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Episode 19: The One Where Revenue Operations is NOT the Right Focus

by Hannah Rose | Mar 24, 2022 10:00:00 AM

Before we get into today’s episode Doug has to apologize to all our listeners because he forgot Pete Rose in the Reds lineup last episode. He is deeply sorry for somehow forgetting he was the third baseman. We also need to take a brief moment of silence for Jess’s March Madness bracket because it’s over for her. But we aren’t here to talk anymore about baseball or basketball tournaments. We’re here to discuss a story, one that may cause confusion, chaos and disruption to the RevOps world.




Additional Resources: 

Show Notes:

Doug’s a bit hesitant today to share this story with us because while using client stories as examples because it’s real life experience, he does try to keep it completely anonymous (which he is going to continue to do). The movement to RevOps has created hype and as he looks at everyone talking about revenue operations, one of the things more often than not that’s the question to answer is, what is RevOps NOT responsible for?

What’s the role of the Head of Sales? What’s the Head of Marketing responsible for? What’s the CEO responsible for? Everyone needs RevOps and Doug emphasizes that RevOps exists whether you call it that or not. At the same time if you say everyone needs RevOps, RevOps becomes meaningless. Rather we should be talking about when does RevOps need to begin to take on a formal role? When does the discipline need to be called out and separated? No one is running around saying every company needs sales or marketing. By saying everyone needs sales, everyone needs marketing, everyone needs finance, everyone needs operations, you’re communicating nothing.

We have a client that we’re really enjoying working with. They’re a good company, they’ve got a really good product and they’ve got a tremendous amount of potential. They hired us for a fairly good size for revenue operations. Doug doesn’t think they should have revenue operations. At least they’re at a place where they could have revenue operations, but if they’re having RevOps at the expense of what we’re going to be discussing today, they shouldn’t have RevOps. Do they have revenue operations problems? Yes. Everyone has revenue operations problems. But do they have a revenue operations problem? No. They’re an example of where you should make a different choice. 

When is revenue operations the wrong focus? 

Side note: Doug hopes that those revenue operations practitioners that are listening in will address their disagreements with him because if you follow the path he’s on, he’s likely going to speak around things that will lead to disruption, confusion and chaos. Let’s have a conversation about this.

The decision you have to make is what problems are you going to have? You have focuses from bad to not bad to not good to good to great. You can also think about focus as being not broken, broken, working, excellent. RevOps is definitely not a bad to not bad or broken to not broken discipline. It begins to emerge from not broken to working, but it’s really a discipline of working to excellent. When revenue operations is a problem, congratulations, you’re in good shape.

If their problem is not a RevOps problem, what is their problem?

From Doug’s perspective their problem is a Go-to-Market Strategy problem. They have a lack of force problem. 

What is a lack of force problem? 

If you think about the underlying role of RevOps, it’s all about reducing negative friction or about optimizing the friction quotient. For example, for another client we’re working with we’re setting a marketing nurture up and we’re going to give the sales rep control, but the control is they are going to have to opt the person out of the nurture if they shouldn’t be in it. This changes up where we put the friction. Here we’re creating friction, not reducing it, but we are reducing friction for the path we want the sales rep to take.

If we think about the flywheel, there’s two things you can do, increase force or reduce friction. Optimizing friction requires the allowance of force or there’s no juice. There is not a clear narrative or a clear message. What ends up happening is, for this company, the message keeps falling into a product focused and often feature focused one.

In every vertical at every market size on every product that they have, they have the exact same top competitor. Who? The status quo. The context of that status quo is completely different than a different product for them. There’s a narrative and a positioning that needs to be there. There’s no clear sales process and no one that’s responsible for the process. A large part of what RevOps does is solve upstream problems, but no one can solve an upstream problem; it’s like solving for the problem before it even happens.

The challenge you have is that there is no plot. The challenge we keep running into with this client is that we don’t have a sense of why we’re doing what we’re doing because there is no plot.

What’s your narrative? What’s your positioning? Messaging? Economic model? Those are all things that create your guideposts that enable you to anticipate. Without these elements, how do you trade off? How do you make a choice? If you don’t have a Go-to-Market strategy, which is about defining a clear destination and waypoints to help you align, you don’t have diversity.

What are the things that you need to do for the problem to be RevOps?

You have to create some explosions for your problem to be RevOps. If you’re not generating enough momentum in your pipeline, RevOps doesn’t solve that problem. RevOps’ job is to collaborate. If someone doesn’t own the method, the process, where is the focus going to be?

For Jess who has been here through Imagine’s RevOps journey, her job is not to dictate, her job is to get an understanding so she can make a recommendation on how we’re going to handle any given situation. One of the elements here is if RevOps is going to sustain itself and not become a drag or become the “bad guys” those involved have to be able to reinforce the why. 

Doug thinks that RevOps should be peer to sales and marketing. When you get to strategic RevOps, sales should be opportunistic, marketing should be long term. Left to their own devices, sales would lose all their margin over time and marketing would be creating wonder, joy, and education with no revenue. (Doug’s exaggerating here.) A large part of revenue operations is to bring those two things together - a focal point. Without a focal point, you can’t have velocity.

It’s not revenue operations job to determine the focal point. Their job is to manage the trade offs and identify/work on/optimize the friction points to enable. To meet revenue objectives we have to solve for the customer, understanding that solving for the customer does not mean the customer is always right nor does it mean to give them whatever they want. It means you’re implementing your solution hypothesis. As a company with a strong point-of-view, if we implement our solution hypothesis, if we play our game, we don’t lose. 

What should this company do then?

Candidly, they should take the money that they’re spending with Imagine and put it towards a role to have someone in charge of growing their sales team.

If you get anything out of this episode it should be that it is not RevOps’ job to determine the focal point, and without someone there to determine the focal point, there is no plot, and you can’t have RevOps without a plot.

So that everyone is clear on this takeaway, we are not saying RevOps should not contribute to the focal point. The thing to understand is that RevOps should not get locked on the focal point because it’s going to change as you grow. If you’re building anything around a single focal point, you are not going to build a robust system.

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