Getting Stakeholder Buy-In with Suriel Lopez

Suriel Lopez, Senior Director of Revenue Operations at DISQO, joins Jordan to explain why data is the key to securing stakeholder buy-in.
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Show notes

It might seem like Mission: Impossible when it comes to getting buy-in from all stakeholders in your organization.

If you’re feeling the odds aren’t in your favor, Senior Director of Revenue Operations at DISQO, Suriel Lopez, who has 12 years of experience in Sales and Revenue Operations in SaaS, has some advice.

It starts with using the data, no matter how bad it is, to show that a solution is needed; no need to hide it.

He explains this tip, as well as a few others with RevOps Therapist and CEO and founder of Greaser Consulting, Jordan Greaser to help you get to Mission: Complete.

Transcript

Jordan  00:00

Hi all, this is Jordan, the owner and CEO of Greaser Consulting. On this call that Suriel Lopez joining us. And we’ve spent a ton of time working together through different rounds of layoffs, acquisitions, just, I mean, the ups and downs of any organization. Boy, you name it, we’ve lived through it together. And what we’re specifically talking about is getting buyer, buy-in from the different stakeholders to get your process, your initiatives through from one side to the other side. And the reason why I think his viewpoint on this is incredibly valuable is because he has sort of weathered the storm through good times and bad and has managed to ultimately lead organizations to really good outcomes. So I’d encourage you to lean in today take some time to think about what he has to say, and just enjoy the banter. Here we go.

Intro Jingle

Say you want some clarity in sales and marketing and SEP? Well, we have just the remedy: our podcast, RevOps Therapy. Yeah.

Jordan  01:13

Hey, everyone, this is Jordan. I’ve got Mr. Lopez with me today. Why don’t you go ahead and introduce yourself?

Suriel  01:19

Hi, everyone. My name is Suriel Lopez. And I’m a Sales Operations/Revenue Operations professional in SaaS and have been doing many roles across these functions for the past 12 years. 

Jordan  01:35

Yeah, the fun thing about this guy here is we were doing a project together back at BlueJeans. And I was in pretty good with the BlueJeans crew. And I know we’re talking about buyer stake-in today; I’ll give you an example of poor buyer stake-in. This guy shows up in the organization. And within about three weeks later, I’m getting fired. We’re on our way out the door. They’ve moved on with Greaser Consulting. But lo and behold, a few weeks later, we found our way back in. So boy, if there’s a guy to talk about buyer stake-in, buyer stakeholders, and getting buy-in, this is my guy.

Suriel  02:15

Appreciate that. Thank you for the, for the compliment. Should we also share with everyone about how we both missed each other for the better part of an entire quarter? It felt like we were just trying to meet for the first time, and we just couldn’t get it on the calendar.

Jordan  02:33

Yeah, I actually forgot about that. We, you came in, and we were going to do this big introduction. And I think every time we went to meet, I’m just gonna say, I think you pushed the meeting. I’m not sure it was me.

Suriel  02:46

I’ll be honest, I did. It was, it was definitely me that kept pushing the meeting, but nothing personal. It was just the circumstances at the time. 

Jordan  02:54

Yeah. Well, with that in mind, you know, obviously, I’m a consultant coming from the outside. But there’s also a whole conversation here about, like, internal buy-in of projects, of process. And man, having worked alongside you, you know, for years now, you’ve been through a couple rounds of, I think, layoffs; you’ve been through acquisitions; you’ve worked with consultants in a variety of different teams. And so is there anything just right out of the gate to get us started that when you think about getting buy-in, and sort of living through, you know, some of these different challenges like, like, where do you start with getting buy-in?

