The Age Old Business Battle: Sales vs. Operations

By September 21, 2017 Building a Better Team

As the CEO, you’re likely familiar with this problem: The sales department and the operations leaders of your business always seem to see the world differently and often, it creates conflict.The Age Old Battle: Sales vs. Operations

Frequent symptoms are ongoing friction and mistrust, power struggles regarding the budget, perceived inappropriate recognition, arguments over having enough access to you, and all-around overly competitive turf wars.

The good news is that the grinding and pressure keeps both sides focused and competitive – that is, as long as it doesn’t become dysfunctional.

Sales vs. Operations: Causes for Argument

Sometimes it’s not a surprise as to why these issues arise. Other times, it’s less clear.

Cause #1: Conflicting Goals

Your sales team wants to increase revenue and close deals before the end of the month. Your operations team seeks to deliver the product economically and without major production disruptions. Though both groups are working toward the same ultimate goal – seeing the business succeed – their means of getting there are different.

Cause #2: Conflicting Incentives

The sales team is motivated into action by bonuses and contests. The operations team may not have the same kind of incentives to work toward, and as such, they’re in less of a hurry to get to the end goal. Operations people may feel the sales team is overcompensated which adds fuel to their fire.

Cause #3: Conflict Negotiation Avoidance

As the leader of the team, you have to do more than wait for a magical resolution. You must engage in the sales vs. operations battle and help mediate the parochial frustrations on both sides. You can’t simply wait on the sidelines and watch it all play out.

Cause #4: Communication Disconnect

Even though you’ve got a company email account set-up or an instant message channel for every department, that doesn’t mean everyone communicates effectively. The sales team may make over-the-moon promises to clients without giving thought to how it will affect the operations team. If they’re not communicating effectively, they can’t work together effectively.

Cause #5: Ideological Differences

What does each department believe is the most important part of their job? What are the biggest goals they’re working to achieve? Often, there will be some parallels between the groups, but they’ll not be working within the same framework. It’s important to pinpoint here whether or not the goals of each department are aligned with the company’s overall goals and vision.

Winning the Sales vs. Operations Battle

When a sales vs. operations war is being waged, there are a few things you can do to tame the battle.

Solution #1: Create mutual goals, incentives, and KPI measurements.

If everyone is working toward the same overall vision and is compensated fairly, there are no holes in the growth plan. Both departments should be aware of their specific goals and how they intertwine with the other groups’ as well as the ultimate goal. Find a way to show specific measurements in growth areas.

Solution #2: Clarify your role as the CEO and the functions of the sales and operations leaders.

In the battle of sales vs. operations, communication is essential. Make sure leaders from both parties understand each other’s roles and department goals. Both leaders should be in constant communication and present at key meetings. Both leaders should take part in joint budget planning.

Ideally, rotate leaders within each department to find the best overall alignment for your company. Emphasize the overall business goals and objectives while both teams are expressing their own goals for their departments.

Also, it’s important for you to be active and motivated in resolving the conflict. One of your biggest responsibilities as the company CEO is to build trust between each leader and yourself, then use that trust to influence the teams to have faith in one another.

Solution #3: Create opportunities for both groups to spend time with customers.

The sales team works one-on-one with your clients from the start of the transaction to the end. They play a significant role in building trust between your customers and your brand. Your operations team, on the other hand, doesn’t often get this kind of face-to-face interaction.

Make an effort to create opportunities for your operations team to meet with your customers so they can better understand the customers’ needs and how their role plays into the sale.

The sales vs. operations argument circle doesn’t have to go on forever. By being aware of how these battles begin and how you can effectively mediate them, you’ll soon have both teams working together seamlessly.

Managing conflict in all businesses requires skill, patience, and leadership. When emotions run high, it takes an outside viewpoint to see the path to greatness. Fill out my contact form and let’s spend an hour on a video call working on your business. It’s complimentary.

Dave Schoenbeck
Follow Dave