"Sales Ops can have a real impact on the business”
Position: Inside Sales and Operations Manager at MemSQL, where he oversees Commercial Sales and Operations, managing 10 salespeople
Home: San Francisco
Education: Bachelor of Science degree in public health from the University of California, Berkeley
Career: Joined MemSQL in 2015. Previously Senior Marketing and Sales Operations Manager at TechValidate and co-founder of OneCal.
Favorite book: “My favorite book growing up was ‘Ender’s Game.’ A fiction book about business I liked is called ‘The Goal.’ And I’ve been reading ‘Radical Candor,’ which is just a great book for managing people.”
Interests: Cooking, basketball, tennis, watching TV
Dhiraj Singh is among the Sales Operations practitioners who believe in the importance of implementing strict rules when designing a selling process. Without structure, he said, trouble quickly can ensue.
“I’ve learned that there can be big consequences when you don’t pay attention to systems,” Singh added. “Without them, there’s a huge impact.”
That disciplined approach has served him well as the Inside Sales and Operations Manager at MemSQL. But it’s also how Singh lives his entire life. He has no choice. Singh was born with a rare genetic blood disorder called beta thalassemia that requires regular transfusions and a laser-like focus on maintaining his health.
That appreciation of attention to detail helps explain why he gravitated toward a career in Sales Ops. Singh has a knack for making sales teams more productive by allowing them to focus on what they do best – selling.
“I just love the whole idea of being data-driven,” he said. “People are just beginning to understand that Sales Ops can have a real impact on business.”
In fact, Pete Kazanjy, the tech entrepreneur and founder of the popular Modern Sales Pros community, said Singh is at the forefront of using analytics to help organizations make smarter strategic decisions.
“He’s a great example of a common paradigm in Sales Operations,” Kazanjy said. “Dhiraj is whip-smart and very perceptive. But it’s more than that. He’s always thinking about building things to solve problems. He wants to be creating the machine as opposed to being a piston in the machine.”
Singh, 28, jokes that for the longest time his parents would keep asking him what he did for a living. It took awhile for him to come up with a good way to describe his job – the product manager for the sales team.
“I just tell people that I look at sales as my product, and I manage them in a way that makes them more efficient,” he said. “I see my job as to make each member of our sales team a little more valuable.”
He does that by using innovative technologies, such as LeanData, to take advantage of a growing wealth of data.
Kazanjy met Singh when he was asked by a venture fund to identify sharp Sales Ops pros for companies within its portfolio. Kazanjy was so impressed that he found himself frustrated that he didn’t have a company of his own at the time to hire Singh. That moment was the genesis of his idea to form Modern Sales Pros so that like-minded practitioners could gather to talk about sales strategy.
“I was just struck by how on top of his game he was,” Kazanjy recalled. “It was very clear that he was super-passionate about nailing processes correctly and bringing technology to bear on sales teams.”
Growing up in San Diego, Singh originally intended to follow in the footsteps of his two older brothers, who are doctors. He majored in Public Health at Cal, but later became intrigued with the tech culture. Singh co-founded a startup before moving on to a company called TechValidate, where he found his calling in operations.
His interest in medicine is understandable, though.
As a toddler, Singh was diagnosed with the hereditary condition that destroys oxygen-carrying red blood cells. Transfusions treat the disorder, but they also can result in iron toxicity that affects organs like the heart and liver. So that requires a drug regimen to remove excess iron from his system.
“It takes an incredible discipline to live with this,” said his brother, Dr. Maneesh Singh. “But from a very young age, he decided that it wasn’t going to affect him. He was still a varsity athlete in high school and very active. It’s really remarkable. Today, I definitely see a correlation between how he approaches his job and his overall lifestyle.”
Singh, who credits his family for creating a strong support structure, said he never really felt like he had anything to overcome.
“For whatever reason, I’m a fairly optimistic person, and that really helps,” he added. “I never really felt like it was holding me back. But it’s easy to go through difficult times and feel depressed.”
There were hard times. College played havoc with his carefully crafted regimen, and the medical consequences caught up with him just as he was starting his career, including lengthy hospital stays for cardiovascular and immune system issues.
But today, he’s healthy. Singh sticks to a strict diet and a regular fitness schedule that includes running and playing basketball. There’s no reason why someone with the condition cannot live a normal life, he said. That’s a message he shares with others.
“He has become a spokesperson for the condition and is very inspirational to other people who have the disease,” Maneesh Singh said. “I’ve seen him interact with a lot of younger people who are worried and he really puts their minds at ease. He’s just a warm-hearted, good person who looks out for everyone around him.”
In a way, that also sums up his view of Sales Ops. Singh is helping people in sales become more successful.
Five Questions with Dhiraj Singh
1) Why does a sales background help in Sales Ops?
“If you understand the motivations and concerns of someone because you’ve lived them yourself, you can build systems and rules geared toward their focus and happiness. Because I was a salesperson, I learned that I don’t want a lot of ambiguity and choice when it comes to territory or compensation. I want to have very clear structure so I can spend all my energy and brainpower on activities that will get me to my quota.”
2) How does Sales Ops change as a company grows?
“There’s so much more to understand as the volume and variety of data and personnel grows – new products, new sales functions, specialization of roles, and expansion. To understand it requires refining and adding processes. As you grow, small improvements can make a huge difference. Maybe you want to improve the sales team by 10 percent in terms of efficiency gains. That can make a huge impact when your company is growing fast.”
3) Why is empathy important?
“When you care about the people, you end up caring a lot more about the Sales Ops decisions you make. You have to balance the systems with things that actually optimize the people. They don’t always go hand-in-hand. It can be dangerous when Sales Ops works in a silo and just acts on objective data. Sometimes that keeps you from understanding the whole situation and there can be a negative impact on the people.”
What should people know about Sales Ops?
4) “We can do a post-mortem of a deal where we can reconstruct every single activity that went into it with good data collection, communication, and processes. But because there’s so much more data available, you really need larger Sales Ops teams to makes sense of it. There’s so much more to be done on the Sales Ops front.”
5) Why is automating lead management important?
“The goal is always to make sales reps more effective. It’s why I see LeanData as a necessity. The alternative is just such a waste of time. This was something we needed to do. And standard Salesforce lead routing was not an option because it just doesn’t work very well.”
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