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The Crab-Like Dilemma in Sales Ops

When we see two species of animals that look alike, we often assume that they are biologically related. But scientists say that different species sometimes evolve to have similar characteristics without being related at all.

In fact, the creatures that most non-scientists (i.e., you and me) lump together as “crabs” are actually the result of at least five independent evolutionary processes. For some reason, nature seems to prefer crustaceans that evolve to have a crab-like body. Scientists actually have a name for this phenomenon—carcinization, defined as “the many attempts of Nature to evolve a crab.”

Something similar happens to sales ops teams. No, we’re not saying that if you work in sales ops long enough you’ll become crabby (though that might also be true). We’re saying that many sales ops groups have independently evolved to have exactly the same characteristics.

And in this case, that’s not a good thing.

Sales ops teams sit on top of a gold mine of sales data. They could use that wealth to uncover improvements to sales processes, decision-making, and ultimately, the bottom line. Becoming more strategic in this way seems like it would be the natural path.

But for some reason, teams seem to prefer scuttling around attending to tactical tasks. In a weird sort of evolutionary convergence, many of them spend all their time on like report generation, data entry, or just daily firefighting.

If you see this happening to your team, you don’t have to just accept your fate. If you want to avoid becoming crabs or want to evolve past your crab-like form, we have four recommendations:

  1. Clarify roles and expectations. Sales Ops teams wear many different hats, but it’s important to wear the right hat at the right time—and to ensure that others in the company understand what sales ops’ true role is. If you need some help in this area, check out Essential Sales Ops Roles.
  2. Develop a strategic roadmap. If you’re going to try to fight the natural evolution of things, it helps to have a plan on where you want to go. Having a roadmap gives you the opportunity to chart a course towards becoming more strategic while balancing the day-to-day tactical requirements you can’t avoid. Developing a Winning Sales Operations Roadmap explains how to create and implement a plan that will work for your situation.
  3. Put the right tools in place. Modern technology can automate the routine tasks that drag you down. Careful investment in tools can give you the freedom to focus on more strategic pursuits while opening up new opportunities for strategic analysis. Making Sense of Sales Technology offers guidance on how to select tools that will pay off in the long run.
  4. Foster a Culture of Strategic Thinking. While tools and planning can help, you ultimately need to have the right kind of culture to thrive as a strategic sales ops team. If you don’t have that culture today, your team can advocate for the kinds of changes that can bring about the right atmosphere. The From Tactical to Strategic Sales Ops webinar shows how other teams have made this switch and offers some helpful advice.

Nature might love a crab, but becoming a crabby, tactical team doesn’t have to be your fate. Evolution also offers examples of decarcinization, most notably the coconut crab. (Be warned: coconut crabs are garbage can-sized nightmares that may have eaten Amelia Earhart and will live in your nightmares forever once you see one.)

Take charge of your team’s evolution by intentionally taking steps to become less crabby, more strategic, and ultimately more valuable.

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