For years, the work of many revenue operations (RevOps) teams have largely been determined by immediate customer needs.
Most RevOps projects address a problem that’s already happened with the goal of ensuring it doesn’t happen again. For organizations undertaking their first revenue operations initiative, this reactive approach is natural and necessary. However, as the RevOps function matures, shifting to a proactive approach promises to deliver a strategic advantage and even more value.
While revenue operations is still the new kid on the block in many industries, its prevalence has grown at an incredible pace. In fact, according to recent data, over the past 18 months, there has been a 300 percent increase in vice president of revenue operations titles.
The popularity of revenue operations should come as no surprise. After all, research continues to prove organizations that adopt a revenue operations focus have an edge. Forrester research shows that those with a ‘revenue mindset’ grow 19 percent faster and are 15 percent more profitable than their competitors.
That advantage is crucial in an increasingly competitive environment. To ensure continued success, revenue operations teams must deliver ongoing value by anticipating and addressing roadblocks. As sales, marketing, and customer success teams work more closely together, RevOps has the opportunity to foster a future-focused atmosphere that encourages proactive problem solving.
Why revenue operations teams get stuck in a reactive rut
Revenue operations focuses on aligning sales, marketing, and customer success teams. Without a role dedicated to bringing these teams together, they all work independently and are often at odds. Common challenges include inconsistent or undefined processes, siloed data, and disparate systems. Eventually, the friction and inefficiency of these internal struggles result in a disjointed customer experience.
When customer experience suffers, so too does revenue. Ultimately, it tends to be the catalyst businesses need to invest in dedicated revenue operations roles. Consequently, solving existing problems is the first mandate to most RevOps teams.
New revenue operations teams often face a full backlog of challenges on day one. As they dig in and work to create, coordinate and deploy new processes, results come quickly. And, by the time the initial problems have been addressed and moved into maintenance mode, the revenue operations team is fully entrenched. As a result, the business views the RevOps function as a “fixer”. Their days are consumed by responding to requests and solving problems as they arise.
Yes, it’s easy to get comfortable in that role. After all, everyone loves the fixer. But this reactive approach limits the strategic value that revenue operations can deliver.
Making the proactive approach a priority
In most businesses, being the fixer is a full-time job. But once you’ve tackled the projects that inspired your organization’s investment in RevOps, it’s time to think proactively.
Working with the sales, marketing and CS trifecta, the RevOps team benefits from a big-picture perspective with immense potential. Ideally, the RevOps team maintains a list of both proactive and reactive projects. Then, they prioritize based on company goals, level of effort, and projected value.
3 RevOps projects that deliver value
If you look at your to-do list and feel like you’re moving from one small fix to the next, consider tackling one of these proactive RevOps projects to get started.
1. Develop and deliver an insightful RFP template for customers
If there’s one thing that sales, marketing and customer success can agree on, it’s that RFPs kind of suck. They’re time consuming, repetitive, and bureaucratic. Sales hates that RFPs represent a roadblock to closing the deal. For marketing, they’re often a last minute scramble to review and revise, verifying brand consistency. Customer success is just tired of answering the same questions over and over again. Despite all this, RFPs are ultimately helpful to the customer, which is why they’re likely here to stay.
Today’s buyers conduct more independent research prior to a purchase than ever before. As they seek to maximize the value they deliver to their own business, they are heavily invested in finding the right partner.
That’s why issuing a comprehensive RFP is an important part of the process. However, when creating the RFP, they often don’t know where to start or how to ask the right questions. With this in mind, your team has an opportunity to make a big impact and lead the conversation by proactively providing customers with an RFP template.
Creating your own RFP template benefits both you and your potential customer. For your team, it’s like writing your own test. You know what the questions will be as well as how to answer them in advance. At the same time, the customer benefits from your experience as an industry expert and consequently feels more confident in their decision.
Once you’ve completed the RFP, deliver it to your capture management, sales, marketing and customer success teams to familiarize themselves with the questions, phrasing, and positioning. We’d encourage you to take this opportunity to write and review answers to each of these questions so that when you see them, your proposal is mostly ready.
How to write your own RFP template for customers
When it comes to writing your own RFP template, the best place to start is with the RFPs you’ve answered in the past. Grab as many as you can and start making a list of questions. You’ll notice that many of your RFPs have the same questions phrased slightly differently. Select the best version of the question, ideally one that enables you to highlight your strengths.
Even in areas where competitors traditionally win, find a way to phrase the question that sets you up to overcome common objections in your response. Your RFP should cover boilerplate, industry-specific, competitor and security questions.
As the RFP template comes together, add each question and answer pair to an RFP knowledge library. This centralized content repository empowers your team to answer RFPs, including your own, quickly when you receive them. In addition, you can collect and catalog questions tailored to each market or region further allowing you to customize and make your RFP template more valuable to future customers.
