RevOps has been a hot topic recently.
Traditionally, software companies have had siloed operations roles. Sales ops reported to sales, marketing ops reported to marketing, and as companies scaled, specialties (partner, customer success, and support operations) would come onto the scene.
However, the best GTM organizations we work with are more tightly aligned. They rely on marketing, sales, and customer success being in sync with the buyer journey, while working with one clear set of funnel definitions.
Today’s founders are looking at RevOps to unify the GTM teams - data, systems, processes, and ultimately, people. If you want to make data-driven decisions, you need to have a thoughtful approach to how you integrate new systems, track data, and synthesize your most critical insights. RevOps can also play judge and jury for key decisions like Rules of Engagement, SLAs between functions, planning and goals, compensation design, etc…The lack of political bias is critical to solving for the holistic company as opposed to over-optimize for a particular function.
I have a hypothesis that 3 things are happening to make this role more important than ever:
- Product Led Growth (PLG)/self-service is becoming an increasingly important part of the GTM motion for software companies.
- We have more tools in the GTM tech stack than ever before. Each solution is generating siloed data, dashboards and insights.
- VC investment: There is more money available and increased competition to find the next Slack, Canva, Calendly. This is forcing many VCs to invest earlier in the lifecycle of a company. The standard SaaS metrics used to evaluate a business (MRR/ARR, gross margin, CAC payback, etc.) are less relevant in the early days of a business. They need to be supplemented with product usage and customer data – a proxy, or even leading indicator, of product market fit. This translates to VCs asking for a lot more data - WAUs, MAUs, etc.
NOTE: At Stage 2 Capital, we focus on the leading indicators of retention, coupled with Leading indicators of unit economics, to determine when and how fast to scale. Read more about that in The Science of Scaling.
Between the increased capital flowing into the startup ecosystem, the rise in popularity of PLG, and ever-growing spend on sales and marketing tech, we are seeing companies scaling rapidly early in their lifecycle. This has produced a lot more data than ever before, and often without the infrastructure or expertise to pull insights out of the noise.
RevOps Co-op has done a really nice job of outlining the evolution of the RevOps org chart, but we are generally working with companies who have 10-30 employees. At an early-stage company, we’re not thinking about how to build a RevOps team, but instead, how to bring the core components of RevOps to life with limited resources.
So, how does RevOps evolve in an early-stage company?
In “The Science of Scaling,” Mark Roberge outlines key principles for scaling a startup. My key takeaway when reading it for the first time was “wow, you better understand your data if you want to do this right!”
Phase 1: Product-Market Fit [Outsource]
As you work to find product market fit, we recommend establishing a leading indicator of retention that is based on product usage and tied to the value your customer derives from the product. In the earliest days we generally find that data is aggregated, and cohorts are developed by a member of the founding team. You’ll likely implement a CRM, some basic marketing tools and track the majority of your data in excel. This works at this stage!
We all know the jack-of-all-trades who first implemented HubSpot or Salesforce, who set up Google Analytics and made sure there was some basic tracking on the website. This person is critical to establishing the early data infrastructure. Eventually you, like many companies we work with, will find that data is coming from many different sources, and is difficult to tie out and mine. Now, it might be time to start thinking about some additional RevOps support.
RevOps as a service is a great way to start. Consultants from groups like RevPartners, Iceberg RevOps, Union Square Consulting, New Breed, scaleMatters (and many more!) can accelerate the roll out of new initiatives and help define best practices. They can also bring expertise spanning all functional areas of RevOps. You will move faster, avoid reinventing the wheel, and your small team can work on more strategic and impactful work as you minimize the time spent on manual data pulls and processes.
TIP: When you are evaluating these vendors, make sure you are clear on what matters most to your business. There are no “right” answers because there is no one size fits all here. Some examples of questions to ask:
- Have you worked with other customers with similar business models (enterprise, PLG, marketplace, etc…)?
- Do you have a preferred tech stack? And/or have you worked with [insert your current tech stack here]?
- Do you work on defined projects or ad hoc as part of our team?
- Who will be the team supporting us? What are their backgrounds? How many clients do they work on at any given time? What is the expected turnaround time on requests?
Phase 2: Go-to-Market Fit [Director+ Hire]
As you move into the Go-to-Market Fit stage, and hire a sales leader to build out the team, it’s time to lean into RevOps. As Mark outlines in the Science of Scaling, this is the stage where we are looking for the sales leader to be a process builder:
“They are process, rather than product, innovators. They thrive on rapidly changing environments and enjoy the process of establishing playbook hypotheses, testing the processes against buyer conversations, and iterating based on test observations.”
For this person to be successful, he or she needs support from RevOps. You want your sales leader focused on developing your GTM playbook, reviewing calls, hiring the team - you don’t hire a Revenue leader to spend 10 hours/week in the CRM dealing with workflows, process and dashboard updates to get the data he or she needs to make decisions.
For this person to be successful, he or she needs support from RevOps. You want your sales leader focused on developing your GTM playbook, reviewing calls, hiring the team - you don’t hire a Revenue leader to spend 10 hours/week in the CRM dealing with workflows, process and dashboard updates to get the data he or she needs to make decisions. And we’ve only addressed the needs of the sales team here - marketing, CS and the broader business are dealing with their own operational challenges that need to be unified.
Yes, this is likely the tipping point where you want/need an in-house resource who is with you in key meetings, and has all of the context to move quickly on actions without additional oversight. We’ve found that level matters in this first hire - you want to find someone who can act as a strategic partner to your revenue leadership, but who is also willing to be very hands on and adapt quickly to the evolving needs of the business. We’ve found a Director level hire tends to be the right fit.
But that doesn’t mean a consultant isn’t still valuable at this stage. If you hire a rockstar RevOps leader who is a strategic partner to the go-to-market leaders, he or she will still benefit from support - someone working on salesforce admin work a few hours per week, or extra capacity to tackle long term projects.
This is a period for “and” not “or.” Keep supplementing the skill sets of your Revenue and RevOps leaders with outsourced support until you can justify scaling the team.
Phase 3: Scale [Build the team]
As the company and GTM team scales, RevOps needs to become more complex and you can begin building around your earliest hires.
The key questions at this point are around capacity relative to priorities, and supplementing skill sets of your Revenue and RevOps Leaders. Ask yourself: Do you need more capacity/expertise on onboarding/enablement? What about CRM automation or lead attribution? Or how to define, document and evolve common processes? There is always more to be done. In fact, you can treat RevOps like a product organization - there is 5 years worth of work to do at any given time, which underscores the important of having a process to capture and select the most important efforts in the upcoming quarter.
Once you have your priorities in order, you can figure out the profile and seniority level of the candidates to bring in house and what additional skills you will have to fill with external resources.
This is the stage at which most companies begin to specialize hiring to cover all of the major needs of the revenue organization: operations, enablement, project management, tech stack, insights. When you start specializing your people, focus on depth over breadth and build deep expertise in each area. For example, dedicated enablement will help bring your GTM playbook to life, while someone focused on only your tech stack can dramatically improve automation, etc…
Once you’ve determined that you’re ready to make a RevOps hire, it’s time to begin the search. Unfortunately, this is not as easy as it should be.
There are endless definitions of what RevOps is, as well as ideas around how to hire for the role. To streamline the process, I put together 3-steps you can follow to writing a RevOps job description, tailored to your business needs.
Check it out here!