Revenue operations is taking off like a rocketship.
According to Clari, VP of Revenue Operations titles increased by 300% between June 2019 and February 2021—with companies like Drift leading the push for RevOps adoption.
So far, RevOps teams have been extremely focused on backend activities. They help revenue teams wrangle in their data and standardize their processes to help create more revenue opportunities.
However, RevOps teams shouldn’t be pigeonholed as “data people”. They can also bring tremendous value to the customer-facing experience by standardizing every step of the buyer journey.
In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about revenue operations, including what they’re responsible for, what benefits they can bring to your company, how to build a great RevOps team.
We’ll also cover how RevOps teams can create a more seamless customer experience using Dock.
What is Revenue Operations?
Revenue operations—typically shortened to RevOps—is a business function that aligns sales operations, marketing operations, and customer success operations into one team with the goal of driving predictable revenue.
RevOps is built off the premise that sales is a flywheel—not a funnel—and therefore revenue growth shouldn’t fall only to the sales team. Under the RevOps model, revenue growth is the shared responsibility of sales, marketing, and customer success.
By bringing all the previously decentralized ops roles into one team, you can break down communication silos that used to exist between these separate functions to truly maximize sales potential.
It’s like building the Avengers of ops people. Yes, each hero has superpowers on their own, but they get better results working as a team fighting for the same cause.
So what does RevOps actually do?
It’s the job of RevOps to build a holistic, data-driven view of the buyer journey to identify gaps and revenue opportunities, forecast business growth, and maximize revenue.
RevOps is responsible for four key areas:
- Strategy: Create alignment, define processes, and inform the go-to-market roadmap
- Tools: Maintain a unified tech stack to ensure data integrity of the revenue pipeline
- Enablement: Create repeatable processes to personalize the customer experience
- Insights: Identify trends, gaps, selling, cross-selling, and up-selling opportunities
This means creating a unified tech stack, tracking KPIs, and giving sales and business insights to the various revenue teams.
Example RevOps Metrics
The RevOps team is accountable for metrics such as:
- Annual recurring revenue (ARR)
- Customer acquisition cost (CAC)
- Win/close rates
- Sales cycle time
- Pipeline velocity
- Forecast accuracy
- Customer lifetime value (CLV)
- Customer churn
- Renewals and upsells
They use this data to ask questions like:
- How long does the average customer stay a customer?
- How often do customers upgrade or downgrade?
- Which customer segments have the highest MRR?
- What is causing customers to churn?
Where does RevOps sit in the org chart?
To be clear, RevOps isn’t an abstract concept or task to be done. It’s its own team or department that sits alongside these other go-to-market (GTM) teams in the org chart.
In smaller companies, RevOps may be a single individual, but in larger companies, RevOps is a full team made up of marketing ops, sales ops, CS ops, and a departmental leader that reports into the C-suite.
Example RevOps org chart (Source: GoNimbly)
Revenue Operations vs. Sales Operations
Because sales ops has been around for a while, your first instinct may be to think RevOps is just a newer, fancier term for sales ops.
But there’s more than a semantic difference, as sales ops is only a subset of RevOps.
Sales ops is primarily responsible for managing the company’s sales systems and processes, whereas RevOps focuses on the entire customer flywheel.
For example, a sales ops specialist would be responsible for managing Salesforce, training the sales team on how to use it (and then nagging them when they don’t use it), creating the lead scoring model, and keeping sales reps to their quotas.
RevOps expands on this by bringing in marketing and CS into the fold. Marketing ops brings in customer engagement data from a tool like Marketo to help identify stronger leads, and CS brings in data from a tool like Zendesk to identify cross-sell or renewal opportunities.
Together, these previously separate ops functions create more revenue opportunities by working as one holistic unit.
Revenue Operations vs. Sales Enablement
If RevOps is about working with marketing and CS to generate sales, then what’s the difference between RevOps and sales enablement?
Sales enablement is about providing the sales team with the materials, training, and support needed to close more deals. For example, marketing provides the sales team with sales decks, or provide training on how to position your product against the competition.
Again, sales enablement is one responsibility of the RevOps team, but RevOps is wider in scope.
