For anyone following the Revenue Operations space these days, there is one person who has risen to the status of RevOps Rockstar: Rosalyn Santa Elena, Head of Revenue Operations at Clari.
Rosalyn’s insights into the role of Revenue Operations and her fantastic work in various communities and platforms have provided immense value to all operators. By leveraging her deep professional experience in this space, Rosalyn has been able to impart actionable tips for operators and businesses of all types.
Note: Since publishing this interview, Rosalyn has moved on to become the Vice President, Global Revenue Operations at Neo4j.
That’s why we were so thrilled when Rosalyn agreed to sit down with us for a discussion about her insights and experiences in the Revenue Operations space.
Below is our discussion with Rosalyn, which has been lightly edited for clarity.
Hi Rosalyn, thank you so much for joining us today!
Let’s start with a bit about your background. Could you tell us a little about yourself, your journey to Revenue Operations, and a little about what you are doing now at Clari?
Rosalyn Santa Elena:
Of course, thank you for having me.
I started out in Go-to-Market Operations before the term “Revenue Operations” became popular. I have held many roles with the title of Sales Operations, but really, it was just the title. My role actually often encompassed the full funnel from the top of the funnel through expansion and renewals. Or, when you are talking about a non-SaaS business, selling more boxes or software to people. Often my roles might have been just the top of the funnel through sales, meaning Marketing and Sales Operations, or just sales and post-sales, meaning Sales Ops, Customer Success Ops and Services Ops.
I’ve had the opportunity to dive into many areas of what we now call RevOps over the past 20+ years.
Before that, I was actually in Finance, where I had my first management role. I then moved over to what I like to call the “dark side” and haven’t looked back since.
On the ops side, I’ve done pretty much everything from Finance Ops to Product Ops to Engineering Ops, but most of my career has been on the GTM – sales, marketing, and customer success – side.
I started my career at publicly traded companies that were midsize to large, anywhere from 2,000 employees to almost 80,000.
After that, I made the leap into startup life – a recruiter approached me about a small company with no Ops function to see if I was interested. At that point in my career, I was really ready to take my experience and build something from nothing. When the recruiter said they “had nothing in terms of Ops”, I figured they must have at least something. When he said nothing, that was precisely what he meant. It was truly nothing.
So that was an opportunity to build from scratch. I was doing everything – many things that I hadn’t done for many years or maybe I had a team to do it. It was a lot of hard work, but it was fun, too. For example, when I organized our first SKO, I was doing everything – negotiating coffee, picking out meals and snacks, booking hotel rooms – it was all very “startup-y”. I remember packing the marketing pull-ups to the event, bringing power cords because paying for power at the hotel was too costly, setting up a gateway because we didn’t want to pay for Wi-Fi and that kind of thing.
Since that first start-up experience, I have continued to stay in the start-up space with Clari being my fourth SaaS startup.
I have had a unique opportunity to manage Revenue Operations at companies in the hardware, software, services, and SaaS spaces in many different industries such as electronic design automation, storage networking, hard drives, and data center operations. On the SaaS side, I’ve been in e-commerce, supply chain automation, and data management – and now, revenue operations.
Because Clari is a RevOps platform, it has been very interesting for me as a RevOps leader.
I was very familiar with the company before joining, having been a two-time customer. When presented with the opportunity to join the team, I thought “how awesome would it be to be one of the primary target personas for the product?”
At Clari, I have had a unique opportunity to speak to many prospects and customers, which I really enjoy. It has given me a taste of what it might be like as a sales rep or be in another customer-facing role.
So, in a nutshell, that’s been my journey over the last two decades. I really love operations; I can’t really see myself doing anything else or venturing too far from it.
For the past year and a half, I have been on my soapbox promoting operations, both the function as well as the people. Operations can be such a strategic differentiator to the business and too many companies aren’t investing enough to unlock its true power and potential.
As part of promoting Revenue Operation, there are two parts. One – there is the company aspect – helping organizations understand how they can best leverage Revenue Operations. Then there is the people aspect – helping the people in these roles understand how they can unlock their full potential and really become that strategic advisor and business partner that drives the most value for the business.
The topic of RevOps has been exploding lately. Why do you think that is?
The first reason is just the overall increase in SaaS business with a recurring model, which drives more requirements for a holistic approach to that recurring revenue stream.
As the buyer journey has become more complex, buyers are now much more informed – we can research anything and know what we want before we ever make contact with the company. Buyers now expect a lot more from their vendors, not just a relationship, but a partnership that provides them with more continuous value.
