Sales Vs Operations: Which Comes First?

Sales Vs Operations which comes first jacoby expo

Sales versus operations are almost as perplexing as the answer to the old-age question of which came first, the chicken or the egg.

Do operations come first or do sales eclipse the importance of the day-to-day?

One is your bread and butter.  The other is the backbone of the entire business.  I’ll leave you to guess which is which.

The question isn’t who is more important; that’s a battle best left uncontested.  Instead, you need to determine what your current needs are and how should you approach hiring new talent.

Feast or Famine

Show management tends to be cyclical.  When you are onsite everyone is like a lion circling the abundance of opportunity.  During slower times they become like vultures carefully scouring the terrain for scraps to prove their worth.  It’s do or die.

In the perfect scenario, work would pour in at just the right pace to keep operations on their toes and sales satiated.  But in reality, the flow tends to wax and wane with operations either overworked or hungry for more challenges.

And that can really mess up the balance.

Growing Pains

Growing your business can be painful and a wonderful process to watch unfold.  It’s your pride and joy. Sometimes the best approach to maintain equilibrium is to hire an industry expert to help you get off the ground.  They can help you avoid messy mistakes, like hiring people that won’t be beneficial to your business.

If hiring full-time permanent staff isn’t something you can tackle yet, you may want to consider doing things on a subcontracting basis.  There are pros and cons to this approach.


  • You have a short-term project that is well defined.
  • They don’t require as much supervision.
  • Tax responsibilities are less.  
  • You can be more flexible.
  • Costs are usually less.
  • They can help you get through the busy months without sucking you dry during leaner times.


  • You have to relinquish some control.  
  • They aren’t fully invested in the success of your business.
  • You might have to spend more time educating them on the ins and outs of your industry.

Sizing up

There will come a point in time during the growth of your business where outsourcing becomes less desirable.  You want staff who will be invested in the growth of your company; employees that can manage your specific needs full-time can be a real asset for a business that is blossoming.

Your resources may have been best utilized in the beginning with outside help, but once cash flow has increased to the point where sales and operations are on the rise, not hiring in-house employees can start to become detrimental.

The best way to know whether or not you need to hire some fresh faces is to carefully evaluate your current teams in sales and operations.  Ask the following questions…

  1. Are they getting the job done?  
  2. If there are any inefficiencies, is it because of poor performance or a lack of proper training?
  3. Are they overworked and is quality slipping?  
  4. Is there a greater potential for more sales if you had more people on board?
  5. Do you have an employee that is skilled in more than one area that could be more effective in performing different job functions?


Let’s dive a little deeper into number five from above – the jack of all trades related to your business – and explore how you can make use of their talents.

Account Managers or persons with executive experience are skilled in a variety of areas.  They know how to produce an event, pitch sales and handle the marketing side of a show. If you need more help in either sales or operations (or both!) they can handle the job.

Warning, the above advice does not translate to all employees.

Having the expectation that people who are trained in sales can jump ship and keep operations afloat isn’t realistic.  On the flip side, employees who deal with operations often don’t make good salespeople.

Get to know everyone’s strengths and weakness and use them in the areas that they are most suited for (according to your needs and priorities).  Fine-tune the responsibilities of your team to maximize their effectiveness.

Give and Take

You won’t be able to grow your business if you don’t have adequate sales, nor will you be able to meet the needs of your current clients if you don’t have a properly staffed operations department.  

They go hand-in-hand.

You need both.  And there must be a clear distinction between the two.  Don’t blur the lines between both job responsibilities.

It’s a give and take process, but one that you can learn to balance with time and experience.