Sales Ops Insights Series: Interview with Jim Kaleem

Mar 10, 2020

Sales ops is a field in flux. As leaders find more efficient and effective practices, formerly cutting-edge technology and techniques can quickly become outdated. Getting ahead as a sales ops leader means continuously striving for improvements and finding better methods and results for their sales teams.

To get an insider’s look into what it means to be a sales ops leader, we had a chat with Jim Kaleem. Jim is the Head of Sales Enablement at Customer Management Practice, a service that helps cultivate better customer relations for companies. As the Customer Contact Liaison, Jim works closely with senior executives at many large corporations, including Target, MasterCard, Experian, Mercy Hospital, Benedictine Health, PetSmart, GrubHub, and AARP, to name a few – connecting them to credible vendors/solution providers like Lucidworks, Sutherland, Uber Health, among others.

With over three years of leadership experience at Customer Management Practice, Jim knows what it takes to make a successful sales team. We got to ask him about his tools, insights, and what the daily life of a sales ops leader looks like. Here is what he had to say:


Jim Kaleem Interview

Question #1: What is one piece of tech that your sales team can’t live without? How do they use it daily?

Our number one tool is LinkedIn. We live and breathe by it. Most of our lead generation and outreach all happen through LinkedIn. We also use email and DiscoverOrg, but both are nice to have. Sales Navigator is one of the biggest things we use on a day-to-day basis.

We do all of our own in-house lead generation and really try to understand the market before we reach out to a prospect. We have a lead sheet with a bulk list of companies to reach out to instead of direct contacts. Once leads from those companies engage with us through email, phone, or LinkedIn, we start putting a point of contact in. Once our sales teams have a lead sheet, we use Sales Navigator, and the majority of responses come from LinkedIn.

For every ten messages we send on LinkedIn, we have a 50% response rate. Because we have good internal sales training and messaging, two or three of those ten responses are positive, and they want us to reach out. We have really honed-in on what the messages need to say and what training the sales team needs.

Question #2: Describe your typical day-to-day workflow as a sales ops leader.

Most of my normal day is full of reporting and analytics. We recently moved over to a new CRM, so I spend much of my day staying on top of the team to make sure they are doing what they need to do with CRM. I also spend an average day making sure that reporting and forecasting week to week is up to date.

The top four things I do every day are:

1. Ensuring the team is using their CRM.

2. Selling. I don’t like being fenced-off from the team. I sell side-by-side with them and compete with them. That way, my sales team doesn’t have an excuse. I know what it’s like; I’m right there with them.

3. Training. I make sure that the new hires are trained right and follow the process that we set in place. Our process is very detailed: it takes at least a month to onboard our new hires. I am always staying on top of them and making sure to train them the correct way. I make sure that they reach out to companies and prospects the right way.

4. Finding new companies in the field and engaging prospects.

Question #3: How closely do you work with your marketing team?

We work pretty closely with our marketing team. We mostly do event and sponsorship marketing. The event team is great at getting the right leads to our two most popular events – Customer Contact Week Las Vegas* and CCW Executive Exchange St. Louis*

Do you think your marketing provides high-quality leads? What tactics do you use for combined lead generation efforts?

Yes and no. It all goes back to how closely sales works with marketing. Whether marketing provides high-quality leads depends on having the same mindset and understanding the sales team. They need to know why you have specific targets and look at specific companies.

Marketing also needs to be a part of the sales training.

Marketing can test certain markets by reaching out to specific data sets in a mass context and know if they are credible and high-quality leads for sales. If marketing and sales don’t meet eye-to-eye, then it’s impossible to get a high-quality lead. They need to work hand-in-hand to understand the target market and conquer the land united.

Question #4: What CRM do you use?

We recently switched over to Oracle.

What are your thoughts on your CRM and data integrity? Do you leverage integrations? Do you think they help or hurt data integrity?

We realized that data cleanses are a team effort. We had to find a seamless process to carry everything over when we switched over to Oracle, and most of the data in our old CRM was very old. Management had not taken data integrity seriously and thought that it would fix itself, so we had to backtrack and fix that data daily. Everyone in our company uses the same CRM, so there is no split-data, and everyone holds each other accountable for clean data.

We don’t leverage many integrations; we mostly do things manually. When we get marketing leads, the team enters it manually, which only takes about a minute to tag and update the CRM correctly. It takes time for the team to get used to properly updating the CRM. There are benefits in the long run for this longer process. We could have them save time and optimize their input. In this case, though, the data quality is worth it.

Our marketing teams integrate with a few external tools, but I’m not too involved with that process.

Question #5: How do you make your forecasts as accurate as possible?

We do forecasting well ahead of time. We actually started forecasting for 2020 back in August. We created a WIG* for our start point and what we should be focused on. Then we think about what we can directly affect when it comes to a lead measure. For example, if our sales want a WIG of $1M a year, then we need to backtrack to do that – about $84,000 a month to reach that. If the average deal size is $30,000 and the conversion rate is 3% for every proposal we send out, then we need to send out 30 proposals to bring in 3 deals a month to reach $84,000 to get that WIG of $1M a year.

