They work quietly in the shadows. They are considered part of the supporting cast, not the leading actors. They aren’t the ones who bask in the cheers whenever a big deal closes.

But make no mistake, Sales Operations professionals are becoming the heart and soul of the modern revenue-generation team.

With that in mind, this list is about recognizing some of the Sales Ops people who make all of that happen. Their time for recognition has come.

Kristina Frost

Manager of Strategy and Operations at Elastic

What should people know about Sales Ops?

“Sales Ops itself is a misnomer. Companies who excel at this are doing more than keeping the lights on, paying people, routing territories, etc. Those things are now the table stakes of sales strategy/Sales Ops. The real value proposition extends into the job functions of every customer-facing person at your company – how are you making their lives easier – and, in the case of some really big bets, potentially even into your product itself. Great Sales Operations people are building The Six Million Dollar Man: they have the technology, they can rebuild him.”

Peter Kazanjy

Founder of the Modern Sales Pros, co-founder of TalentBin.

What should people know about Sales Ops?

“That having someone, or a set of someones, who are purely focused on making the ‘machine’ that is your sales organization run faster and more smoothly is one of the highest leverage things you can to build enterprise value in your organization.”

Ross Collinson

Sales and Business Operations Manager at BuildingConnected

What do you see in the future for Sales Ops?

“What is really exciting about the slightly more distant future is the introduction of machine learning and AI to our field. If Sales Ops can connect up all the customer data, the computers will eventually be identifying patterns, sending alerts, making recommendations and automating all over the place. That’s something I’m very excited for.”

Jin Daikoku

Director of Inside Sales at Netskope

What do you see in the future for Sales Ops?

“Sales Ops will become a more clearly defined and business-critical function. Universities will have courses and eventually even majors where people graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Sales Operations, the way they already do today with subjects like Marketing, Finance, Accounting, Business Administration or Computer Science.”

Karan Singh

Director of Sales Strategy, Programs & Analytics – Sales Operations at Cloudera

What should people know about Sales Ops?

“I think it’s important to recognize the vast scope and potential impact of a fully mature and robust Sales Operations organization. . . . When built out correctly, Sales Operations can impact an organization’s GTM and Selling Strategy through robust analytics. It can facilitate your sales organization to be more productive through strong sales enablement, help drive sales behavior through compensation design and account planning, and even improve deal size and discounting behavior through a well-built deal desk organization. It’s important to invest in all the core pillars of a Sales Operations organization as all these different pillars end up complimenting each other and ultimately provide your sales organization with a great partner for accelerating growth.”

Alex Miller

Sales Operations Manager at ProsperWorks

What do you see in the future for Sales Ops?

“Sales teams of the future will rely more and more on finer pieces of data to make strategic decisions – allowing sales teams to sell more with smaller teams. Sales Ops will play the role of architecting systems to collect that data and analyze it to shape the team’s overall strategy.”

Elaine Mao

Head of Global B2B Sales Operations and Strategy/Business Development at Uber

What should people know about Sales Ops?

“I think Sales Ops teams are most effective when they approach work with extreme empathy and understanding of the emotions within the sales job. By doing this, it becomes easier to communicate ideas to sales and you work more closely as true business partners.”

Joe Ort

Director of Sales Operations at SiriusDecisions

What has been your greatest challenge in Sales Ops?

“There is a lot of knowledge hidden in data that Sales Ops owns. Organizations should lean on those closest to the numbers to derive meaningful insights that can drive the business forward. Start asking questions from your Ops teams and you’ll be surprised at what they are able to produce.”

Brian Belli

Sales Operations Lead at DataFox

What should people know about Sales Ops?

“Sales Ops’ main function is an obstacle remover. It is the job of the Sales Ops team to understand where the current bottlenecks are and work to remove them. Your number is the sales teams number. Anything you can do to help them get to their number as an organization should be your top priority. The analogy I like to use is your are the offensive coordinator of a football team. You aren’t the head coach (VP of Sales). You aren’t the quarterback (AE). But you are always a part of the huddle to understand what plays are working and which are not.”

Brett Rogers

Sales Operations Manager at Reflektive.

