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You’re not a strategic RevOps leader if you don’t have these traits

Mona Akmal Oct 14, 2022 10:40:00 AM

RevOps as a function is ready for a radical transformation.

It will be a C-level role by 2027 and Chief Revenue Operations Officers will have ten specific traits that are different from old-school tactical RevOps.

I come from a tech and product management background. Old-school product management was about creating processes, implementing those processes in awful tools, managing the processes, nagging engineers, and reporting status.

The train left the station on time with that method, but the end result was often a mess. Thinking needed to shift to consider results rather than zooming in on execution.

RevOps is in that same place today. Jobs are getting done, but the scope of the role is still too tactical. It’s process focused instead of results focused.

While 99% of leaders are still doing what I call tactical RevOps, the best are more rigorous and forward-looking than the pack. This 1% of outliers is leading the way to strategic RevOps.

Tactical RevOps

Tactical RevOps, the kind most of us have come to know in SaaS companies, is predominantly focused on Sales because a lot of RevOps leaders today grew up as Salesforce admins.

Typically, the job is about:

  • Creating processes that are as comprehensive as possible
  • Implementing processes in tools
  • Nagging sales teams to follow processes
  • Sifting through data to answer questions reactively
  • “Collaborating” with Marketing (in quotes because most of the focus is still on Sales)

Simply changing the title of a function from SalesOps to RevOps didn’t fulfill the promise of RevOps.

This type of RevOps has four negative impacts:

  • Silos haven’t been bridged. Sales remains on its side of the house, Marketing on its side. Sales Dev and Customer Success are generally out of the loop.
  • There’s no time to look around the corner. 80% of time is spent on short term results (this quarter or one quarter out) and 20% on long term, and that 20% is generally reactive instead of proactive.
  • Lower revenue. The go-to-market funnel has lower volume, win rates, velocity, and value than what’s possible.
  • The age old idea that data is too messy to use persists. In my opinion as a founder of a data company, it’s a fireable offense for a RevOps leader to tell me our data isn’t clean enough to use for actionable insights. Using data only for reporting isn’t good enough. It needs to drive business.

Just like the discipline of Product Management reached a tipping point where it had to become results oriented, RevOps leadership is primed to become strategic.

The rise of strategic RevOps

While those 1% of outliers among RevOps leaders are necessary to transform the role, disruption wouldn’t catch fire without particular market conditions.

These conditions are driving the shift from tactical to strategic RevOps

  • More GTM data than ever before. RevOps needs to be using the mountains of data collected by CRMs, Sales outreach tools, and Marketing automation tools as well as product usage data. The amount of data has exploded and spreadsheets have stopped scaling to drive insight.
  • New business models have arrived. Product-led growth and usage-based pricing mean more aggressive land-and-expand motions with shorter Sales cycles where account owners suddenly manage 10x the number of accounts.
  • The rise of Smarkters and Mellers. Sales and Marketing are merging as the ways people buy software become more social. People expect thought leadership and up front value.
  • Margin and efficiency are key competitive advantages. I’ve been preaching the gospel of operational rigor for twenty years, but venture capital has focused on top-line growth. That scam has ended! The market has corrected itself and now margin and efficiency are what will keep companies from fizzling out.

Given the world we’re working in, strategic RevOps leaders are positioned to be absolutely essential to businesses not only thriving, but surviving.

Traits of strategic RevOps leaders

Given the shift in scope that’s ignited by these conditions, what will make you ready to be a strategic RevOps leader?

I see ten essential attributes:

  • Focus on Net Revenue Retention. Quota for this quarter isn’t important. NRR is as much about new revenue as it is about expansion revenue and churn revenue.
  • Objective across GTM teams (not just Sales). If I were to interview your Marketing, Customer Success, and Sales Development teams, they should tell me that their RevOps leader understands their workflows and tool stack as well as they understand how Sales works.
  • 80% long term, 20% short term. In go-to-market, decisions you make today impact what your quota will be four quarters out regardless of the length of your deal cycle. Strategic RevOps leaders have a 14 to 18 month view out of the business.
  • Results over process. Strategic RevOps leaders obsess over how to increase NRR, revenue per rep, and return on every Marketing dollar. It’s not about perfect processes. It’s about making things happen.
  • Bias for simplicity over comprehensiveness. Newbies think about 17,000 funnel stages. While that’s comprehensive, it’s not realistic that anyone will work with such a cumbersome system.
  • Data savvy, data first, data pragmatic. There is no world where data will be pristine and clean. I’ve worked with data for 20 years and have never met a clean data set. It’s about being directionally accurate and using data to drive daily decisions.
  • Influential. Strategic RevOps leaders have a high level of empathy and great listening skills. They talk to people across disciplines and understand how to ask the questions that drive results.
  • Customer centric. I’m shocked by the number of RevOps leaders I’ve spoken with who don’t really know who their customers are. There’s no planning for future revenue without understanding the people who give you revenue today.
  • Product literate. I’m also shocked by the number of RevOps leaders I meet who haven’t logged into their product in years. To be able to look around the corner, you need to know your product well and use it regularly.
  • Head in the clouds, feet on the ground. This might be most important. Strategic RevOps leaders are capable of thinking in abstract concepts and thinking big, while understanding at the field level what’s going on and why it’s important.

Within five years, I believe RevOps will be its own discipline with its own C-level leaders who embody these traits.

In the meantime, great RevOps practitioners will focus on being objective between functions, on building analytical rigor, and on driving toward results.

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