Mark Lerner
Aug 24, 2021
11 min read

While we most often associate Revenue Operations with SaaS businesses, tech companies, or large B2C companies, our latest Revenue Leader Interview gives insights into how RevOps can be leveraged for communities as well. 

In this Revenue Leader interview, Asia Corbett, Director of Revenue Operations at the online community RevGenius, highlights her experience at various companies, her journey from Finance to RevOps, and her unique process-driven methodology approach to her craft. 

Below are excerpts from our interview with Asia, edited for clarity.

RevOps:

Thanks so much for joining us today, Asia!

Let’s start with your background. Could you tell us a little about yourself and your journey into becoming a RevOps professional?

Asia Corbett

Happy to be here.

I studied economics and statistics in college, and I fully envisioned myself as a CFO eventually.

I was ready to dive into Finance.

I started my career in an accounting internship under a financial controller and did that for a few years, focusing on financial analysis.

In that time, I found myself in these roles that were more tangential to Finance. They always had an operational component like understanding how to optimize workflows, manage people’s requests, and create better processes.

I began veering away from Finance altogether and moving towards Operations, and, one day, I looked up and realized that I wasn’t doing financial analysis anymore. 

And that was okay with me!

Because Ops is fast-paced, it’s very different every day, and you get to collaborate with many different people. 

I’ve always seen the strategic and tactical as one and the same.

Eventually, I moved to an agriculture company, working as the Operations Analyst for their R&D department. At the time, the company was migrating to SAP. Our department, however, was using the legacy software for tracking projects and spend, etc., and wasn’t included in the project’s scope.  

They were already nearly a year and a half into this project when I started. Even though the project’s scope was already been set, I had to point out that our team, and the company as a whole, would suffer if we remained on the legacy software. 

At that point, I was invited to join the project meetings and managed to get our team included in the scope. The roll-out of SAP for the R&D had a pretty significant operational component, not to mention project management. 

From there, I just kept going more and more into Operations. 

I moved into the tech world in a Business Operations role; there is a Revenue Operations component because we supported the entire company –  Sales, Marketing, Success, and Legal, but “Revenue Operations” wasn’t really a thing yet.

We had an independent contracting consulting side, which was also supported by Operations. 

At that point, I had a bit of a career crisis. it was like, “do I even want to be in Operations?” “Is what I’m doing too chaotic for me?”

I went to a huge tech company to be a Business Planning Analyst, getting back to my statistics and data analysis roots. I realized that I didn’t like the feeling of being isolated and not working cross-functionally. 

After a company restructuring, I made my way to an early-stage startup with no Operations function to which to speak.

I began building out Sales Ops and quickly got pulled into the Marketing Ops direction; we didn’t have Marketing leadership for a while, so I was filling that gap too. 

It became clear that focusing on just those two functions only captured a small piece of the puzzle. All these people at the top of the funnel were being closed by sales, but what was happening downstream?

We discussed that if I would be focusing not just on one functional area but everybody, we should build out a Revenue Operations organization. 

While I got a “yeh, sure” to this suggestion, I learned that “yeh, sure” is not actual buy-in. 

That’s when I learned a vital lesson: For someone in Revenue Operations to be successful, there needs to be buy-in from the entire company, especially leadership. 

The Role of RevOps in Community

RevOps:

Let’s talk a bit about your current role at RevGenius. What is RG, and how does Ops fit into a company like that?

AC:

RevGenius is a community of revenue-generating Sales, and Marketing professionals brought together to learn, share, support, and grow with each other.

It’s a community I’ve been a part of, even before I ever started working here. When I first joined, I was blown away by all the people with experiences in all these different areas. I like talking to people, so making new ”friends” and connections is awesome. I get to help people as well!

I just like that feeling of camaraderie.

Jared (Robin, Co-Founder of RevGenius) asked me if I knew anyone who had some experience with Operations roles. 

When I made a decision later on to consider other roles, RevGenius was already on my radar. However, I wanted to make sure that any company I was considering was fully bought-in to Revenue Operations as a mindset. 

So I went back to Jared and asked what exactly he had in mind for this operations person.