Suriel  03:39

Yeah, I think not in order, you know, as I think through what is the process that I, in particular, kind of go through when I’m thinking about getting some of the buy-in? Definitely, first is making sure that you define the scope and/or project or initiative that you’re looking buying from the organization, you want to make sure that it’s something that’s likely going to resonate with them and/or the strategy of the business. Also, gathering as much data as possible and summarizing the data in a way that it can be consumed by those folks that are not very comfortable with consuming data. And in oftentimes, you know, I think one thing that I’ll say about that before I move on, is sometimes data is not it’s not in the right place; it’s not the way that I you know, it’s ideal and people can assume it and say this is awesome. Sometimes showing bad data is a good way of indicating “here’s how bad something is; there’s a reason we have to go and fix it.” And so, when I think about data in itself, it’s, it’s use the data that is available and summarize it and make it available as best as possible but do not shy away from, you know, indicating what it is, because it should be essentially the, one of the platforms that you use to lay the truth of your initiative. And I think the, the number three, or the third item that I would cover here, as far as getting buy-in is start to create a cohort and a group of individuals that are going to be both stakeholders, participants in the initiative, in a way that you are acting as though you delivering this project or initiative was actually their idea, like, make the stakeholder feel like you’re doing something for them, versus they’re agreeing to do something for you. And I think that that’s, you know, very…

Jordan  05:50

How do you, how do you do that?

Suriel  05:53

Oftentimes, it’s a product… this, this is one of those words, like I have to be careful how to answer the question because oftentimes, it initiates with making sure that you’re a good listener, just like I think every good salesperson out there should be very, very good at listening, is you have to listen; you have to listen to pain points. Oftentimes, you have to listen to what is said, what is not said. I think that, I think silence often is, it can be as loud as words. And so you have to listen. And in this listening process, you understand or you get to understand what is important to individuals; oftentimes, winning or importance is for personal gain; sometimes it’s for the gain of the business, and sometimes it’s perceived as my personal gain is through the gain of the business. And so a lot of it comes down to making sure that you position and you touch on all those different things while you are in the process of laying out, essentially, an initiative or a project and in gaining this buy-in. 

Jordan  07:02

So I think about, you know, the idea of making sure it’s their idea. You know, I think it’s pretty clear the reason why, right? I mean, it’s, it’s hard to argue with your own idea, right? “Hey, I put it out. So I want this to get through.” But let’s talk about the idea of like building a cohort. You know, on the surface, it almost sounds like let’s, let’s create a side, right, like, like, let’s, let’s get some political acumen, some political power here. And let’s come in with all these politics. And let’s push this agenda through Congress; we’ll get the bill signed, you know, and then we’ll figure out who becomes the kingmaker later. But is that like, is that actually the case? Like, are you essentially saying, the reality of getting buy-in is that you have to play the politics?

Suriel  07:50

To a certain extent, although, I personally do not, I dislike and, in fact, to the point where I despise politics in the workplace as much as possible. And so when I think about creating a cohort, it’s really more about eliminating a side; it’s really more about trying to actually bring people together. And you know, when I was talking about listening a little bit, it’s really about listening to everyone and making sure that there’s a win for everyone that’s going to be involved, so that we don’t have to have a winning side or an opposition. I think it’s important to eliminate that as much as possible. And by the way, the best way that I believe you can do that in business, ideally, is by making sure that you can align as many people as possible to the idea that the greater good will be delivered by making sure that the greater good of a company is aligned with the greater good of its employees. And that could be, you know, things like a process improvement that’s going to hopefully make people work a little bit faster. It could be, like, delivering automation, so that they’re not working as hard, and they can scale. It could be also scaling itself, so that you can actually grow and be a bigger company and a bigger team and, and everyone’s careers get to grow. So just making sure you’re aligning all these different things, with, you know, with anything that requires buy-in from the organization.

