Accelerate revenue execution
CPQ (Configure Price Quote)
Automate quotes & subscriptions
CLM (Contract Lifecycle Management)
Streamline contract signings
Manage revenue lifecycle
Collaborate between buyers & sellers
Barry Mueller: Jason, tell me about your background and what it means to be at two different companies.
Jason: I have a background in go-to-market, advertising, and Salesforce. Ultimately, I started GoNimbly, the first consultancy focused on transforming revenue operations teams with very large enterprise customers like Zendesk, Twilio, and PagerDuty.
I am passionate about revenue operations because in all of my different versions of my career, being a product manager at some companies, being on the marketing team or sales team or servicing team, I always felt like the operators were the people who held everything together and they didn’t get the respect they deserved.
I was around in the tech boom when marketing was thought of as arts and crafts and then marketing got attribution, and marketing became a powerhouse within SaaS and I saw the same thing happening to the operators. And so that led me to start my own company focused on that. And then as I spent six years building that up into a multimillion dollar company, it still is around and I’m the evangelist for that company, so I help set the strategy and talking points for that organization.
I decided that I wanted to get really hands-on and build something where we automated the workflows of revenue operations and that’s what Breadcrumbs does. It’s the logic layer that sits on top of all your GTM tools, and takes all that information and builds algorithms and does things about it. So as an example, if you’re doing an upsell cross-sale motion and you’re pulling product data in, and all of these users need to be handled by an enterprise sales reps, and all these ones need to go into an email campaign, that’s the kind of things that Breadcrumbs does.
It’s the brain of your GTM team, and that problem was really important for me to solve. Being theoretical and helping companies move to RevOps was very exciting. But then also, how do you build scalable RevOps within a company was also exciting to me. And so that’s where I am today, and my passion is helping organizations deliver a personalized experience for their customers.
Jason: I think that everyone deserves to experience a gap-free buying experience. And what’s good about that for the customer is that they don’t have to use their political capital to buy your product, which is in a time of uncertainty like COVID, a scary thing for people. And then on the other end, it increases the LTV (customer lifetime value) for SaaS companies. So it increases the dollars of the yes, which is something that I’m a big fan of. I don’t really care about the nos, what I care about is maximizing the yeses.
Barry: Let’s start with revenue operations in general. You said you started Go Nimbly about six years ago. And what were people calling revenue operations before that? Revenue operations (RevOps) is a fairly new term. So people were obviously doing similar work. What were they called beforehand? And if they are doing different work now, why is that?
Jason: Yeah, so beforehand in my career, up until that point, at every tech company, it was sales operations, marketing operations. I’m going to say CX ops, but that’s not a real thing. There was none of that, but there were people operationally focused on those – usually members also doing the frontline work. And what they were really all about is building and maintaining systems, dictated by the frontline leader, so the departmental leader.
And so if you were a sales ops leader, we can just take that as an example, but this is applicable to everything, if you were a sales ops leader, you would report to the VP of Sales as an example, and you would make sure that you were helping the sales team be more efficient. It was a support role. The problem with that is it wasn’t leaving room for the operators to actually focus on what the true goal was, which is to increase the revenue of the business, not to validate the operations or support the operations of the sales team.
Now this was a controversial thing then, and sometimes still is now, because so many sales ops people, or even RevOps people think of themselves as the partner or support of one of these departments. But ultimately, this is the wrong place to focus because it’s more in a true partnership, operations stands right beside these departments and acts as the back office just for lack of a better term, the directors, the boom mic operators of operations, while your sales, marketing, customer success are the actors who go out and do things, do actions. They’re supported by the team, but really, one thing couldn’t exist without the other.
And so what really has changed is the viewpoint that this is a fourth member of your go-to-market team, of your revenue team, which is sales, marketing, customer success, and revenue operations. And so it’s really elevating them to a place at the table to make decisions strategically for what’s best for the organization, not what’s best for an individual department.
Jason: So just like all things in tech or all things in business, everyone wants a revenue operations team now. I would still say that only about 30% of companies actually get what that means and are entering into that new word, that new thing as a new mindset, a new framework, a new methodology, and the ones that are, they’re seeing tremendous revenue growth. So if we’re talking about reality, if you believe in revenue operations and you operate it successfully, you should get between 15 and 26% more off each ‘yes’.
