A Guide to RevOps

It helps make the customer journey smoother too.

Written by Hal Koss
Published on Jul. 30, 2020
A Guide to RevOps

The idea of getting on the same page isn’t new. But in the past few years, it has been given a new name.

“If you’re in operations, I would say your exposure to RevOps was day one,” Mike Griebenow, director of revenue operations at Blendtek Ingredients, told Built In. “You just didn’t know it was called RevOps.”

What Is RevOps?

Revenue operations is a framework that brings marketing, sales and customer success closer together, to increase alignment, accountability and efficiency.

RevOps — a mashup of “revenue” and “operations” — has gained traction in the past few years. It’s not quite right to say it’s a philosophy, a specific tool or a fancy new department name (though, it may take the form of all three). RevOps is probably best described as a framework.

This framework is all about unifying marketing, sales and customer success departments by giving them shared expectations, data and tools. The idea is for all of them to look at the same, big-picture view of the entire funnel, so they can sync up and work together to achieve a common goal — increase revenue.

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marketing revops
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RevOps Is About Smoother Customer Experiences

In the B2B SaaS realm, sales cycles are shrinking. Monthly contracts give customers the ability to cancel at any time, and switching service providers isn’t as expensive as it used to be. This situation puts pressure on tech companies to create a great experience that wins back the customer’s business every month.

But if the company’s marketing, sales and customer success teams aren’t aligned, and they operate in their own silos, then mistakes — like botching a customer handoff — become inevitable.

And customers notice when their interactions with a service provider feel disjointed.

“There’s nothing more irritating to a customer than starting the process all over again,” Todd Abbott, chief operating officer and president of InsightSquared, told Built In. “You’ve got to make it seamless, so that it’s an enriching experience, so that they want to continue to leverage you.”

And it’s hard for a relay race team to pass the baton if they’re running in different lanes.

“You’ve got to make it seamless, so that it’s an enriching experience.”

RevOps tries to solve this by calling for sales and customer success to become more intertwined. It does so by having the teams share the same full, end-to-end view of the customer. Both teams can see when the last engagement took place, and both are aligned on strategy as to when to reach out, upsell, cross-sell, and so forth. They are less likely to trip over each other (which is never a good look).

This shared view helps prevent instances where, for example, the customer has to re-explain themselves on every support call. It helps them feel known, valued — less likely to churn.

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funnel revops
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Shutting Down the Blame Game

It’s a conflict that’s all too common in companies today: Marketing delivers leads to sales; sales doesn’t close the deal; sales blames marketing for delivering bad leads; marketing blames sales for its inability to close. The cycle continues.

It’s an easy trap to fall into when each team is looking at different success criteria and using different definitions of “qualified” leads.

“Everyone has dirty data,” Marko Savic, chief executive officer at FunnelCake, said. “Without quality data, there can’t be good analysis to determine where to go next.”

RevOps aims to root out the dirty data by creating a shared data set — a “single source of truth” — that everyone looks to. The numbers become clear and agreed upon. It removes opportunities for finger pointing.

“RevOps aims to create a single source of truth that everyone looks to.”

The raw totals of website visitors or event attendees doesn’t ultimately matter in the RevOps framework. What matters is how these lead-creation engines contribute to the revenue of the business — and that each department agrees about what that looks like.

In his first week as vice president of growth and enablement at Clari, Kyle Coleman told his teams they needed to all align around a single definition of “qualified” that would unite them at the top of the funnel.

“There are not competing success criteria across our various demand engines or SDR engines or anything like that,” he said on the Addicted to Growth podcast. “Instead of fighting between one another about who created that pipeline, we’re just fighting together to create a pipeline.”

By sharing a full end-to-end view — from the creation of a marketing-qualified lead, to a sales-qualified lead, to a booking, to a renewal, to an upsell — there’s little room for debate. The teams rally around whatever leads to revenue growth. Incentives become aligned. The machine becomes well oiled.

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Consolidating Tech Stacks

When marketing, sales and customer success separate into their own silos, each department builds up its own set of software tools and platforms to help its members carry out their jobs. Typically, each department head gets to pick what tools the department’s tech stack will consist of, with little regard for how it integrates with other departments’ stacks.

“Each one of these tools does a fit-for-purpose function really well,” InsightSquared’s Abbot said. “But it also creates another data set.”

The lack of integration between tools creates “islands of data sets,” he said, without an end-to-end view. This makes it extremely difficult for teams to collaborate effectively. And it can lead to hiccups for the customer.

The lack of integration between tools creates “islands of data sets.”

Siloed tech stacks are expensive too: Over time, the size of each department’s tech stack can expand so much that the cost-per-representative of these tools balloons to several thousand dollars each.

RevOps asks these departments to share the same tech stack. That means learning how to integrate their work into a common platform (likely a CRM) or buying new tools that meet everyone’s needs.

Inevitably, it also means that many existing tools have to be eliminated. Especially ones that accomplish specific functions and can’t be shared by multiple departments.

With a shared tech stack, collaboration between departments becomes smoother. Data and knowledge get shared. There’s one less page to click on, one less spreadsheet to create.

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Prioritizing Accountability

While RevOps has gained steam lately — readers may notice the rise of titles like chief revenue officer and director of revenue operations — it’s still not a mainstream practice.

One big reason for this is politics. Not in the electoral sense, but in terms of the power dynamics that RevOps inherently must disrupt in order to work.

It usually begins, Abbot said, with the department heads giving up control of the tech stacks and the metrics that make them look good. It’s a tall ask, but it helps each team become accountable to the revenue.

“It takes a level of collective buy-in, and maturity and confidence, to buy in,” he said.

Griebenow, himself a director of revenue operations, echoed the reason for the hesitation.

“Those teams are giving up control of a thing they cherish and rely on heavily for their own success,” he said. “At the same time, your responsibilities in CS or sales operations and market operations are growing. And you do have to let go of the reins in some areas at some point, or else you’re stretched too thin.”

“Teams are giving up control of a thing they cherish and rely on for their own success.”

Adopting the RevOps framework requires making changes in the traditional org chart and reporting structure, which can be fuzzy and undermine accountability.

Eventually, a RevOps team may be created and tasked with managing operations across marketing, sales and customer success. Its job is to support these departments while remaining distinct from it. The title of this department’s leader varies (RevOps is still in its infancy) but common names include chief revenue officer and vice president of business operations.

Done right, RevOps can simplify collaboration, delight customers and, as the name suggests, increase your business’ revenue.

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