It’s all too easy to get lost in headlines that forecast economic downturn, increasing inflation, dropping investment, continued supply chain disruptions, and other challenges that directly impact sales and sales operations leaders. As Winston Churchill said, however, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” Those organizations that focus on building a solid foundation for growth by optimizing processes and technology, delivering actionable insights, and investing in the right skills and talent can not only survive but will find ways to thrive.

The bad news is that fewer than half (46%) of surveyed second-line sales managers (director-/VP-/CSO-/CRO-level) agree that their overall sales operating model (sales processes, sales technology, talent management, customer centricity, etc.) is predictable, scalable, and repeatable (source: Forrester’s Winter Sales Survey, 2022).

The good news is that sales operations and revenue operations organizations can make a measurable difference in sales performance and achievement. From the same survey:

  • Thirty-six percent of firstline sales managers and directors say that streamlining sales processes will have a significant impact on their ability to achieve or exceed sales quotas.
  • Forty-six percent of firstline sales managers and directors say that improvements in sales infrastructure and technology will have significant impact on their ability to achieve or exceed sales quotas.

Forrester has identified four key areas of focus and investment for sales operations and revenue operations leaders in 2023. These include the following:

  1. Deliver actionable insights to sales reps and sales leaders. A critical component of modern sales operations’ role is turning raw data into actionable insights that improve the ability to win, serve, retain, and grow customers. Sales technologies powered by AI, machine learning, and deep learning are driving a new age of predictive and prescriptive analytics that are role-specific, context-sensitive, and help personnel across the sales ecosystem make better business decisions about sales planning and execution.
  2. Leverage sales technology and infrastructure. The right sales technology can offload repetitive tasks, inform frontline personnel, improve decision-making, and automate data and activity capture. Sales operations practitioners must serve as technology champions, carefully evaluating the goals, use cases, and measurable advantages of potential new technologies. Success requires cross-functional collaboration (e.g., with IT and marketing operations) and, as noted above, the development of improved processes that precede and incorporate any new technology.

Most sales operations organizations are unlikely to see significant increases in budget or headcount in 2023, which means sales operations leaders must evaluate both existing and proposed initiatives that do not have a clear path to value and measurable return on investment. Avoid ad hoc projects and initiatives that conflict with the sales operations charter by assessing and quantifying the impact, risks, and benefits (both positive and negative) of any new initiatives or project requests. This is not to say that sales operations should be closed to new initiatives. The organization must recognize, however, that sales operations is a limited, and valuable, resource that must remain focused on the core mission of delivering productivity improvements that contribute to profitable revenue growth.

To see our full advice on where sales operations leaders should allocate their budget in 2023, check out Planning Guide 2023: Sales Operations. Non-clients can gain insights from our complimentary planning guide for sales executives.