So that is a real big number if you think about all the ‘yeses’ your team gets, without increasing your marketing team, without increasing your sales team. So that’s the value that this thing has. And the second thing I will say is that you should be spending about 3% of your resource budget on revenue operations, which means that the team should be more than one person for most of these organizations. It equates to for every four go-to-market people you have on your team, you would have one RevOps person, if you think about that 3% number.
Jason: Most organizations are spending about 1% on operations. And if you could trade just to give some examples, 3% cost for a 15% increase in LTV per customer, it’s a no-brainer to do this. And so where I am at in the evangelist phase is now trying to help prove out models that will validate the need to invest more heavily in operations versus just a mindset shift, which is, “Oh yeah, we want our people to be holistic.”
Great. You want them to be holistic, but often, they’re not given the time or energy or space to be holistic. On top of that, there’s also some very core metrics that most revenue operations teams don’t drive themselves with. I call this VVVC, which is value, volume, velocity, and conversion (also known as 3VC).
So that’s the VVVC, and what that does is it actually allows you as an organization to look at your data, your pipeline, your customer buying journey, and find where you’re anemic in it, and point your operations team there, which will have major impacts to marketing or have major impacts to sales or customer success. But it’s going to actually up level the business holistically.
So I still find that many RevOps teams are not using data to validate. Instead, what they want is this space where they go, “Well, we are the RevOps team. We want to prioritize what we want,” and then someone like the VP of Sales says no. And ultimately, they usually still have more seniority in the team, or they’ll say, “I can’t do my job without this.” And the truth is, your teams know what’s wrong.
They have context that the operations team doesn’t, but what the revenue ops team has is data to back up how they prioritize the work. So I’m not saying that any sales person or marketing person that says this is a problem is not correct. I’m just saying they might not be correct about the severity of the problem and what that actually will do to the business.
See also: Validating the Value of Revenue Operations
Barry: So let’s go into the 15 to 20% value to LTV. Is that for general B2B companies? Is that for SaaS companies? Is there a specific industry that revenue operations is more valuable in?
Jason: So right now, I would say that SaaS/B2B is where RevOps is really picking up, and where I’ve seen these numbers and where my experience really lies. A little bit on platform as a service too, so companies like PagerDuty and Twilio where it’s based on usage. Ultimately though, it is truly about delivering that personalized gap-free experience.
And that’s a holy grail. That’s a thing to move towards, but how it starts is actually knowing your buying journeys by key attributes. So if you sell in different industries, you’re going to have lots of different buying journeys, so a buying journey for a business that sells insurance and then sells property management as a vertical, they’re going to be different buying journeys based on even net new.
So those are two buying journeys that you have to manage, but actually looking at that across the board, and looking at that data in that particular segment with those four values I just gave you and find out how you’re performing against yourself, and then see if you can find any industry benchmarks. At Go Nimbly, we were very lucky at the very beginning of the organization, we built databases that would tell us how one SaaS company is doing compared to another SaaS company.
And that was one of the keys to our success, because we could look at you and tell you what’s wrong with you, but we could also look at you and tell you what’s wrong against other organizations. And that’s something that I think is going to continue to emerge as software gets developed in the revenue operations space, because sometimes, you might think, “Hey, we suck at this.”
And then when you compare it globally, you might be actually pretty good or vice versa. So these are ways that those teams can really maximize that, and what we found through our research at Go Nimbly and at Breadcrumbs is that whenever you find a gap, when you find a gap and a common gap, let’s just give a really easy one, is the SDR-BDR handoff to an AE, you’re going to find that you lose trust or confidence in voting with dollars from the customer. So the more gaps you fill in, the more you get to that 15 to 26%.
Barry: Yep. That makes sense. And I’m assuming that benchmark data that you guys collect at Go Nimbly, was that through surveys? Or that was just because you guys had so many customers, or a combination?
Jason: Correct. We were able to take pipelines and actually compare them against one another based on a set of meta information that we would put in on what we thought the ideal scale stages were for all B2B SaaS. And that’s really why we started working with B2B SaaS companies, because if you work with one Coursera from stage B to IPO, they’re really multiple companies.
And so that you can really say, “Okay, this company’s in stage B. This is where they should be, and how they should be performing. This is probably the hurdle they’re going to face.” Let’s see what’s unique about this company. My favorite thing to do is to treat each company uniquely, but hold them to a standard idea of what that company at that stage might look like, and this gives you a lot of delta.
