In this latest installment of the Revenue Leader Interview Series, we had the great opportunity to sit down with Revenue Operations thought-leader and CEO of Go Nimbly, Jason Reichl.
Jason is a passionate proponent of the value of Revenue Operations and Gap-First Thinking. In this conversation, we go through some of his experiences, insights, as well as the “3VC” methodology he pioneered.
Below are excerpts from that discussion.
Could you tell me a bit about your background? What was your journey to heading up Co-Founding Go Nimbly.
Go Nimbly was – and is – the first RevOps company.
A lot of people have different definitions of that role, so to be more clear: Our goal is to break down silos within organizations and we do this by using a RevOps methodology developed over 5 years.
We know that breaking down silos within an org and making sure your operations are focused on improving the buying experience will generate additional revenue from each customer. It’s been proven at many SaaS companies.
Early on in my career, I headed a services team at Blue Wolf, which was eventually bought by IBM.
Trade Shift was a connected platform for suppliers to communicate with each other. We worked with big governmental organizations and corporations.
While I was there, I realized that I loved the product but I found that the Go-to-Market teams were really not aligned. There was no value proposition to customers and we would alter the product based on what was happening in the revenue cycle. It created a lot of turmoil.
And it wasn’t just a Trade Shift problem, I’ve seen it at every company I’ve worked for. That’s what led me to the idea of creating a consultancy focused on creating a unified business stack.
This was before Revenue Operations was really a term, but within 6 months I pivoted to using the RevOps terminology. I was concerned that the term was being used differently for different companies, but it made the most sense as a way to quickly convey what we were doing.
We’ve worked with some of the biggest SaaS companies who had complicated problems, and it always comes down to siloed operations that eventually stop working. This is especially true when it comes to the customer-facing side because those silos are so easily seen.
On the product side, silos happen a lot less often because their north stars align more. On the revenue side, everyone has gotten distracted by specific goals that work against each other and not with the customer.
Research shows that if you focus on the customer, you’ll increase revenue.
With the exception of the pandemic, we’ve doubled each year since we started. Most importantly, we didn’t have to lay anyone off due to COVID-19.
There’s been an explosion of growth in companies moving to the RevOps model, why do you think that is?
Talk to any CEO at a SaaS business, or really any business, and they'll tell you that they effectively have many organizations within their company.
In the early days of a business, people can wear many hats and accountability is very high. Everyone is pushing towards the same goal and there is alignment across the business.
But when companies start taking on funding and getting more advice from VCs, they begin to build out departmental silos; those hats become tiny little derbies that are very specific.
This leads to what we call "Silo Syndrome."
The Go-to-Market team's primary job is to sell what the customer needs and to provide them with a customized buying experience. But when we see Silo Syndrome happening, there isn’t that common, customer-based goal.
Founders will eventually ask themselves "How can we be a big company and, at the same time, not have these silos?"
People think you get more done with singularly-focused experts, but I think you need generalists that are more aligned to your goals. For specializations, you can use tools and AI. It's no different than dev companies moving to agile.
Delivering to your customer in a personalized, gap-free way equates to alignment. You can't be on the same team if you have different goals.
At which stage should a company consider transitioning to RevOps? Is it a model that works for an early-stage startup too?
Gap-first thinking is different. You are focused on gaps being felt by your customers, not intuition or experience-based indicators, and I think that should be installed from day one. You shouldn’t start a company if you don’t understand that concept.
For RevOps itself, I think within the first 25 employees you should have someone operationalizing your GTM stack. But they don't necessarily need to have a “RevOps” title to do that.
If you do hire a RevOps person early, you end up getting better functionality out of them. RevOps people can both sell and market because they have generalized experience too. Ultimately, a good RevOps person is focused on the scaling of the systems, process, and insights.
Scaling isn't about big deals or small deals, it's about maximizing all the deals in between. RevOps doesn't have a one-to-one relationship like sales does, so they have to focus on enabling that one-to-one relationship at scale.
What do you think are the most important KPIs when it comes to measuring the impact of a RevOps team?
RevOps needs to measure KPIs beyond your typical SaaS metrics. Those are more in the wheelhouse of Business Operations, like understanding a product's viability.
Those metrics don’t matter as much to RevOps.
A Revenue Operator should focus on maximizing LTV. To do that, new indicators are needed.
Go Nimbly invented a methodology beyond typical SaaS KPIs for RevOps that we call “3VC”:
We see these as the levers that operators can pull in order to find gaps and prioritize initiatives.
If, for example, we see a low conversion rate in a certain stage of the pipeline in the last 6 months, RevOps should bring some hypotheses to the GTM team and monitor whether any of them have an impact on conversion.
