Sales & Operations: Shake Things Up for a Winning Combination

November 21, 2019



Professionally, I have always found myself at the intersection of Operations and Sales departments, viewing the relationship from the Operations perspective.  When I worked in the financial services industry, I partnered with our sales force to source and then service high net worth clients. Currently, I serve as the Director of Operations for Compass, a technology-enabled real estate brokerage and one of the Chicago Tribune’s top places to work in Chicago.  In my role, I am responsible for removing obstacles from our agent’s path in order to grow their business easily and efficiently. The more successful my team and I are, the easier it is for our agent recruitment team to bring on new agents. My experiences in the financial and real estate technology industries are vastly different, but one overarching theme is clear: Sales teams that partner closely with Operations tend to be the highest performers.


Sales and Operations are frequently at opposing ends of the tug of war rope: Sales departments think Operations kills their deals, and Operations thinks Sales over-promises.  The Operations team doesn’t understand why Sales can’t “play by the rules,” and the Sales department doesn’t understand why Operations cannot bend to accommodate this big sale they’ve put so much work into landing.  The top performers on both ends of the tug of war rope realize that this thinking is fundamentally flawed and backwards. When Sales and Operations form a partnership early on, both sides excel. However, this is no small feat, with each group having unique motivations and skill sets.  The key to making this partnership work is simple - communication. Communication isn’t a quick email, it’s not a hasty phone call as you’re running to your next meeting. It has to be treated just as carefully as you would treat a prospective sales meeting, putting the planning and preparation in place to be proactive.


Ideally, this relationship would start before there is a specific need or request.  Treat this relationship like you would a good referral source - nurture it and check in often.  Here are some tactical ways to build the partnership between these two teams:


  • Practice your sales pitch with someone in Operations

  • Check in to see if there have been any improvements or efficiencies within their department

  • Meet with all new hires - one might have the skill set to partner on final pitch meetings

  • Before the next big sales opportunity, game-plan with Operations so that initial client interactions can be a home run

  • Thank the Operations team when a big problem is solved for an unhappy client


Many times, Operations has ideas on how to combat a specific issue for a prospective client or can provide feedback on a new process they are piloting.  When you have a more complicated customer, partnering with Operations proactively can deliver the optimal solution. Top performers see these steps as critical to their success.  Sales and Operations are often viewed as oil and vinegar, opposing forces that don’t mix on their own. What is often overlooked is that with some work to shake things up, they mix together to create a winning combination.


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