So maybe as an example, if you’re an enterprise B2B company at stage B is usually when self-service really kicks up and begins to be a major part of a revenue factor. But if you’re going and selling insurance, you’re probably not going to get a lot of insurance companies to sign up for your product as an example, through a traditional method like self-service.
Jason: So there’s just these things where you have to know about the uniquenesses of the business, but it’s still very helpful to have an operational model, and I would actually say the most important thing when you’re hiring, say a CRO, or a head of RevOps is not that they have done it before, but that they can build mental models and tell you what do you think a healthy series B company would look like? And how would you compare us? That compare and contrast is a very important skill in RevOps and being a CRO.
Barry: Many times when I interview CROs, some of them are coming from sales backgrounds and then they’re becoming CROs. And they’re trying to do this holistic approach and everyone has their challenges, but not everyone is doing the holistic approach. Some are sales people billed as a CRO.
Jason: I think that the CRO should be someone who is operationally sound. I don’t care where their background comes from. Their background should dictate to a CEO or the CRO where they should hire, because the way that I look at it is there’s four primary skills of go-to-market: strategy, tools, enablement, and insights.
Those four skills are the same skills of revenue operations. So I do think that in the future 15 years from now, you’ll see a lot of CROs come up from the operational standpoint. It’s impossible to be a CRO and not understand commercial pressures, not understand conversations with customers. Some operators are not good at that. They’re just not good at that, but when I look at an organization overall, and I look at do I want to work for this organization or with this organization, I look at do they really believe that these four skills should be balanced across their go-to-market team?
Are they over-indexing on tools? Are they over-indexing on strategy? Are over-indexing on enablement, or are they over-indexing on insights? Any organization that’s over-indexing will not see the generalist value that I think that a CRO brings to the organization. And so this really is something that I would take very seriously if I was thinking about going into work as another organization, as a CRO.
And it’s also where I’m interested in augmenting my team. As an example, I have a vast experience in marketing and sales, less in CX. I started my career at Rackspace as a database administrator taking support calls. So I have some experience, but not for the last 20 years. And so I looked for a very strong leader in our CX team and I rely on them to deliver a lot of the strategies and tools.
But as a CRO, I know that I can handle the insights that will feed that team. And so ultimately, it’s about that holistic approach. If you are a CRO and you don’t believe that an ideal makeup would be split amongst all of those skills, I would say that you’re not going to be a very successful CRO, or maybe you’ll be a very successful series A CRO, because you’ll be able to go out into the field and make sales and drive revenue to a million dollars, but you’re not going to be very good when the organization really matures.
Also knowing what lane you’re in. I don’t think that as a CRO, if you started a company, you need to stay at that company through the whole gestation of that company. You may not be that person. So when I talk about CROs, I say, “Hey, how much do you believe in these different things?” If I’m interviewing a CRO for my podcast, as an example, one of the things that I focus on is, “Okay, where are you anemic and where are you strong? And then can you identify that? Or do you need other people to identify that?”
And I think the core skill of a CRO is to be able to understand the makeup of their team and balance that equation.
Barry: I guess we’ll see a lot more operations professionals go on to become CROs. It’s fairly new, the revenue operations position. So we need to wait some time in order to see that.
Jason: Yeah, the traditional way that people got into operations was to be a sales rep first or marketer first, be really into the technology and then ultimately, become an operator of those processes and tools. So I think that’s still going to happen, is that these people are going to have front-end experience. RevOps is going to be a door that’s open to them, they go and work in RevOps, and then eventually they have enough experience to rise to the role of CRO.
Barry: I want to go back to the 15 to 26% increase in LTV, because that’s a big number, as you mentioned. And I love data. So what data points did you see? Let’s talk, I guess, series B. A lot of our listeners are in series B going to series C.
What data points did you see? What gaps did you see were most important for people to fix during that period? So maybe they found product market fit at this point, they’re looking to scale faster. They have more money to scale faster. You mentioned before the BDR to AE. What other gaps do you see? And is there any data you can see?