2. Bring customer success into the sales process
In many organizations, the customer journey looks like an assembly line. First, marketing finds the lead, builds interest, and sends it to sales. Then, sales works the lead, negotiates the contract, and captures the signature. Finally, the customer success team takes over onboarding, executing, and providing ongoing support. This linear process often creates a disjointed and disappointing experience for customers.
Inevitably, during the sales process, the prospect will have specific questions about onboarding, implementation, customer use cases and so on. In this situation, the salesperson usually provides surface information that answers the question and moves on, missing the opportunity to develop a stronger connection with the customer and provide them helpful insight
Additionally, buyers know that the salesperson they work with and trust ultimately won’t be the person servicing their account once the contract is signed. Unfortunately, there’s a communication gap between sales and customer success that causes delays. In addition, the customer essentially starts over, and must explain their problems and goals to a new person.
Involving customer success earlier in the sales process can offer a competitive advantage for your company. After all, customer success professionals are masters at building rapport. They have an incredibly valuable mix of customer insights, interesting use cases and deep product knowledge that boost your organization’s reputation.
These early introductions also allow customers to ask more in-depth questions directly to the staff that will support them throughout their journey. As a result, they establish a level of comfort with customer success that will yield better customer engagement, faster onboarding speeds, and improved time to value.
How to include CS in your sales process
Planning ahead is key to engaging customer success in the sales process. Before you establish the parameters for customer success participation, seek feedback from both sales and CS. Ask sales to identify at what point in the sales process customer success questions arise. Likewise, ask the customer success team what they wish customers knew before their onboarding kickoff. Bring this feedback together to determine the best time for customer success to enter the sales process.
Generally, customer success should become a part of the conversation once the customer is engaged, qualified, and committed to making a purchase. In addition, consider the areas that are particular strengths of customer success: user stories, references, use cases, and creative solutions.
Make the most of these strengths by introducing the prospect to customer success during a call that explores or recaps goal setting, challenges and current state. Likewise, if your team delivers outstanding training and onboarding, bring CS in to help the prospect set a proposed implementation timeline which helps them picture the next steps.
3. Conduct regular review and strategy working sessions
Revenue operations sits at an interesting intersection between the executive leadership team that determines the organization’s direction and the sales, marketing and customer success teams that are driving growth. Seemingly, RevOps sits in the middle, receiving input from executives and department heads alike. Then, they are responsible for interpreting the information, understanding the impact and making a plan to address it.
At the same time, sales, marketing and customer success all operate more or less independently. Often, they change processes or make decisions without understanding the interdepartmental dependencies. Consequently, they may inadvertently cause problems for other departments that will go undiscovered until disaster strikes.
This reactive approach is serviceable, but it depends entirely too much on others, trusting that they will take the initiative to reach out. Unfortunately, by the time someone surfaces an issue, asks a question or proposes change, you may already be facing negative consequences of the delay.
Setting regular revenue operations strategy sessions helps you get ahead of any issues and provides a forum for feedback. In this setting, revenue operations translates the business’s vision and goals from leadership into actionable strategies for sales, marketing and customer success. Additionally, it provides a platform to workshop potential changes, brainstorm ideas and addresses concerns early.
How to establish regular working sessions
First, determine how often your team should meet. For organizations with well-established and fully-adopted revenue operations practices, meeting once a quarter might be sufficient. Alternatively, those still early in their revenue operations journey may find monthly meetings beneficial.
Next, determine who to invite. This can get tricky, but your meeting must include representatives from each of the revenue operations departments: sales, marketing, and customer success. It may be helpful to invite one leader and one individual contributor from each department to the sessions so you regularly get a fresh perspective.
Be sure to create an agenda for each meeting that includes time to communicate big-picture goals and validate plans for execution. The goal is to discover any potential gaps or roadblocks that might not be apparent during high-level planning.
With oversight of the trio of departments, revenue operations recognizes that when things go wrong, there’s usually more than one factor that contributed. Similarly, when the process runs perfectly and the customer has an incredible experience, that outcome was a result of a combination of efforts from the sales, marketing and customer success teams. Consequently, it’s wise to spend time reviewing recent customer engagements, key metrics, and potential influencing factors. The output from these sessions provide a reliable way to find your next proactive project.
Ultimately, shifting your RevOps efforts from reactive to proactive not only supports sales growth, but also improves your customer experience which, in turn, reduces churn, encourages expansion and increases customer referrals. All of this then makes a positive impact to the bottom line – fulfilling the purpose of revenue operations.
While there can be no doubt that Revenue Operations is still growing, it’s up to professionals in the space to take advantage of the unique opportunity to proactively lead revenue strategy and find ways to continue to deliver more value.