Scaling revenue is often easier said than done. Many companies were left scrambling to create efficiency in their revenue process over the last 18 months, and Mary Grothe, CEO of House of Revenue, had a unique perch from which to view it.
In this Revenue Leader Interview, RevOps sits down with Mary Grothe to discuss her insights as the CEO of House of Revenue, the challenges of Product-Message Fit vs. Product-Market Fit, and much more.
Enjoy the interview below, which has been lightly edited for clarity.
Thanks for joining us today, Mary.
Let’s start with a bit of background about you. What has been your journey into the world of RevOps, and what are you doing today as CEO of House of Revenue?
Thanks for having me; I’m happy to be here!
I started my career in sales at the payroll company Paychex. I was 22 with no degree and no professional experience, but they somehow agreed to take me on as a sales assistant.
Back before Sales Ops was a thing, and way before RevOps was a thing, that was really what I was doing; CRM management, activity reporting, data analytics, supporting the sales team, the hand-off to Operations, assisting with implementations, etc.
When I look at those first two years, I see how much it’s come full circle to what I am doing now. Because, at the time, I didn’t even think there was a name for it.
So I did that for two years, supporting a mid-market sales team of eight.
From there, I went into mid-market sales and became the number one rep at the company within my first month of selling.
I then took a VP of Sales and Marketing position with one of my client’s companies; it was a big title for a very young person early in their career. Though I stumbled a little bit, I eventually figured it out and was able to help quadruple the size of that company in about seven months.
It was really exciting because I got to build a team and work on all facets of rebranding the company and the overall GTM strategy.
That’s when I fell in love with that work, so I started my first company called Butterfly Creative, which I ran for three years.
We worked with small businesses and startup-level companies, most of which were pre-revenue. It was an amazing time to figure out how to help these companies with their GTM strategy, build-out initial infrastructure and teams, and take them to market.
But it was hard work. I didn’t know how to price my services or delegate responsibilities; I was what I call a starving entrepreneur.
When I came back from my honeymoon in 2013, I went back to work at Paychex. I worked there for three more years, and I was able to mature a little bit and better understand how larger companies operated. It helped me understand more about the infrastructure, business processes, and what needed to be done at an early stage to operate like a well-oiled machine when you grow into a larger company.
After three years, I worked up the courage to leave and start my second company, House of Revenue.
I set out to solve one specific problem: Help small business CEOs build out a sales department.
Typically, an early-stage CEO or Founder will do sales themselves until they get to a certain point, and then they have this shift where they have to figure out how to build the sales team, or first sales hire. It usually doesn’t go well; the hire isn’t a good fit, they often don’t have the proper infrastructure or ecosystem, so they fail. And that’s the problem we solved for.
So we did that for 18 months, and then we woke up. So much had changed with the advancement of technology, and none of our clients had invested in the right technology; there was no automation because many of these CEOs were super old school, and they wanted “sales unicorns” who could do everything manually.
Send every email manually, fill in the database manually, build proposals manually.
We also noticed that teams like Marketing and Customer Success needed to play into the equation. So we doubled in size and became experts in branding, marketing, sales, and customer success. We became a HubSpot Agency partner, and that’s when we launched into this journey of being a full-service, fractional revenue team.
So we work with companies generally under $20 million in revenue, and we become experts in building out their complete tech stack and their entire revenue engine. We build all the automations and workflows and become their Chief Revenue Officer and revenue team to help them scale.
We became passionate about RevOps at the end of 2019 when we realized that we couldn’t solve revenue problems in a siloed approach.
In RevOps, we often talk about this concept of “alignment” between GTM teams. In your experience, what does true alignment look like?
The bow-tie funnel is a holistic view of the customer journey, including:
The better way to answer this question is first to understand what misalignment is.
When you have a Head of Marketing, a Head of Sales, and a Head of CS, they all have their own business plans for their specific teams; their own KPIs, metrics, compensation plans, to make sure they are positioned to win.
That is misalignment.
They are all looking out for their own best interests because that’s how they are incentivized.
Alignment means removing all barriers and having revenue teams work on one holistic performance plan and revenue strategy. You have to remove the fragmentation in the buyer’s journey and the customer’s journey.
We believe in the Bowtie funnel, which looks at the journey from awareness to advocacy. So you have to think of all the steps for winning business: Awareness, Consideration, and Decision, as well as Implementation, Retention, Expansion, and Advocacy.
When you look at the full lifecycle funnel, everyone plays a hand.
First, the brand and marketing need to have communication, emotional connection, and thought leadership for their buyers as they transition through every stage of the funnel. You have to figure out how marketing continues to perform for customers after their buying decision to move into retention and advocacy.
