sales ops

San Francisco Sales Ops Happy Hour – March 2016

The first SF Sales Ops Happy Hour, sponsored by Salesloft, Datafox and Nova, and hosted by AlwaysHired and Datahug was a big success. We had 130 people in attendance.

The panel was moderated by Arik Pelkey (Sr. Director of Product Marketing, Datafox). Sales Ops leaders such as Courtney Hays (Sr. Sales Ops Manager, Marketo), Tobias Muellner (Head of Sales Operations, Anaplan), Stephanie Max (Co-founder, AlwaysHired), and Taft Love (Manager of Sales Development and Sales Operations, PandaDoc) discussed the role of Sales Ops and the skills you need for optimizing sales teams’ effectiveness.


  1. Sales Ops is involved in a little bit of everything. Data management, strategy execution, and sales process measurement are just a few.
  2. Sales Ops isn’t always about putting out fires. It can be about preventing fires from happening in the first place.
  3. The biggest challenges in Sales Ops are a) finding the right people and b) companies investing in Sales Ops too late.
  4. The most important thing in Sales Ops is helping to put measurments in the sales process.

Here is a summary of some of the best questions and answers from the session.

Q: What is Sales Ops? What do you do on a daily basis?

Courtney: For me, it’s a lot of meetings – a lot of decision making. My team is responsible for data management, systems, platform processes etc. We’re a little bit of everything. Sales, at the end of the day, are our priority. We’re there to help you execute and win business for the company.

Tobias: What is Sales Ops not? We’re the people at the front lines. We ensure salespeople can sell, stuff is booked, and strategy is outlined and executed. I think when you think about the whole sales cycle, Sales Ops supports everything along the way.

Stephanie: I think Sales Ops is very different depending on the size of organization you have. For me, Sales Ops is about making salespeople’s lives more efficient and effective. It’s more about supporting the sales team than anything else.

Taft: Day-to-day, my job is split between running an SDR team, putting out fires, and helping plan out sales processes. The most important thing for Sales Ops, in my opinion, is helping put measurements in the sales process because ultimately, you can’t manage what you can’t measure. We help sales teams make improvements that lead to more revenue.

Q: What would you say are some of the biggest challenges you faced in your role?

Courtney: A big challenge for us is working cross-functionally. It’s really key that you build relationships with each department. We’re really investing in our partnerships with the other departments.

Tobias: The biggest challenge I see is that a lot of companies invest too late in Sales Ops. Also, it’s hard to find the right people to build the team around. You need to have a team that sticks together.

Stephanie: When you come into a company, you’re often cleaning up a huge mess that’s not your making. Additionally, there are always fires to put out. I think at the end of the day, the most difficult part is making sure you’re not becoming the enemy of the sales teams. You’re trying to make their lives better and you’re measuring all these things to show them how they can get better.

Taft: Once you find your feet, I think the single biggest challenge is actually identifying the problems worth investing time in and solving. Take a step back, look at the system that you put in place, and ask lots of questions about what’s broken.

Q: What would be your advice for companies that do not currently have Sales Ops?

Courtney: For me it was making sure we have those key people in place. It’s making sure you have that somebody in the starting position that is willing to build a foundation and work hard to roll up those sleeves. Figuring out what the problems are, creating processes even if the company doesn’t want them – that’s part of our job.

Tobias: When it comes to really building an infrastructure, I think a lot of people are trying to patch problems with tools – which is never going to work. Build your infrastructure as early as possible; build it while looking forward. What problem do you want to solve tomorrow and not just the problem that you want to solve today?

Stephanie: The biggest struggle with infrastructure and what companies should do is to make sure the person who’s building out their Salesforce knows what they’re doing.  I think the biggest mess you walk into as a Sales Ops person is a completely disastrous Salesforce implementation that you have to try to debug. Making sure you have the right people trumps the infrastructure.

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Taft: Step one for me is to lock the stakeholders in a room and have a very specific goal. If you don’t have that, you’re never going to have a process that works because people will end up bringing in tools to patch problems.

Q: How do you take Sales Ops up a level and add strategic value to the company?

Courtney: For me, it’s really important that you help a company scale and grow. A good example of this is when we implemented a CPQ (configure price quote) tool. It saved our sales team hours of manual data entry.

Tobias: I think Sales Ops should be in any strategic discussion that happens in a company in regards to sales strategy. Why? Because you’re at the heart of the business; you own the data. We know what’s really going on in the company.

Stephanie: I think getting to the strategy is the most important part and any good Sales Ops leader will tell you it’s the hardest part to get to. You’re not a firefighter – instead of putting out fires, you’re supposed to be building things that prevent fires.

Taft: The way I created value was to first map out what is and isn’t right. The second is to measure where we are right now. You define success in a quantitative way and once you do that, it’s pretty easy to prove your value.

Audience Q: How do you justify expansion of hiring and spend?

Courtney: We implemented case management inside Salesforce so all of our work goes through that. I can track my team to make sure what they’re doing is right, what they are working on, etc.

Audience Q: How do I as an SDR suggest implementing new apps? What should I do to show the tool is an investment?

Taft: It depends on the tool. First, you need to identify if you are fixing the symptom or the disease. If you can show that you identified the disease, then it’s usually very easy to demonstrate the opportunity cost of extra time spent that this tool can save. If it’s something that’s not quantifiable, it’s probably a hard case to make.

Audience Q: How do you work your way up and what are the resources you found in order to get to where you are? There’s not a lot of knowledge or resources for “getting there” so how do you climb your way up in order to bring a lot of value?

Courtney: I’ve gotten to where I am thanks to an amazing team that has helped me get there. But on your own, you can’t stop asking questions. Just being passionate about it was huge. I also had a great mentor throughout my beginning stages, which was very helpful. If you don’t have Sales Ops in your company, I suggest finding a mentor outside of your company of someone that is in Sales Ops.

Audience Q: The whole idea of Sales Ops is to be proactive and give your organization a competitive advantage. How do you get people to change their mindset from today’s problem to what we’re going to be doing in the future?

Stephanie: I think the turnaround campaign you have to lead is about communicating and showing the value of the other things you want to do. I call it ruthless prioritization of things I would say yes to. I know that I’m going to add more value long-term if I say no to a lot of things now.

Next Event: Don’t miss the next San Francisco Sales Ops Happy Hour on 5/12/2016!

See below some related articles and resources that might help too:

Sales Ops Blackbelt Checklist – eBook

Why You Should Think of Sales Operations as Sales Optimization – By Don Otvos

Four Sales Activities That Kill Sales Performance – By Don Otvos

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