Closing the RevOps Skills Gap with Jen Igartua

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In this episode of the Sales Hacker Podcast, we have Jen Igartua, CEO at Go Nimbly, where she teaches companies how to build a solid revenue team. Join us for an insightful conversation about core early steps, focus and empathy, and Jen’s learnings from six years as an entrepreneurial CEO.

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If you missed episode #198, check it out here: A 5-Part Framework for Designing Your Best Life

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What You’ll Learn

  • What revenue operations really means
  • When data becomes your common source of truth
  • Transitioning from peer to manager
  • Creating a lifestyle business for personal and professional growth

Show Agenda and Timestamps

  1. About Jen Igartua & Go Nimbly [2:07]
  2. Building a strong foundation for RevOps [6:24]
  3. The role of empathy in team-building [9:09]
  4. Focus as a competitive advantage [11:31]
  5. Insights from an entrepreneurial CEO [13:33]
  6. Positioning the CEO role holistically [20:41
  7. Paying it forward [22:40]
  8. Sam’s Corner [24:48]

About Jen Igartua & Go Nimbly [2:07]

Sam Jacobs: Hey, everybody. Today we’ve got Jen Igartua, CEO of Go Nimbly. With deep experience in sales and marketing alignment and her passion for all things rev ops, Jen spends her daytime hours combating the things that prevent companies from prioritizing the right work.

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Jen’s a lover of improv and applies many of its core principles to her work. She lives every day so she can have stories to share at Thanksgiving. Jen, welcome to the show.

As a CEO, give us an overview of Go Nimbly.

Jen Igartua: We’re a revenue operations consultancy. We work primarily with SaaS companies, high tech growth companies like Twilio, PagerDuty, and Coursera. We implement revenue operations teams or be an extension of that revenue operations team.

Sam Jacobs: Tell us about the origin.

Jen Igartua: Six years ago, our tagline before RevOps had its name was “unifying the business stack.” We wanted to think about the tools and the processes that go into your go-to-market teams as one. Then it got a name – revenue operations.

We took a look at the technology, the data infrastructure, the things that keep us from providing a great customer experience. Started out as tools-focused, now we combat anything that gets in the way of maximizing LTV for your customers. In layman’s terms, we’re getting rid of all the internal bullshit that gets in the way of a good experience.

Sam Jacobs: What’s your background prior?

Jen Igartua: I started as a marketing automation consultant, obsessed with sales and marketing teams that seemed completely aligned. We all want the same thing. Why is there so much friction? I was doing marketing and sales alignment and I decided that I could do it on my own.

Sam Jacobs: The phrase revenue operations has taken hold over the last few years. A lot of CEOs aren’t sure what the function is supposed to do specifically. What comes to mind for you?

Jen Igartua: At the end of the day, it’s a methodology. The goal is to close gaps in the customer experience and maximize LTV. Unifying the functions that were once siloed and bringing those teams together.

When I look at mature RevOps teams, I’m looking at how they work. It’s going to vary by where you are as a company, your product line. It could be anything. How do they prioritize work?

Are they looking at a gap in the customer experience or a revenue gap? Do they have a roadmap? Are they articulating that to the rest of the company? I see revenue operations as the directors and go-to-market as your actors, and you’re both trying to create the best movie.

Building a strong foundation for RevOps [6:24]

Sam Jacobs: What are the core early steps for building a revenue operations function?

Jen Igartua: A lot of folks look for that unicorn, because a great operations team has the ability to be strategic. They know how to enable the team, how to report and create amazing metrics. A fairly senior person that can do that.

You want to reflect the problems and the roadmap that you have. What I call the shape of your organization, how senior it is, how many people you need, what functions you need, should mimic the type of work that you have. Early I would focus on process-oriented people.

Sam Jacobs: What role does data play? When people hear RevOps, one of the first things they think is building reports in my CRM.

Jen Igartua: Larger companies have started their revenue operations team with that function. It’s the easiest place to see misalignment. It’s one of the first places where I’ll see a data or insights team get created, which has the same ethos as a revenue operations team does.

A mature revenue operations team can map their work back to a data set. A fabulous team can forecast what their work is going to do by saying, “I looked at our funnel. We have a conversion problem. I’m deploying this tactic, and I’m expecting it to increase by 5%.” It’s impossible to be mature without that data infrastructure.

The role of empathy in team building [9:09]

Sam Jacobs: Talk about empathy and the importance it plays in building an effective team.

Jen Igartua: Solution designers and design thinkers know how to immerse themselves in their user, which creates the most incredible solutions. We all have the same customer we’re trying to prioritize.

