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2021: The Decade of Revenue Operations
2021: The Decade of Revenue Operations
February 11, 2021
19 min read
Topics covered in this article
How will revenue operations impact organizations in 2021 and going forward? What can leaders do to future-proof their strategies?
Sean Lane, Director of Operations at Drift and Noah Marks, Vice President of Revenue Operations at Udemy recently joined us for a special roundtable where we looked at what the next decade has in store for revenue operations. Here’s what we discussed:
The Definition of Revenue Operations
The term “revenue operations” became popular in an explosive sort of way. As with most quick-moving things, we haven’t exactly had the time to stop and ask, “what exactly is this thing?” Some argue that RevOps has actually existed under different names and different functions for some time. Most notably, in finance-oriented roles that sought to optimize the organization’s functions.
Our revenue operations leaders provided their input on the true definition of revenue operations. Noah Marks says, “The concept of revenue operations is a bit more dynamic than we may think. But, the basic idea behind it is that it encompasses all the traditional sales ops, marketing ops, and customer success ops, and even a BI team or deal desk.”
He further explains that these operations roles are one of the biggest factors of a successfully scaled company. So rather than attempting to increase the capabilities of each of them separately, revenue operations bring them all together and empower them as one.
Sean views revenue operations through the view of the customer journey saying, “The entire purview of the customer journey is within the view of the revenue operations. They are looking at making that journey as efficient as possible for both the external customer and internal teams.”
How Revenue Operations Solves Enablement Needs in Era of Digital Sales
With the shift to remote work, all buying has now become digital. Interactions between buyers and reps occur through digital channels, but so do internal interactions between team members and managers.
This change has occurred right as revenue operations become the status quo. So how does RevOps fit into the world of digital sales.
Noah takes a look at revenue operations’ audience: the sellers, marketers, and success reps that rely on RevOps for data, enablement, and processes. He says that regardless of how complex your solutions are, “You have to provide your audience with an easy-to-use process.”
Meaning, regardless of what platforms you have, the tools you provide, and how you integrate them they must be easy to use on the surface. The end user must have a simple process to follow that provides them with the information they need and the ability to sell.
Sean looks at the external perspective, and how the near instant gratification that we experience in our daily lives has impacted how we view B2B buying experiences. “There are new expectations about speed, outcomes, and buying on their terms. All of our expectations from a B2C experience carry over to B2B. So we need to meet customers where they are at and create the outcome-based experiences that everyone demands.”
Sharad adds that, “The expectation of responsiveness and agility is far more important when selling digitally, and we now have to combine them with the same premise of trust and rapport building as before.” Meaning, B2B sales has always been built on a foundation of trust and relationships. But where originally this was done over a longer period of time, the expectation is now that it is done instantly, and an organization has to be agile enough to provide that.
Front Line Manager Productivity is Critical
Front-line manager effectiveness is now the next forefront of sales performance. When these managers are empowered to review more deals, provide better feedback, coach more effectively, and better manage reps, the performance of the team surges.
Sean states that there are so many tools now available, but organizations need to set standards around their use. Saying, “When it comes to coaching, there are more tools available than ever before. But you have to think about how you use these with your team. For example recording calls, do you have expectations of how many they listen to? Is it something you track or score?”
Noah adds that data is absolutely crucial when it comes to any type of performance optimization. “Enterprise sales reps have traditionally been remote sales folks. But, the data we are now looking at is so critical because we don’t have in-person meetings… You have to get clean data.” Without clean data, you could be putting time, energy, and other resources into optimizing the wrong things.
Take a Fresh Look at Your Tech Stack
It’s obvious, the market is flooded with a multitude of tools and platforms that all promise to deliver better results. Today, teams could be using so many tools that they are actually working against themselves with more complicated processes, redundancies, and increased costs.
Sean suggests that teams spend just as much time evaluating their current sales stack as they are looking to add tools. “As folks are assessing what tools they want to bring into their sales stack, spend the same amount of time looking at tools you can remove.” He goes on to say that whenever teams add a new platform, they look at what parallel functionality they have created, and see if any new tools can replace existing ones.
Noah adds that an audit of operations tools should happen every year. “You need to do an annual audit, and see if the tools that you have support the business needs you have. Just because it was good then, doesn’t mean it’s good later.” It is imperative to reevaluate your tech stack as your business evolves. Just because a tool was a fit at a given time, does not mean that it still solves your needs now.
How Companies Get Within 5 Percent of their Forecast
Sales forecasting is one of the most important aspects of any business. But it is more than just predicting future performance. The sales team must actually meet those numbers. So how does a team meet their numbers quarter after quarter?
Noah sees predictable forecasting as the pinnacle of sales performance. Saying, “Predictability and forecasting is the top of the layer cake. It’s the output of everything you put into it. The bottom layer is the data integrity. You build efficiency on top of that, then you make it repeatable, then you get to predictability.” Therefore, forecast accuracy is less of an achievement that you can leapfrog to man more of a direct result of proper data, effective and efficient sales processes, repeatability, and training.
Sean recommended an approach that involves multiple parallel forecasts with check-ins, mainly between sales and operations. “If a VP is calling one number, and we are calling a totally different number in ops, we need to have a conversation and reconcile where those differences come from.” Naturally, the operations team and sales reps may share two different viewpoints on where a deal lies. Those differences need to be worked out so the deal can be properly forecasted.
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