There’s no cannibalism in RevOps, with Asia Corbett

Erika Davis talks with Asia Corbett, Senior Revenue Operations Manager at Bread Financial, about defining revenue operations, important roles, and how to harmoniously bring all teams together.

Show notes

There’s no crying in baseball, and there’s no cannibalism in revenue operations. There tends to be some controversy, and even a little fear, around the term “RevOps,” as if one team will suddenly be dissolved into another.

To clear up the controversy and calm any fears, RevOps Therapist, Erika Davis, and Asia Corbett, Senior Revenue Operations Manager at Bread Financial, tackle the tough questions around defining revenue operations, important roles, and how to harmoniously bring all teams together.

Transcript

Erika 00:00

Hi, I’m Erika, VP of Go-to-Market Strategy at Greaser Consulting, and welcome to RevOps Therapy. In this episode, Asia Corbett and I talk about revenue operations, what it means, what the big deal about it is, and how to best staff a team around key initiatives. Originally, we were talking about the difference between hiring internally versus looking for candidates externally when you’re building this team, but we got into a lot more philosophical conversations about what RevOps is and isn’t, some of the misconceptions, and what the future looks like. Hope you learn something and enjoy the episode.

00:44

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

Erika 00:58

All right. Hey, Asia. Thanks for joining us on the podcast. Can you introduce yourself for our audience?

Asia 01:04

Yeah. Hi, my name is Asia Corbett. I am currently a Senior Revenue Operations Manager supporting the go-to-market for a large FinTech company.

Erika 01:17

Awesome. Yeah, I would love to just jump right in and, and go with the definition of revenue operations. First, how would you describe that to someone who’s hearing the term for the first time?

Asia 01:30

Yeah, so my definition that I use, literally, anytime someone asks this question is revenue operations is the function that supports all of the revenue-generating teams, that includes marketing and customer success in their business processes, their tech stack, the reporting and enablement to help empower those teams to go drive revenue through the door? Like that’s the one, the one-liner.

Erika 02:05

Got it. How many times do you get asked that? Lik,e how often during an average week do you get asked that?

Asia 02:11

Like every day, every day I get asked, or I see it on LinkedIn or you know, in some of the communities, I’m in a lot of ops communities. And so when I can, I’ll answer but that’s, it’s I found, that’s the easiest way to kind of explain it in, like, the shortest way we are responsible for supporting all of the revenue-generating teams. That’s why we are called revenue operations. So yeah, I mean, it’s definitely a hot topic right now; the definition is still a hot topic.

Erika 02:48

Yeah. And I feel like, in the last, I don’t know, six months, year or so I’ve just been hearing it come up more and more. And I’ve talked to some executives that, you know, some fortune 100 companies that have, you know, asked us for for a meeting and just basically said, you know, I’ve been reading about this thing called revenue operations. And it sounds interesting. And I’m like, oh, you know, startup, so then operating using this model for a long time. And so I’m curious, do we just hit critical mass? Or like, what’s going on that people are talking about it so much more recently? 

Asia 03:20

Yeah, I think that we are starting to get more revenue operations is, as like discipline, is starting to get some more traction, you know, with the last couple of years, and everybody being remote, and this global pandemic has really changed the landscape for buyers for B2B buyers. And so that I think, is driving some of this. And I mean, I started perusing LinkedIn looking for, like, best practices and looking for people to learn from, and there wasn’t a lot widely shared around revenue operations. And that has picked up I think, as again, as a consequence of like this really unfortunate global situation that happened the last couple of years. But I think it drove more people to LinkedIn. And that’s now just starting to be talked about more. It’s very buzzy right now. Which is good, because we’re getting more visibility, it’s getting more visibility, but then that also, I mean, there’s sometimes it’s noisy. Definitely.