What do you see in the future for Sales Ops?

“The future looks very good for Sales Ops. As the sales role becomes more and more process oriented, there will need to be more and more people aware of those tools, and training people so that they are the most effective with them. Additionally, with our insight into how a company’s sales department is doing, we have immense insight into what markets to expand into and what product changes result in more or less meetings/sales. It’s a very powerful role and will expand to be a much larger driving force for most companies in the future.”

Kendall Grant

Director of Sales Operations at Fastly

What has been your greatest challenge in Sales Ops?

“A challenge is creating an agreed upon standard set of metrics to measure the health of the business. Revenue is universal, but every department that interacts with Sales Ops will have other metrics that they think are important. Determining what are the leading indicators of success and receiving buy-in from all teams is critical to running the business and being effective in Sales Ops.”

Kevin Loh

Director of Sales Operations at Aasonn

What has been your greatest challenge in Sales Ops?

“There can sometimes be a perception that Sales Ops is a purely administrative support role that primarily manages the Sales org’s CRM platform. I believe it is much more at the heart of all revenue-driven operations. Changing the mindset of organization leaders of Sales Ops from an administrative role to a valued strategic partner can be a challenge. Sales Ops team members are intimately familiar with the health of the business, the sales strategy, who is performing, who is underperforming, the market, etc. It really takes a strong sales or business leader to understand the value that Sales Ops can bring in driving operational efficiency and revenue growth.”

Dhiraj Singh

Inside Sales and Operations Manager at MemSQL

What should people know about Sales Ops?

“Sales Ops is growing for a reason. Investing in Sales Ops brings high ROI for sales orgs. Start thinking about Sales Ops as early as your first, early stage sales hire. The earlier you collect data and start building the harness for your future sales org, the better you prepare yourself for scaling your sales team.”

Rick Vaughan

Manager of Sales Operations at Distil Networks

What has been your greatest challenge in Sales Ops?

“Providing the perfect blend of tools, automation and process to help salespeople sell more efficiently while also producing actionable data insights.”

Jason Paquette

Director of Sales Operations at MongoDB

What should people know about Sales Ops?

“There doesn’t seem to be one standard approach or definition of Sales Ops. Some are more designed toward people, process and technology. That’s where my background is. I see it more as a business analyst function who can help with defining and refining processes. But some are looking for ways to build models and plan. If you ask 50 people what sales operations means to them, you might get four dozen different answers.”

Ganka Bobeva-Rosevear

Director of Sales Operations and Enablement at PhishMe

What has been your greatest challenge in Sales Ops?

“In my experience, organizations vary greatly in how the role of Sales Ops is shaped up and where it fits in the hierarchy. Regardless of those differences, where I have found most resistance is in process changes that on the surface do not create immediate value for the team members involved. User education and adoption of any process changes has definitely been the biggest challenge I have faced. Sales team members are always looking for efficiency and minimum input with maximum results, and staying on top of record updates and making sure certain fields are revised as needed is not always a priority. The approach I have used to solve this challenge is twofold: working on executive sponsorship and letting data speak for itself and allowing its value to come through.”

Bernie Macht

Sales management and sales operations professional who runs MACHT Consulting.

What do you see in the future for Sales Ops?

“Data analysis and business analysis are going to be big for Sales Operations. As the guardians of the most important data (other than the formal financial system) in a company, Sales Operations will be the ones who best understand it and therefore will be asked to report on it and draw conclusions from it. We also have to be on top of the new Artificial Intelligence wave coming along. Whether it is better analytics to find better leads or automated responses to initial inquiries, it will be Sales Operations who have to figure out how to make it fit in their company’s process and whether it will actually make a difference to sales performance.”

David Aguilar

Director of Sales Operations at Invoca

What should people know about Sales Ops?

“Sales Operations, at its core, is there to solves problems. If you have a modern Sales Operations team, the profile of your Sales Ops staff is probably one of the most eclectic and high-functioning in your entire organization. In a modern Sales Ops team you will find people with programing, systems, data management, sales management, finance, marketing and communications knowledge and backgrounds – among others. People should see this group as the perfect sounding board for complex problems. I am sure you will be pleasantly surprised by the plethora of approaches and solutions they will come up with.”