Jason: Well, first I’ll say that series B these days doesn’t mean product market fit, in my opinion. It means segment product fit, and segment usually means that you have a repeatable sales motion, marketing motion, churn reduction motion for a specific segment. And that you’ve usually built your business on that particular segment. That is good. But when you get to series B, you’ll realize that you can’t grow that segment by 100%, most likely. And usually series B to series C requires really a finite amount of personalization and industry knowledge to grow to the places that you need to grow.
So one internal struggle that I see is, “Okay, we have this new number that our investors want us to get to, or that we want to get to ourselves, yet we’re starting basically back over, but we have to keep making this other flywheel, this other segment product fit flywheel keep operating.”
And that usually causes a big distraction in the organization that customers feel, so over here, these customers are getting this A+ experience, because it’s how you built your business up to a million dollars. When you raised your series A, maybe you’re at $2 million AR now or three, and you’re going to go raise a series B, whatever that looks like for you.
And so ultimately, that’s a problem that they have, that tension, and I’m a big person of understanding business through tensions. Everything is an opportunity. There’s no such thing as a bad business day in my opinion, but there are tensions that emerge based on where we’re at. So that’s a tension that emerged. The second tension that really emerges is if you don’t have CRO, not CRO, but an operations person early on, is that vanity metrics start to creep up. Metrics that have no value to revenue acceleration, and those things start to pop up in things like MQLs and dashboards to measure response times and these things that should only be indicators based on performance gaps.
But shouldn’t be indicators that are toted around in the organization as, “Look how good we’re doing!” These things lead the organization to make strategic decisions that are not insightful. I don’t care how many MQLs we had, how many actually converted to conversations with our reps? How many converted to revenue? Okay, that’s a volume line, and now we can look at volume, or that’s a conversion issue. And the third thing is really understanding the problem. And I always make hypotheses against one of those VVVC numbers. I am trying to increase volume. I’m trying to increase value. I’m trying to increase, What am I trying to do?
What are the tactics I’m going to take? What are the tools I’m going to implement? How am I going to work this into my buying process? And then how am I going to validate that at the end? That’s how you create a gap-free process. Now, you might find through that process, there are gaps that you don’t have time or energy or resources to solve. That’s okay. Those are the ones then I would go back, once I see them spike up a little bit, and fix in this iterative process.
I don’t think that in operations, anything is done, and I don’t think as a CRO, anything is done, because we’re constantly evolving as a company. But the MQL hand-off is a big one. Another common place I would look if you have a self-service product is how are you actually activating them? Product usage, there’s a big swing right now on product-led sales and most organizations have no idea how to actually implement that.
And it’s not an alert in your Slack that says something like, “Someone’s on your website,” or “Someone’s clicked on the pricing page.” That is again, conversational metrics that are really not valuable, especially if you have something like everybody gets to that page eventually, yet why is everybody not upgrading? Because it’s not a value.
Jason: And so these are the things that we trick ourselves in at series B, because we’re so desperate to hit our revenue number. And so those are the things that I would really focus on, and more so, it’s about having hypotheses, and then validating them. And I think a lot of organizations don’t operate that way and are really afraid to experiment and fail. And I am not afraid of failure and I’m not afraid of getting fired from my jobs.
What I’m mostly afraid of is inactivity. I’m mostly afraid of paralysis, and I think it’s really important that organizations build a resilience to tension, because we don’t have the answers. No business has the answers, especially in post-COVID or COVID. I still think we’re in it. But post-COVID, we don’t have the answers to these things. So what you can do instead is be very intentional about where you point your time and energy.
Barry: That makes a lot of sense, and it keeps on coming back to data. If you don’t collect that data, then it’s hard to really benchmark yourself.
Jason: People collect so much data that is not useful. All I actually need is a trend analysis to show where I should focus because once you have that focus, and you can use design thinking processes, like simple frameworks, like the five whys, or even overstatements to prioritize strategy, you don’t need to have everything dialed in.
You need to know the four big ones that I just mentioned (3VC), across each of your potential ways that customers buy. It’s a very easy process. You can do it in Google Sheets. Go Nimbly built a tool to do it. It is a very feasible thing, because forecasting is not the same thing as actually seeing data trends back and making decisions off of it. And so many organizations focus just on forecasting as a measure of validation, when really, all that is a leading indicator and you can build models off of it, but you’re going to build models that are three to four months old.