Erika 04:34

Well, it’s such a good point. Because I know today, our primary goal is to talk about kind of RevOps staffing, but I think it’s really interesting to start from the perspective of the buyer. And the buyer’s experience. Like I think there’s a lot of people that are asking, “Okay, how do we build this team internally to support a revenue operations model?” And it’s really interesting to kind of think about the customer first and say, “Okay, how is the customer experience changed? And like what do they expect; what are they looking for? And how does the revenue operations team support them?” Like that might actually be a… Would it be correct to say that’s almost a less controversial place to start than like, should we or should we not have revenue operations.

Asia 05:15

I mean, yeah, like that is the point. I guess if we take one step back from that definition, I shared as sort of thinking about it. From a practical standpoint, I describe, I guess, like elaborating on that definition, I describe it as you know, when you’re thinking about your buyers’ journey, end to end layering on the business processes that support the buyers’ journey. So that overlaps, different departments, revenue-generating departments. And then layer on top of that, the tech stack along this buyers’ journey, so that you understand how your tools are supporting the processes that are supporting your customers’ journey, and then the people and reporting in the data, those KPIs. So if you could visualize, it would be like that foundation is the customer journey first, then the next layer on top of that as the process and then next layer has the tools and then you know, the KPIs so that you can see how those things are driving, ultimately, your customers experience. And I think we have a lot of work to do there and continuing to help people understand that.

Erika 06:29

You mean, I can’t just buy tools and throw the tools at the problem and expect it to go away?

Asia 06:34

Oh my gosh, right. Like everyone should get Salesforce because it’s the leading CRM, it’s like, yeah, it’s Salesforce is great. But how many people complain about Salesforce and say how horrible it is? Well, that’s not because it’s horrible. It’s because, for whatever reason, maybe the person who, you know, set it up wasn’t set up for success, or maybe they didn’t quite understand how to set up this, you know, taking into account those processes in the customer journey. So then you end up with something that doesn’t support any of that and people complain.

Erika 07:09

Yeah, yeah, I think that just kind of reminds me of, you know, what makes a really good salesperson. It’s like, it’s not just about pushing a deal across the line, regardless of if it’s a good idea or not; it’s really about, hey, is this actually going to solve your problem? Do you actually have the problem that you think you have? Like, I don’t think there’s anything more valuable to someone than an honest answer to that? Are you trying to solve the right problem at the right time? And that’s hard to get right.

Asia 07:37

Yeah, it is. It is.

Erika 07:41

I would love to talk a little bit about what’s controversial about revenue operations. And if you know, if I’m a revenue leader that wants to pivot or migrate towards a revenue operations model. Obviously, there’s there might be some objections or, you know, some roadblocks. And so I’d love to talk about, like, what makes revenue operations such a controversial term?

Asia 08:04

Oh, gosh, I think that one of the things is revenue operations has been branded as sort of sales operations, or there’s discussion that revenue operations is just sales operations renamed, and it’s really not, like, that does our discipline a disservice because we’re reducing, you know, this one area of the entire revenue-generating cycle, teams, functions, all of those things. And so it causes friction between existing ops teams, because, or a revenue departments, even departments that are responsible for generating revenue, like marketing and CS. Because there’s a little bit of fear around it, like what’s going to happen if we had set up a revenue operations team and that’s really, those were really Sales Ops people, what’s gonna happen to marketing? There’s gonna be no focus or support for marketing or for CES, we never talked about CES. But see, like your existing customer base is where most of your revenue comes from. Right, especially in SaaS. So I think it’s like a cultural sort of challenge that we’re up against right now. And it’s, it’s making things certainly very challenging. And definitely, there’s a lot of discussion around, well, what happens to existing ops teams, what happens to like legacy marketing operations and like, they shouldn’t report into revenue operations. And I just don’t, I mean, I’ve been in companies where the teams are siloed themselves, and it’s very challenging to get work done. I mean, you’re constantly running into roadblocks. You can’t see upstream and downstream impacts as easily when you don’t have that leader who’s looking over all of these ops teams. and thinking end to end. Like if I make a change somewhere, how is that going to impact those other teams that touch this buyer’s journey. Some of the other controversial, like, things around revenue operations, I think that also goes back to the definition is, you know, what else is revenue operations responsible for and we’re, hopefully, starting to get to the point where we understand that it’s not just someone who’s going to stand up your Salesforce instance, or your CRM and build out your tech stack; it’s really much more than that. And for an organization to be able to, or for an organization to take advantage of what revenue operations can do to empower those teams, you really have to be bought into the culture of the process is important, having someone who has strong project management skills, who can do systems thinking, because otherwise, you might as well hire a specialist. And there’s nothing wrong with specialists, either. I think it’s just, you know, thinking about your organization, and what you need, how to combine those things holistically, so that it ends up driving revenue, right, even if we’re indirectly doing that.