With more investment in this customer journey and this buyer experience, it has become increasingly complex to support the business model. From an operations perspective, if you think about the people, the process, the technology – all of that needs to scale and be optimized. Companies now realize that they need to invest in RevOps to help optimize their revenue teams to go out and acquire net-new customers as well as keep and maintain existing ones.
Another reason for the explosion of RevOps is the increasing complexity of data and the tech stack.
Without data, you can’t do anything effectively or accurately. Maintaining the accuracy of the data, preventing the data from being siloed, and ensuring that the data is flowing end-to-end through your revenue process is a huge problem for everybody. I’m confident that no one can honestly tell you that their data is 100% perfect all of the time.
The ultimate goal – the “data-topia” – is to have all of your data flowing through your systems in real-time, always accurate, always available, and visible to the right people at the right time.
Along with the data requirements being more complex, the technology needed to support that data is also becoming more complex. We have so much great technology available today, but someone has to maintain and manage the tech stack. Oftentimes, that is the Revenue Operations function.
Where does Revenue Operations fit in the overall GTM strategy?
I think Revenue Operations is really the start of it.
If you look at your RevOps leader, they are really the ones that are working with your CRO and CEO to establish the Go-to-Market strategy, plan, goals, and KPIs. They help answer the question “what are we planning to go out and do next year”, set the goals, and define the metrics to help measure achievement against those goals.
RevOps helps set the GTM strategy and build out the plan, but the Ops function is also in charge of the execution and implementation of the pieces to support. I think it’s so important that Revenue Operations is involved in the strategy as they are the folks that are closest to the data and insights. In addition, they are the ones who are ultimately going to have to operationalize the strategy and put it into practice from a data, systems, process, and people perspective on a day-to-day basis.
How can GTM teams stay aligned and avoid “silo syndrome”?
I think that’s another reason why we’ve seen such a rise in the role of RevOps as a separate function that oversees all these different pieces. Typically, it’s the RevOps leader who is driving that operational cadence. He/ she is the one who is making sure that everyone is staying aligned, from a people, process, systems, data, and communication perspective across all of the revenue-generating functions.
How do pricing and packaging play into the role of operations?
When you think about the strategy aspect, part of that strategy is around who you are going to sell to and how you are going to sell to them. Operations play a role here.
That strategy also encompasses your product strategy, which includes pricing and packaging. RevOps is typically responsible for the downstream processes such as creating SKUs, the product hierarchy, the pricing, and enabling those items in your CRM and in CPQ. They are also the ones who are going to be running the Deal Desk as well.
It is important that RevOps is involved in reviewing the pricing, understanding the data, looking at the insights, and understanding what it means to shift and pivot if it’s needed. For example, if a particular pricing strategy is not working or resonating with buyers, RevOps can provide early indicators here through their review and analysis.
How has COVID changed the way Revenue Operations operates within a company?
That’s a great question.
If you think about the timing of when the pandemic hit last year, early January and February, every company was hosting their sales kicks-offs, rolling out plans for the new year, and setting their goals and targets.
Then COVID hits, and everyone is reviewing their plans and potentially revising targets, adjusting their headcount capacity, adjusting quotas, modifying compensation plans, etc. – it all leads to a real ripple effect.
Companies that had a very strong operational foundation and infrastructure were the ones who were able to pivot, be flexible, and implement whatever changes were necessary, faster than others.
Operations are the ones that are going to be able to respin the operating plan based on new assumptions and data to be able to identify the right goals.
Ops is a big part of every step of planning. If you are going to be changing headcount, they are going to be part of it. If you are changing compensation or quotas, they are going to be part of that too.
They are then in charge of rolling out those changes, communicating, training, enabling, and driving adoption. If there are any system changes, they are involved in that too.
Aside from shifts in operating plans due to the pandemic, just think about remote selling. Everyone had to shift to remote, so operations and enablement functions had to figure out how to enable reps and keep them motivated and engaged, but also ensure the right tools were in place so that everything that once was done in the office can be done remotely.
Do you see these changes persisting for whatever comes next?
COVID has definitely changed how we conduct business. With remote selling, I think companies now realize that we don’t always have to get on a plane or take clients out to dinner to win deals. Most companies have proven that they can still be successful, acquire net new customers, and keep their existing customers without being there in person.
Also, I definitely think it’s had an impact on understanding why RevOps is so important.
With all of these changes that have happened, even after things start to go back to normal and people start to work in the office again, I believe (and hope) that there is going to be a greater appreciation of RevOps and continued interest in investing in it.