The mission of RevGenius aligns with my core values as a person: Educating, inspiring, and empowering people. I think it’s so rare that you find that in a job. 

I came into RevGenius to not only tighten up operations revenue-wise but community as well – the logistics and operations of running a community. 

Because we aren’t a SaaS product, my role’s operational aspect is slightly different from a traditional B2B or B2C company where you have sales, marketing, and CS teams. It’s just four of us here right now, so Revenue Operations involves making sure we do pipeline reviews, forecasting, and financial reporting.

It’s also about putting structure and process in place and ensuring that everyone’s workflow is optimized to execute better.

Community-Led Growth

RevOps:

Could you tell us more about communities, how they are beneficial to companies, and what interested you about joining one?

AC:

We talk a lot about this idea of Community-Led Growth, how communities can help reduce CAC – By investing time, resources, or money in a community, people feel supported, they begin talking about products, and then they come to your product – you didn’t pay money to acquire them.

Our main revenue stream right now is sponsorships, but there are many large communities out there that aren’t monetizing, and I think it’s a huge missed opportunity.

We’ve been working internally on what our go-to-market strategy for further monetization looks like, which is really fun. But it is very different than a traditional SaaS subscription model or brick and mortar. 

Our “customers” are our sponsors right now, but what about the members? How do we capture that value while keeping them engaged and happy?

The Impact of COVID on Revenue Operations

RevOps:

One constant that we’ve seen throughout all the discussions we’ve had with revenue leaders for this series is how often the COVID-19 pandemic gets brought up as a forcing function for Revenue Operations. 

How do you think COVID has changed the way Revenue Operators function, the expectations put on them, and the greater interest in RevOps across companies?

AC:

A significant change has been going virtual – not being able to go to someone’s desk and say, “Hey, I need this pipeline review” or just asking for help. 

It also impacted cross-team collaboration. Sales can’t go over to Marketing and talk about a campaign that affected them both, for example. 

So RevOps now includes an aspect of literally connecting everybody in the go-to-market organization.

Responsibilities of RevOps

RevOps:

What responsibility do you believe falls under Revenue Operations that you don’t often see in other companies?

AC:

I am a big proponent of enablement and training for the go-to-market teams falling under Revenue Operations because it impacts the operational efficiency of your go-to-market engine.

For example, if you’re onboarding new AEs and they don’t know where to go for anything –  there’s no process for them to get their tech-stack logins, get access and learn playbooks, understand the cadence of meetings, or who to talk to. 

It’s the same for CS and Marketing. 

I am also a big advocate for the importance of process documentation and making sure people have access to that.

The spoiler alert is you need time to do that, and you have to make your case for it. 

It’s very silly, but it’s really necessary to make your case. You can’t go and ask someone questions – literally go and ask someone how to do something, or where to find something. You need to fill that gap with process documentation that is accessible and in a place that can be edited updated easily.

And that’s just the internal piece. There are the external pieces as well – you don’t have a field sales team anymore that goes and visits clients, in-person events are canceled, so you’re strategizing about how to reach your buyer and how to meet them where they are. 

There’s also a need to understand the go-to-market process and strategy now and how RevOps connects the dots between the top of the funnel through the end. Someone who’s operationally minded can come in and help bring the team together and build that strategy.

Greatest Challenge for Revenue Operators

RevOps:

In your mind, what is the single greatest challenge for Revenue Operations these days?

AC:

It comes down to what the internal expectations of what Revenue Operations is. 

To me, Revenue Operations encompasses the entire revenue engine, from Marketing through CS and Support, because those are all revenue-generating functions. However, many companies think of Revenue Operations as the tech stack admins or just Sales Ops. Marketing Ops tends to get its own category because it’s more established. But, again, I think this is a mistake – it is part of Revenue Operations and should fall under that umbrella. 

There can be one person thinking holistically about Marketing, Sales, and Sales Operations, or it can be a team if you’re a large enough organization with a RevOps manager. In that case, they can have the Sales, Marketing, and CS Ops underneath them. 

The important part is to think about Revenue Operations as the entire picture and not just one functional area. But you have to realize that bandwidth and resource limitations make prioritization and knowing the company’s goals really important.

I don’t think many companies are there yet in terms of buy-in; they haven’t adopted this mindset or adjusted their expectations. 

