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Pioneering change: HubSpot’s rise, RevOps strategy, and AI integration

Cameron: So, my company, RP (RevPartners), we create RevOps as a service. That’s our whole focus. We were created to drive adoption, not just to get us business, but to create adoption of the HubSpot CRM.

And more than that, though, we manage, run, and engage with the largest HubSpot community of admins, so it’s the Sprocket community. And so, the end goal is just to get more people using HubSpot and grow RevOps as an industry and a career.

Mark Lerner (Host): Yeah, that’s actually the topic I’ve been talking to a lot of people about because, three, four years ago, I had to, before I started a role that was very focused on this space, I had to literally Google, “What is revenue operations?”. And fast forward, you know, a few years, that’s no longer the case, but I’m sure I wasn’t the only person doing that Google search. And we’re now at the point where it was the number one most sought-after position on LinkedIn.

And I think along with that, we’re seeing a very, as you know, through the movement, you’re seeing a big transition of a lot of folks coming to HubSpot that were using different CRMs, and maybe those communities had a pretty well-established rev ops community. So I’m interested to see how new HubSpot users in the RevOps kind of role are integrating into the HubSpot ecosystem, and challenges and successes and all that.

Cameron: I think a lot of people have very similar challenges. And I was talking with quite a few people last night about this, where [they ask] how do I get viewed not as a HubSpot admin, but as someone who should have a seat at the table? How do I get leadership to value my input and buy-in rather than just make me more reports? And I think that’s a common trend, as well. Build this, build this.

So a large part of the Hubolution, as a movement, is really on the adoption piece, and so it’s a big focus on getting to the why and challenging, which isn’t easy for everyone, but challenging, “What are you asking me to do? Why are we doing this? And then, like, what are the knock-on effects?”. It’s not always easy for everyone to do that in the same capacity.

At RevPartners, I serve as a strategist, which is effectively an admin, and I’ll work with four or five companies at a time. Everyone will be different, and some of them view my input differently. But ultimately, one of the things I make known is I’m not here to be a yes-man. And if you’re looking for somebody to build stuff, other companies can and will do that. But we don’t want to build, build, build, right?

It seems like part of the problem is if you ask 50, or 100 different people how do you define RevOps, you’re going to get different results. And I did this last night. I was asking people, “How do you define RevOps?” They said, “Well, I think it’s helping my business make more money.” Or, “I think it’s helping to align sales and CS and marketing,” which are true. Our company defines it as the science of sustainable revenue growth. Not everyone will follow that definition, but part of the problem is that we don’t have a common definition.

Mark: It’s like that with many terms in our space, right? What is growth? What is growth marketing? What is growth hacking? What is… you know. So, yeah. I think it means different things to different people. Unfortunately, a lot of times, it just means a Salesforce admin to some people, which is an unfortunate thing.

And I think your mentioning of being able to empower people to have a seat at the table, strategic, yeah, role as opposed to just the tactical role, seems to be a common theme. So, from your vantage point, what are some of the changes that have come about with some of the new adoptees of HubSpot, and some of their different needs?

And, also, we’re obviously in a changing macro-economic situation. I think that for a long time people assumed that they should get the best tool for every small aspect of your business and just tie them together. Has there been a shift back to working with one platform and making it all work together? Simplifying?

Cameron: I’m definitely seeing a lot of consolidation. And people that will say, “I want to do this,” and they think they need to integrate this and connect that, and set up an API for this. And often, what people think they want, if you simply ask, “Why do you want to do this?” Or if you give them the responsibility, they might rethink it.

Oftentimes, understanding the problem isn’t just about not having the right tools. It’s about the process and strategy in place.

They want to do their job successfully they’re logging in every day and they’re going, okay, I need to make 100 dials, I need to send 100 emails, and then management goes well, they made 100 dials, they sent 100 emails, revenues out there so they’re not making it easy to do their role and let the data go where it needs to go.

Mark: We live in interesting times. There’s definitely kind of this move to consolidate instead of using Point Solutions, let’s see how much our single source of truth – in this case, HubSpot – can do and then add the things on where you know it leaves off.

One of the conversations that I seem to be getting into over and over again – even when I’m trying not to – is the role of AI and the thing changes it’s making. I had a conversation last night with another implementation partner and it very quickly went there, I suspect that’s going to be playing out over the course of the week.

So, how does AI fit into your workflow and the needs of your partners and clients?

Cameron: I feel like those who aren’t using it think AI is one thing and in actuality, it’s another. I talk with Partners about this and they’ll say well can we do this with ChatGPT or can we use ChatSpot to analyze our reports. This has been a big topic in the community now and my opinion is that AI is going to make our lives easier for those who adopt it and learn how to use it and use it responsibly, but it’s not going to take jobs away it’s not going to make us work less. it’s just going to evolve how and where we’re able to prioritize.

