The Value And Importance of Connecting The Dots Across The Commercial Technology Portfolio

The notion of a Revenue Operations platform has emerged in the vocabulary of growth leaders. In the last year over a dozen of the leading software firms we track in our index of the top 100 technologies transforming the commercial model have started to position themselves as “Revenue Operations Platforms and solutions.

“Revenue Operations has emerged as a critical topic with business owners, CEOs, and growth leaders because they crave revenue growth yet don’t have a proven system to achieve it ,” reports Chris Hummel, the author of the upcoming book Revenue Operations: A New Way to Align Sales and Marketing, Monetize Data, and Ignite Growth. “An organization’s ability to grow revenues has become more  tied to firm value than at any time in our business lives,” says Hummel. “Unfortunately, without a practical, proven, and systemic approach – businesses don’t grow  scalably and sustainably.”

Revenue Operations Book
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Revenue Operations is a relatively new term that describes that “system for growing” a business. Right now people define Revenue Operations in many ways. To some it’s a job function. To others a software platform, an organization, or a strategy. In a sense its all of those things because when people say Revenue Operations – they are generally trying to describe a better way to manage the people, process, and technology of growth. 

According to Hummel, most of the business leaders his team interviewed while writing the book describe revenue operations as a system for generating more scalable and sustainable growth from their commercial teams, technology infrastructure, and commercial assets. “At its simplest, Revenue Operations is a system for growth,” says Hummel. “Systems combine things that work together as a united whole to achieve a common purpose. Systems can do many things: run a computer; educate people; manufacture and distribute products; and manage money. There is no practical business or technical reason business leaders cannot get the people, data, technology and selling assets in their business working together better to systemically drive growth.”

So why do so many businesses lack this critical foundation? “In most businesses fragmented groups of customer-facing employees, silos of automation, and a lot of disconnected processes, policies, and technologies don’t work well together,” Hummel explains. “Nor do they work with common purpose towards a common goal. The end result is more time spent trying to figure out how to work together and less time actually working together.”

Revenue Operations changes that. It offers a systems-based approach to the entire revenue cycle:  awareness, demand, purchase, and consumption. “Revenue Operations serves as an operating system for connecting the people, technology, data and processes in your business to expand revenue,” says Hummel.  “It’s a system that companies of all sizes and profiles can use to improve their growth without having to rip their current business apart.”

Successful growth leaders like Juniper Networks and Hitachi Vantara are using an operating system structure like this to break down siloes of data and automation and connect the dots across their sales and marketing technology ecosystems.

“Connecting these dots may sound complicated, but it doesn’t have to be,” says Jeff McKittrick the Vice President, Sales Execution at WalkMe, who has also led sales enablement at Cisco and Hitachi Vantara. “One thing I’ve learned in 15 years of building and implementing digital selling and sales enablement platforms at Cisco, Hitachi, and now WalkMe is that knitting together a highly profitable and productive portfolio of selling technologies is not rocket science. It does require hard work, teamwork, and leadership. But there’s definitely a cookbook – and the recipe for success is pretty straightforward.”

Marcus Jewell, the Chief Revenue Officer of Juniper Networks, views technology tools as ingredients to an operating system for growth. “The real value is in connecting the dots,” according to Jewell. He believes that leaders should be orchestrators of different technologies that augment seller activities and customer interactions in a manner consistent with their organization’s unique go to market approach. “Every organization has its own unique ‘operating system’ for selling,” he continues. Mike Marcellin, the CMO of Juniper Networks, emphasizes the importance of connecting the dots between sales and marketing data and systems. “Selling is not a linear process,” says Marcellin. “Both sales and marketing operations have assets that can enable the complete revenue cycle. If one doesn’t know what the other is doing you’ve lost, and the customer has a horrible experience.”

According to Chris Hummel, Revenue Operations Platforms are starting to emerge because we’ve reached a tipping point where “selling” has evolved into a capital intensive and data-driven team sport. To grow a business in the current environment, leaders need to find better ways for their sales, marketing, and services teams to leverage technology as a force multiplier and work more closely at every stage of the revenue cycle. To do these things well, they are being forced to connect the dots across their sales and marketing technology ecosystem to find better ways to instrument and optimize revenue at every step of the buyer’s journey. “In a 21st Century Commercial model, the team that connects the most dots across their commercial technology ecosystem to create a more scalable selling system wins.” says Hummel.