I know who my users are and who my stakeholders are. Having empathy, understanding their job, immersing yourself in their workflow is truly the way to build the ultimate experience.

Sam Jacobs: What are some things that people can do to get into the shoes of stakeholders and design processes that foster growth?

Jen Igartua: This is the fun work. Sit with your reps, understand them end-to-end. In a more technical perspective, you have tons of tools that let you listen to calls and understand what your GTM team is talking about. What are my customers complaining about?

People should be secret shopping themselves and their competitors often. Anything to pop yourself into that experience. I put myself in the customer’s shoes and buy, or go interview the people involved, and stay really curious.

Focus as a competitive advantage [11:31]

Sam Jacobs: You’ve talked about having focus as a competitive advantage. Some of this experience comes from your background acting and improv.

Jen Igartua: When I started my career, I had the mindset of an individual contributor. I was going to be the best. I was going to bill the most hours. I was an achiever.

Through my experience doing improv, I realized how much more fun it is when that’s not your mindset. You learn basics like active listening.

If you’re at an improv show and people are interrupting each other, there’s nothing worse, or when they negate each other. It’s more fun if you’re a much better listener. There’s no such thing in improv as one person doing amazing. The whole team needs to be there. Sometimes you’re not one telling the jokes, but you’re just as important because you’re painting a scene.

Collaboration is better when you’re showing up. I spend all day at work. How do I make it joyful? That’s been an incredible growing experience.

Reach out to your local improv team and do improv games with your company. There’s joy in being able to show up at work and have fun.

Insights from an entrepreneurial CEO [13:33]

Sam Jacobs: What have you learned about leadership?

Jen Igartua: Before I took over as CEO, I was running our delivery team. That was intense; I went from being people’s peers to being their boss and learning what it means to change that relationship. The framework that I always use is caring and candid. I don’t withhold feedback.

My job is to make people effective, that I’m bringing clarity. I need to count on the other people on my leadership team to make that a reality.

Sam Jacobs: How do you balance all of that?

Jen Igartua: I’m open to being wrong. That’s helped. I had imposter syndrome for the first 6 months taking over in the middle of COVID. I didn’t have that face-to-face to build relationships differently.

I don’t know if you’ve ever taken the CliftonStrengths test. It’s one of my favorite ones.One of my lowest strengths is harmony. I don’t mind conflict. I don’t care about reaching full consensus. I care about listening and making hard decisions.

It was a transition for me to be bold and understand that that’s one of my strengths. I have to make sure that what I’m not doing is alienating.

Speed is one of the most important things to me. I also believe in over communication. Let everybody know what’s going on and lean on the side of annoying with the amount of updates, because it’s the only way we can keep growing.

Sam Jacobs: You have to make sure you pace yourself and don’t burn out. How do you approach work-life integration?

Jen Igartua: I’m in the balance. I read a book called The Infinite Game and it talks about how there’s no winning in business. It’s about longevity.

I was at my worst during COVID when I’d throw myself at work. My goal in 2022 is to work less. I’m smarter and better when I do that.

Positioning the CEO role holistically [20:41]

Sam Jacobs: How do you think about being CEO in the overall context of your life’s journey?

Jen Igartua: I created this lifestyle business that I’m always in. I need newness and challenges and this company could keep growing and give me that. It might not. I don’t think about it as forever.

I want to help companies create great customer experiences. That might be rev ops today, it might be something else tomorrow. I want to build amazing talent. I want to make people’s careers. That’s something that drives me.

Paying it forward [22:40]

Sam Jacobs: We like to pay it forward. People, ideas that have influenced you. Things we should know about, mentors, thought leaders?

Jen Igartua: An organization called Caveday. They run facilitated work blocks for you to get hard work done. Something that people should be doing with their teams is teaching people how to focus.

I’m reading Managing the Professional Service Firm. The next one on my list is the book Grit.

The best way to get in touch is LinkedIn. You can find me there posting my musings.

Sam’s Corner [24:48]

Sam Jacobs: Love that conversation with Jen Igartua.

Everybody’s talking about revenue operations. Jen has a design orientation to her approach. It’s about increasing the lifetime value of the customer and figuring out the methods, the processes, the systems that you need to build, the data that you need in order to do that.

Bringing together elements like customer success, sales, and marketing into one coherent revenue function all starts with data.

If you connect all your systems, you have one common source of truth as it relates to data. Every team can make decisions based on the same numbers.

Jen was insightful about the transition from being a peer to being a manager. Her top priority is speed.

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Reach out to me: sam@joinpavilion.com. Thanks for listening!

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