Barry: There are a lot of moving pieces, including your gap from the MQL to the SQRO, the SDR to the AE. And then the AE has all of their opportunity pipeline, and there’s different pieces in that pipeline. It could be seven things in the funnel until closed, then you have the customer success and retention. Is that list 30 long, is it 50 long, that you have to figure out the value of volume across the organization?
Jason: Usually, most organizations have four to six legitimate buying pipelines. And it usually is new business, upsell, cross-sell, churn identification. Those are the ones, renewals, like churn renewals. Those are the same thing. Those ones, and then they usually come in some flavor of segmentation. And when I think about segmentation, I think about how do we make the majority of our money? And then what is this net new segmentation?
And then I let things emerge. So as an example, I don’t like to operationalize things that are not generating at least a million dollars of revenue. Because to operationalize that then takes away the experimentation and the things that actually work. When you were a series B company, the way you got to series B is by experimenting in that segmentation product fit. And so you should allow a portion of your team to continue to experiment and figure out what works there, and not try to operationalize it either as a CRO or an operator.
And the value of the Wild West, which is to allow people to experiment and tame, until that environment becomes too inhospitable for people to act that way. And then you start to refine and you start to bring law in order to that buying pipeline.
I think that we hire really smart people in these organizations. And I don’t think the value of RevOps is to not make mistakes. I think the value of RevOps is again, to optimize on the things that are working.
Barry: So the 15 and 26%, it comes from identifying those gaps and looking at not the forecast, but looking at the trend analysis.
Jason: If you’re going to build this for yourself, I look at the last three to six months of the business to find red zones. And red zones are things that are off by statistical margin. So I might see, “Okay, volume is down.” It was; we had 100 opportunities for the last three months and then it dropped down to 70 and then it dropped down to 40 and then it dropped down to 41. Well, what happened? Now, that might be that we change strategy.
Maybe we’re going after higher values. So let’s validate that value is going up while our opportunities go down. And then if that’s the case, I might just ignore that indicator. But it’s an indicator and a conversation that I would bring to my team and say, “Hey, what’s happening here?” And that is where the ideas generate from.
And then we go, “Okay, how could we solve this with marketing? How could we solve this with sales? How could we solve this with customer experience? How can we actually get the whole team involved in this, like it’s a team-based sport, to solve this problem that we’re seeing, even as far in as say, negotiation?” We see a conversion rate that drops in negotiation. Well, what happened? Well, we used to have James and James is a rockstar, and he really knows this segment.
And now James is the Head of Sales, and now he’s talking and negotiating with two segments and he doesn’t really know this other segment very well. So obviously, we can enable and educate James on that, but that’s only one thing. Maybe we can actually do something about the implementation process and bring someone from the service team in sooner on these segmented deals that we’re looking at.
And then over a period of time after we’ve deployed that tactic, we can actually see, “Oh, we saw a conversion go up by 3 or 4%, equating to this dollar.” We didn’t change the number of people we had working on this problem. We just changed the tactic and solving it. And it really is inch by inch. As much as people want a silver bullet in life, operating a business is inch by inch, and it’s taking the wins where you can find them and looking at tactics. Six months from now, if conversion’s flat, you may say, “Hey, I want that resource back. I don’t want an implementation person. I don’t want a CX person on the negotiation call. I don’t want that anymore.”
You take that person off the call as a tactic that you’re no longer doing, and if conversion stays the same, then you know you’ve resolved that problem. And it’s just that very real looking at it, like a product manager looks at the product and operating the business from that standpoint.
Barry: Obviously, the easiest thing to do would be to hire Go Nimbly, but if you’re not hiring Go Nimbly, is there a place where you can find this benchmark data?
Jason: Right now, there’s no place that you can find this benchmark data. I think the easiest thing for someone to do is find conversion data because VCs publish that from stage to stage. And then again, it’s like a game of golf. You can just make it about your organization, so yes, you would love to perform like Zendesk, but you’re not Zendesk.
So at the very minimum you could do is build your own historical reports. Usually outside of Salesforce, because you need something that can do analytical snapshots a little better than Salesforce, and do it on a monthly basis. You can build it in Google Sheets. You can build it in BI tool, if you have data scientists, whatever. And don’t make it so sophisticated, because all you’re looking for is trends that indicate something, indicate something to have a conversation with your team about. This is the number one tool that breaks down silos between departments, is understanding that it’s not about individuals.