Thomas Gadd

Director of Sales Operations at Nitro

What should people know about Sales Ops?

“Ultimately, I think my vision/idea of what Sales Operations actually is goes something like this: our remit, our mandate, is to make sales organizations more efficient, to make them more effective, to tell the wider business where the sales org has been, and where it’s going. Efficiency is making it easier to increase inputs for more output. Effectiveness is making the same inputs produce more output. Where we’ve been is historical analysis, and where we’re going is forecasting. This four-part definition of Sales Ops is how I explain it to Lyft drivers, grandmas, and clueless executives alike. So I think it might be useful here. To new practitioners, I’d say you must ruthlessly prioritize. If you jump on every fire, you’ll find yourself relegated to a tactical role. Don’t be afraid to rock the boat, say no, align ruthlessly to critical business objectives, and let unimportant things burn.”

Brooke Treseder

Director of Sales Systems & Strategy at Pentaho

What should people know about Sales Ops?

“Sales Ops is still in its infancy and I have found that most companies outside of hardware/software don’t have a defined Sales Ops function. I have been recruiting for a candidate in the UK and have found that the pool of candidates is very small. . . . I view Sales Ops as the grease that keeps the wheels of sales of moving. I often equate Sales Ops to ducks floating on the water. Above water, we look like we are floating along effortlessly but underwater, we are paddling furiously. As our company continues to grow at a rapid pace, I often feel like we are building a bridge while we are currently traversing it. It is new territory for most of us and we don’t always have experience with the best way to tackle a new business challenge. The primary thing people should know about Sales Ops is that the vast majority of us are here to help salespeople sell more. We aren’t the business prevention group. We bend over backwards, work long hours especially at quarter end to ensure that we can book as much business as we can while ensuring it is best for the business. We are all on the same team, with the same goal – make money selling software!”

Jonathon J. Leon Guerrero

Sales Operations Manager/Pre Sales Solutions Consultant at LeanData

What should people know about Sales Ops?

“I want people to know that sales operations is the center of everything. I don’t mean that in a cocky way. But everything goes through sales operations whether it’s Salesforce, compensation, data management – everything. It’s an emerging role. And it’s a very attractive role. If you go to any job posting site, you’ll see that everyone is looking for sales operations people. That’s why Sales Ops is starting to be in the spotlight. People are seeing the importance.”

Kim Stites

Director of Sales Operations at Looker

What has been your greatest challenge in Sales Ops?

“Getting meaningful analytics that can truly provide value and help to drive process and system changes.”

Hacer “Haja” Demiroers

Director of Sales Operations at Datadog

What do you think is in the future for Sales Ops?

“Sales Ops is the glue for everything. It keeps your business together. It’s the central place for all of your information. It’s a critical function for every company. But it’s a very young field and there’s no formal education for Sales Ops. Yet I’m very hopeful for the future because I think there’s a growing awareness about the importance of Sales Ops. There are lots of young people coming on board and getting trained in the field. So the future looks very, very hopeful.”

Oren Berman

Salesforce administrator at Greenhouse

What has been your greatest challenge in Sales Ops?

“Predicting where my team’s requirements will change in the future, and designing solutions with enough built-in flexibility to handle those changes.”

Other Ops-Stars to Watch

Rickie Goyal

Senior Director of Worldwide Operations at Nutanix

Guillermo Pedroni

Director of CRM Applications at Telogis

Neil Sheth

Vice President of Sales Operations at App Annie

Laura Kornacka

Sales Operations Manager at FinancialForce.com

Archana Ranjan

Director of CRM Systems & Operations at EnterpriseDB

Justin Guerra

Sales Operations at Kentik

Debra Estrada

Vice President of Global Sales operations at Gigamon

Juan Galvis

Americas Sales Operations at Palo Alto Networks

Sean Passanisi

Sales Operations at Lever

Channing Ferrer

Vice President of Sales Operations and Strategy at HubSpot

Kristen Podger

Sales Operations Manager at Pendo

Dan Bacon

Director of Sales Operations at New Relic