We even break it down to how many booked calls we need to have a week to determine how many proposals we get out a week. We can then backtrack to how many people we need to reach out to a day to get to that specific number of booked calls we need to have. We need to able to backtrack to a daily metric in order to reach our WIG. While some think sales is a talent, we believe that sales is something that can be taught if the work ethic is there, especially if you follow a detailed process.

You need to align forecasting with the big WIG of the organization, not just sales. Each department needs to have a WIG that aligns with the company WIG. How we forecast depends on the organization’s oversight. We do not see ourselves in a silo of selling on our own. We need to look at the overall business perspective and see how the whole company can move the business from there. You need to align with the entire team to ensure that we can deliver from end-to-end  from all departments.This initially was an idea that came from our Managing Director of CMP, after he had read “The 4 Disciplines of Executions” and came to fruition fairly quickly because it resonated with our department heads and trickled down the ladder since then.

Cold calling is not dead- I grew up and was trained on it. However, the way the world operates has changed, and we have to change along with it. Otherwise, we’ll end up like Blockbuster.

With how the new generation is operating, initial outreach almost never happens from cold calling. For every 20-25 calls we make, maybe one answers. With the time we used to have reps cold call, we can instead see what a rep can do on LinkedIn instead. If they can reach 25 companies with the right job titles in less amount of time and get a better hit rate, then why are we calling them? Instead, we save time and have everyone book a call through LinkedIn.

That works best for us, but every business is different. You need to figure out what is best for you and get the best time out of your guys.

How can you differentiate yourself on LinkedIn?

It’s a full-time job. You need to be a person and be able to maintain relationships by posting yourself and commenting. Specifically, posting what is credible to your field and your target market. You need to hold your own identity within the community you want to be a part of. It’s similar to real-life and maintaining your network, but you’re doing it digitally.

For example, does your profile and background show your personality or what you want to portray? Is your employment up to date? Are you liking posts and getting endorsements? If there is a specific image you want to portray and a thought leader, it’s a lot of work. You also need to engage with the right people. There is no clear answer or no clear process, but you need to treat LinkedIn like you treat Instagram. You need to be engaged and put just as much effort into it.

Key Takeaways

Kaleem’s insights as a sales ops leader provides some valuable information about the future of sales. His ability to utilize the newest technology has helped him create a more efficient and effective sales team.

  • By harnessing social media, his team has seen some dramatic results. In times past, a 50% response rate through phone or email would have been impossible. With their carefully curated system of cultivating the right leads through LinkedIn, though, they find the right time and place to connect with their ideal customer.
  • He also uses technology to bring everyone together as one team. By using the same CRM across the company, each person has access to the same information. They are also able to better keep each other accountable to make sure the data is as accurate and up to date as possible. There is less confusion across departments and team members when everyone shares the same data.
  • Lastly, the use of LinkedIn is an on-going process for Kaleem’s sales team. Rather than setting up a page, sending out mass messages, and waiting for responses to roll in, they have an intentional strategy to provide value on the platform. Kaleem equated LinkedIn to Instagram: be engaged and active. His sales reps provide thoughtful comments, like posts, and get endorsements on their page.

Kaleem has been able to create an effective strategy that helps his sales team reach the right people and brings his company together on the same page. Give some of his tips a try and see how they can help your sales team!


* Customer Contact Week Las Vegas is the world’s largest customer contact event. CCW Las Vegas provides an experience uniting cross-industry and cross-functional leaders committed to disrupting and innovating the end-to-end customer experience. The program features celebrity headliners, including Joe Montana and Tyra banks, industry expert speakers, thought-provoking sessions, various learning formats and Expo pavilion sessions. Join 4,000+ customer contact executives and learn best practices, network, immerse yourself in customer-centric initiatives and renovate the way you do business forever.

Date: June 22-26, 2020

Location: Caesars Forum, Las Vegas, NV

View the Agenda: http://bit.ly/2PJGw3r

* CCW Executive Exchange St. Louis is an exclusive, invitation-only event built for today’s senior CX and Customer Contact Leaders.  This 2.5 day event will give you the opportunity to engage in networking, benchmarking, project analysis, one on one business meetings, listen to 20+ experienced industry speakers and more! Leave this exchange with a myriad of actionable takeaways, ranging from insight into new technologies to guidance on measuring performance to strategy for establishing a customer contact vision.

Date: August 16-18, 2020

Location: St. Louis, MO

View the Agenda: http://bit.ly/2Idfrl7

* WIG= Wildly Important Goal. The goals that have the focus of the sales team and company.

Jim Kaleen is the Head of Sales Enablement at Customer Management Practice, a leader in helping companies around the world provide exceptional customer experience. He has worked with top CX/Customer Contact companies/vendors like Sutherland, Directly, HGS, Lucidworks, PWC to get in front of their target audiences such as Target, MasterCard, Home Depot, and USAA to help them optimize CX/customer contact across all verticals.

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