Erika 11:19

Yeah, I don’t know, you might have been one of the people on LinkedIn that were talking about this. But I know I’ve seen people recently on LinkedIn, with this idea that revenue operations is really an executive function. And as you’re talking that kind of popped into my mind: that it’s not only someone that knows how the tools work, but also how the actions that are taken in the tools really impact the overall go-to-market strategy. And based on that connection, what needs to change and how that’s going to impact the rest of the systems. That seems like a really, really strategic role.

Asia 11:52

Yeah, absolutely. I think that it is I know, there is somebody who talks about that very, a lot. And I probably chime in, but it is, it is very much a strategic function. And in order to really be successful with it, in that sense, and be sustainable, you’re gonna want someone who has some level of experience, right, like hiring an analyst, in the beginning, will help you sort of maintain, and let me actually just say, there are outliers, and there are edge cases and may get someone who’s early on who can quickly grow into that. But it’s, it’s hard to do that if you haven’t done it before. It’s hard to be able to visualize “all right, well, I’m being hired now. And I’m inheriting all of these different tools. And I need to understand how these tools are supporting the teams need to understand where there are opportunities for improvement where there are gaps. Is everybody, like, speaking the same language?” Because when we talk about alignment, that’s one of those things? Do we all? Are we all using the same definitions for core business metrics and processes? And it’s hard to do that if you haven’t done it before. It’s not that, not to say that somebody couldn’t. But I think that’s why, you know, we’re starting to, to hear that revenue operations really is like executive or very strategic because of those things. And it’s hard to do that all as one person too, even if you, even if you have the capability when you’re doing so much work as a team of one it is very hard to accomplish that and especially accomplish it without getting burnt out.

Erika 13:44

Yeah, yeah. Yeah, I know, we were talking before I hit record just about what it feels like to never be able to finish anything. And I think you know, I talk to a lot of like VPs of Sales or Sales Managers on the one hand, and then I also talk to like Sales Ops and Sales Enablement people, and like, one thing I feel like almost every single person in Sales Ops and Sales Enablement has in common is they all are doing the work of like three or four people because, at the executive level, they don’t realize how heavy the lift actually is to make all these things run smoothly. And so part of I think, when we go in and we work with teams, part of our goal is to help them build a business case for getting the resourcing that they need in order to actually perform at the level that they would like to and that they know they can, say I just, burnout could be like a whole nother episode. I’d love to talk about staffing because you started to talk kind of about hiring a specialist. And I know we’re a consulting company; we get asked all the time, you know, like what’s the benefit of bringing in a consultant or bringing in someone external? You know, do we need to hire someone new? Is this someone, you know, could you promote an SDR into this role? Could this be a Sales Manager or is this a Sales Ops person that should be Revenue Operations Manager, so I would love your take on that. Let’s say, like a company is in a traditional sort of marketing and sales are pretty siloed. And they say, “Okay, let’s, let’s create a revenue operations organization, like, how do I, if I’m, if I’m a, you know, like, an executive of this company, like, how do I go about thinking about that change?”