So a lot of my day is spent in planning – we have technologists that do a lot of implementation and building – so a lot of my day is coordinating and a byproduct, for example, is that instead of me having to sit down and spend a 30-minute discovery call on who is your ICP I can go in on ChatGPT…

Mark: Cameron, it’s good to see you again. It’s been about a month since we last talked on the very noisy sidelines of Inbound. I wanted to pick up where we had left off in our previous conversation because I think we were really rollingand some of it got cut off, so I’m glad we’re able to chat today.

I think, for me, there was a very obvious sense of us being in the middle of a kind of generational shift, that everybody kind of understood that nothing is going to be the same. Whether it’s due to technologies like AI, machine learning, or just generally, the way businesses are approaching things from a Go-to-Market (perspective) is shifting.

What are some of the new and interesting ways or solutions people are looking to implement that you’re seeing?

Cameron: Interestingly enough, AI is a hot topic that everyone likes to talk about, but it’s not something that we’ve seen partners proactively requesting an approach around. So what I mean by that is it’s something that makes our role as revenue operations professionals a lot easier in some regards because we can go into ChatGPT, for example, or ChatSpot, and ask it to interpret a report or come up with sales stages for a specific industry; so it’s something that can help us.

If we ask a partner something and they don’t know the answer to it, now we have another resource that we can reach out to. I will say that it is still very much supplementary to just being able to do your role well. I still use it secondary to reaching out to other people for questions and answers. I like having a human element, even if I go into ChatGPT I’m still likely to run something by another human if I have a question. But it hasn’t replaced any of our roles at all; if anything, it’s made it a lot easier. And, with partners, I don’t think they understand the full depth that AI can bring to the table for them yet, which we might be around the corner.

An example would be during Yamini’s (HubSpot CEO) keynote when she was talking about rolling out ChatSpot and having a live chat AI on a website – that’s not something that we’ve seen requested by partners. In fact, often, when we suggest something like that it’s waylaid by other priorities.

So I think that even though AI is becoming more and more prevalent and becoming more ‘normal,’ so to speak, for most partners that aren’t in the tech world day-to-day, they’re not in Revenue operations on day-to-day they still see other priorities like sales motions or marketing motions rather than how can we use AI to enable the customer experience. Which, again, that may start to shift, but I don’t think we’re quite there yet.

Mark: With regards to sales motions, for the longest time in B2B, the sales motion was well understood. It was repeatable; there were the inbound and outbound motions, and it was mostly sales-led.

Then, there was a huge shift for a while where everyone was like, you need to do PLG – which, again, one of those terms that wasn’t super well defined and still isn’t.

One of the things I’ve noticed as the macroeconomic situation has shifted is that there’s been a rebound, and many companies that decided they were going all in on PLG have pulled back a little bit and realized that that may not be the best solution. Are you seeing any of that happening, you know, manifesting itself in the work that you do?

Cameron: So interestingly there’s an 80% chance that if I ask a business what are their sales motions they won’t know the answer. Which is not a bad thing about the partner necessarily, it just means that I think they haven’t sat down to really think about, okay, Revenue operations, sales motions, PLG, SLG, right? How they are thinking about how do we make more Revenue? How do we sell more stuff? How do we improve our marketing or our ad spend?

And so, when we take a step back and say, okay, what are your sales motions? Or what is your sales process? Even sometimes very basic questions, they don’t necessarily have an answer to them. The good news for us is that that’s part of our role, and my role is to help define and understand that. So it’s not even that they necessarily don’t know their business, but maybe they don’t know the terms, or maybe they just haven’t sat down and had those conversations.

Things haven’t necessarily changed in my time in Revenue operations in that regard. I would certainly love for a business to sit down and say, “this is our business model, plug it into ChatGPT, this is what we do on a day-to-day, what’s our sales motion?” That would be very cool. But I think that it allows us to simply add more value from a revenue operations perspective. Tell me about your business, and then if they don’t know the answers to the questions, we can at least present them to that individual or to those stakeholders.

Mark: I think the marketers – I’m talking about myself – kind of come up with these terms and then just kind of use them to death, and people don’t really know what they’re talking about.

Product-led growth used to basically be if you had a free trial, that was a product-led growth motion. And now it’s like all this other stuff. I think it’s actually a good thing if people don’t get, they don’t in their mind have a fixed idea of like, “no, we’re a sales-led growth company, we can’t even consider these other things”. Because, if the last three to four years have taught us anything, it’s that nothing can be counted on to go on forever.

Everything’s changing all the time, and you have to roll with the punches. Companies that can adjust and deal with the changing environment are going to do well. Part of having the infrastructure to adjust to changing requirements is having someone in a revenue operations role who can manage the backend. Shifting a bit and talking about the community, we only touched on it briefly, but it’s there in the background.

I’d love to hear more about the Hubolution movement, its definition, and how it’s influencing the RevOps space and the HubSpot ecosystem.

Cameron: Well, as someone who loves strategy, being able to take something and then do it again is important.

