The Barbell Strategy to Sales Operations

I first heard about the barbell strategy reading Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book Antifragile (or at least it was the first time I really understood the concept – I think it was also mentioned in his earlier books).

In investing, the barbell strategy can be summed up like this: money to be invested should only go into two buckets: risk-free and risky.

Risk-free helps to limit down-side, while risky has what would theoretically be unlimited upside.

In Sales Operations, I see risk-free as what we would call as Sales Operations SOP (standard operations procedures): things you do but do not necessarily expect to be have massive impact on the business.

It could be a small process change here or there; forecasting using bottom-up input from the sales-team; or asking the sales team to use the CRM “as much as possible”.

Now, risky Sales Ops, that’s a different thing.

Business Process Re-engineering: radically transforming a sales process to achieve 10X or 100X improvements in efficiencies.

Advanced Analytics Forecasting: introducing statistical or machine learning methods into forecasting to completely eliminate bottom-up forecasts or have a hybrid approach that saves significant time while improving accuracy.

Extreme adoption of the CRM: link KPIs to activities only measurable by what goes into the CRM, and then using that data to drive predictive and prescriptive analytics.

In Sales Ops, there’s always a need to have a little bit of both. You want the stability of the risk-free stuff, that’s bread-and-butter Sales Ops.

But at the same time, you want to have some of the riskier stuff. They may fail; you may get significant pushback; timelines may be uncertain. And yet, the potential returns are enormous.

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