Five Ways Growth Leaders Are Aligning Commercial Teams, Operations, and Systems Around The Customer
Generating revenue has become a capital intensive and data-driven team sport. As a business scales, so does the level of teamwork across the go-to-market process and the complexity of the commercial technology infrastructure that supports those teams. As a result, the role of the growth leader has evolved from a manager of people to an orchestrator of an increasingly complex marketing and technology ecosystem. The level of complexity has become too great to be managed by conventional sales and marketing structures, according to the Revenue Operating System Report. This has rendered the traditional roles of marketing (upper funnel) and sales (lower funnel) obsolete in the modern commercial model. This is particularly true in hyper growth SaaS businesses where most customer conversations and revenue opportunities happen in the expansion phase of the revenue cycle.
This has led to a new generation of growth leaders, says Chris Hummel, co-author of Revenue Operations. “We’re seeing more and more executives who are focused on aligning the teams, operations, processes, systems and data that support the end-to-end revenue cycle,” says Hummel. “Often, they’re the only leader in the entire organization outside the CEO who looks at the go-to-market process holistically.”
These leaders have an expanded remit to manage revenue and the customer experience across the entire revenue cycle. Their span of control extends from upper funnel demand generation, to lower funnel activation and sales, and often includes expanding revenues through cross sell, consumption, and adoption. They understand how to use data and insights to better allocate resources, optimize margins, and drive more efficient growth. They’ve started to “crack the code” on how to use technology as a force multiplier. And they’re devising measurements and incentives to rally every customer facing employee around a common purpose – growing customer lifetime value.
At hyper growth B2B organizations, this new breed of executive is commonly referred to as Chief Revenue Officers (or CROs). At larger enterprises, they can go by a variety of names – including the Chief Growth, Commercial, Experience or Operating Officer. Which is why we refer to them as CXOs – where you fill in the blank. We are fortunate to have weekly discussion with these next generation growth leaders. Based on those conversations, they have five things on their minds as they seek to accelerate revenue growth in the face of an uncertain market in 2023.
Revenue Operations – Most growth leaders tell us they are actively consolidating the operations, systems, and data that support the end-to-end revenue cycle to get a more data-driven view of the revenue forecast, go to market performance, account health, and pipeline performance.They increasingly regard functionally siloed automation, data sets, and performance metrics as an impediment to revenue growth. For example, Chris Thompson, VP of Global Marketing Operations at Conga and Jessica Zangre, the Head of Revenue Operations at Syncari suggest this imperative to align data and processes across functions is leading to the inevitable consolidation of the marketing and sales operations functions at a recent CRO Summit. This has also brought on the emergence of a “Revenue Operations superstar” as a C-suite function with the skills and remit to bring the power of customer insights to the board level conversation on revenue growth. Revenue Operations is the fastest growing job in the U.S. according to MSNBC. Warren Zenna, the founder of the CRO Collective, views the Revenue Operations role as a“farm system” for CROs because they have the data management, technical, and financial skills required to manage the modern commercial model.
Process Improvement – Continuous process improvement is centered on eliminating variances in individual process steps, stripping excess capacity and waste from the system. It also helps managers better allocate resources and capability to their most profitable use in creating throughput (sales). This principal works for any business process – from the design of computer chips, to optimizing the performance of computers, to the production of cars. CROs are starting to embrace the notion that continuous process improvement can improve the performance of the demand chain. They believe it will make their marketing, sales, and customer success teams more consistent, efficient, and scalable. Rather than taking on ambitious commercial transformation strategies, they are focusing on doing the basics incredibly well.Ketan Karkhanis, EVP and GM of Salesforce Sales Cloud, calls this focusing on “the brilliant basics.” “A highly effective and often under emphasized way to accelerate revenues is to eliminate clutter from the selling process,” says Karkhanis. “For example, looking at how many steps are required to approve a deal and removing any unnecessary or mundane tasks  can significantly improve the velocity of sales and eliminate friction and labor from the process.” As an example, products like Salesforce Revenue Cloud gives businesses the agility to make the buying process faster and easier, accelerate new revenue streams and improve revenue efficiency.
