How Do We Fix the Divide Between Sales and Ops

There’s a divide between Sales and Ops.

Survey on Instagram about the divide between sales and ops

According to our study of Sales and Ops with over 250 responses, 82% say that there’s a divide whereas only 18% say there isn’t.

The reasons might seem obvious to some who’ve worked on Revenue Teams, but at the end of the day, both sides are playing for the same team so shouldn’t they be striving for the same goals and benefitting from each other’s success?

Unfortunately, there are some fundamental differences that keep getting in the way.

First, there’s an inherent difference between Salespeople and everyone else at a company because Salespeople carry individual quotas, also known as “Bags” if you live in the Sales Pit. This means that a big portion of the money they make depends on how much revenue they close. If you’ve ever worked in sales, whether you’d like to admit it or not, it generates anywhere from a tiny to a colossal amount of resentment directed at the rest of the company who earns guaranteed salaries.

How this affects the relationship between Salespeople and Ops specifically, is that when salespeople are asked to do anything outside of that singular mission to close revenue like:

  • adopting a new piece of technology they’re never going to use
  • or being forced to add ten more fields in Salesforce in order to move a deal from Stage 2 to Stage 3
  • or reacting to new changes in the compensation plan

Salespeople get frustrated because these actions are seen as useless impediments that only make it harder for them to hit quota and bring home the bacon. Unfortunately, Ops is behind a lot of these changes so this causes some Salespeople to view Ops in a negative light. One source who chose to remain nameless in order to speak freely on the subject states, “Sometimes Sales call Ops the ‘Deal Prevention Team.’”

This transitions into the second fundamental difference between Ops and Sales: The Big Picture vs. The Immediate.

Ops works behind the scenes whereas Sales works on the “frontlines.”  Salespeople talk to customers and prospects every day and deal with isolated instances that require uniquely tailored solutions. Ops works with the leadership teams to determine the most seamless and sustainable way to grow the business. Isolated instances are taken into account, but their goal is to create a consistent process that can be iterated over time and not altered on a dime.

Ops asks, what sales process needs to be implemented in order to ensure the best possible customer journey and the most consistent and repeatable path to quota attainment and growth for the company as a whole?

Sales asks, why haven’t they signed the contract I sent 3 HOURS AGO?!?!

While no company can exist without Salespeople bringing in new revenue, no company is sustainable without an Ops and leadership team focused on the long-term, sustainable growth.

So a divide exists, but how bad is it?

When Sales and Ops were asked, how much they love or thoroughly dislike each other, this is what they had to say:

Survey on instagram on why the divide exists

“They serve a purpose… I guess” is not a ringing endorsement with our leading response. But at least 80% of Sales acknowledges that there is a purpose to having Ops around.

Ops on the other hand, have a slightly more positive outlook on salespeople with 32% calling them Revenue Gods and 64% rating them rating them in the Top 2 options compared to salespeople who only have 39% in the Top 2.

Perhaps most importantly though, 1 in 5 people on both sides seem to… thoroughly dislike the other.

So what is it about these two that grinds so many gears?

Survey on instagram about what grinds your gears about sales or ops

Two major things stand out:

  1. They make my job harder
  2. They don’t understand my role

The first point is surface level. When Ops adds more fields in Salesforce, it forces reps to take more steps which means more time doing administrative work and less time strategizing or talking to prospects where they can see actually results of their work. When salespeople don’t input data correctly, it makes Ops’ life harder. They stay up at night having nightmares about CRM hygiene already so if salespeople could just do that one thing, they’d have no more problems.

But the first point is just a symptom of the second:

Image about failure to communicate

I sat down with RevOps Leader Alysha Anzik from ResQ to discuss this divide and whether there’s any hope of uniting Ops and Sales in our combined dream of revenue excellence. “Salespeople are very driven people. They’re very good at being individual motivators and I think you have to be when you're in sales. Where they're lacking sometimes is perspective on the business. Like, okay, great, you're signing this deal, but why does that matter?”

While this statement might make a salesperson’s blood boil after writing 134 emails, making 72 calls across 8 different stakeholders over a 6 month-period to close a deal that still doesn’t put them at quota, sometimes that deal isn’t actually bringing lasting value to the business.

Sometimes the customer is simply a bad fit, sometimes they aren’t an ICP, and despite their hard work to close the deal, if Sales doesn’t follow the process laid out by Ops and leadership, it can lead to poor handoffs to customer success and instead of expanding in a year, they are churning after three months.

If Sales doesn’t follow the process that Ops lays out for them, it can lead to revenue turbulence and unreliable forecasts. As Anzik states, getting a deal signed is great, but if you’re not following the process, it can hurt the bigger picture.