It’s about the business process, and then bringing in the teams to solve this problem is a very real way that operators can engage and get return out from their people. I promise you that if you do this method, people’s asks of you individually about their own individual parts will begin to diminish. I get asked all the time, “Well, I’m asked to do a million things.”
Yeah. You’re asked to do a million things because you’re not involving them in the business’ pain, in which the business is seeing issues. Because what they’re saying they want to solve very well may be directly connected to the thing that you’re pulling from the data. And then you get buy-in, severe buy-in, and then later, when the thing they’re asking for doesn’t connect to the data, they also then go, “Okay, well this is a departmental problem, not necessarily a business problem. I’ll take care of that on my own.”
And most recently, and I’ll be honest about this, my opinion about administration of tools and where it sits, if it sits in RevOps, or if it sits in the departmental silos, I’m starting to think it doesn’t matter. I’m starting to think that if a marketing person needs a marketing automation person to churn out email campaigns very quickly, maybe that’s the nuts and bolts that the teams need. And technology is catching up where all that stuff is going to be AI-driven in the future anyway.
And so maybe you still have someone that’s servicing the day to day while the RevOps team is focused on a more strategic thing. That’s an area where I’m exploring how I feel, because before I was very adamant that technology should fall into the RevOps category, and now, I’m not 100% sure that will scale across all organizations. Early on, it will save you a lot of headache, but later, it may not.
Barry: Right. And it comes back to what you said in the beginning, four to one. If you have four RevOps professionals, one to every four go-to-market professionals, then you might have that luxury. But most people don’t do that. So if you don’t do that, then you need to take them out according to your logic, seemingly.
Jason: Yeah, right. Correct.
Barry: Tell me a bit more about Breadcrumbs before you go. In this context, now that we learned a lot more about revenue operations, you have the floor to talk about where you see Breadcrumbs going and what it’s doing now, where it’s going within the revenue operations world.
Jason: Yeah. So I don’t believe that most of the revenue operations software and I won’t name names, because I’m friends with a lot of these people, are actually RevOps software. I believe that they are marketed as revenue operations software, but they’re really about managing departmental silos. I do believe that there needs to be tools that focus on cross-functional use cases.
And this is as simple as, and I’ll use lead scoring as the very base example, lead scoring has been this thing that’s marketing owned for so long. And then these marketing leads get over to sales reps, and sales reps don’t work for them, the teams don’t like each other because of that. The sales team has a point, that these things don’t really convert, and it’s a lot of work for no reason. The markers have a point, “Well, we’re trying, and if we don’t work on these things, we’re not going to get enough data to solve these problems.”
So a tool like Breadcrumbs can actually connect to your product, to your website, to your CRM, and build a fit and activity score that degrades over time so that you can find surging behaviors that might be more interesting for the enterprise team to go after, as an example. And act as a way of saying, “Okay, everything that’s an A1 and A2 in this example, I’m going to push off. And the team has five days to solve this because they’re actually doing something that as a team we’ve said is important to act on now.”
While the other ones are going to go into a nurture campaign, and these other ones, we’re just going to leave alone. We’re just not going to do anything with them. We’re just going to allow them to keep doing behaviors until they get to a place or until our segmentation changes because they’re not a fit for us to actually act on. That process enacts every single part of the team.
And right now, that’s not automated at all, because what’s a score of 90? What’s a score of 100? It doesn’t actually matter what the score is. You need that algorithm behind the scenes, it needs to be able to be intelligent and smart, which we have a machine learning component. So ultimately, what we can do is learn from the behavior, but you also need to be able to go and control it because what if you want to build a new model for net new leads for a different segment that you’ve never gone after before?
You’re not going to have the data for machine learning to go and do that. And so that’s been the black box that a lot of marketing automation tools have done, and where I think revenue operations tools are going to end up, which validates what I think. And let me make hypotheses with the tooling that I have, so that I can go after net new things, that have not been proven in my market yet. And so that’s really what Breadcrumbs does. I urge people, check it out. It takes all that algorithm and puts it in a centralized place where people can look at it and it can connect to all of your different data sources.
Barry: And if people want to hear your podcast, where could they find that?
Jason: Kill Your Silos is on Spotify and on YouTube.
Follow Jason on LinkedIn