RevOps is also responsible for creating the sales system and database, maining data integrity, and making sure all the various sales, marketing, and CS systems talk to each other.
Why is Revenue Operations better than a decentralized model?
By unifying operations functions into a single, centralized team, their revenue-generating potential grows exponentially.
1. RevOps distributes the revenue-generation responsibility
With a centralized RevOps team, sales, marketing, and CS are all equally responsible for revenue generation.
Because RevOps helps each team set their KPIs and targets relative to revenue goals, each of these teams can be aligned in their incentives.
For example, marketing knows they’re responsible for passing qualified leads to sales, sales is responsible for converting leads to business, and CS is responsible for retention.
Activities that don’t contribute to these goals are just a distraction.
This makes teams more willing to step up to bat for one another and lend support where needed.
2. RevOps unifies your tech stack
Customer data is the central atomic unit for any SaaS company to understand how their business is performing. To own your customer data, ops teams have to own the tech stack.
Before RevOps, each revenue team had their own operations person (or in some cases, operations may have just fallen to the manager).
Sales ops would implement Salesforce, Marketing ops would implement Marketo, Customer success ops would implement Zendesk.
This created a big problem: each team had their own data and their own processes. Their data didn’t talk to each other, and neither did their teams, so there was no single source of truth.
Not only did this decentralized model create discrepancies, but it also failed to create opportunities. CS couldn’t easily flag a sales opportunity for sales. Sales couldn’t easily leverage marketing for support.
With a centralized RevOps team, you can build a single, centralized tech stack where all the systems are implemented correctly from day one.
This allows RevOps to be an independent arbitrator of the data.
For example, when implementing a CRM, the RevOps team can define each stage of the customer funnel, including at what stage a buyer is passed from marketing to sales, and then sales to CS.
3. RevOps creates smoother communication
By taking all three teams into account during the tech implementation process, you can create a common language and clean processes that work for all teams involved.
For example, you can define what constitutes a “lead” vs. an “opportunity” to make sure everyone’s on the same page.
Having a centralized intelligence team directing things creates harmony between your various revenue teams.
For example, RevOps can run a weekly meeting where they discuss what the data’s looking like and how teams are performing. They can act like project managers or moderators, helping sales and marketing set priorities and agree on upcoming initiatives.
4. RevOps creates a smoother customer experience
Smoother communication means smoother customer handoffs.
Traditionally, marketing may promise one thing in their content, sales promises something else during the sales pitch, and then CS is left to pick up the pieces once the customer puts pen to paper.
This creates friction for your customer and makes them more likely to churn.
With your entire customer flywheel under one roof, RevOps can define service level agreements (SLAs) between teams. For example, if a lead hits a lead score of 90 in the CRM, sales has to follow up within 24 hours.
Or if a customer completes a certain step in their mutual action plan, CS has to reach out within 48 hours.
This also gets teams working together with the customer earlier in the process, making the customer feel like they’re working with a team rather than “dealing with” a sales person.
5. RevOps improves retention
This silky-smooth experience makes it much easier to retain customers.
CS gets involved early on in the sales process, so they’ve already built rapport with the client by the time they onboard.
This makes it easier for CS to predict the customer’s needs or identify additional opportunities for upsells.
6. RevOps creates predictable growth
With all of this data under one roof, it becomes much easier to monitor and forecast sales. You can more easily predict which leads will become prospects, which prospects will close, and which customers will renew.
This not only helps you mature as an organization and satisfy your shareholders, but it also makes it easier to respond more quickly to trends in the data.
7. RevOps creates more growth
There’s tons of research to suggest that RevOps teams create more revenue overall.
A 2019 Forrester SirusDecisions study found that publicly traded companies on the S&P500 with a CRO and RevOps had 2.7x revenue growth and 1.7x the stock performance of companies without RevOps (from 2017 to 2018).
Additional research from Boston Consulting Group found that RevOps provided many benefits, including:
- 100% to 200% increases in digital marketing ROI
- 10% to 20% increases in sales productivity
- 10% increases in lead acceptance
- 15% to 20% increases in internal customer satisfaction
- 30% reductions in GTM expenses
The drawback of the RevOps model
If there’s one drawback of the RevOps model, it can be the challenges that come with dotted-line management.
