Hiring the perfect SalesOps leader is a bit like looking for a rugby player that has played both in the scrum and as a fly-half.
The scrum is the operational end of the rugby business. All tactics. Putting your body on the line. The headgear they wear - scrum-caps - was invented to stop ears from coming off in the battle for the ball.
The fly-half is the team’s General. He stands behind the forwards as they fight each other for the ball, identifies weaknesses in the opposition and calls the plays to ensure the team scores. His job is predominantly strategic - and requires vision, alertness to change and the authority to get the other 14 players to follow his direction.
There’s not many who have both skill-sets - and those that do usually end up in the tactical, dirty end of the business.
Because in rugby, unless you can win the ball in the first place, the strategic stuff doesn’t really matter.
In the international game, I can think of just three men that had the physical prowess to play in the forwards (think of them as rhinos) and the speed and skill required of the backs (and these as the horses).
“Rugby Unicorns”, if you will.
Kiwi Zinzan Brook & Italy’s Sergio Parisse would be on the shortlist for sure.
But in my opinion, rugby's unicorn is 2m tall and 120kg heavy John Eales, the Australian second-row strong-man and World Cup winner. *
Eales - given the nickname “Nobody”, because “nobody’s perfect” – was picked for his tactical ability to basically throw his weight about (that’s what you do as a rugby forward) and his technical skill of vertically jumping 2m to pluck the ball out of the sky.
But he gained his nickname because his strategic vision and his ability to execute match-winning penalties was also legendary.
As in rugby, so also in SalesOps.
In SalesOps, the lead has to be both strategic and tactical.
She has to contribute to the 3-year vision of the company & look for current-year sales optimisation opportunities. Clearly strategic stuff.
But in the same breath, she has to oversee sales performance, administer incentive compensation, build out CRM systems and data modelling tools. All very tactical and operational.
This level of diversity requires decision-making at the highest level across such disciplines as organisational design, talent management, SFA and incentivisation, while at the same time delivering tasks requiring specific technical knowledge such as the detailed analysis behind QBR data, and making sure non-recurring payroll elements are correctly calculated.
Like the game of rugby, there are very few unicorns.
That's the problems with unicorns - they're damn hard to find. The reality is that you need to cater for diverse competencies and to do that, you do what rugby teams do - which is to build a team.
You need your backs and your forwards, and you need to find a leader that melds the team together, understands their differences, appreciates their divergent strengths and finds ways to value them even though for many, promotion to the top of SalesOps is impossible.
But there's one key difference between sport and business.
The immediacy of the results.
In rugby, after 80 minutes the result of all that hard work and molding of team talent is known.
In business, trusting your team and your strategy is even more important than in sports, because while you know what your team is doing, the results are almost never immediate.
One way of building trust fast is by insourcing the right skills - by job rotation for example, so that experienced sales managers work in SalesOps for a while. Rotation helps trust extend across divisional lines.
And much of the tactical delivery and analysis/design workload can be outsourced nowadays, which can help build trust as the extended team knows that best-in-class techniques are being used.
But that shouldn’t stop you from looking for that most elusive of beasts.
The SalesOps unicorn.
If you’re searching for unicorns, let’s do it together. Contact us here.
* I was at Twickenham - the home of rugby - in 1991 when Eales and the Australians broke our English hearts.
Methodical ramblings after twenty-five years in Sales, Marketing and SalesOps.