My first job in a tech company was part of a team called “sales operations.”
Before that job, I’d never heard of the term and had no idea about its functions. But when you get a chance to join a quickly growing, “just-IPO’d” software company, you take it. After all, my previous roles in marketing gave me a skill set and a basic understanding of sales, and it seemed like a great fit.
It was a great fit. And it was also an introductory crash-course on understanding the importance of reliable processes, strong systems, and (especially) my role.
Fast forward a few years, and now sales operations have evolved into an entire function and career path of its own, and has evolved into something called revenue operations. And that’s partially due to the ever-expanding list of solutions needed to drive revenue. Today, the entire customer journey and revenue process has become very complex. (Hence the need for me!)
For organizations just starting to build their sales and marketing teams, all the process options and recommendations can be extremely overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be. There’s a way to get it right the first time and set up a foundation of growth while providing the tools and insights to get started right now.
So, from one sales op expert to another, here are my top five essentials for making revenue operations successful from the word go.
Tip #1: K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple and Straightforward)
Yeah, I know — you thought I’d use the other definition. But no one needs to be called stupid, right?
No matter the word usage, the meaning remains the same: Don’t over complicate and don’t overburden your teams with tools that are more time consuming than productive. Example: Don’t build Versailles when a nearby cottage will do for now. As long as Versailles (and your growth goals) are always visible and in focus, starting smaller can streamline your efforts and help you truly move the needle.
Between all the “top tools” lists, review sites, webinars, blogs, and podcasts, it’s easy to understand why many companies feel they need to equip their sales and marketing teams with every tool that promises improved productivity and more closed deals. But more tools create more complexity, which could ultimately cause bottlenecks that slow your revenue process and negatively impact your bottom line. So, as I said, keep it simple and only use what you need.
Tip #2: Draw the Blueprint
Before rushing to evaluate and purchase sales and marketing technology for your company, take the time to understand your stakeholders’ responsibilities and goals. Ask questions. Map out the steps. Ask more questions. This critical information will provide your blueprint.
I’ve listed a few questions below that are meant to be discussion starters. The details of what you learn are what’s important, so be sure to document everything.
- How do leads come in, and how are they tracked?
- What is the typical sales cycle? (if there is one yet!)
- What might a typical deal look like?
- What happens when a prospect becomes a customer?
- How do we provide customer service to ensure happy and returning customers?
- What information needs to be provided to other functions within the company?
The investment of this time will pay off as you develop processes and roll them out to your team. Equally as important, it will help identify areas where technology is needed and will help, as well as where it might only be a “nice to have.”
Tip #3: Build Your Foundation
I think the obvious first technology investment is a good CRM. The choices have grown significantly during the past few years, so don’t assume your only choice is Salesforce. Do your research and find the CRM that will fit your current needs and will scale with you in the future.
With your blueprint in hand, you can now find out how the CRM will perform for you. Ask real customers that are a couple of years ahead of you in growth to learn their experiences with the CRM and any integrated tools. Find out if you will need a developer or highly-skilled specialist on staff to get the most out of the platform or if your existing team can easily implement and manage it. What about integrations with other tools you’re considering? What kind of support is offered to new customers?
You don’t want to go through the pain of changing your CRM every year, so make the investment now in the best CRM for your company. It will truly be the foundation of your growth and success.
Tip #4: Add Utilities and Appliances
Once your CRM is up and running, you’ll want to identify any additional tools you want in your tech stack. Keep in mind that this isn’t required — you may be fine with what your CRM offers for the time being. And this is the perfect time to remind you: K.I.S.S.!
Look at your priorities to determine additional purchases. Is it more important to have a marketing automation platform to ramp up marketing, or is a sales engagement solution that increases productivity more critical right now? Or perhaps call recording is what’s needed now to coach your sales team? Maybe the answer is all three?
No matter what tools you explore, be sure to fully research the integration with your CRM. This is another area that can create bottlenecks — or, on the flips side, a lot of manual work — which takes away from any benefits the solution might provide. I have learned the hard way to never assume “seamless” or “native” integrations are as easy as they claim, especially if you require two-way syncing on the data that flows between the solutions.
Tip #5: Finally, the Big Reveal and Walk-Through
Congrats — you’ve met your roll-out deadline! But none of your hard work will succeed if your team isn’t properly trained.
While you’re setting up the CRM and other tools, start building anticipation and excitement about what’s to come and how it will benefit your company. Identify a couple of people to be beta testers for you to work out any final kinks and review training materials. Also, make sure the training materials are easily accessible after training is over. And, as the Wizard of All Things Ops, make sure you are available to provide help and answer questions.
And last but not least, remember: YOU are the expert and a valuable resource. YOU make it all work. YOU are the architect of their growth and success. So when preparing to launch a new internal framework, trust your gut, make things easier for yourself and your team, and take small steps to reach big goals. That’s how you’ll be successful for yourself and your company.
Alisa is a veteran of the tech start-up and SMB space, having held leadership roles in both sales operations and marketing. Throughout her career, she has taught herself and managed a wide variety of sales and marketing solutions, and is always excited when something new comes out that fills a gaping hole in the tech stack.