7 Key Takeaways from Revenue Operations Conference OpsStars 2019

It is that week of the year when San Francisco is taken over by 170,000 attendees to Dreamforce, the Salesforce Annual User conference. Several companies that are part of the Salesforce ecosystem have events and after parties in the SF Downtown area.

I was elated and immersed in one such event Ops Stars about Revenue Operations for learning about Revenue Operations for 3 full days.

As many of you may have read and commented on my post on Chief Revenue Officer- Fancy or Real Job?  I would like to take this opportunity to educate my network about my learning these few days.

I would like to thank LeanData (primary sponsor), 19 co-sponsors, speakers and the attendees who made this such a memorable event. I would like also thank Dailius Wilson (GetAccept), Jake Randall (Okta) and Franco Anzini (MalewareBytes) for giving me to permission to write about them.

What is OpsStars?

OpsStars is a conference that brings together Marketing, Sales and Custom Success personnel under one umbrella focusing on the entire revenue lifecycle and customer experience.

Ops Star 2019 was the fourth annual conference with over 2500 attendees. The admission was FREE and covered catered breakfast, lunch and late afternoon snacks at no extra costs.

The conference had 8 Key notes presented by Analysts from Sirius Decisions (Forrester), CEOs thought leaders and 72 practical sessions given by industry practitioners. They covered vast of array of topics- Account Based Marketing, Customer Centricity, Sales and Marketing Alignment and Martech/Salestech.

Each session was about 30 to 45 minutes and there were 3-4 sessions in any given hour to choose from. I found it difficult to select, which session to attend so you can imagine my dilemma and the quality of the content in the conference.

So here are my key takeaways

1.      Revenue Operations is not about an organizational change but about a mindset and executive buy-in

According to Sirius Decisions, organizations are striving to break traditional Marketing, Sales and Customer Success silos but it requires change and commitment, which is not easy. They need to align in terms of Vision, Strategy, Planning, Processes, infrastructure, data and measurement.

Some companies are renaming their Sales Operations functions as Revenue Operations but not really making necessary changes. Most revenue operation leaders are sales operations or sales enablement leaders. Marketing and customer success are least likely to report directly to a revenue operations leader.

Companies may predominantly prefer a Sales leader as a CRO/COO, who may not have not have marketing and customer success knowledge. This goes against the revenue operations principles.

This suggests that companies are still finding their way when it comes to deploying a cohesive strategy to address revenue after post sale and improving customer experience.

Starting a new department Revenue Operations spanning Sales, Marketing and Customer Success Operations under one leader seems to have the most success.

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2.      Marketing is talking about leads and Sales is talking about Accounts

Marketing teams are biased towards generating leads as they have been traditionally measured on pipeline generation. Once B2B companies reach a certain scale, they get 80% of the revenue from existing customers via renewals or additional business and 20% of revenue from new customers.

Marketing content is catered more to prospects than to existing customers. Companies invest more on marketing programs/campaigns and sales headcount instead of investing in customer success so that existing customers are retained, and cross sold/ up sold.

This is observed in primarily SaaS companies but I believe it holds true for other B2B companies as well.

3.      Account Based Marketing (ABM) is difficult to practice, and it takes longer time than willingness of CMOs, who are looking for quick returns on investment.

According to Forrester, ABM is about deepening the relationship with the customer and providing a differentiated and exceptional customer experience. There is strong correlation between improving customer experience and revenue growth. 

More the companies practice ABM more they gain maturity. Personalized Content and data analytics are keys to success. It results in tighter sales and marketing alignment.

Revenue Operations exceeds goals when marketing content is focused on the customer. Content needs to be oriented to why the customer should buy highlighting the impacts rather than oriented to the sales person on what products/solutions to sell?

4.      Tips for aligning Sales and Marketing

Dailius Wilson, VP Sales and Marketing, GetAccept advocates relying on the Net Promoter Survey (NPS ) score with the customers one year after purchase and also internally having Happiness score within Sales and marketing teams. This helps sets a baseline and take action to change on what is not working?

He also advises that that Sales Enablement teams should own the Customer Reference function so that they have easy access to customer rolodex for different industries and use cases.

Currently most companies have customer reference teams in Marketing. They produce great content but often not utilized and accessible to the Sales teams.

