Most people on a flight don’t think much about an airport runway before a plane takes off or lands. Sure, some may think about the sensation of takeoff, worry about the harshness of the landing, or sleep through the entire experience. Not many consider the age of the runway, why it’s the width it is, what materials it consists of, or why it faces in the direction it does. Nor are they thinking about the people in the tower directing traffic or the people who maintain the runway.
The fact is, without that airport runway, the plane would have a challenging time getting in the air or returning from a flight. By design, runways promote speed, simplify navigation, and handle the aircraft that use the airport.
In the Sales Accelerator Playbook, we also use a runway: The agile sales operational runway. The operational runway is the tools, techniques, processes, and reporting required to handle the sales organization’s activity. The operational runway allows sales to seamlessly “fly” to prospects and “land” customers with the least amount of friction possible.
Sales Operations and the Agile Sales Operational Runway
People are a critical component in agile sales. Optimized processes and tools are needed to ensure the success of your people. As a sales leader, nothing is more frustrating than seeing your team not perform at their best because they are stuck dealing with broken and inefficient tools and processes. It is frustrating for teams when they see known issues not being addressed.
The critical role of sales operations is to direct traffic, fix issues, and improve the operational runway, ensuring that the sales team can continue to take off and land deals non-stop.
Components and Benefits of the Agile Sales Operational Runway
The agile sales operational runway provides sales reps with clear to understand and easy-to-use tools that make them more successful in their role. It comprises business-critical sales systems, such as CRM, sales intelligence, price books, quoting tools, contract management, case management, and document management. It also consists of general business-critical systems, including communication systems, issue tracking, product support systems, financial systems, and marketing systems.
The operational runway also includes the processes that guide these systems’ use and how they interact with the business. Sales processes, service processes, fulfillment, customer retention, hiring, training, communications, marketing processes, finance processes, and analysis processes are all part of the operational runway.
By grouping these tools and processes into the operational runway, it becomes clear how vital the role of sales operations is. The sales operations team becomes focused on what is needed by sales to build relationships with customers, work seamlessly with the rest of the business, and ensure the best customer experience possible without being held back by systems and processes.
Dangers of an Inefficient Agile Sales Operational Runway
Sales teams thrive on reducing and overcoming friction. Keeping the operational runway moving efficiently and removing obstacles to sales is the sales operations team’s priority. When sales reps are unable to prospect efficiently, resistance, and culture erosion sets in. If the sales team can’t track the sales funnel, forecasting, prioritization, and reporting will be inaccurate. When competitive intelligence isn’t easily accessible and timely, sales will lose out on closing deals. All of this leads to low morale and high turnover, making hiring for your agile sales team difficult.
Technology rapidly evolves. Processes can become outdated. Successful teams scale to a point where they can outgrow the current operational runway. The operational runway should be cultivated and refined continuously for improvements. It is vital to have a culture that supports the agile mindset of relentless improvement to ensure an optimal operational runway. A sales operations team with a relentless improvement culture identifies inefficiencies in the agile sales operational runway and finds optimization through PDCA. It allows the sales team to work faster, reduces stress, provides a higher quality experience for customers, and enables adaptation to change. A broken or failing operational runway has the potential to threaten the effectiveness of agile sales leadership.
Time and effort spent to create easily executable and repeatable processes are vital. The entire sales team will be ready to respond to change quickly and confidently. An optimal agile sales operational runway allows for more time to be spent focusing on closing deals, driving performance, and increasing customer satisfaction.