Jordan  09:24

I think you bring up an important topic, though, related to the individual versus the organization. I mean, there’s a, if you spend any time, you know, reading through LinkedIn, which is just its own maze of interesting things. There’s like this huge movement now of like, kind of, get mine, right? Like, make sure you get yours. Make sure you advocate for yourself first because the business will not be loyal to you, like, that’s the sentiment. The reason I bring this up is like hold on to that, and I know you say you don’t like politics, but there’s is the sort of underlying thing that exists in, in any type of government or business or whatever. And it’s related to what wins: the public good or the private right? Okay, so like, when does the private right need to sacrifice for the sake of the public good? Or vice versa, right? And so when you think about building a cohort, and you’re trying to, like, what is pushing through a process change, or it’s, think, pushing through a piece of technology or a big change? The reality is like, excuse me a second here. The reality is, you’re going to have people that like, they’re trying to get theirs. And I’m not even necessarily saying that’s a negative thing. But like, how do you really get people to buy into this idea of the public good whenever there’s certainly, in our American society, there’s like this underlying idea that like the private right may actually prevail?

Suriel  11:00

Yeah, I think, you know, I am trying to self-regulate myself here on how I answer this more so because I, as you well know, like I, I mean, we you and I have nerded out about classics and theology and all these different topics in the, in the past. And I think that at the end of the day, especially in a free market, capitalist society, and you know, specifically, like the businesses that we operate under, at the end of the day, I think you have to, as an employee realize that there is no such thing as a private right. At least as an employee, I do think that if you are a person who wants to go in, you know, when I think about like LinkedIn, I kind of laugh to myself about this almost on a daily basis because I will go to LinkedIn for 10-15 minutes every day and just see all the, the circle high-fiving that takes place in people that are so loud on LinkedIn, building their own brand, and then the brand of their employer may be second or third or not at all. And it’s like, “Hey, you have a right as a responsibility as an employee,” and my belief, and this is my belief, right? You have a right, but you also have the responsibility to go and be the best employee that you can be to make sure that the business grows and becomes the best business that it can be. And then the business has a responsibility to then deliver growth and value to those which make up the business, which is the employee. So I don’t think that there’s there should be a disconnect. Quite frankly, that gets us to what you were talking about, right? The, the private, right, the public good, it’s all one in the same, like they’re all interconnected. It’s simply that, in order for that cycle to exist, essentially, every, you know, the, the whole is a sum of its parts. And I think that that’s something that not every employee understands. And, you know, I can go on and on as to why I think that they don’t understand that today. But it’s important, you know, at the end of the day. Yeah, don’t don’t lead me down that path. But, but yeah, I mean, it’s, uh, you know, it’s the company’s the whole, and all the employees are the sum. And so there is no such thing I or shouldn’t be such thing, as you know, that which is good to me. Although, you know, in a more practical way, like, does that happen? Yes. And what’s the best way to address it? Like, maybe you move on to a new role or a new company, and you go, you know, rinse, repeat, go through that cycle. And hopefully, as an individual, you get to grow that way. But while you’re a part of an entity or a company, you know, you’re responsible to the company and to your peers.

Jordan  14:17

So I, I think we’re going deep down the philosophy side of this conversation. So let me just let me bring it. Yeah, I’ll bring us back to the sort of pragmatic side of this, which, you know, by the way, offline, I’m sure we’ll go another hour talking about the, the, the theological, philosophical underpinnings of your, your statement. But anyway, again, really pragmatic question here is when you’re thinking about getting buyer, getting buy-in across different stakeholders, you know, you’re coming from sort of a sales ops perspective; that’s the lane that you’ve been in. Do you find that it’s easier to get buy-in with like, stakeholders from your own tribes, so to speak, or sort of cross, crossing the aisle in the marketing or product or finance, you know, some of these just different parts of the org, does that tend to be more difficult for you? And how do you manage that as you think about things?