Asia 15:20

Yeah. Yeah. So I think one of the first things that you’ve got to do is like, examine your existing org structure like your company, who do you have in the company already? What kind of teams are there? How’s your go-to-market organization structured, right? And then, think about if you have any legacy ops teams, like, do you have sales ops and marketing ops? Do you only have marketing ops, do you only have sales ops? Do you have nobody? And you’ve got, like your Sales Manager has maybe been, has maybe been managing Salesforce, because that’s all you had, right? So you got to think about those things first, and then decide, and hopefully, again, and be bought in on sort of the operations charter. And that, you know, you gotta understand, like the person or the team that you stand up, who’s going to come in is not only going to be there to run sales reports and keep Salesforce clean, it’s like really much more holistic than that. So that’s the second thing. And then, like, to your point, or your question around, who should it be, I mean, it can be anybody truly, like you could, you could have any background, but I think what’s important for the person, and people that you bring on to the revenue operations team is going to be, I think, at the core, the ability to look at things end to end right like just to get out of like, if you bring someone who’s from Sales Ops, likely, they’re used to working within the sales process, and like doing all of these things that are focused on sales, and those are important, but you got to be able to take a step back, or whoever the leader of the team is able to step back and say, “Alright, well, you know, the Commission’s process, how are we thinking about commissions? Does commissions have impacts against other teams?” Maybe it doesn’t maybe this is like, solely a sales thing. And you know, it’s this falls within like Sales Operations category. But what about where there are handoffs, like implementation and onboarding, from sales to CS? What about marketing to customers? What about all of those things? So it’s really important that whoever the person is that comes in to like, sort of actually be one of the first people on the team that has that ability to do that. And it could be someone who was in Sales Operations before, or has a Sales Operations background; it could be someone who was in Marketing Operations and has a Marketing Operations background, I think, especially those people will have sort of the, the other technical, if you will, skills that I think are important, but not as important as a process piece. Because I’ve seen how that can be derailed if you’re not thinking about those sorts of things. The process, I mean, and then yeah, and then getting starting to get buy-in from the rest of the team. So not only the rest of your executive team but your internal teams as well. And again, it goes back to if you have legacy go-to-market operations teams, really helping them understand and like navigate that because cultural change is really, really hard. And it’s got to come from the top down. 

Erika 18:47

Yeah, would the right way to think about this as sort of like a wrong answer, but I want to throw it out there and kind of see how it goes, like, is the right way to think about this as sort of like you’re merging Sales and Marketing Operations together?

Asia 19:04

Well, I, I mean, sort of, I think that it’s really about uniting them together. So I know that a lot of discussion, it’s very visible around that fear that like okay, well what’s gonna happen to these existing functions are just gonna, like, be merged into one? And that’s not really the, that’s not the goal. The goal is to unite these go-to-market operations teams and people together under a leader who’s looking across the entire buyers’ journey like we were talking about, right? And how those people support that together and is able to look and say, “Alright, well, my team, I have someone in Sales Ops, and I have someone in Marketing Ops, and I know what they’re doing and how that’s going to impact to go to market and all levels from a reporting standpoint and where data is going and how to communicate back to the teams and how to make sure that also, you know, the operations people are not operating and working in silos as well.” So I think like merging, sort of like the teams, yes, but not that it’s going, not that one is going to cannibalize the other.

Erika 20:19

Yeah, I think that’s the fear that I’ve heard from marketing operations people is that if Revenue Operations sort of is the new Marketing plus Sales Operations, that Sales Operations will just be so much better funded, because maybe attribution on the sales side is so much more clear cut, or, you know, whatever goes on that makes marketing metrics harder, and attribution more difficult. And one thing I’ve talked about that I would love your take on is, like, I’ve seen, and I’ve experienced as a salesperson, myself, like so many points of friction in revenue, like between revenue teams that just don’t make any sense. Like, it doesn’t make sense that an SDR and an AE would have any conflict of interest. And like whether or not something’s a sales accepted lead, for example, right? Like, you know, if, like, I’ve been, let’s say, outbounding someone for six, eight months, and then all of a sudden, they download a marketing white paper, and then they come inbound, like, does that attribution go to sales or marketing? And the answer is just like, it doesn’t matter. Like, why is that friction there? We’re all on the same team. Here, we all have the same goal, which is to increase revenue. Why do we have these points or frictions between revenue teams that are basically competing for budget? And so that, those are the points of friction that I’ll, like, point out to people who are kind of struggling to understand why a revenue operations model makes sense? And like, that’s why because those teams are, there’s something there’s like different leaders that those teams are reporting to that don’t agree on something. And this just makes everyone’s job harder. And there’s just so much friction.