Systems – The future of the commercial technology portfolio is to leverage AI and insights to enable a simpler and more efficient day-to-day seller workflow that is digital- first and highly automated. Some of the most successful of the CEOs and Chief Revenue Officers we interviewed in writing our book on Revenue Operations described their commercial models as a system for generating more sustainable and scalable business growth. To create these “revenue operating systems” the growth leaders we interviewed are reimagining their sales and marketing technology stacks from the top down. In particular, they emphasized moving from silos of automation to a set of strategically integrated platforms that form a system of growth that supports the entire revenue cycle. As the lines blur between the 25 or more martech and sales tech solutions the average B2B business deploys, the team that connects the dots across the sales and technology ecosystem will win. “In the modern selling model, a suite of solutions that work well together will outperform a portfolio of best-of-breed point solutions deployed in silos,” says Karkhanis at a keynote at Dreamforce on the future of digital-first sales tech.
In a world where CROs are trying to consolidate their commercial technology portfolio around a few mission critical platforms, Salesforce Sales Cloud stands out because it part of a suite of solutions and an ecosystem of partners that work “better together.” When asked how to build the ultimate technology stack, most CROs agree that Sales Cloud is a great place to start because it is the most complete platform for efficient growth. Because it helps them simplify the seller experience by allowing sellers to access many solutions through a single pane of glass. It provides them a central basis to enforce common definitions of an opportunity. And it creates a hub to automate the aggregation of customer engagement and seller activity data from enablement, conversational intelligence and contactless selling systems. And provides a way to monetize that data in sales conversations. As evidence, almost every platform on our list of the top 100 technologies enabling modern selling identified by our research team, is natively interconnected to Salesforce. This makes it easier to connect the dots across the commercial tech stack to automate day-to-day selling activities and leverage customer insights to add value in customer calls.
Customer data management strategy – CROs view customer data integration as the last leg of aligning their commercial models around the customer. They want to tap into the power of AI to improve the seller experience and add more value in sales calls. To do this, experienced CROs are avoiding the mistakes that have hamstrung data-driven selling in the past. They recognize that IT cannot control customer data. They’re moving past the flawed notions of “perfect data” in a “single source of truth.” Pragmatic operations leaders recognized there is no ideal data management solution for bridging the growing number of customer data silos springing up across the organizations. Instead, they’re finding workable solutions to help them orchestrate, harmonize, align, and govern customer engagement data from across the enterprise to create a more practical distributed source of data truth. They don’t let perfect data get in the way of making progress either. CROs are placing more emphasis on practical ways to automate data management where possible across systems. Examples include automating tasks like manually scrubbing data, automatically recording call outcomes in CRM, and pushing relevant data to sales reps at the edge of the organization. They’re also placing a bigger focus on data governance with much stricter data structures and definitions.
This puts a premium on core platforms like Salesforce that natively interconnect with the best-of-breed sales solutions in their commercial portfolio to connect silos of data. The ability to share data across platforms has become critical to support core commercial processes like:
- Revenue Forecasting – by getting better control and visibility into revenue capture, realization, and leakage along the lead-to-cash cycle;
- Territory and Quota Planning – by automating the TQP process to quickly reallocate commercial resources to optimize coverage, cost to sell, return on investment and the customer experience;
- Sales Enablement – by integrating the training, coaching, and enablement process to create a closed loop learning and development process;
- Account Based Marketing – by combining customer activity, product usage, and transactional data to support personalized customer experiences at scale.
Agility – Improving the speed at which they can adjust to market uncertainty and customer behavior is a top CRO priority, particularly in an economic downturn. Agility is regarded as the primary and immediate benefit of analytics and automating the core sales process in an uncertain world. CROs are finding ways to use AI and analytics to quickly adjust the allocation of resources and the deployment of tactics to help sellers keep up with a rapidly changing markets and customer behavior. They are also taking more data-driven approaches to speed up the creation of territories and quotas and generate forecasts and adjust sales and marketing resources based on customer and market events. For example, in most organizations, these processes are manual, and spreadsheet based. Which means they are slow. For example, our research tells us they largely fail to finish planning before the upcoming sales period starts. The same applies to revenue recognition, realization and forecasting. “Manual spreadsheet-based revenue forecasting impedes your ability to respond,” said Ted Serentelos, CEO of reVvana. “Enabling a cross-organizational collaboration through Salesforce gives marketing, sales, operations, production and finance with a real-time point of view liberates companies with a newfound agility and competitive advantage in today’s dynamic environment.” For example, Salesforce Revenue Cloud allows back office finance teams to collaboration with front office sales, product, partner, and operations teams to track and manage customer transactions at every stage of the revenue cycle. This level of data integration allows your teams to expand the number of variables and permutations involved in planning and forecasting. This additional rigor also yields higher goal attainment, and greater revenue realization, and more precise revenue forecasts.