity and margins as the cost of sales increases.

2. Incorporate Priorities into Strategy

Support revenue growth, drive commercial success, and make confident decisions in an otherwise uncertain environment by incorporating the following three key priorities into strategic planning.

Priority #1

Redesign the sales operations function to support the end-to-end revenue process with appropriate talent and workflows​.

Buying teams are growing larger – affecting how suppliers think about facilitating their customers’ decision-making processes. Now more than ever, multiple buyers with different needs and priorities are entering the buying journey at different points in the process. They follow different paths through various interaction channels. Suppliers must support multithreaded interactions – multiple channels engaging a variety of decision makers in simultaneous buying journeys – while providing the commercial team meaningful insight on buyers’ progress.

The need to coordinate activities among sales and non-sales functions reinforces how the footprint of sales operations is expanding. Sales operations leaders must re-evaluate their teams’ charters to ensure that roles, responsibilities, and talent are all aligned to best meet these realities. The goal is to reshape sales operations into a function that supports the broader commercial organization’s execution with processes, technology, and analytics.

Sales operations leaders must set and execute a go-to-market strategy with commercial leadership, and be actively engaged in consolidating an end-to-end revenue process. They must create a vision for the revtech stack. And they must prioritize integrating or consolidating commercial data into a single communal source to serve the end-to-end revenue process.

Priority #2

Assess revtech solutions that reduce friction in the customer experience, especially revenue data solutions​, revenue intelligence​ platforms, and RevOps data automation​.

Despite changes in buyer preferences, sellers still need to understand the customer’s needs and gauge progress in their decision-making process. Capturing and interpreting buyer signals – and extracting actionable insights for the commercial organization – requires the integration of system workflows and data stores.

Suppliers who incorporated AI into their sales force automation systems used to represent the leading edge of innovation. Today, that has become table stakes.

Progressive organizations are implementing technology that helps integrate workflows among legacy silos and offers consolidated views of data to help align execution among all commercial teams.

For example, workflow automation helps previously siloed functions seamlessly engage with customers. Activity and contact data capture will continually enhance the quality of shared interactional data. Revenue intelligence platforms improve system adoption and data quality, and also provide AI-based insights. RevOps data automation enables business technologists to integrate data among commercial systems.

Priority #3

Enable data-driven decision making by establishing data and analytics governance and implementing a data literacy program.

Organizations attempting to become more data driven have suffered recent setbacks, with commercial leaders realizing that established leading indicators aren’t as reliable as they once were. Simultaneously, leaders’ demand for analytic insight has grown – especially as AI technology has matured.

As sales operations responds and delivers new analytics, managers become overwhelmed with reports and dashboards. These managers may be flooded with info, but they’re still thirsty for insights.

Many organizations expect sales operations functions to supply their commercial teams with all the data and insights they’ll need to succeed. But what if sales leaders can enable sellers and managers to identify and act on their own insights? Or be empowered to draw conclusions and derive next steps from information presented at the point of need? In this “outside-in” model, the front line is empowered through greater data literacy and easier self-service to generate and share insights themselves – in the context of ongoing customer interactions – to predict buyer needs and determine next steps.

Reach this state by partnering with sales leadership to establish and champion data and analytics governance to align the organization on what analytics to use in key business use cases. Improve the relevance of analytics, build data literacy among analytics consumers, and invest in technologies that will best support the growing need for analytics across all commercial workflows.

Steve Rietberg is a VP analyst in Gartner’s sales practice and is the chair for the 2023 Gartner CSO & Sales Leader Conference. He has 25 years of industry experience in sales operations and IT roles.