5.      Revenue Operations Metrics that Matter

In order to have a successful Revenue Operations function, you need to have metrics dashboard that you can track across the entire customer lifecycle journey. Forrester recommends tracking the change in 3 Es and 3Vs

·      Efficiency

·      Effectiveness

·      Engagement

·      Volume

·      Velocity

·      Value

6.      Crowded Sales and Marketing Tech Stack is confusing for B2B buyers

There are so many tools currently that claim to address the entire customer lifecycle journey of Revenue Operations. Unfortunately, there is no one tool or platform that gives end to end customer lifecycle view.

Many of these tools overlap in functionality and are not being utilized. It is essential to also run a gap analysis on existing technologies. Some Revenue Operations teams own the Systems, Process/Tools but some cases it resides with IT. 

You need to become besties with the IT team to get application approvals as well as abide with data privacy and GDPR compliance. You need to also prioritize and justify budget for the tool acquisitions.

7.      Okta and MalwareBytes are embracing Revenue Operations holistically

Okta won the OpsStars Revenue Operations 2019 Trailbrazer Award.

Jake Randall joined Okta in 2011 when it was a 30-40 employee company and started a centralized Go to Market Strategy and Business Operations team covering Sales, Marketing and Support/Services. 

It was not called Revenue Operations those days. It happened organically as in a startup one wears multiple hats.

Okta wanted doing operations differently as they were doing with their identity management product. Jake was reporting to CEO Todd McKinnon and had the executive sponsorship.

Jake’s team had to educate about the centralized model especially to the new executives who came onboard, who used to have Operations in their span of control in the previous organizations. Jake believes his team was fortunate that they were executing well and able to show the benefits/value.

He refers his organization as a connected tissue across all the functions that has helped Okta scale.

They build a strategy of 3 Ds – Demand, Distribution and Deploy as the core tenets of the business

·      Demand – How do you differently look at solving demand efficiently- generating marketing pipeline, managing sales development representative (SDRs) and through channels?

·      Distribution– How do you sell products- manage pricing & packaging/ deals desk, launch new products go to market, direct selling or go via channels?

·      Deploy– How do you land and expand- Customer Success- SaaS is circular sales model and not linear sales model?

Jake built his team recruiting people who had a cross-functional mindset and not siloed thinking. Jake is currently on a developmental assignment in Chicago managing the Area Sales, North Central.

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You can listen to Jake Randall in a 16 minutes DMN Marketing Data Strategy Technology podcast with Kim Davis.

MalwareBytes is a cybersecurity company in endpoint security (laptop, desktops, mobile devices and tablets) about 800 people across the world. It is B2B and B2C company.

Franco Anzini took over the Revenue Operations function over a year ago and was gracious enough to share his experience over two sessions. He has a background in Services and Sales Ops in companies such as Xactly, Oracle and Aruba Networks.

MalewareBytes had a traditional model of Sales and Marketing leaders with their own operations team. Over one and half years ago there was a narrative in the company about sales and marketing not being aligned.

The senior management came up with a plan to adopt a Revenue Operations model but executives were not ready due to no cultural lock-in and there was adherence to old traditional model. They decided to revisit after six months.

What happened shortly thereafter was executive turn over and MalewareBytes decided there was no better time to do Revenue Operations. They brought in a Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) and had Sales and Marketing and Revenue Operations reporting to the CRO.

They integrated the Sales and Marketing into one Revenue Operations team that Franco leads. The Customer Success team was in the works as there was no formal program until a year ago.

They communicated to the broader organization that the new Revenue Operations team was not changing the core functions though they were changing reporting lines. It was more about increasing the breadth and building cohesion across the different functions.

The Systems/ Applications and Analytics/ Reporting is run across the 3 functions and Franco has recruited entry level business analysts who can work across these functions. He is smartly developing personnel who have end to end view of the business. 

The good news is that in year they have not heard that sales and marketing are not aligned.

In terms of revenue impact, they are seeing the preliminary indicators such as increased average deals sizes and shorter sales cycles but in terms of revenue impact it is too early to comment as they still evolving in the past year.

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You can listen to a 13 minutes DMN Marketing Data Strategy Technology podcast with Kim Davis interviewing Franco Anzini, MalewareBytes.

There are other companies that have been embraced Revenue Operations such as Cloudera and Carbon Black. I did not get a chance to go for their sessions. You can listen the DMN podcasts https://www.dmnews.com/podcast

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