Suriel  15:16

Yeah, I mean, I think pragmatically speaking, it really does depend on what’s the thing that you’re looking to have buy-in for, like the project, or the initiative? If it’s, you know, if it’s, let’s say something that requires investment to drive better business intelligence, then, then I think it’s a lot easier to go and get buy-in from almost every single department, whether it’s go-to-market side, or product engineering, because everyone will benefit from it. And then they can see it almost immediately. If it’s to go get buy-in to implement the new process, or increase adoption on a tool so that we can better measure how we’re performing across the business. And you need basically like sales reps who are notorious for not wanting to go and do that, I think, then, then it becomes easier to get the buy-in based on taking, you know, selecting the right approach. And I think one thing that I’ve learned, especially in the last four years is that the approach has to like it has to be indirect, depending on you know, like, if it’s a salesperson, usually, you have to take an indirect approach to get something like, like, like, for example, I’ll use a very non-business-specific approach, right? Sometimes people are like, “Hey, I want to lose weight, but I hate going to the gym. But I like playing basketball, because it’s fun,” right? So an outcome of going and playing sport can be that you lose weight, right, and you’re doing something that you enjoy, but will have the same outcome because ultimately, what you want to do is lose weight. And the case of like, for example, implementing a new process, an increase in adoption, in a very popular area that we encounter in sales operations, revenue operations is like use Salesforce better, right? Okay. If you tell people, sales reps, “go use Salesforce better,” they’re just going to hate you. But if you actually implement a process… Right? It’s, uh, really hurts, the number of Instagram pages that I see just centered around that… it’s ridiculous. But if I go and say, “Well, hey, guys, let’s go play this one game; let’s gamify this,” or, “let’s drive this cadence in meeting or conversation that’s going to leverage your input into this one system. And it’s going to do it this often, then, by the way, the outcome of doing that correctly is that we reward you often,” then I think, you know, people don’t care about, “Oh, I gotta go to Salesforce and update this. It’s like, I actually have to participate in the gamification; I have to participate in the cadence. And this is how, you know, it’s going to benefit me.” And so you have to put that upfront. And so you know, going back to the original question of like, is it easier to get buy-in from folks that are of your tribe or not? It really, it isn’t; it’s just how you position the whole thing. So I think positioning is very important.

Jordan  18:31

Do you buy into this whole movement around RevOps, where like, instead of Sales Ops, being its own thing, Marketing Ops being its own thing, you know, product somehow is involved in this RevOps movement, like this idea that we’re gonna have an operations hub that touches all of the business? And, you know, there’s a lot of reasons why people are talking about it. And I don’t think this is a primary reason, but it certainly matters. Is that like, buy-in may actually be easier to, like, adjust the operational side of things between sales and marketing or whatever else if it’s all controlled by one business unit? Yeah. Do you buy into this? Do you think a little different about it?

Suriel  19:15

I think, I think of it as… I’m one of those guys where it’s like, it all depends, right? I think a Revenue Operations function that is sort of the the the one department that runs the typical areas that are usually associated with operations can work, it’s necessary and ideal, depending on the size of the business and the go-to-market strategy. And, and so to, to address this a little bit more directly, like I think, if you are like, Series A startup and in the SaaS world, right, and you’re not operating under a PLG model, or product-led growth model, for those of you that are not familiar, where there isn’t like a self-serve approach for the end user or customer to buy the product, I think as a result of that, you’re going to need multiple functions to exist on the go-to-market. Like, you know, you’re gonna need marketing; you’re gonna need sales, customer success to a certain degree, customer support. And as a result of that, you’re gonna need infrastructure, process. And when you’re a Series A, I think it’s important to start to understand that those roles need to exist; you may not hire for them, depending on the size of the company. But it’s, it starts to define the swimlanes. And then you can start to say, “Okay, well, now I can have an ops function.” And maybe the ops’ function is literally one or two people that are doing your basic CRM reporting, your basic CRM workflows and process, your basic analysis, and then things like basic compensation. Then, as you start to grow, then it’s like, “Hey, we actually defined the swimlanes. Now we need to get a little bit more expertise around, how do we grow and scale the process and systems for customer success or sales.” And that’s where I think you can have like a sales ops or customer success ops, a marketing ops, because you’re essentially building the foundation of how that team or organization is going to continue to grow. And as you get to the point where you’re of a maturity level, where you’re maybe doing like, I don’t know, 100 million in ARR. Now, you essentially, you know, you’re not gonna go away; you’re no longer just a startup; you now have more well-defined roles, needs, and functions within your go-to-market, then I think that’s the right time to go and say, “We are going to establish a hub, a revenue operations hub, where now we understand what are the needs, what needs to scale across business systems, business process, analytics, and insights… could be something like pricing, deal, deal structures, order management, legal, you know, so on so forth.” And that’s when you really can go and say, “Okay, now we can go and have a team that supports each of these different things as a pillar,” because, at that point, you’re going to need subject matter experts in each of those areas to actually help the entire team come together and map out your, essentially, your customer lifecycle. And that’s where it becomes really important. On the PLG side… go ahead.