For example, if you’re the VP of Sales and you’re not happy with the company’s sales operations, you don’t have direct control as you do in a traditional model. Sales ops reports into the rev ops leader, so you have to use your influence to change the situation. For less experienced managers, this can be a hard situation.
That being said, this minor drawback can be quickly overcome with a strong relationship between Rev Ops and different department leads (VP of Sales, Marketing and Success). Companies who set up the company with revenue operations need to invest in cross-functional collaboration.
Best practices for growing a revenue operations team
With that in mind, let’s explore what it looks like to build a great RevOps team.
1. Start by hiring a strong generalist
If you’re a smaller company or a startup that’s just dipping your toe into the RevOps waters, it’s best to start with a single RevOps person.
This can be a fresh hire, but it’s often easier to bring in an existing employee who already has intimate knowledge of multiple areas of your business.
Keep in mind, as long as they’re a team of one, they’ll be wearing lots of hats to start.
Therefore: hire a strong generalist.
RevOps specialists don’t need to be engineers, but they need to be fairly technical. Because they’ll be building your tech stack, they need to be really comfortable with new software.
They should have a growth mindset, always wondering if there’s a better way of doing things or connecting tools together to create new efficiencies. They’re willing to experiment, break stuff, and fail quickly.
They should be a systems thinker, connecting the dots across teams. They’re normally pretty quick to come up with ideas.
In the early days, they’re also likely to be pulled into various sales and marketing projects, so it helps to have a general knowledge of both.
Another key skill for your first RevOps person is change management.
RevOps constantly has to roll out new technology or new processes, so they need to be able to envision how they execute and communicate this change. Convincing 50 sales reps to change their ways isn’t always easy.
Therefore, they’ll need to have that thoughtfulness and the gravitas to have people follow their lead.
2. Over time, grow out each RevOps sub-function
Once you’re ready to grow your RevOps team, you can start to build out the rest of your team members.
Assuming your first RevOps hire becomes the VP of RevOps, the next hire is usually sales ops, followed by marketing ops, followed by CS ops.
Let’s do a quick dive into each of these roles.
VP of RevOps
In addition to being the team leader, the VP of RevOps (or your title of choice) is the business decision-maker on the team. They know how to plan things with a data lens.
Because they’re the closest to the data, it’s their job to monitor business performance and ask where you need to go next. For this reason, they’re normally the right-hand person of the CRO, CFO, or even CEO.
The CEO can go to the head of RevOps with a data question and they should be able to produce the answer.
The VP of RevOps is also responsible for thinking about the system architecture and data flow at a high level. You’re likely to find them building massive Lucidcharts to visualize the data flow.
For example, they may work closely with the finance team to make sure revenue data is flowing back into the financial model to inform the business.
The VP also usually plugs whatever gaps exist in the team until all the other hires are in place, moving from one fire to the next.
The primary job of sales ops is to be your CRM admin.
Not only are they choosing what fields to include in your CRM and building your lead scoring models, they’re also holding your sales reps accountable for adding their sales data to the CRM.
In that respect, sales enablement is a big part of their role. They’re not just there to babysit salespeople, they’re also responsible for teaching them the right way to use the CRM and how to get more efficient with their sales processes.
Sales ops is also responsible for sales monitoring and setting sales quotas. They help determine what the quotas should be, and they monitor who’s going to hit their numbers, and who’s not—lending support when needed.
They’re also responsible for calculating sales commissions, which can get complicated once splits, overrides, and contests get thrown into the mix.
However, your sales ops team should also help with sales enablement, standardizing your sales methodologies and customer-facing materials (more on that later).
Marketing ops is responsible for trying to figure out marketing data. This includes tracking business metrics like leads, pipeline, and revenue influenced.
Marketing attribution is normally the biggest challenge for marketing ops, as they try to assess which marketing channels are performing and which aren’t.
Marketing ops also helps define the marketing plan. Working backwards from your conversion numbers, they’ll figure out how many demos are needed to deliver the revenue you need each month, and then work backwards from there to figure out how many leads are needed from each channel.
In this sense, there’s some blur between marketing and sales ops. They’re normally working in the CRM together to build attribution models and your target account lists.
