The responsibilities laid on the shoulders of Revenue Operators have gotten more and more complex over the years. COVID-19 has made it doubly so.
In this fascinating discussion with Jonathan Morgan, Director of Sales and Marketing Ops/Head of Marketing at AcheiveIt, we dive deep into the difficult challenges that people in RevOps roles face and how they must balance competing demands in order to help align teams and scale organizations.
Below are excerpts from that discussion that have been lightly edited for clarity:
Can you tell us a bit about you, your background, how you found revenue operations, your journey to AchieveIt, and what you are doing now?
My experience is probably pretty similar to a lot of Revenue Operations folks.
I never set out with the intention to create a career in RevOps, but if you look at all the common aspects of my career, it was always about building and problem-solving which I find is the core foundation of RevOps as a whole.
My career started in boutique consulting and there was a lot of problem-solving there, we then went through an acquisition after which I shifted into sales and, more specifically, sales strategy.
I then joined AchieveIt about four years ago, not in a RevOps role but as part of our customer engagement team, leading implementations and working with our customers on strategy consulting and problem-solving internally.
The first time I moved into an Ops-specific role was about two years ago. I started in Sales Ops with the goal of creating sustainable processes and improving our scalability. Shortly after that, I moved into where I am now – heading up our Revenue Operations as well as Head of Marketing.
I do a little bit of everything for both Ops and Marketing, but one aspect of that is traditional Ops – managing our data, insights, systems, and processes. The other aspect of what I do is leading our marketing team and the overall strategy.
I didn’t build a career with the intent of getting in RevOps, but I think a lot of people will tell you that when they look back on their careers they could see a lot of that principle of building through the different stages of their career, which ultimately landed them in an Ops role.
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What do you think is the single greatest challenge for someone in Revenue Operations these days?
Revenue Operations is responsible for a pretty wide set of responsibilities across the whole go-to-market engine; you have sales, customer success, marketing all relying on you.
Whether you are going to a new organization or you are in an existing one, you have to take a look at the entire go-to-market function and figure out what you need to do to build the best, most aligned, long-term scalable process.
And, most importantly, where to even start.
It starts with problem-solving, being able to diagnose where the weak points are and how to improve them. But then you also have to balance the expectations of each group, because it’s really easy to get pigeonholed into exclusively being a resource for one of the orgs you are working with.
Sales could say “I need this new field” and marketing could say “I need help on launching this new campaign” and success could say “I need help on managing our renewal process,” so you have to manage the long-term scalability of building with the short-term demands that come from the various teams.
So the true challenge is managing the breadth of responsibility across the Revenue teams while understanding enough depth to properly design solutions.
What are the things you see companies doing wrong in terms of GTM team alignment?
The companies that are doing it wrong are not setting a clear enough expectation on what RevOps teams are and aren’t.
You can take a look at some of the job descriptions out there and you’ll see they’ve taken what was essentially a Salesforce admin role and called it a RevOps Manager. The person they hire is not going to be set up for success if they think they are going into a RevOps role and they’re really going to be a Salesforce Admin.
So you really have to be clear, not only with the individual in the role but with the rest of the organization about what the RevOps function is really going to be responsible for and, sometimes more importantly, what it’s not responsible for
The second part is making sure to set expectations about how RevOps success is measured. Whether it’s specific RevOps KPIs or helping to lift the overall KPIs of the organization, the measure of success has to be clear to everyone.
What do you think are the KPIs that RevOps should be judged against?
First and foremost, RevOps should be judged on making sure the organization has its KPIs clearly tracked and measured. As a key partner in delivering insights across the organization, RevOps needs to make sure that teams are focused on the right things and not too focused on all the data they have access to.
RevOps should determine the KPIs for each individual function and RevOps itself should be measured on helping to increase those across the organization.
I think we can get in trouble when focusing too much on improving X process by Y percent. If it doesn’t lift the overall KPIs of the organization then it doesn’t really matter.
It’s essentially a wasted effort many times.
In what ways do you think someone in RevOps can help their company achieve a competitive advantage?
