I’d like to tell you a story. I joined my current company back in 2019, right when the company was going through a fairly significant GTM shift. We were changing how our product was packaged and sold so significantly that it required us to adjust essentially every part of our sales process. It was a critical renaissance for the company and required a shift for every team.
Sales teams were asked to sell differently, marketing was asked to hit aggressive lead generation targets, and we were still trying to understand how customer success (CS) would fit into this new world.
While we knew this was a big mountain to climb, we had a great vision painted for us by our leadership. People were excited, and teams were aligned; but the foundation – our system, tech stack, and process – wasn’t there.
By the time we were ready to launch this new GTM strategy, I was part of a humble sales operations team of two: a Salesforce Business Analyst, and a Sales Operations Specialist (me). We worked long hours, sweated the details, and in the end built out an MVP Lead-to-Opportunity model in Salesforce that got the job done.
It was sufficient for where the company was at that time, but it was clear that if the company was going to continue to grow and evolve, the team needed to grow and evolve at the same time.
Flashforward to today: I’m the proud RevOps leader of a robust team of eight stellar individuals. We’ve positioned ourselves as an operational hub within the revenue side of the business, and drive processes and efficiencies for a long list of teams that extend well beyond sales and marketing. We are an important strategic partner within the organization and are pulled into key strategic conversations.
If someone were to ask for advice on how to do this in their own organization, here are the steps I’d recommend:
- Have a clear vision
- Define when the time was right
- Do more than lead with data – evangelize the data
- Gain leadership buy-in
Step 1: Have a clear vision
It’s important to start with a clear vision for a couple of reasons. First: without a clear vision, it’s nearly impossible to get others on board with your goal. You need to be able to explain what problem you’re solving, and why it’s important to gain buy-in from those who will help you realize your vision.
Second: change alone is hard, but it’s even harder when it involves gaining buy-in and shifting the mindset of others. Because of this, it can get tiresome, but having a clear goal in mind helps keep motivation high when the road gets challenging.
Take the time to actually write down your goal in the form of a vision statement. Here was ours when we started this endeavor:
“We intend to build a Revenue Operations team that maximizes the company’s revenue potential through full-funnel alignment of customer-facing teams and powerful data insights.”
Next, take your vision statement a layer deeper by thinking more specifically about what responsibilities the team has if this vision is achieved. In this step, we documented the following four pillars:
- Break down silos by acting as a central business function that aligns activities, projects, and strategies cross-departmentally.
- Drive holistic, logical, efficient processes, ensuring all processes play in harmony, not dissonance.
- Own and deliver relevant, reliable, and actionable reporting and analytics that drive important strategic discussions. (More on this in step three!)
- Empower our internal customers to succeed in the job they were hired to do without getting bogged down in process or paperwork.
The final part of having a clear vision is knowing what kind of team you would need to bring this to life. An evolution of this magnitude couldn’t be achieved with a team this size, and we would need to add team members in these areas:
1. Dedicated support for our big three customers: sales, marketing, and CS.
2. Robust Salesforce Admin team.
3. Dedicated analyst.
These additions helped us to structure our RevOps team effectively.
Step 2: Define when the time was right
This may be a strange opinion coming from someone who has evangelized the importance of revenue operations for so many years, but while every company needs an operational team, not every organization may be ready for or need revenue operations.
In our case, 2019 was not the right time to evolve from sales operations to revenue operations.
We were in the early growth stages, our focus was on the new sales and marketing workflows and we needed to make sure this part of the revenue engine was running smoothly. Making this shift at that time would have been disruptive.
A key part of building a strategic RevOps team is knowing when the time is right. Keep a keen eye open for signals that the business is ready for a more robust operations team that stretches beyond sales and marketing, and be prepared to take advantage of the stars aligning.
Early signals might include…
Growing and evolving sales team
We were exploring new channels and business models, and the team headcount was growing as well. With more people on the teams, we knew we would also need to grow to provide a high level of support.
Increased focus on implementation and customer success
As our sales team grew, the number of sales coming in the door grew as well – great news!
However, to ensure these customers adopted the tool and renewed at a high rate, we needed to greatly invest in our implementation and customer success teams. Growing focus on these teams would require our team to build, implement, and support systems and processes.
Early we built a request intake system in Salesforce. This gave us real data to show the uptick in requests the team was receiving, how much time was being spent on each request type, and which departments were requesting the most.
With this data in hand, it was clear that we needed to build capacity within the team and extend our reach to fully support our internal customers.
Step 3: Do more than lead with data – evangelize the data
A dear colleague of mine once said “Data is the one participant in the conversation that has no ego or motivation”. That quote speaks to the importance and power of data when making important strategic decisions. Naturally, we are led by emotion or ego, so it’s critical that data be present to guide strategic conversations.
Digging in and leading with data is a great way to gain a seat at the table where strategic conversations are happening. Building the systems to capture the important foundational sales KPIs is a great place to start. Pipeline, bookings, win rate, and lead conversion are great performance metrics to report on the health of the sales cycle.
But, this is not the place to stop. To truly operate as a trusted and strategic partner, reporting should stretch beyond the contract signature event. Take the view of health beyond sales and marketing and begin looking at customer adoption metrics.
We started with attainment. As a consumption-based company, attainment is as important of a metric as our booking numbers.
Measuring the performance of our customers gave us important insight into the production of our contracts, and it was our responsibility to bring forward the information in a digestible and actionable way. The most critical findings will fall on deaf ears if the importance is not understood.
By extending our reporting outside of sales and marketing and truly championing the data, we inserted ourselves into necessary strategic conversations regarding our sales and CS model.
Step 4: Gain leadership buy-in
You can have the most amazing, impactful, brilliant, strategic plan, but it will all fall apart if it’s not communicated clearly and with conviction.
Even with our vision defined, all the stars aligned telling us the time was right, and our involvement in data-led strategic conversations, this evolution to revenue operations wouldn’t have happened without alignment and buy-in from leadership. This is where clear communication at an executive level is key.
First, start with the distinction between sales ops and RevOps. It’s more than a title change, it’s a growth in function and reach. Illustrate the impact revenue operations has, leading with your vision statement followed by your pillars.
Next, explain why the timing is right for this change. In our proposal to leadership, this is when we pulled in those signals listed in step two: the sales team is growing and evolving, there’s a greater emphasis on implementation and customer success, and the team does not have the capacity to help the company achieve its goals.
Finally, recognize the investment and balance with the ROI. While a team can evolve from sales operations to revenue operations without additional headcount, this particular team needed to grow significantly to be a fully operational RevOps team.
Instead of asking for the full-scale team all at once, we created a multi-year plan that would allow the team to grow in step with the company.
Along with this, each additional headcount was supported by the impact. Additional headcount meant increased capacity, which in turn would mean we would be able to increase our production in line with the speed of the business without jeopardizing quality.
In the end, this proposal gave leadership the confidence to trust that growing and rebranding the team to revenue operations was a sound investment.
Shifting from sales ops to revenue operations was an incredibly rewarding and worthwhile endeavor. The amount of high-quality, high-impact work the team has produced in the last year was more than we could have ever imagined back in 2019.
Our team is now better equipped to support sales teams to close deals and help CS to improve customer experience and reduce customer churn. And we are now included in strategic conversations across the company and are a trusted partner for all customer-facing teams in the organization.
These changes have allowed us to create a significant impact on day-to-day processes and increase revenue growth across the organization.
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