Asia 21:56

Oh, my gosh, I know, it’s, I mean, it’s, that’s a cultural thing around marketing, right? That that needs to perhaps changes like, how is to think of and come to an agreement that marketing is ultimately responsible for, like is ultimately a revenue-generating team, right. And so, so a sales and so is CS and like, the whole goal is to get customers, and then to get the customers to stay, and to have the best experience that they possibly can. And the more that teams, those go-to-market teams can be on the same page around that, the more, the less combative, the less fighting, there’s going to be, it’s like, really, yeah, you’re right, we are all on the same team. But um, to your point around measuring marketing, I think that’s like a legacy thing of, well, let’s, what’s the attribution of every single marketing activity. And, you know, our attribution is something that’s like, kind of fuzzy sometimes, like, we don’t buy things in a linear, I mean, maybe as consumers we do, but it’s not like when I go to buy Outreach, I’m gonna like, go to the website, and then click on a white paper and then talk to sales, and then I’m in the pipeline. Or if I’m going to buy any tool, it doesn’t really, it doesn’t always work like that. Like, I might go into a competing community and ask a question and say, “What’s better InsightSquared, or, I don’t know, Clary, right? And someone may have convinced me who doesn’t even work for the company and I’m like, Okay, I’m gonna check out Clari now. And then maybe I like go read some of their their white papers and case studies. Maybe or maybe I want to talk directly to sales, but ultimately, where did I come from? I came from somebody else. Not that wasn’t market well, maybe at some point marketing influences people who talk about it, but we can go down that rabbit hole.

Erika 24:04

I mean, I was just thinking that that customer of, like, Clari could have had a really great CSM.

Asia 24:10

Yeah, exactly. So I guess full circle is that you know, there are some there are cultural things that needs to change within the go to market like the business units themselves and are also kind of impacting this and, and that change is hard. I mean, it’s doesn’t happen overnight. And so, like I even told myself this when I, when I answer the same question over and over again, I’m like, “Okay, this is what Revenue Operations is. It’s like, yeah, that’s gonna take some time for people to really internalize that for changes to happen and companies, especially larger ones, it’s harder to make organizational changes in larger companies.” So you know, I think having that mindset to if you if you’re not a startup or if you’re a Not a smaller company, it’s going to be harder to to make those changes faster. So we have to be a little patient as well.

Erika 25:08

I wonder if like it, especially in a larger org, where marketing and sales have traditionally maybe rolled up to different VPs is hiring someone externally to own sort of the revenue operations function, culturally, is the better move. So you’re not moving like someone from sales or marketing into that position, but that you’re having sort of like a neutral party step in and say, “Okay, I’m gonna help facilitate”; it’s almost like a Chief of Revenue staff or something like that. 

Asia 25:41

Yeah. Chief of Staff. Yeah. Um, no, that’s a good point. I think there is, there’s definitely opportunity for that, like, there are a lot of companies that use agencies for and consultancies for things, right. So, like management, consulting is a huge industry. So why not? I mean, it gives you a little bit of impartiality, right, a little bit less bias, maybe even for the teams. So that as you’re going and navigating through that cultural change, you’ve got a third party who’s like, you know, they’re not tied to either one interest, unless whose budget that comes out of.

