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Avoiding Extinction in Sales Ops

Have you ever seen an iceman?

I’m not talking about an ancient human who lived during the Ice Age. Or an ice hockey player. Or a figure skater. Or a northern European saint. Or even about Maverick’s nemesis from the movies.

A century ago, the iceman was a regular visitor to most homes. Before electric refrigerators became commonplace, the iceman would deliver ice, usually cut in huge blocks from frozen lakes or ponds, to homes and businesses. In fact, there was an entire industry built around harvesting and delivering the ice from as far away as New England to the Caribbean.

Eventually, of course, most of the iceman jobs disappeared thanks to the advent of new technology. A few companies are still in the ice business, but they mostly deliver bags of artificially created ice for sale in grocery stores and convenience stores.

In the same way that technology dramatically changed the iceman profession, technology is also radically reshaping the sales profession. Today, a lot of sales take place online, without the involvement of a salesperson at all. And even where salespeople are involved, tools like CRM systems, data analytics, and advanced AI have dramatically changed the way the work gets done.

But there’s also one big difference between ice delivery and sales. In the sales profession, sales operations teams manage the shifting technology. And instead of leading to a loss of jobs, this new technology is actually leading to more jobs for sales ops professionals.

However, to succeed in this rapidly changing role, sales operations professionals do need to have the right combination of skills and characteristics that will help them adapt to new technology. Here are four that we think are absolutely essential:

  • Analytical and Data-Driven Mindset: Sales ops professionals need to be proficient in analyzing complex data sets to extract actionable insights. They need to be able to leverage data in decision-making processes, ensuring that strategies are grounded in solid evidence. And they must be skilled in interpreting trends and patterns to inform business strategies.
  • Strategic Thinking and Planning: The best sales ops folks can foresee potential challenges and opportunities in the sales landscape. They develop long-term strategies that align with overall business objectives, and they balance short-term needs with long-term goals for sustainable growth.
  • Problem-Solving Skills: To succeed in sales ops, you need to quickly identify problems quickly and develop effective solutions. You have to adapt to unexpected challenges and changing market conditions. And you need to find creative solutions to complex sales operations issues.
  • Strong Communication and Collaboration Abilities: No matter how strong your technical skills, you will not succeed unless you can effectively communicate complex concepts to different stakeholders, including sales teams, executives, and cross-functional partners. You have to know how to foster collaboration within and outside the sales team to achieve common goals. You need to be able to negotiate and to influence decisions in ways that benefit sales operation team and function.

The good news is that all these skills can be learned and improved. If you think you’re lacking in one (or several) of these areas, check out the following resources:

Technology is changing sales and sales operations. But there’s no real danger in your role going the way of the iceman, as long as you adapt and evolve to keep up with the changing technology.

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