In our latest episode of The Rep’s Journey Podcast, Stephen Rhyne had the chance to speak with Ion Solar’s Vice President of Sales Operations, Lacy Anderson. In addition to her role at Ion, Lacy has worked in sales ops for Lumio, Aptive Environmental, and Vivint. With that much experience in direct sales, we were keen to hear what she’s learned over her 16-year career, and she certainly didn’t disappoint! Let’s take a look at some of the key takeaways from our discussion with Lacy.
Get to Know Your Team And Your Org
According to Lacy, one of the signs of a successful sales ops manager is how well they know other people in their business - even when it doesn’t relate to sales.
“One of my favorite things to do when I start at a new company is - I like to spend an hour in a different department every single day. Really sit down with ‘boots on ground’ people and say, ‘okay, walk me through what you do, walk me through your processes. Walk me through what it looks like.”
The beginning of your time in a new organization is critical, and the faster that you can get the “big picture” overview of your company’s structure, culture, strengths, and challenges, the more you will be able to serve your team and help them to generate sales. Spending time with different individuals across your company has another benefit as well - it creates advocates. Everybody wants to feel seen and heard, and providing that for your team will only benefit everybody involved.
“When you pass somebody in the hall, know what they do, know about their processes and how you can help make them better.”
Claim Your Seat At the Table
As you are growing into your role and developing your position in your sales ops role, you have an opportunity to secure time and influence with the major decision-makers in your company.
“If you’re interested in a meeting that’s happening, but maybe you’re not invited, don’t ever hesitate to ask to be invited.”
Lacy emphasized that you need to be tactful and understanding when doing this as some meetings contain sensitive information, but if you develop the ability to identify meetings that would help you to learn more about the business, culture, or different departments that you don’t normally interact with, then it’s a great idea to ask for a seat at the table.
Securing a seat in these meetings makes you a big player within your organization while at the same time allowing you to see your organization in different contexts depending on the subject of the meeting. You will develop a much greater sense of the “big picture” of your organization, and getting your work in line with the overall goals and values of your company is going to propel your career. It can be daunting, and you have to use some tact when asking for your spot, but it’s an amazing opportunity to learn, grow, and develop within your business.
Problem-Solving Benefits Everybody
We asked Lacy what advice she would give to somebody in a sales operations role who wants to “level up” their abilities and role within their company. Lacy’s answer was clear: Learning to solve problems across your organization is key to securing big wins.
That sounds great, but how is this actually accomplished? How do you build that muscle? Well, you have a sales team. Talk to them! Lacy highlighted the importance of taking the time to chip away at your team’s problems, and the big wins that come from doing so.
“Get in the weeds, start at the bottom, and figure out what everybody’s biggest problems are.”
Once you’ve become a demonstrated problem-solver for your team, it’s time to take the show on the road.
“I wasn’t focusing on just sales and sales ops. I was focusing on, okay, what’s finance’s biggest problem? What’s the biggest hiccup that the warehouse has with sales?”
Sales drive your business, and if you can learn to support and solve problems within the full machine that is built around your sales team, you will be in a great position to level up your role in sales ops.
Getting Your Contributions Recognized
It’s a frustrating experience to work hard on improvements within your company that go unacknowledged, or completely unnoticed, by leadership. Sometimes goals are intangible, sometimes your company isn’t keeping track of the KPIs involved with a given project, and sometimes long-lasting improvements do not make themselves known right away. Whatever the reason, sometimes you have to put in a little extra legwork to make sure that you can demonstrate the value that your work brings to your organization, and Lacy shared some fantastic tips for doing so.
Lacy learned early on that she needed to be involved in data decisions. Aligning herself with and taking ownership of tracked data gave Lacy a foundation for discussing business decisions with management, but also provided her a metric to fully track how job processes were improved as a result of those decisions.
“I learned early on that I needed data, and I needed to back it with, ‘hey, this isn’t just a feeling. This isn’t a thought. It’s something I’ve noticed, and here’s the data to back it up.’”
Once you’re in the management position, Lacy’s advice for getting your contributions recognized might seem counterintuitive: give credit to your team. If you can establish a culture that recognizes the contributions of the full team, and where it’s commonplace to give shoutouts to one another, that is going to benefit everybody under you.
“As you build up people below you, you’re building yourself up. And so I love to really give credit where credit’s due."
More Communication > Less Communication
The reality of working in sales ops is that it can be a difficult role. It involves a lot of intersectionality and making sure that the goals of the different departments in your organization are compatible with the needs of the sales team. Those in sales ops often find themselves the intermediary between different departments, translating their needs to others in a way that moves the business toward its big-picture goals. This can be a very challenging position to be in, but Lacy had some strategies for making it a little easier.
Lacy’s biggest point on this topic was clear: more communication is better than less. Over-communication does exist, but it is more manageable and carries less dire consequences than when communication within your company is lacking entirely. “More is okay. More people in the chat, that visibility, is fine. More communication on what is happening, and the why.” By keeping lines of communication active and open, the people in your organization are going to have more awareness of why things are being asked of them.
As you grow and develop in your role, you will develop of sense of what needs to happen and who needs to work together to improve processes and create alignment on your team. Sometimes this means inviting people to meetings that wouldn’t traditionally be in them - maybe finance should be looped into the occasional sales call, maybe IT could benefit from hearing what your sales reps are dealing with today, etc. As a manager, you have the opportunity to foster some of that cross-department understanding and make it an integral part of your company’s culture as you move forward.
We want to extend a huge thank you to Lacy Anderson for taking the time to come onto our Rep’s Journey Podcast. We were fortunate to get to hear valuable insights for excelling in the sales ops role from somebody who has been successful themselves. Lacy emphasized the importance of understanding your organization, actively participating in crucial meetings, honing problem-solving skills, backing observations with data, fostering a culture of recognition within your team, and prioritizing communication to bridge gaps between departments.
If you can implement these five takeaways, you’ll be in a great position to create a positive impact on your organization while advancing your career in the process. To delve deeper into these insights, check out the full interview on The Rep's Journey Podcast and YouTube.