What is Revenue Operations and Why Does it Matter?

April 11, 2022

Alina Poniewaz-Bolton

What does building a truck factory have in common with selling software? If you’re the kind of person who likes unwinding complicated puzzles, it turns out they’re not so different.

That’s how Scott Sutton sees it. Sutton started his career with Daimler Truck, where he spent more than 10 years wrangling complicated supply chains, overseeing technology spending, and yes, even helping build a semi truck factory in Mexico.

Today, Sutton is the vice president of revenue operations at ZoomInfo. And while he probably won’t need to put on a hard hat anytime soon, overseeing sales and marketing operations for a B2B software provider has offered plenty of opportunities to use the same skills that helped him in manufacturing.

“I’ve loved puzzles my whole life. I used to do Rubik’s Cube competitively,” Sutton recently told the Revenue Innovators podcast. “I think that curiosity, learning, and trying to adapt a skillset to a new challenge has been something that I’ve carried with me my whole life.”

Sutton is just one example of a new class of corporate leaders focused on revenue operations, a job that seeks to align the people, processes, and technologies that allow sales, marketing, and customer success teams to reliably meet their goals. RevOps requires creative problem solving to assist with initiatives such as rolling out company-wide programs, managing projects with an eye on costs and efficiency, and moving people toward a set of unifying goals.

What is Revenue Operations? #

The origin of RevOps is closely tied to the transformation of the customer journey over the last few decades. In the digital world, buyers have more knowledge and options than ever before. This has upended the traditional path to purchase. Go-to-market teams have less control over when prospects are entering the sales cycle and how much information they bring to the process, and marketing attribution has gotten increasingly harder as the digital universe expands and privacy concerns multiply.

Many businesses struggle to identify which factors are helping them close deals, much less replicate those motions for continued and predictable growth. RevOps addresses these gaps in knowledge and processes as “an aligned operating model for managing the revenue engine,” according to Forrester Research.

RevOps works with sales and marketing teams to build accountability and alignment by developing metrics that ladder up to corporate goals. To better understand the sales cycle and how revenue accrues in a given period, revenue leaders need an accurate view of the pipeline which helps them gauge sales momentum and improve forecasting and decision-making.

This is where the tech stack becomes critical. Is data scattered across multiple platforms? Is there a logical, organized system that allows information to flow freely across departments? Do the right integrations exist to ensure all systems are running smoothly?

According to Okta’s 2022 Business at Work report, companies of 2,000 employees or more are deploying 187 apps on average. Sales and marketing teams especially are relying on digital tools to connect virtually, share information, and meet customers and prospects.

Without the proper oversight, this overloaded tech stack can hinder fast action and communication between functional groups.

In addition to strategic alignment, the people charged with RevOps are often responsible for budgets, territory management, campaign management, and lead generation. For example, does sales have the pipeline it needs to deliver on revenue goals for the quarter? Is marketing doing its job to generate enough qualified leads? Where do customer success teams stand with renewal rates and churn?

Revenue operations roles have become increasingly prominent over the past few years. As of February 2022, there were nearly 6,000 contacts in the ZoomInfo database with “revenue operations” in their title. It’s a mix of C-level and VPs, directors and managers, and non-managerial roles such as strategists, specialists, and analysts.

Unlike sales operations, RevOps is often positioned outside of the sales or marketing teams, to encourage better cross-functional collaboration. This improves their ability to break down internal silos, act as the glue between teams, and motivate employees to achieve higher levels of productivity and performance.

Why does RevOps matter? #

If optimizing processes and alignment is what’s happening on the back end, what are the tangible results visible from the outside? Besides the obvious up-and-to-the-right trend in revenue, RevOps’ mission is to deliver:

A cohesive customer experience #

Everyone wins when the customer is at the center of every action and communication across an organization. When revenue teams are able to share, access, and use data gathered from anywhere in the organization, the result is less friction in the sales funnel. According to research from David C. Edelman and Mark Abraham for Harvard Business Review, a personalized and seamless omnichannel customer experience can increase revenue anywhere from 6% to 10%.

A more efficient go-to-market motion #

Understanding and keeping a close watch on unit economics is important in RevOps. You should know at any given moment not only how much revenue you’re bringing in, but how low your costs are across the board.

Your technology investment should be carefully considered, along with staffing, and any other resources that have a tangible cost. Metrics like cost per acquisition (CPA), cost per lead (CPL), and customer lifetime value (CLV) help demonstrate how efficient your operations are. The goal is to find repeatable success, without hurting profitability.

A proven path to predictable growth #

To keep investors happy, companies have to demonstrate sustained growth. You have to set the right goals, make sure your teams are hitting them consistently, and know when to adjust or make improvements in your plan if necessary. In revenue operations, the objective is to reduce the potential for blips in the chart and unexpected downtowns. That’s the reason people refer to it as a revenue engine, propelling the organization toward profit with as little wasted energy as possible.

Operating with greater intelligence #

Performance and productivity will always play a role in successful revenue operations. You want sales processes dialed in and reps that are armed with the necessary insights to move a buyer through the funnel quickly. The more efficient the workflow, the more time AEs and SDRs can spend talking with prospects and booking meetings.

Chorus’ AI-driven call recording and transcription software speeds up the sales cycle. It cuts out the need for sales teams to take extensive notes during meetings and hunt down account information. Instead, AEs and SDRs can quickly create and save time-stamped notes while calls are in process, view transcriptions within minutes, and flag and share key moments and insights with team members across the company.

Conversation intelligence also plays a crucial role in helping everyone in the organization understand their customers — from the very first sales call, through the discovery and solution phases of a deal, into onboarding and adoption. It’s a way for everyone to be on the same page without having to sit in the same meeting.

In a recent appearance on the Sit Down, Startup podcast, ZoomInfo CEO Henry Schuck explained how “the insane amount of insights that are available on customer calls” can be leveraged for everything from spotting changes in the competitive landscape to understanding whether the sales team’s talk tracks are being used effectively in new go-to-market motions.

When we roll out new products and services we enable our sales teams … they get certified, and then they go out to market. Oftentimes, they completely miss the core talk tracks that they should be deploying. That gives us an opportunity to go back and say, ‘Look we missed here. Let’s make the enablement better on these key points.’

Henry Schuck

CEO, ZoomInfo

It’s just one reason Schuck says that using Chorus “may be the most impactful thing that I do.”

Tuning your RevOps engine #

Anyone who has worked in sales or business over the past five years is aware just how quickly things are changing. Deals aren’t being done in corporate conference rooms and dragging on into drinks and dinner. In the new world of sales, contracts are Slacked, not slid across tables.

Relationships will always be important, but other factors have entered the equation — especially data. Sales is becoming closer to a science than an art, and that change should be reflected in a business’ people, processes, and systems.

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