Erika 26:21

And we’ve been in that place a lot where, you know, I would say about, it’s kind of 50/50, with our projects, where half of half of the time marketing hires us; the other half the time sales hires us. And so often, one of the first things we hear is “okay, marketing wants to hire us so that they can, the sale sales will like us the stuff that marketing is doing, or sales, you know, like, like, oh, we need you to help us talk to sales and like, sort of translate what we’re doing into sales speak.” And we’re like, “alright, we can do this.” And then sales will hire us to be like, “hey, marketing that doesn’t understand sales. So can you help us write this content? Or can you help us with these processes, because up until now, marketing zone, the SDR team, and they’re just like, don’t get it.” And so we hear that kind of thing a lot. And that’s kind of why we’ve ended up talking a lot about Revenue Operations. And it’s interesting, because like, so many of the early-stage startups that we work with, and even like when I was an SDR at Outreach, like five years ago, you know, I was experiencing Revenue Operations so much longer or so much earlier than I actually heard the term “Revenue Operations.” So by the time I heard the term, I was like, oh, that’s just like how it was when I started in tech. I just got lucky, I think like, the companies I was at. But yeah, it’s taken me a while to realize like, “Oh, that’s not the norm.” And in fact, most places are so siloed. And there’s all this unnecessary friction. And so it’s kind of fun to be in that role, just like a mediator, or, you know, kind of that neutral party, but depending on who hires us, I think there’s usually sort of a veil of suspicion.

Asia 27:58

Yeah, oh, my gosh, I think that’s a good point, too. I have been in operations for a long time. And I’ve been in different roles, specialist roles, and then also generalist, like, you know, across the business operations. So I have been doing some form of revenue operations for the last seven years. And again, you like you said it didn’t really have a title. But as I started, because, you know, I heard the term too. I’m like, “Okay, well, what is Revenue Operations? What is that?” And then as I’m like, reading, I say, I say to myself, “Okay, that yeah, that makes sense. That’s what I’ve been doing. Right? Got it. Process systems, data enablement, training, like, empowering. That makes sense.” And so it’s, yeah, not everyone’s quite there yet. But I think that we’re moving towards that. And some companies are very lucky that they, like Outreach, and a few others that are really bought into that, what I what I’m going to call a charter, like the definition. Because that makes it so much easier. And then yeah, to like the consulting part, I have done, you know, some consulting on my time. And it’s always interesting. Who this stakeholder? Is it because they want to stand up, like an attribution model? Or like, do they want to build out a lead scoring model? Or do they need help with the CRM side of things? And then it’s like, well, how, how is this going to impact your sales team? Oh, that’s a good point. Maybe we should bring them in and talk about it. It’s like, yeah, yeah, we, we roll out this lead scoring model. How is it gonna get routed to the reps? 

Erika 29:50

Yeah. Well, I think one of the most frustrating things to hear as a consultant when you bring something like that up is like, “oh, we can’t touch that.” Yeah. And it’s like you so you’re asking me to do this group of things, and you’re also telling me that this thing is going to impact is like out of the scope. Like I’ve said at times, like, “I don’t feel comfortable moving forward in this situation, because I don’t have confidence this is going to be successful.” And that’s yeah, I feel like I need a button that I can just every time Yeah. Because it’s common. 

Asia 30:24

Yeah, it is. It’s very common. I guess. I’m surprised but I should, it shouldn’t be surprised. I don’t know. Like, after so long, I like seeing some of it, seeing it as on the consulting side, seeing it like in house seeing it happen to other people. It’s crazy. But again, it’s just like, we all have to be marching towards this cultural change that will take some time. But in the meantime, while we’re waiting, you know, while that’s happening, that process is going on, we just have to keep, you know, defined. Keep defining, keep sharing, and hopefully, you know, we’ll get there one day.

Erika 31:09

Well, it seems like a good place to leave off. Yeah, thank you so much for talking this out with me. I feel like I learned a lot. That was a lot of fun.

Asia 31:19

Happy to: that’s what I’m passionate about: operations and also helping other people get there and advocating for the space. So thanks for having me.

31:32

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.

Share with your network
Default image
Greaser Consulting

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.