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4 Ways to “Future Proof” Your Sales Ops Function

Sometimes clichés are accurate. For example, in Sales Operations, “seeing around the corner” or “staying ahead of the curve” really is crucial for maintaining a competitive edge. But I recently read an article suggesting that future proofing a business function is all about “hiring the right people into the right positions” to ensure continuous improvement and innovation over time.

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this, as it has become a fairly common refrain. And I have to admit, it does sound pretty nice…and even somewhat plausible. But while “hiring the right people into the right positions” is certainly part of any future proofing equation, it just can’t get the job done in Sales Ops.

After all, our educational institutions aren’t cranking out budding Sales Ops pros on a regular basis. It’s still a fairly uncommon and esoteric practice area. So finding and hiring capable and experienced Sales Ops people is not all that easy or straightforward in the first place.

Beyond that, anyone you do happen to hire can leave or move on at any time, for any reason. Even when you create the best possible working conditions, life just happens and you can lose people to a wide variety of circumstances beyond anyone’s control or foresight.

And finally, if we’re being honest about it, we all know that even the most diligent, ambitious, forward-thinking, and innovative people can become quite complacent and set in their ways over time.

If you really want to future proof your Sales Ops function, you need to focus on putting the right set of robust systems and repeatable processes in place. Specifically, there are four essential systems that can boost your odds of success:

1. Systems for Hiring the Right Raw Materials

Instead of searching in vain for ready-made Sales Ops professionals, build a system for finding candidates with the right combination of raw materials that can be further developed—candidates who possess critical thinking skills, a degree of business acumen, a strong analytical mindset, and solid communication abilities. While these skills and abilities are by no means ubiquitous, they certainly aren’t as rare as specific expertise and experience in Sales Operations.

2. Systems for Developing Skills and Knowledge

Once you have people with the right raw materials, you need a structured system for turning them into effective Sales Ops practitioners. An initial training program or “boot camp” can teach new hires the basics, while establishing a common baseline of knowledge across the team. Over time, ongoing refreshers and next level training courses can further enhance the team’s skills and capabilities, while encouraging and reinforcing a culture of continuous learning.

3. Systems for Keeping Up on the Latest Best Practices

The sales landscape is constantly evolving, with new concepts, methodologies, and technologies emerging on a regular basis. And over time, effective Sales Ops practices will inevitably migrate between different market sectors and business models. Even simple systems such as ensuring your team has ongoing access to Sales Operations publications and professional networks can be very effective for staying informed of new developments and emerging best practices.

4. Systems for Regularly Challenging the Status Quo

To avoid complacency and ensure continuous improvement, it’s essential to regularly evaluate and challenge your current Sales Ops processes and capabilities. This involves conducting ongoing capability assessments to identify improvement opportunities, engaging in robust strategic planning and goal setting, and using pilot programs and small-scale tests to explore new approaches without significant risk. Ideally, you’ll create an environment where changes to the status quo and small-scale failures are not only acceptable, they’re expected.

Of course, nothing is perfect and over time, even the most robust systems and processes can be subverted, corrupted, or ignored. But it’s not easy. And that’s the point. For future proofing a Sales Operations function, a systems approach offers the best odds of success…by far.

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