In this context, the notion of a Revenue Operations Platform makes a lot of sense. Any technology that can help these growth leaders to connect the dots across the commercial technology ecosystem to improve the customer experience and enhance seller performance will create significant financial value. In fact, all of the software businesses that have embraced the moniker of Revenue Operations platform are so “interconnected” with the rest of the technology ecosystem, analysts generally include them in many different software categories. Several are in as many as ten. The names – sales acceleration, sales performance management, sales engagement, revenue intelligence – all tend to vary. While this classification problem is confusing, it’s also a sign that these technology innovators are doing the right things. Because the more dots a solution connects the more it helps you leverage data from different parts of your business. The more it helps revenue teams anticipate, prioritize and act to advance relationships. And the more it helps their leaders to optimally allocate time, resources, investment and effort.

Leaving vocabulary out of it, why should growth leaders and operations executives care about Revenue Operations platforms? They should care because most of the companies flying under the “RevOps” banner are doing several things that are critical to running a modern sales organization.

  1. All of them are connecting customer engagement data from marketing, sales and service to help managers and sellers make better decisions about growth investments, priorities, and actions.
  2. Most of the companies referring to themselves as RevOps solutions provide revenue intelligence that gives senior growth leaders better visibility into seller performance, opportunity potential and pipeline health.
  3. Others are focusing on sales performance management by generating insights to help optimize the allocation of growth resources and incentives for front line sellers.
  4. Some are doing the valuable work of connecting third party, marketing, sales and service data to create customer insights that inform the actions, priorities and decision-making of front-line sellers.
  5. The best are using these commercial insights to proscriptively inform human sellers with guidance and coaching in real time to help them perform to their highest potential.

These are very important things. Unfortunately, most organizations are surprisingly bad at doing these things. For example, most of the executives we talked to say they are not very good at leveraging their customer data assets. In particular they struggle to turn the customer engagement data assets their organizations create into insights that provide visibility into seller performance, account health, opportunity potential and pipeline performance.  They also report they are unable to use those insights to effectively coach and guide front line sellers. This is surprising given the average organization spends almost 10% of their marketing budgets on analytics and sales enablement tools have been broadly adopted.

Today, the majority of the solutions positioning themselves as “RevOps” platforms – like Clari, Drift, and People.ai –  bias towards what we call Revenue Intelligence. They blend data sources to provide managers better visibility into forecasts, quantifying opportunities and measuring selling performance across the entire revenue cycle. Others like Xactly are using that aggregated intelligence to optimize resources and create better incentives and quotas.

Some – like 6Sense, Lean Data and Drift – are doing the valuable work of helping organizations to aggregate, organize and convert customer engagement data from third party, marketing, sales and service sources to create customer insights that inform selling actions, priorities and decision-making of front-line sellers. These capabilities are important because the real value of customer-facing technology is realized when an organization can identify more of the opportunities being generated in owned digital channels and getting that information to a human who can convert it into value, either by winning a deal, improving the customer experience, or keeping an angry customer from leaving.

“The Revenue Operating System framework is a useful lens for evaluating how well the pieces of your technology portfolio are working together to create scalable growth because it paints a clear picture of the state of your selling system,” according to Viral Bajaria, the Founder of 6Sense in a recent interview on the evolution of the 21st Century Commercial Model. “There are the places where the data exists, and the places where the data needs to be used,” says Bajaria. “First-party data has a lot of richness. The problem is it’s disconnected from CRM. So, CRM data becomes stale.  Often it is the least up-to-date system, because nobody goes in to update historical information, and there is a lot of incomplete data in it. Some people try to bypass the system – but ultimately if you want to have salespeople use marketing signals from your websites and third-party signals of intent – you are going to have to get that data into CRM. That’s where the ROI is.”

The most advanced solutions that are creating the most value, like Revenue.io, are using these commercial insights to prospectively inform sellers with guidance and coaching in real time to unlock their potential to perform at their best.

According to Howard Brown, the CEO of Revenue.io, the role of a Revenue Operations platform is to help transform sales, marketing and CX teams with real-time insights, next-best-actions, and continuously optimized workflows that improve revenue performance and create great buyer and customer experiences. “Modern day selling teams need situational awareness in the moments that matter,” says Brown. “They need insights and guidance based on the entire context of the moment – whether on calls, in meetings, writing emails or SMS messages. Even pipeline reviews and sales coaching sessions are filled with insights that can help sellers prioritize and act on opportunities. Our platform doesn’t offer general advice for all situations. It provides front line sellers very specific guidance in the context of a customer conversation that are having within real-time recommendations to help them perform in those critical moments.”

According to Brown and Hummel, business leaders should demand these guidance capabilities from their operations teams and solutions partners if they want to get the best performance from their front-line sellers.

  1. Engage and collect data from across buyer and customer touchpoints including data from marketing.
  2. Analyze data with AI and Machine Learning to inform conversations, read customer signals, suggest next best actions, and better answers.
  3. Provide that intelligence in real time to guide and coach revenue teams in the moments that matter.

You can learn more about our Revenue Operations research and the emergence and growing importance of the Revenue Operations Platform here.

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