We are able to identify where the root cause is and operationalize a solution. In doing so, we are able to give greater visibility into the value of RevOps.
In this scenario, it is obvious that something was implemented on an operational level, at scale, that increased conversion; we are able to extrapolate value.
By being able to pinpoint correlation, not causation, of what was done and how it impacted KPIs, more credibility is given to RevOps.
Here's an example:
One of our customers realigns their territory each year as the sole solution for their volume control.
Is it the best solution? No, but they end up getting fewer complaints. Their conversion doesn't change as a result, but they still do it each year.
When we rely on intuition, we continue to do the same thing regardless of the impact. Insights and data are the only tools that allow you to make sound decisions; that’s RevOps.
RevOps gives insights into which processes need to be adjusted to fix a problem.
Do you think the new normal, whatever that is, will have an impact on the adoption of the RevOps model?
COVID-19 has just accelerated everything and we’ve seen interest in Revenue Operations skyrocket.
Companies are trying to figure out ways to make up the last year: If you really believe that something will increase revenue by 26%, which studies show Revenue Operations does, then it becomes very compelling as a mechanism for hitting goals from last year and this year.
While some products are more conducive to the COVID world, others have pivoted the way they sell.
We've also had customers who just double-down on personalized buying experience and they are also seeing growth in an interesting way.
My prediction is that we might go back to the way we bought, not necessarily the way we worked.
What is the biggest misstep a company might take with its Revenue Operations strategy that will cause it to fail?
A big one is promoting a Head of Sales to CRO when they have no experience in the "C," "R," or "O" and have no experience owning every aspect of the whole stack.
Some companies see it as a glorified VP of Sales position, but you are better off not having a CRO than putting someone in that position who would degrade the function of each part of the GTM org.
It's better to have a coalition of RevOps, Sales, Success, and Marketing to lead to consensus than having someone in charge who only values one element of the GTM team.
Another is implementing Revenue Operations as a way of dealing with internal alignment. Companies often don't acknowledge that internal friction is natural, the focus on decreasing friction should be the customer.
The truth is that customers don’t care about your internal process.
When a RevOps team rolls up to CEO or COO it's usually better, but if you aren’t unified, still have Sales Ops and Marketing Ops separate, and you've made a bad CRO choice with someone doing it for the wrong reason, none of that matters. It won’t help teams align. You need to have something broader for the gap-free buying experience.
It comes down to the fact that a bigger North Star gets people to change.
What’s the easiest first step a company can take towards revenue operations?
Change meeting types.
It doesn't have to be a RevOps meeting. It's highly effective to move to an action meeting in which people build co-agendas.
It's momentum and action-based - teams get into having internal momentum and cranking revenue. They learn to be more effective and to not put down everything and reimplement salesforce, which is typical but incorrect.
Think about small iterative changes and data hypotheses that require less than two weeks of work that will impact one of the main KPIs. By doing that, you’ll see what momentum looks like. Meetings will change dramatically and you’ll see the value of a truly aligned team.
It will also highlight the people with egos and those who can work as a team. It's easy to show up to an update and sound good but not actually working. These types of people become easier to identify in an action meeting as they will never ask for help from outside their department and are only interested in appearing as a leader.
Once you experience breaking down silos, RevOps is a no-brainer.
What does the future look like? What kinds of trends are you seeing?
One thing COVID has sped up is how B2B customers want to be treated as consumers.
For a long time, we relied on finding an internal champion that would evangelize the product. But you are a piece of software, why are you looking for an evangelist? It's not a religion, it's buying Salesforce!
The personalized buying experience of treating the customer with respect and not the other way around will be the default way SaaS companies build GTM functions. The value of customer success and operations will increase as a way of raising additional revenue.
Sales Ops and Marketing Ops aren’t looked at as revenue creators as they should, but it will become clear in two years. Like five or six years ago, before marketing attribution, a lot of organizations looked down on marketing because they couldn't prove value.
Now the CMO drives a lot of product spend because they can show marketing has a very real impact on revenue. The same thing will happen in Sales Ops and Marketing Ops in the near future.
I have been trying to change the conversation away from "ROI" to "Revenue Impact." The question to answer should be "how did this help us grow." Every single team on the revenue side should have a sales or attribution target and everyone should be working towards those targets.
We are motivated by growth, not ROI. If I got 40% revenue growth, who cares how much it costs?
I want to see us change the conversation. Marketing and operators can sometimes speak in a way that devalues what we do.
My confidence in this area can hopefully impact everyone in this industry. The smartest people I know are in Sales Ops and Marketing Ops. That they have been devalued is unfortunate, because the work they do is so impactful.