Mutual understanding is the key to bringing these two sides together so let’s find a solution.

Show, Don’t Tell

Anzik goes on to explain that when Ops responds with a curt “do it because it's important,” it doesn’t help anyone. Instead, Anzik finds “a lot of success with [her] team by not just explaining, but actually showing them the reason why they’re filling out a closed-lost reason or a new field in Salesforce. This isn’t data that goes into a dark hole. It informs our product roadmap and it helps our customer retention.”

When there’s a product update, Anzik shows the team why that decision was made based off of their Salesforce data. Data that they inputted. She even has the team shadow Customer Success so they can hear what conversations are like after deals are closed.  These are real life examples of why certain fields are required and it leads to greater buy-in from her time.

Ops can kick and scream about Salesforce hygiene and blame reps for not inputting data correctly, but if there is failure in communication and cooperation, the same problems will persist in perpetuity. You’re not going to shadow Customer Success every day, but real, cross-functional communication is essential to achieving understanding of the bigger picture.

Don’t Ask For The World

When salespeople are asked to perform duties outside of hitting quota - the one thing that determines their paycheck - they. don’t. like. that. That has to be understood. When salespeople ask Ops for more tools, more money, and less process with nothing in return, ears start getting deaf.

Revops watching Salespeople not follow processes

The bigger picture still exists. Outside of quota and outside of the minutia of sales process and methodology lies sustainable Revenue Excellence. In order to achieve that, “there has to be a give and take,” says Anzik. “You have to balance what you want and what you need. Less is more and you have to be really careful of what you're asking for, because you can't ask for the world. You have to isolate the things that are really important.”

Perfect data hygiene will never exist because in order to achieve it, you have to ask sales to do too many things that will eventually slow down or sales cycle or be ignored entirely causing more mess to your system. On the other hand, Sales can’t ask for a more attainable quota or fewer requirements in their sales process without risking negative long-term outcomes on the business.

It all comes down to understanding the bigger picture and getting buy-in from both sides. Understanding that nothing will ever be perfect, but that compromise can create balance that creates the highest possible level of Revenue Excellence that we can reasonably set out to achieve.

Incentive The Behaviors You Need

Anzik and her team at ResQ might blow everyone’s minds with this one. “Quota is not necessarily aligned with like what the company is trying to accomplish.”
Man who is confused

You heard it here first people. Reps are measured off of how much revenue they bring in so they bring in as much revenue as they can whether there’s durable longterm fit or not. Quota is an extremely complicated issue that probably deserves its own blog post, but for right now, let’s hear Anzik and ResQ’s new solution to the problem:

“About six months ago, we completely changed our quota plan. In part, the structure of it, instead of just doing a flat rate, we actually have some of it rely on the success of the customer. For example, how much the customer uses the platform. The idea behind that was to unlock more potential for the reps to earn more money, but also for them to understand that they shouldn't just onboard a customer just because somebody is walking through the door. It should be someone who's good and who's going to be a good representative of an ideal customer. And that has really shifted both their appreciation of what goes on behind the scenes when they pass them off to Customer Success and we think it’ll help our retention longterm. When both happens, then both sides win because sales is getting more compensation from that.”

A great freaking idea

If you want Sales and Ops to be on the same page, financially incentivizing them to be on the same page seems like a smart place to start. This idea might not work for every team, but for ResQ who is focused on data hygiene and the customer journey above all else, it seems like a good place to start.

Revenue Team Excellence Led By Data

Before Sales Operations existed, there were traveling salesmen selling globes in family kitchens with a rolodex and cigarettes. With zero help.

Then Xerox formed the first sales operations team in the 1970s to take on sales planning, compensation, forecasting, and territory design. J. Patrick Kelly described his responsibilities as the leader of the group as “all the nasty number things that you don’t want to do, but need to do to make a great salesforce.”

Ops is vital. Sales are obviously vital. Both sides contribute different skills and responsibilities to the overall success of a Revenue Team. Working together has never been easy, but we have to take a step back and realize where we’d be without the other.

As we embark into the year 2023, we are being asked to do more with less. To hit higher goals with fewer resources we need to be working at optimum efficiency. That means Ops and Sales Leaders need to pinpoint specific data points that need to be recorded and Sales needs to not only pay attention to data, but be driven by it. Your data is your weapon, Salespeople, not your enemy.

Totally unbiased opinion, but with a platform like Scratchpad this can be achieved a lot faster and easier.

“It's easier said than done,” says Anzik. “The hardest part of my job is like convincing people to do things that they don't want to do.”

Sounds like the moment Sales asks for a signature.