Sales Manager vs Sales Ops

When we start planning the growth of a SaaS startup, we face a key decision: the hiring of a person to lead this sales growth. We will be considering two profiles: Sales Manager and Sales Ops. Where are their areas of expertise? Which should we hire first?

At Outbound People, whenever we meet with potential clients for the recruitment of SDRs, we ask them who is leading that prospecting team.

The SDRs are junior profiles, unlike Accounts and CSM, who start their sales career in a B2B SaaS with this role. While they are intelligent profiles, they lack the strategy and knowledge that Outbound Sales requires. They must be trained and guided by a person with experience in this methodology, they cannot be expected to do it alone.

The SDR’s are junior profiles that must be trained and guided by a person with experience in this methodology. For this reason, we recommend hiring a sales leader.

Sometimes, it is the founders themselves who step into this role at the beginning. But often they don’t have the time and sometimes they don’t have a thorough understanding of the process to implement it correctly. This is the time when we recommend hiring a sales leader who can have the focus and experience to put process and strategy in this area.

Who are these Outbound Sales leaders?

We work with startups of all sizes. Some startups already have both roles in place – the Sales Ops may even have a team -, while other startups have to create the team from scratch and don’t know which one to start with.

In an ideal world we would onboard the Sales Manager and the Sales Ops at the beginning, but there is not always a budget for both. There are times when we must prioritize other needs, although we all agree that sales are key to any company and without them it would be difficult for any company to prosper.

If you are in that initial phase, you may have some sales, but they are not yet a sign of the potential of your SaaS, your target market or your buyer persona. If you are planning your growth, you must make the decision to find the person to lead and assemble your sales team. Essentially, at that time you will need to decide:

Who do we hire? Sales Manager vs. Sales Ops

There are startups that do not know the methodology in depth yet and wish to find someone who will set up the strategy, choose the CRM and make implementations, get metrics, lead the team and sell…

That’s frankly difficult, and if you find someone who meets these criteria, they will inevitably excel at some aspects rather than at all tasks. We live in a very fast-paced world in which specialization is key to achieve depth and stand out.

The Sales Manager and Sales Ops positions have different areas of expertise. Finding qualified candidates for both positions is downright difficult, and if you do find one, you can expect them to excel in some areas more than others.

The first step is to understand what each of them contributes:

Sales Manager or Sales Director

They have been an Account Executive in the past and are good communicators and team leaders who also push and close sales. They know the Outbound Sales methodology and can also pull out dashboards and sales metrics. But their specialty is leading teams, designing a strategy (with data provided) and selling.

Sales Ops

They are process people who implement the Outbound Sales methodology. They measure the metrics, are capable of making new implementations in the CRM to obtain new data that improves the sales process, they monitor the entire funnel and support salespeople in all the technical and administrative parts, the pitch, and develop the Sales Playbook. Their goal is for Sales to sell more and better. They work with Marketing to improve sales pitches and content that supports sales.

Which role should we hire first?

After knowing what each profile does, the founder or CEO who needs to take this decision must also know themselves and what they need.

When we must prioritize between a Sales Manager or a Sales Ops, the CEO must take into account their own qualities.

If the founder / CEO1 comes from the business area, then it may be easier for them to become a Sales Manager – and this is usually my recommendation -. Therefore, hiring a Sales Ops will solve a lot of administrative implementation work and the CEO will be able to delegate the day-to-day of the team and its monitoring to that person.

On the other hand, if the founder has a more technical profile, they may not feel comfortable in the sales area and might prefer someone who is responsible for this leadership. In this case, the best option will be a Sales Manager who sells and who lays the first foundations of an Outbound Sales team.

In both cases, when it’s time to scale sales, you will need both profiles. To build the sales machine, you’ll need the team leader as well as the process leader we know at Outbound People.

When the time comes to scale sales, it will be necessary to have both profiles: a team leader and a process leader.

1 Founders are of course the best sellers at this stage. They know ‘their baby’ and its virtues thoroughly, but they are probably not experts in creating a sales methodology, unless they come from a commercial background.

Are you looking to hire a Sales Manager or Sales Ops? Get in touch.

Want to read more fresh content about the role of an SDR and sales teams? Check out more articles.