Jordan  22:45

No, go ahead.

Suriel  22:47

I think on the PLG side, it’s a little bit different, because a lot of these functions that I mentioned, don’t really exist as part of the go-to-market strategy. So like when I think about, like, an Atlassian years ago, right, they were notorious for growing the company and basically not having a sales organization. So maybe having a revenue operations function is not as important for an organization that is literally just growing and scaling without most of the traditional go-to-market teams that other SaaS providers have. And so then it’s really more of like, maybe there, you just have more automation; you have more analytics, and then people that are making small adjustments, and things like forecasting, all those things. Those are like very analytic-driven type of activities. So the PLG model, I think, has a different set of requirements. But yeah, that’s my answer to your, you know, where does revenue operations fall? Or do I believe in it?

Jordan  23:48

Well, it’s, you have an interesting take here; I don’t know if you’ve seen the community that’s sort of been emerging from this grassroots movement, RevGenius. So they’re, basically, they’re a Slack community. And they’ve now got 10s of 1000s of members. But one of the things that organization has been driving since, like, day one is just this concept of RevOps, RevOps, RevOps. And primarily their community is designed for, you know, Series A companies, Seed, it may be into Series B, but they’re pushing this motion of “No, you got to start out of the gate with a RevOps function, and everything reports into it.” Now, I, maybe I’m incorrect in saying this because again, it’s a community. It’s not like RevGenius, the actual company is saying, “here’s the way to do things.” But this is simply, you know, as I read through different things, and I get different pieces of feedback, that’s what I typically glean out of that community. That being said, you’re over here saying, “No, like, let’s not do this whole RevOps motion until 100 million in revenue. And so do you have any thoughts on why, like starting right out of the gate with that motion is, is like maybe a little misplaced, just based on some of the things you were saying there? 

Suriel  25:10

Yeah, it’s a little misplaced, because it’s a little bit of your, you’re operating with, it’s almost egotistical, right, how you come in and try to implement a business unit or organization expecting to know the growth and the needs of what the company and the go-to-market strategy is going to look like, at every phase of growth in the company. And the reality is, is that if you’re Series A company, guess what you’re gonna have a lot of bumps and bruises, like, you’re gonna run into a lot of different things. And especially, depending on what market you’re playing in, you know, if you have competitors, you’re probably gonna have to pivot, like, very often. And that means your go-to-market teams are going to have to re-org or readjust themselves every, probably, every quarter, every six months; I think that’s realistic. And then, as a revenue operations function, if you’re just so set in your way of, we need to exist as this revenue operations function. And you need to remain nimble and agile, like you’re just not going to be able to do it as one big organization or one big unit. It’s just challenging to do that, right; you have to take in consideration… this is where I have to take my sales ops/RevOps hat and really more just like a business operator, you got to take your, your that hat and put it on and say, “what actually makes sense?” because you have, it’s like, it’s like any problem, right? You have these givens, and it’s like, well, how much revenue do I have? How much headcount can I actually afford? How often can I move this headcount? What are the actual skills and expertise that I have in the headcount that I have in the organization, by the way, for the gap that exists? Can I cover those gaps with consulting or contractors?

