Three Tips That Get Salespeople to Listen to Sales Ops

September 20, 2016

This post was contributed by MindBrew Editor in Chief Rafe VanDenBerg and originally appeared on

When you visit your parents (or other older relatives), do you ever get the sense that they still see you as a five-year-old kid? You could be fifty years old now, but your mom is still going to remind you to take a jacket because she remembers the winter day when you were in kindergarten and you accidentally left your coat at home. It’s even worse if you need to offer your parents advice. They’ll listen to suggestions from almost anyone else before they’ll listen to you because they just can’t picture you in that role. Unfortunately, something very similar can happen to sales ops teams, especially if they started out doing administrative work for the sales department.

It’s really common for sales ops teams to begin as little more than glorified assistants for the sales reps. Over time, however, most businesses discover that their sales ops groups add much more value if they focus on strategic issues rather than just day-to-day tactical work.

So the sales ops team starts looking at the bigger picture. As they dig into analyzing the numbers, they often get really excited about their discoveries. They can’t wait to share them with the sales team so that they can begin making the improvements that will help the company become more successful.

But the sales team frequently doesn’t respond with the same level of enthusiasm. They may ignore everything the sales ops team suggests or even react with outright hostility. They don’t really want to hear how the sales process could be improved—they just want you to help them close the deal they are working on right now.

If that happens to you, don’t worry. It doesn’t mean that you’re going to be relegated to an administrative role forever. The SellingBrew research team offers three suggestions for getting the sales team to listen and take you seriously when you offer strategic advice.

Lead with the data. If you’ve done your job right, you’ve come to your recommendations after a thorough analysis of the data. You can’t expect other people to accept those recommendations if they haven’t gone through the same process. So start with the numbers and then walk them through the analysis step-by-step. By the time you reach the end, they’ll probably be reaching the same conclusions you did.

Use non-threatening words. Words really do matter, and everyone responds better to a question than to a command. You need to be particularly careful when addressing anything that the sales department has been doing poorly. Use phrases like “it seems to me” or “help me understand” instead of presenting your ideas as facts. By using words that invite collaboration rather than confrontation, you may be able to learn more information and ultimately arrive at a better solution to a given issue.

Blame the system. Sometimes there’s just no getting around it — the sales team is wrong. But no matter how bad it is, don’t place the blame on the people involved. Instead, talking about improving the process or reforming the system. That gives the sales department a way to save face and makes it more likely that they’ll become part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

Admittedly, it takes some time to get the sales team to see the sales ops team in a different light, but these tips can help. Ultimately, however, the best thing you can do to change your image is to become an exceptional sales ops team. It’s hard to ignore someone who is really good at his or her job. To get started, check out the webinar on Exceptional Sales Ops Teams. It analyzes what is working well at other B2B firms and offers tips to help your sales ops team improve.

A veteran of B2B sales, marketing, and pricing, Rafe has more than 20 years of experience; he’s been a practitioner for Fortune 500 manufacturers and distributors, a successful independent consultant and author, as well a technology innovator. As a practitioner and consultant working to drive profitable growth for both new and well-established companies, Rafe learned the power of seemingly small improvements in just the right places. Ever since, he’s been an advocate for identifying true root causes and devising simple, pragmatic solutions that can be implemented with minimal disruption.

This post originally appeared on MindBrew. MindBrew provides real-world insights for business professionals. Our research and editorial teams gather insights from practitioners and industry experts all over the world. We pull together the actual experiences and practical know-how of these professionals who have “been there and done that” and who are seeking to identify the best practices across various industries, as well as the common problems and pitfalls to be avoided along the way. Our research and publications are available at:

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