The first thing that comes to mind is speed.
Whether that’s speed to initial prospect response, marketing to sales handoff, or sales to customer success handoff, making sure that a strong system is in place to meet the needs of the prospect as quickly as possible.
Beyond that, it’s really about being the partner through the transition process to ensure that the prospect has the best experience possible.
You see some organizations where you fill out a demo request and then you get an email asking some questions, then you get an SDR that calls you and asks the same questions in a different way, then you get on the call with the AE and you are asked more questions, and then off to customer success, and so on.
By delivering strong transitions between those gaps, being that key partner that helps to ensure that the entire customer journey is seamless, that’s going to give you a competitive advantage over the companies that aren’t doing that.
What role do pricing and packaging play in the overall go-to-market strategy?
Sales reps need to have some level of flexibility in how they create a product or package that’s aligned with customer expectations and needs.
At the same time, if you give too much leeway you are going to end up either not being able to deliver for the customer or burning some bridges internally.
How to Create Guardrails that Empower Your Sales Team
Before you even figure out what kind of flexibility to give to sales, you need to figure out internally if you have all your teams aligned on what is needed to successfully deliver the product to customers. Whether that’s from a standpoint of minimum usage, implementation, or ongoing support, there needs to be a focus on making sure that there’s an agreed-upon minimum expectation of what the organization needs to make customers successful.
If that’s not set up then you can have any flexibility you want in the pricing but, ultimately, the customer is going to fail with your product.
Of course, there also needs to be some sort of approval processes on top of that so that you don’t have someone pricing a deal just so they can hit their quota.
How do you think COVID-19 has changed the way we work, specifically for RevOps?
The biggest way that COVID has changed how we work is in the way that we now communicate.
I find that RevOps has really been leaned on to ensure that the change in communication doesn’t break down the go-to-market processes.
Pre-COVID, if you were working on a late-stage sales cycle or trying to communicate between marketing and sales, it was easy to have a quick in-person meeting to discuss it or have a dashboard up on a monitor in the office to show how the different areas are performing
All that’s gone now.
Certainly, you can replace some of that communication. But I think it puts more emphasis on ensuring that the underlying processes are strong enough that it can surface those insights to enable better communication when people are remote.
We have to make it easy for people to understand how things are progressing through the pipeline, marketing to sales transition, or the overall sales process and making sure all that underlying infrastructure is as strong as possible.
What trends do you see for the future of RevOps and how GTM teams work together?
Before the recent explosion of RevOps, there were still people doing these kinds of roles.
There were individual department Ops roles. Sales Ops had been on the rise, Marketing Ops had been around for a while because there is so much need from a marketing automation standpoint, but RevOps has been helping to break down the silos and build a joint go-to-market team.
I think what we will see as the next evolution is not only a continual focus on aligning those teams but how we then balance a generalized world of RevOps with the specialization needed to work within each individual department.
People often say “break down the silos,” which is great in many cases, but you do reach a certain point where you need hyper-specialization within certain roles and areas of the organization.
Thinking beyond just throwing everything out and starting over with Revenue Operations, consider how you adapt and continue to grow an aligned strategy with the individual and unique focus that’s needed for each department in the GTM organization.
Why do you think we have been seeing such an explosion of interest in Revenue Operations?
There are two primary reasons.
The first is that there has been an explosion in the number of tools and systems that are out there and it’s easier than ever to be able to acquire and implement them. If you don’t have a unified understanding of how you are going to use all these systems together and, ultimately, how you are going to manage it to get to the best results, it just ends up becoming duplicative information.
RevOps is needed to manage the growing infrastructure of systems and processes available today.
The second piece is more of a function of the SaaS market as a whole. Non-SaaS companies have had Ops teams and strategy teams but those have not always been refined roles in earlier stage SaaS companies. As the influx of capital into SaaS startups has increased, there’s much more pressure to scale quickly and RevOps is the key partner in helping the organization scale.
So, if you don’t have a RevOps role or some function that’s helping to scale efficiently, then you are less likely to hit the targets and expectations from investors and other partners.