You often see companies expecting RevOps to be just tactical – take in requests, update something in Salesforce, or create a report. That way of thinking means you lose the benefit operationally minded folks who can look across the entire spectrum, see gaps in the processes, and understand how everything fits together. 

RevOps can help with overall strategy by understanding how a campaign will ultimately affect other organizations within the GTM. 

There’s a whole go-to-market strategy for that, but it trickles down to individual teams: CS needs to work with customers on a new feature that was launched, Support needs to know how to manage cases, and that rolls up to customer health scores and impacts renewals and revenue. 

Companies need to look at the whole picture and realize that Revenue Operations is there to do that work so the functional leaders can focus on their individual responsibilities. 

The other important piece is to review your Operations.

RevOps needs to come in and say, “Okay, great strategy. Let’s see how it’s going to impact Marketing and CS. How are we going to connect the dots? Then we can all agree on definitions.”

RevOps:

What are some of the things that you think companies are doing wrong in aligning their go-to-market teams?

AC:

There’s often a focus on getting data before definitions and processes are established. Don’t get me wrong, data is important; data analytics and reporting are pillars of Revenue Operations. 

Let me give you an example of something I personally experienced:

I had a whole conversation that took two or three hours out of my day about six months into a new role in which finance came to me and said, “There is this report; why is it different from Marketing’s report?”

When I looked at the two reports, they were technically both correct, but they used different date filters and lead definitions.

In this case, Finance has its targets and goals while marketing has its own. Marketing wanted to get MQLs, have those MQLs converted to SQLs, but they have different definitions of SQL.  

How are you going to align your teams if Finance and Marketing are using different definitions? 

Ideally, what should happen is you set up a time to establish definitions for key metrics, develop some processes, and make sure everybody is on the same page and understands the full cycle of what they’re doing.

You can then bring the individual teams to think about the buyer journey, go-to-market process, any other internal business process, and finally, the technical stack.

Revenue Operations Goals Going Forward

RevOps:

What are your goals as a Revenue Operator for the next year?

AC:

One of my main goals for the next year is to make people understand that Revenue Operations are operations and not just revenue analytics because the process and operational pieces are so important.

I want to bring this process-driven methodology mindset to operations. It’s not just analytics, or CRM administration, or SQL. Yes, there’s still the foundational stuff that needs to be built, and all the other really cool flashy stuff like reports and dashboards, but the mindset is crucial.

Goals for a New Revenue Operator

RevOps:

What advice do you have for someone just starting in a RevOps role? What should they prioritize? What’s the 30-60-90 look like?

AC:

Great question. 

I think there’s the standard stuff like understanding the business, understanding the who your target buyer is, and things like that. 

But I would really focus on doing a process audit early on. I mean that for all the go-to-market processes, make a list – literally on a pen and paper or in a Google Doc – of things like inbound lead routing, campaign operations, pipeline reviews, forecasting, and customer onboarding. Then, meet with the business owners of those processes and start to identify the gaps.

Through this process, you will learn more about how the organization works than anything else that you will do. 

You don’t have to change anything yet, it’s is an information-gathering process audit, meeting with people within the business.

Find out if the buyer’s journey is documented somewhere. If not, work with the go-to-market teams and leaders to create a documented flow chart.

And then there’s the tech stack, that’s the next thing that is going to be really important. The tech stack is integral to the operations of the company. A new RevOps person has to understand what’s in the tech stack, how the systems are mapped together, and what is and isn’t connected. 

One of the things I do is create a “data dictionary,” which is literally a Google sheet with the most used objects like accounts, opportunities, contacts, fields, and if those fields are mapped or not. 

The other piece of that is an automation catalog, which will give you visibility over the workflow rules that are firing and what processes are automated. That’ll help bring all the pieces together –  the front-end, go-to-market, and business processes. You will be able to document all of the tech behind it, giving insights into who to talk to on each team.

That first 30-60-90 is going to really be focused on information gathering.

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Mark Lerner

Mark Lerner

Mark is the Head of Marketing at RevOps. He has over 10 years of experience leading marketing at SaaS companies and is passionate about all things Revenue Operations.