From Sales to RevOps
Companies today require a more complete picture of how well they’re performing and how sales-related changes are likely to impact the business as a whole. And because of this need, they’re evolving away from sales cultures to ones that rely more on revenue operations, or RevOps.
“RevOps is more than just a buzzword; it’s a way of thinking about the entire customer journey, from the first touchpoint to post-purchase service and support,” says Becky Flint, founder and CEO of Dragonboat, a product-building platform provider. “It recognizes that a customer’s experience with a company is not limited to a single department but rather involves multiple touchpoints across the entire organization.”
Flint adds: “RevOps represents a new way of thinking about revenue generation that puts the customer experience at the center of everything a company does. By breaking down silos between departments and adopting a holistic approach to revenue generation, companies can achieve greater success and drive growth in today’s highly competitive business environment.”
The move to RevOps marks a change in the traditional sales culture.
“Sales operations as a discipline has been around since the 1970s,” says Dharmesh Singh, founder and CEO of FullCast, a RevOps platform provider. “Xerox introduced it. The logic was to let salespeople focus on sales and keep them away from non-sales operations.”
Those non-sales functions became back-office operations, Singh adds, noting that once software-as-a-service became the engine driving sales for many companies, they started to realize that there was more to consider than simply closing a sale and that more than just the sales department needed to be involved.
“RevOps is the recognition that sales extends beyond the sales team,” says Kristen Thom, vice president of product at White Cup, a provider of CRM, business intelligence, and pricing software. “Sales operations is just the first step in that journey. RevOps is the continuation of that.”
“Selling is a team sport these days,” says Ed King, CEO of Openprise, a provider of data automation solutions for RevOps teams. “Successful B2B selling requires collaboration across sales, marketing, channel, and even customer success. That’s where RevOps comes into its own.”
There’s a growing understanding across businesses that all factors related to sales are connected, including sales, marketing, website development, e-commerce, pricing strategy, etc., according to Thom. All of these pieces combine to form RevOps.
The trend toward RevOps is on the upswing, King adds, pointing to the following figures:
- In a recent report, Gartner predicts that by 2025, 75 percent of high-growth tech companies will employ RevOps “for end-to-end revenue production, enabling hyper-automated sales and omnichannel customer engagement. The future of revenue production needs to leverage automation, artificial intelligence, and personalization throughout the buying process. The best growth companies in the world in 2025 will both help their buyers buy and their sellers sell with a RevOps model that addresses these modern challenges.”
- And on LinkedIn’s “2023 Jobs on the Rise” list, head of revenue operations was in the No. 1 spot. Depending on the company, the exact title could vary, with some companies calling it the head of revenue management or the chief revenue officer.
King adds: “Companies understand that you can’t build a well-oiled go-to-market (GTM) machine in this day and age without knowing your way around technology and data, and RevOps is the resident geek that makes data and technology work for the GTM team. Unlike business IT, RevOps has a deep understanding of the GTM process along with an agile mind-set that can help the GTM team move 10 times faster than an IT team can provide support.”
RevOps should be the data-driven driver for GTM teams, King adds.
THE LARGER REVOPS TREND
The speed of the movement toward RevOps largely depends on the industry. Thom says the strategy is “moving like wildfire” in the distribution business, while Singh says it’s primarily bleeding-edge companies in the technology sector. Other experts see the trend somewhere in between.
“Large players in the distribution business, like Grainger, made a ton of investment and moved forward quickly with RevOps,” Thom says. Grainger, which made more than $15 billion in revenue last year, can afford the large investments in capital and human resources for RevOps. Smaller companies typically don’t have the same resources, so they are only now starting to make much smaller steps in RevOps.
Companies like Grainger have also invested heavily in back-office enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems and related technologies, according to Thom. “With the rise of RevOps, they are understanding that they need the same type of technology push on the front end of their business. Grainger took some huge leaps forward during the pandemic with that.”
Thom says that another company that has made a considerable transition to RevOps is Protective Industrial Products, which supplies personal protective equipment for industrial and retail businesses. The company blended its e-commerce, ERP, CRM, business intelligence, product information management, marketing automation, and other technologies to support its next-generation sales strategies.
Since making the change, Protective Industrial Products has seen deals close 75 percent more quickly, according to a statement.
Successful RevOps requires that companies start with a go-to-market (GTM) plan—the strategy that aligns their entire organizations’ resources to market needs, Singh says. “Then they need insights embedded in their systems in a way that brings sales, customer success, and marketing together and creates one streamlined, coherent system.
“Recognizing these challenges, RevOps vendors are evolving to meet these needs and provide software solutions that tie everything together so that companies can realize the tangible benefits of RevOps—higher productivity and a more motivated, aligned GTM team,” Singh says further.
ADVANTAGES OF REVOPS
When sales works with several supporting areas rather than by itself, companies can deliver better customer experiences to drive sales and revenue, Thom says. “We offer a technology for distributors that focuses on improving revenue for distributors. They many times work on razor-thin margins, so small changes to gross profit can have huge impacts for their businesses.”
