Revenue Operations used to be a catch-all term for the non quota-carrying parts of sales organizations. Think back to when you were first building your sales team. 

You needed to hire sales reps: AEs, SDRs, BDRs. Check.

They’ll need some managers or leaders. Okay, Check and check.

Well, all these people need to work together and toward a goal of some sort. So, let’s set quotas. And their comp will need to be incentivizing and attractive in the market.

Now, what about all the tools they need to do their job. Call recording software, a CRM, a CPQ or price/discounting method, a meeting scheduler, email system. Yeah, we’ll need a bunch of those. Who’s running the deal desk? And what about pricing strategy?

Whether the Head of Sales is responsible for all of the miscellaneous systems that keep the sales team focused and productive or team members gravitated toward the more process- and system-focused work … all of this and more is under the umbrella of Revenue Operations: the strategic management of the tools, tech, frameworks and processes for how the revenue organization works together toward goals.

What is Revenue Operations

And interest in RevOps has been increasing gradually over time, with a critical mass starting in Feb. ‘17. An understanding of RevOps as a defined discipline – not just a catch-all term for all non quota-carrying or more administrative team members – is not front and center.

This isn’t a surprise. Nancy Nardin’s first SalesTech Landscape included 400+ logos. It now stands at 1,000+ sales tech companies that span from broad categories like CRM and Forecasting/Reporting to niche sales assist tech like Demo Tech or Pre-Sales Management.

2022 Enterprise SalesTech LandscapeRise of the Revenue Operations Leader

Someone needed to corral all of this tech and “back office” structural work for sales teams. What started as Sales Ops and consisted of a Salesforce administrator, a comp and quota expert, and maybe a sales analyst or two has grown exponentially.

Tech and tools need to work well and work together.

Quotas, comp, goals and forecasting have gotten more complex as pre-sales, channel reps, sales development teams, plus AEs that sell to new customers AND sell to the install base all require competitive and incentivizing comp structures. And that doesn’t even touch the need to coordinate Success.

And every sales manager needs more headcount.

Enter: the Revenue Ops leader. A systems-minded, strategic thinker that can both make decisions based on the interconnectivity of the solutions and have a bias toward action.

Why a Rev Ops Leader is Critical

The leader is often a key #2 for a sales leader. What a CRO did themselves in early stages in years past is now more complex and even more so for high potential, growth, late stage or exited tech companies. Revenue Operations needs to have the full picture and weigh the options. 

Revenue Operations now support and oversees:

  1. The sales tech stack – CRM, scheduling, meeting and demo tech tools, pipeline and forecasting … a single source of truth for the systems that run the org
  2. Comp and quota strategy – how teams are incentivized, with variables across functions, all needs to be considered for both the unique role that that function serves, but as part of the larger whole
  3. Analysis and reporting – from attribution to funnel definitions, end of month reporting to cohort analyses, you want one objective group to own the numbers for a sophisticated and unbiased view into how the team is performing.
  4. Channel and GTM –  new initiatives, partnership launches, international expansion … whether these key programs stay in RevOps long-term, they’re best served by a direct tie to the strategy side of the sales org, rooted in an understanding of the business and potential risks / benefits of new business initiatives
  5. Alignment to other orgs – depending on the internal resources, Rev Ops can own the marketing tech stack and strategy as well.  Couple that with the need for consistent reporting to Finance, input from IT, clear communication from Product, and buy-in from leadership, it’s imperative that your Rev Ops leader is a strong cross-functional business partner.

That’s a lot of responsibilities.

But the right leader for this function can:

  • Manage competing priorities
  • Cut through the noise to articulate tradeoffs, competing functions of the business, all while keeping the organization within budget
  • Effectively analyze data and, more importantly, use it to make observations, business recommendations and ultimately inform business decisions
  • Understand the holistic nature of the revenue org and ensure business objectives are being met while building for the future in a scalable manner

Benefits of Revenue Operations

The Revenue Ops Leaders is your go-to problem-solver

A lot can be said about why revenue operations has become so core to many tech team’s strategies. But more often than not, rev ops professionals are coming from an analytical, process or operational background and have the data and big picture chops to help set strategy and the foundation on which the entire team of sellers, success professionals and, more and more often, marketers can work effectively.

But the best revenue operations professionals are also empathetic, team-oriented leaders that can balance, well, a balance sheet but also take into account the human factors and impact on motivation and behaviors of every business decision.

Take, for example, a change to comp structure or variable comp payout schedules. It may be easy to make a big change that’s right for the business – and, likely, right for sellers in the medium or long-term – and say “the math shows us this is the right move. We’ll explain it that way to the team when we announce it and call it good.”

But, RevOps can provide more insight and context as they partner with their CRO. Although it may make sense on paper, the short-term impact, any instinctual loss aversion feelings from the team or the perception of the why for the change matters just as much as the change itself.

Good revenue operations leaders can take the human element into account in their calculations. And do right by the business and the team to achieve their goals.

The Future of Revenue Operations

We may look at Revenue Operations as starting in Sales Ops, but more and more organizations are consolidating or starting with their revenue operations and strategy in one place.

Some trends and organizational shifts to watch:

  • The combination of sales ops and marketing ops: tech stacks are becoming more complex and teams need to see more effectiveness and efficiency from their tools that multiple teams work across. Plus – goal setting in a silo leads to teams working less effectively. More and more organizations are either combining sales ops and marketing ops into one group or creating explicit connections between the two teams to ensure they’re supporting the same goals and vision
  • Single source of truth for data: attribution, pipeline tracking and deal velocity can vary by industry, segment and go-to-market motion. And sales leaders and marketers spend a lot of time measuring their own results. Similar to trend #1, forward-thinking tech leaders are challenging their teams to simplify, standardize and codify their measures of success as a shared set of metrics and be reportable by one group. That allows seller and producer teams to focus on what they do best and cut down on the administrative and logistical bloat that exists when multiple teams report on the same number
  • Closer alignment with data science, FP&A: A strong revenue operations team is at the table with the other data- and financial-focused teams in the organization. Embedding revenue operations earlier in the strategic planning process, as a partner to Finance and in partnership with other teams that do deep dives into data like Data Science or Engineering, can help turn revenue operations from a reactive function into one that’s proactively leading business decisions and aligning sales to their business and product counterparts.
  • Optimizing spend and growth: efficiency and effectiveness is the name of the game. Even Salesforce recently announced a new target at Dreamforce 2022, saying they are publicly committing to an operating profit margin of 25% by calendar year 2025. In a world where growth at all costs is no longer the end all be all for most tech companies, your revenue operations leader should advocate and inform any needed shifts to more durable growth. And helping to set the targets that get you there.
  • The integration of tooling:  we can see how many tools sales teams are using. Layer in the marketing tech stack and various tools used across the business, integration and efficiency across the platforms that your teams are doing their work is just as important of a factor as what each individual tool helps the team do on their own. Revenue Operations is playing more of a role in needs assessment and the selection process for companies that are looking to not just have more tools to bolt on to their tech stack, but a more productive and easy to use back end.

Most importantly, Rev Ops should provide two things: the sales team the time and resources to sell as efficiently as possible AND leadership/the board confidence in the revenue organization and the infrastructure it is built on is able to scale.

Revenue operations teams are becoming more and more important to the success of tech, particularly during times of uncertainty, change or when the business needs to shift focus and strategy … fast.

Successful revenue operations teams and their leaders are taking the reins on being more strategic, bringing more accessible data to the teams that they serve and partnering with sales leaders to make data-minded and human-centric decisions for the business.

Scale Better with Sales Assembly

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