When we talk about Hubolution, the definition is the movement from antiquated CRMs over to HubSpot, a specific definition created by the revenue operations community. The term was coined by someone at RevPartners, but the idea is that businesses shouldn’t be confined by one CRM or one toolset. They should be able to grow revenue operations. HubSpot is user-friendly and helps in enabling RevOps, sales ops, and marketing ops.

One component of this is that HubSpot started as a marketing platform, and now it’s an all-in-one platform for sales, marketing, and RevOps. It’s also pivoted into an enterprise platform. The orange wave represents the mass migration to HubSpot for all businesses, from small to enterprise. HubSpot is not just easy to use, but there’s a community that helps everyone to use it.

Mark: For those who are listening and not watching, the imagery of the movement is reminiscent of Japanese art.

At the Inbound event, there was excitement around this movement, and it was fascinating to see. As we shift gears again, leading up to and after inbound, HubSpot itself is adapting to this changing user base or more diverse use cases and rolling out new features and aspects of the platform to support it. I’ve seen a lot of this recently and I’ve seen people kind of refer to that shift of the platform in the same terms as Hubolution, so maybe you can speak a little bit to that and how you see that shift enabling people in RevOps roles to succeed more within the HubSpot platform.

Cameron: Everybody knows everybody likes to buy, nobody likes to be sold. And people want their role to be easier; they want to make more revenue. We all want these things, but a vast majority of us don’t know how to get there and so the shifts and the the pivots and the growth that HubSpot has had over the past really even 12 months has made it accessible for everybody. Because, all of these features – that whether you knew you wanted it or you didn’t – but all of these features that HubSpot now has which 12 months ago and 24 months ago weren’t available it just makes it so that no matter the size, the scale of your business it’s accessible now.

If you are an enterprise business you’re going to the Enterprise hubs, if you’re a small busines,s you might be on the free hubs, but those features simply didn’t exist and didn’t give you the option to even consider HubSpot now make it so easy that you can just go into the platform; you don’t need workarounds, you don’t need a a a tricky way to implement a solution – it’s just very easy to go in and do what you want or need to do.

Mark: I get access to beta features and every day it seems like there’s a new little tweak that, on the surface, if you just kind of see it, you don’t realize that there were hundreds if not thousands of users who have been waiting for this little tweak – from the way a field is connected or whatever that made their entire.

It’s really fun to see people react to that you see it in you know in the Sprocketeer community, which you all manage, I see it on LinkedIn.

So, as we wrap this up – and I really appreciate your time today. Maybe you could, between now and next September – and I’m sure it’s very hard; no one can read the future – but let’s say it’s late August 2024 and we’re all getting ready to head up to Boston again, how do you think the HubSpot ecosystem will look then compared to now? What kind of changes do you think will we’ll be seeing then?

Cameron: I think it’s going to be more robust. Because, at the end of the day, there are a lot of features that people didn’t even know they wanted which have been released. I left town for two and a half weeks I came back and the amount of time I’ve spent reading on product updates, it boggles my mind. So HubSpot’s moving very very rapidly. I think that this time next year when we’re post Inbound – or just prior to when we’re getting ready to Inbound – the biggest difference is going to be in the conversations that have been had around new ways to solve old problems.

It’s not that it’s novel ways, but it’s new ways that are going to make our lives easier. Whether that’s reporting, sales motions, marketing motions – there’s just going to be so many more updates. So I think that we’re going to have a lot of solutions that are just going to make our lives a lot easier between now and Inbound next year.

Mark: It kind of boggles my mind to imagine what 12 months from now will look like compared to the last 12 months. As we wrap up why don’t you tell the folks at home where they can find you, where they can find RevPartners, where they can find the Sprocketeer community so they can engage further?

Cameron Collins: Yeh. So my name is Cameron Collins and I’m all over LinkedIn. You can go searching for me on Instagram, Facebook – maybe less exciting on there, but I I do post all kinds of fun stuff on LinkedIn both revenue operations content as well as skits and videos that are both informational and sometimes entertaining.

Mark: They’re very entertaining

Cameron: So definitely find me on LinkedIn, Cameron Collins, I work for RevPartners. We work with businesses and companies that are looking to grow and use revenue operations as a service. So, whether you’re brand new to RevOps or you’ve been using a single employee for a long time, you can work with RevPartners and we provide revenue operations as a service.

I’m also a part of the Sprocketeer community; you can go ahead and type in Sprocketeer – I’m not going to spell it but we’ll have it in the show notes – but you can go ahead and type in Sprocketeer, pull up our website, download the Discord app, and it’s a community. It’s the largest community for revenue operations professionals where we all get together and help each other out, so if you have questions you can ask them. If you are a RevOps pro, you can go ahead and show your expertise on there and you’ll see me on there super frequently and actively. My username is SuperRevOptics, which comes about from one of the early skits that I created.

Mark: You will also see me on there and my hope is that I will get more of the folks that are active on there on this podcast and interview them. So, Cameron, I really appreciate your time today.