By implementing a RevOps strategy, companies can improve their revenue generation by optimizing their sales and marketing funnels, reducing friction in the customer journey and increasing customer satisfaction, according to Flint. “RevOps can also help organizations streamline their internal operations, reduce costs, and increase efficiency.”
By bringing together the different elements that each business unit contributes, companies can get a better idea of the total cost to sell to and service customers, something that became more important among tech companies that moved from on-premises sales to a cloud-based subscription model, according to Singh.
Historically, companies have looked at the cost of serving customers as a one-size-fits-all figure, like a percentage of sales. But such a big-picture calculation ignored the fact that some customers cost more to serve than others, Thom says, noting that by knowing the cost to serve each customer, companies can see whether certain discounts make sense.
“RevOps helps you better understand your customers and your business,” Thom says. “It’s vital to start at the detail level first and use an analytics tool that will take all of that detail-level information and let you roll it up to a higher-level strategy.”
Outside of budgetary considerations, other companies have yet to move to a RevOps model because of lingering organizational silos, according to Singh. “Each function uses different workflows and processes. Typically, the CRM system is the primary platform shared by sales, customer success, and marketing. Yet, CRM systems have a limited ability to provide meaningful RevOps insights. For this reason, each revenue team often turns to spreadsheets or point solutions that serve its unique needs, only creating more inefficiencies and barriers.”
Further adding to the silo problem, most customer relationship officers come from sales, and they’ve always looked at the business through a sales operations lens, Singh adds. “Today, RevOps is largely rebranded sales ops. There are only a few companies that have started really fixating on creating an ops team that supports the same philosophy, an ops team that will work across the life cycle of the customer.”
Not only is the technology siloed, but some department managers want to keep control of their particular silos, according to Singh.
“There is a human desire to have control and to have their own limited operations team, which gets in the way of transitioning to RevOps,” Singh explains. “A strong [chief financial officer] and a strong [chief revenue officer], who both understand that RevOps could make or break the company’s fortunes, especially in the current economy where resources are constrained, is key.”
Singh adds that a couple of years ago, companies were flush with cash, so little attention was paid to sales efficiency; to bring in more revenue, they could just hire more people. But now companies are looking much more carefully at their bottom lines, so they are advancing to RevOps and other methods to improve efficiency.
Another hindrance to greater RevOps mind-set adoption is the fact that many companies still lack a CRM system to provide some of the data necessary to make the change, according to Thom. “That gap is going to continue to get smaller and smaller,” she says, “with the rise of robust CRMs that are focused on sales automation and marketing automation.”
Joe Batista, a former executive with Dell Technologies and Hewlett Packard Enterprise, sees two key challenges in cross-departmental collaboration. The first is alignment of interest, with each individual department’s or employee’s goals and metrics needing to fit in with the larger sales journey. Leaders need to make time and resources available beyond their current missions. The second challenge is finding the hidden resources and talent that organizations already have.
Thom sees a third challenge: human resources, which her company’s research found at 40 percent of businesses. Staffing, she says, “was their biggest barrier to better using data and analytics in their sales processes.”
She and others expect the staffing issue to continue to be a challenge for some time to come given current unemployment levels and a shortage of available people with the analytical skills needed for RevOps roles.
Still, despite the many challenges, experts expect companies to continue moving toward a more centralized RevOps model. While now it is only implemented at larger, more technologically advanced companies like Grainger, soon companies across the wider spectrum will have no choice but to move in that direction as well.
“We’ve all seen the headlines that people prefer to buy digitally without a sales rep. I don’t think the sales rep is going away, but sales reps are changing when and how they meet customers and prospects to meet current buying habits and trends. Consumers are looking for greater transparency in their purchasing interactions,” Thom maintains.
RevOps helps companies identify how to effectively make the shift to how customers want to buy today, Thom adds. “We’re seeing a lot of businesses feeling the pressure of keeping up with the competition and with the expectations of customers. We’ve seen Amazon and other e-commerce giants change what we expect when we buy from a business.”
Singh agrees, noting that even companies that have yet to adopt RevOps are recognizing the value of doing so and are working toward organizational alignment and a single reporting structure. “They already know that sales operations and customer operations should report to the same person,” he says.
Still, that’s a lot easier on paper than it is in the larger business context. “RevOps can be difficult and an overwhelming space when you first step in,” Thom warns. “There are so many options and technologies available; it can be hard to know where to start.”
Thom recommends starting with technology solutions tailored for the specific industry in which the company competes.
As for the ideal hierarchy for RevOps, King recommends that RevOps report to the CEO, chief financial officer, or chief operating officer rather than the marketing or sales leader.
And then, as with any CRM-related technology, it’s always important to keep the customer in mind. “Cross-department collaboration can also exist with the client,” Batista says. “The client benefits, especially in complex situations.”
Phillip Britt is a freelance writer based in the Chicago area. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.