Sales vs. Operations: Ending the Sibling Rivalry


Sales and operations are two sides of a gold coin. While your sales force is the driving force behind your business that allows you to see profits, your operations determine how efficiently those profits are used to maximize your success. Together, these two components must function together as a well-oiled machine.

The Rivalry

For many businesses, sales and operations don’t work well together. They seem to draw a line down the middle of your establishment and forbid one another from crossing over. However, when sales and operations each go their separate ways, your customers are the ones who suffer.

For example, in some cases sales personnel will do anything to get a sale. This may mean making promises that the operations team can’t deliver or offering deals that cut too deeply into your bottom line. Customers are perceptive and they can tell when sales and operations personnel aren’t on the same page. Not only does it make your business look disorganized, but also it results in customer dissatisfaction in the form of failed promises, disgruntled workers, or an end product that doesn’t meet expectations. Operations teams also need to understand the value of change and forward movement, sales teams should make deals that benefit the customer’s overall experience, and that doesn’t always look like “what we’ve always done”. The real culprit isn’t sales or ops, its communication.

Ending the Tension

If you’re a business owner or manager, it’s your responsibility to sit the kids down and have a good long talk about how to solve this silly sibling rivalry. You’re all working toward the same end goal: the success of the business. So butting heads is only going to be counterproductive and result in wasted resources (and, worse yet, lost customers).

The best way to get both sides of your business on the same page is to emphasize communication, communication, communication. First, holding regular meetings and setting expectations for everyone as a cohesive unit starts to break down that division between departments. The operations team needs to know what the sales team is expected to accomplish so they understand what’s headed their way. Similarly, the sales team needs to know what the operations team’s goals and limits are so they aren’t over-promising to customers.

Continue building on this collective company culture by emphasizing fluid communication between teams. When sales team members are working to wrangle a potential customer, encourage them to verify the scope of a customer’s deal with the operations team before the final handshake. Customers will appreciate the fact that their deal is verified and your operations team will be able to deliver what’s been promised.

Finally, make sure the sales and operations teams are equally invested in one another. During your regular staff meetings – you are holding regular meetings now, aren’t you? – ask the sales team to bring a problem to the table. What is the sales team struggling with? Is there anything operations can do to alleviate that problem? Then ask the operations team to explore one of their problems with the sales team. Once each team sees the other as a source of support and solutions, they will begin strengthening rather than weakening each other.

 Moving Forward

Hopefully by now your teams have decided to erase their dividing line and share the space. With ideas and helpful suggestions flowing from team to team, you can begin turning your attention toward growth. Get your teams together to set new goals for the business and for each other. When those goals are met, emphasize the collective success. Many businesses offer sales personnel commission-based incentives, but that leaves the operations team carrying a heavy burden without any increased reward. To keep your sales and operations teams happy with a long-term relationship status, offer joint incentives that reward both teams whenever a goal is met.

Business is all about balance. If one of your departments is charging full-speed ahead while the other is left picking up the slack, you’re not going to be in business very long. Instead, get your teams on the same page, do some trust falls, and start building a cooperative company culture.

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