In some organizations, marketing ops is even responsible for building out your contacts database. This may include buying contact info from Zoominfo and Clearbit, or hiring UpWorkers to mine customer data.
Customer Success Ops
CS ops provides the tools, documentation, and processes for your customer success team.
They’re the ones building the tools to improve the speed and quality of support. They’re analyzing workflows to make efficiency improvements to make sure customer success reps can keep your customers happy.
Because they spend so much time in your product with your customers, they often have the closest relationship with your product team and product data out of anyone on your ops team, making them a key connector for your group.
From a revenue perspective, they’re responsible for customer health scoring, forecasting, and identifying when renewals are coming up. They also help with identifying trends in the product data that may indicate cross- and up-sell opportunities.
Additional Ops Analysts
On bigger RevOps teams, you’re also likely to have a team of analysts. They’re behind-the-scenes folks who spend all day in your tools and data.
They’re normally SQL and/or BI specialists who are exceptional at building and working with databases and mining data.
They may work within one ops function (e.g. sales) or provide support to the whole team.
3. Build one unified data source
The biggest job to be done for RevOps teams is to build out a unified data source.
Some of this can be done in a CRM like Salesforce, but you’ll eventually want to visualize your data in a business intelligence (BI) tool like Looker, Mode, or Tableau.
Here’s where your SQL experts come in handy. Using these BI tools, they should build dashboards for people at every level and operational function in your organization.
For example, each layer of sales, marketing, and CS management should have their own dashboard with metrics and data relevant to their role. Here, your ops people and analysts can work closely together to determine who needs what information to do their job.
Here’s the hard part: as a startup, all your systems are going to change or break every few months. Teams will switch tools, APIs will change unexpectedly, teams will restructure or expand, your product will change, you may decide to move upmarket.
So this definitely isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it situation. Maintaining the system takes as much work as creating it. But don’t let this discourage you—the ROI will still be massive for the impact on your sales.
4. Give your RevOps team decision-making authority
A quick but important point: your RevOps team will only be as successful as how much authority you give them.
The RevOps team has to be a big part of driving organizational decisions. They work most closely with the data but they also see the big picture.
Your head/VP of RevOps should have as much decision-making weight in strategy as your heads of sales, marketing, and success.
You can’t expect to build a team of behind-the-scenes data specialists who simply hand over tools to other leaders in the organization to make decisions.
5. Build repeatable revenue processes
RevOps’ goal is to increase revenue. To do this, most RevOps teams focus on the backend of a company—data, processes, etc.
At Dock, we believe that RevOps teams can add revenue through the frontend of the business too—mainly by improving the customer experience through repeatable processes.
For example, with Dock, RevOps teams can control and standardize what the sales team is putting in front of prospects and customers.
Creating a Dock space allows you to make a standardized sales template that can be re-used, but customized for each customer.
In your Dock space, you can:
- List key customer and company contacts
- Build mutual action plans to identify next steps for the customer
- Embed videos, like demo recordings
- Share price quotes
- Include marketing materials like case studies and proposal decks
- Transition customers to a customer onboarding plan from the same space
This gives sales, marketing, and CS the opportunity to make an imprint on the selling process—and one that’s easily repeatable.
Using Dock also gives you an entirely new data stream that was previously unavailable. Traditionally, the only customer sales data you would have were the staged changes of opportunity (lead, opportunity, demo, etc.). In between that, you would be blind. Because Dock tracks how a prospect engages with your sales content, including who is engaging with it, you get additional forecasting signals.
For example, a prospect who doesn’t engage at all with your mutual action plan is unlikely to close.
This data can be used to inform all the scoring metrics your RevOps team is managing. It can educate marketing’s lead score, sales’ forecasting numbers, and CS’s customer health score.
These scores provide a common language for everyone to work from to say whether a lead is engaged, whether it should get passed to sales, how well it’s getting forecasted, and how engaged a customer is post-sale.
Empower your RevOps with Dock
Dock is the first tool built to help RevOps teams focus on the frontend of the customer experience.
Dock can help RevOps teams:
- Standardize their sales processes
- Create a smoother customer experience
- Track additional forecasting data
To learn how Dock can fit into your RevOps engine, book a demo with our team for a personalized walkthrough of Dock.