Jordan  27:01

The answer is, yes, Greaser Consulting. Thanks. Keep going.

Suriel  27:05

Yeah. And what’s that gonna cost me? Right? So I think, to have this idea or notion that you need to have this revenue operations function at a very early stage is it’s a little trendy, in my opinion. And you know, I’m not a part of this, this group. Maybe I sound like a boomer as they as young kids like to say today; I’m sounding like a boomer over here, but you know, you can’t fake experience. And when you go through 10 years of like, you described at the beginning of this conversation today, you go through acquisitions, divestitures, going public, and all these different types of exits; you just learn that every phase of a company’s growth has to evolve and has to look different. And the operations function shouldn’t be any different from that.

Jordan  28:06

Got it. Laying down the hammer today.

Suriel  28:09

Well, no, I’m not trying to, but first thing that I was like, “Oh, I think I got him. No more questions.”

Jordan  28:17

Well, the thing is, I’m actually… we’re coming right up on time. So I mean, my last question to you just looping through where we started with getting buy-in across different stakeholders, we’ve talked about like, the way that orgs were, where RevOps fit; like, is there any final words of wisdom, as you think about that, that bright, young, beaming sales ops person that wants to tackle the world with projects and change? And as matter of fact, I talked to a guy yesterday, who’s like, “Hey, listen, we have four different organizations within our one organization; we have one CRM, but we have sales ops across all four organizations, and there’s no central hub.” And he’s like, 22 years old, just getting into this. He’s like, “What do you think my chances are of convincing everybody that we need to have a central sales ops?” I just said, “Good luck.” So my, my, my commentary to you is or thought to you is, I said “good luck.” What would you say to this individual that’s just starting out and thinking about making some change?

Suriel  29:23

Yeah, I think if I, if I were talking to this individual, and I really wanted… you know, it’s like, “Hey, man, like let me really help you out here.” There’s, there’s two things I think that I would say; one is, be willing to accept that you’re not going to be able to convince the organization that such change is needed at this time ,or even if you do convince them that they’re going to take the necessary steps to get to what you want, and, and learn how to take the L right? Learn take the loss, because it will feel like a loss, like, there’s no you know, when you, you’re 22; you think you know a lot, and maybe you do, and you’re super smart and talented. He just… at the end of the day, you’re, you’re going to run into some, you’re just going to have losses. And so I would just say, be ready to take the loss. The second one is, be ready to understand that the ideal state in your mind to simplify all the challenges and issues that you’re seeing are not going to be resolved immediately. So break out a phased-out approach, or even like in a roadmap, how can you get to the, to the ideal state that you envision? And if, let’s just say there’s four phases to it, right? Don’t go and pitch the final end state, pitch phase one. And then you’re going to be probably more successful to gaining buy-in on a phase one of an end state that you desire, versus actually getting, you know, a pretty big change into the organization. And phase one becomes a success, you’ll get to phase two, and so on and so forth.

Jordan  31:07

So I think that’s, that’s a whole lot better than the advice I gave yesterday, which was “good luck.” So hey, I just want to say thanks for coming today. I know we’re at time. I always appreciate, you know, the both the pragmatic and the philosophical approaches to the conversations with you, and to our listeners today, thanks for tuning in. And we’ll make sure we catch you next time.

Suriel  31:35

I’ll see you. Thanks for having me.

31:37

Hot dog. That was a great episode. Thanks for listening. If you want to learn more about Greaser Consulting or any information you heard on today’s episode, visit us online at www.greaserconsulting.com. Be sure to click the Follow button and the bell icon to be notified on the latest here at RevOps Therapy. Thanks and see you real soon.

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The Greaser team is made up of sales engagement natives; many of our consultants, including our founder, were early employees at the companies who created sales engagement. We are passionate about supporting revenue generators, empowering them to grow their companies and serve more customers.