Sales should work hand in hand with marketing from the very first touchpoint. We believe that there shouldn’t be any walls or barriers between the two, so we are blending cadences that include steps for both sales and marketing through automation. Sales reps aren’t waiting for marketing to turn over leads; they start at the same point.
In terms of implementation and onboarding, we believe that sales should also be part of that process to ensure a smooth handoff; a customer should never have to start over with someone new who has no context to what was spoken of previously.
We then create opportunities for the sales layer in CS because there’s a revenue generation component there.
Last but not least is training all of CS to identify additional opportunities, like referrals or upsells -that goes back into the top of the funnel.
When we look at alignment, we are talking about one holistic revenue strategy because it’s one customer throughout their journey.
What is the process that someone in RevOps has to build to scale revenue?
We always start with Product-Mark Fit. When you look at PMF, a lot of companies confuse it with Product-Message Fit.
This can happen at two different points in a company:
With Product-Message fit, your marketing has done a great job telling the story, and customers have said yes to that story, but not necessarily to be a retained customer.
So the first step to building a process to scaling revenue is understanding if you have Product-Market Fit or Product-Message Fit. When you have Product-Market Fit, you are typically doing whatever it takes to get customers on board. Though it may not be profitable or scalable yet, it can help raise money and get initial beta customers that will give you that feedback loop.
So we care about Product-Market Fit.
From there, we move to Go-to-Market Fit. Now that you have all of your identifiers of how long it takes a customer to adopt, the KPIs to know if you have retention and not necessarily waiting for the renewal cycle, you can work on making it a repeatable and scalable process.
Your Go-to-Market stage is when you have the automation, tech stack, begin to increase headcount, and continue to fine-tune it until you have real predictability in your growth.
When you have that, then you can scale.
A lot of companies say they can scale revenue, but I say really? Are you sure? Let’s talk through all these components first.
The last 18 months or so has been a pretty crazy time for all of us. But it really seems that the Revenue Operations space has seen an explosion of interest in that time. What impact do you think COVID-19 had on RevOps as a function?
People had to get smarter.
In March 2020, we had a challenge, just like everyone did – we lost 60% of our business.
It was a very tumultuous time, but we had nine clients who agreed to stay with us. At the time, our RevOps services were in their infancy; we were three months into our partnership with HubSpot, and we had barely scratched the surface of what it meant to build a revenue engine.
As we were staring April in the face, and still in lockdown, we had companies losing revenue left and right. Our clients were looking to us for solutions.
That’s when we realized that we had to get creative and identify where to eliminate waste, provide efficiency, and RevOps was the catalyst for those things.
To us, RevOps is not only about the tech stack that supports the entire customer lifecycle, but it’s also aligning with the behaviors of both the customer and the support people who work with them.
Your RevOps is the technology component and the processes that align with how your buyers buy and how your customers use your product and retain them.
You need to do a RevOps audit to identify redundancies in technologies for consolidation and areas in which you can apply automation, looking to reduce manual behaviors as much as possible.
Many organizations were looking to do more with fewer resources, which is something that COVID brought forward. We saw this happen in 2008; many corporations reduced headcount and asked people to do more with less.
We saw a lot of that with COVID as well.
What do you think the biggest challenge is for RevOps today? What kind of challenges will someone have coming into a new RevOps role?
I think the biggest challenge is that RevOps can often be a very undefined role; it can be different things for different employers. I don’t think we’re going to see commonality yet in the language or expectations.
I also think many companies know how to hold RevOps accountable and measure performance, really understanding what “good” looks like for this role. So much is undefined in these companies.
There are definitely some forward-thinking companies that are continuing to evolve and create definitions, which is great. But if you look at some of the job descriptions out there for RevOps roles, it really doesn’t seem like a lot of these companies know what they are hiring for.
The biggest challenge for somebody going into one of these organizations as a RevOps person is:
I would recommend asking for OKRs rather than KPIs because a newly defined role doesn’t often have clearly defined KPIs.
From your perspective, what do you think the future holds for RevOps? What are some of the things that RevOps folks need to do to prepare for that future?
I think RevOps will have a lot more trust, autonomy, and authority in driving decisions as it relates to the tech stack, processes, and refining the efficiency in the revenue components.
Right now, the power of RevOps is just being discovered. As companies begin to identify that this has been such a missing component in organizations for so long, I believe that there will be a lot more autonomy and authority coming to the RevOps role to come up with hypotheses and decisions about where revenue is going to be going. While that may have been sitting with CRO or VP of Sales, the data data-driven layer of RevOps will begin to take this over.