Alexander Group’s 2021 Operations Forum virtual event brought together revenue leaders across verticals to discuss how the customer experience (CX) imperative has elevated the role and importance of operations. Industry leaders from technology, healthcare, manufacturing & distribution, life sciences, media, and general business sectors shared their operational responses to recent pivotal events – and voiced that they depend on Revenue Operations to build and execute the sales strategy of the future.
Despite the pandemic and the resulting economic consequences, B2B buyers expect an exceptional CX from their business partners. Leaders are taking note to ensure these higher expectations are met both before and after the sale.
As one leader noted, “Buyers research 50% of what they need before calling us. Our job is to provide the research they need for the first half of their journey.”
Forum attendees and speakers are investing in data analytics to refine customer personas, identifying buying behaviors that target a customer’s anticipated product purchases. In addition, leading companies are crafting customer roadmaps that pair buyer expectations and business strategy, segmenting customers and employing new tactics to capture market share.
This new buyer journey requires companies to update their revenue model, simplify processes, improve pipeline monitoring, deploy new tools, and manage new data sources. This comprehensive approach drives the need for a Revenue Operations organization that leads the company in delivering the next chapter of CX.
The new CX journey requires a mindset transition from a linear “buy and renew” mentality to a circular, continuous consumption approach backed by an updated revenue model. First seen in the software sector, the subscription-based revenue model fulfills routine purchases, offers expansion opportunities, and creates a recurring income stream.
Delivering CX through this circular revenue model requires a focused organizational commitment. Sales, Customer Success, Service and Operations teams must earn customers’ trust daily. This commitment must extend to business partners, distributors and third-party sellers, who must align and deliver on the CX commitment.
Organizations need to train customer-facing staff, including field marketing specialists, account management, customer success, and service, to identify and communicate customer pain points. Sharing data and customer insights via CRMs and team meetings keep sales and account management aware of expansion opportunities and avenues to deliver greater CX. Every voice across the organization contributes to rapid customer issue resolution while securing and expanding recurring revenue.
“At Cisco, we’ve gone from linear-like land and renewal to now our racetrack. As you go around the racetrack, you land it, help them adopt the service, help them expand it, and renew it. What’s most fascinating is the offer structure has to change. We focus on the core of the outcome needed for the end customer that can be taken through the channel motion.” Brenda Dennis, VP, Client Experience Services (CES) – Americas Regional Operations, Cisco
“This is the heart and soul of transformation. It’s about putting the customer journey in the middle, mirroring it with what is more important. It’s about what incentives look like. About 2/3 of our revenue goes through distribution. As we roll out our websites, it has to not just be customer-facing on inventory but also mirroring that elsewhere. It’s important that we all understand the customer’s journey to serve better. Sharing data is key to that. Also, ease of business. It’s about integration. It’s no longer a supplier and distributor relationship. It’s about the stickiness.“ Jasneet Kaur, VP, Channel & Sales Excellence, nVent
“With the evolution of the non-linear journey, customers demand change. They’re part of the cross-customer impact. There’s change along the whole process. Our three core pillars are customer acquisition, customer success and customer expansion. Our customers appear across the three pillars. We put investments across the three pillars. Partners are very successful across the three pillars. There is a clear role in the non-linear path. It’s an approach of making an impact across the three pillars.” Sawan Deswal, VP, Global Alliances & Partners, Conga
“The non-linear journey is the key to what we do, breaking down the silos. It’s moving from silo-based approach to the horizontal approach where all parts are integrated. It challenges the idea that everything has to be perfect before we launch. We have to change offers quickly, get partners trained and operationalized, etc. It’s changing the culture that everything has to be perfect.” Brenda Dennis, VP, Client Experience Services (CES) – Americas Regional Operations, Cisco
Leaders agree that no amount of automation will improve a flawed operational process. Instead, it is imperative to find the links that block exceptional CX. As a result, companies focus on removing the bottlenecks that prevent cross-departmental collaboration and affect customer outcomes.
Business Process Improvement (BPI) is at the core of Salesforce’s growth, notes Scott Henderson, EVP, Global Revenue Operations, Salesforce. “Our COO, Bret Taylor, says, ‘to go fast, we need to simplify.’ To go faster, we need to make things even simpler.”
Organizations must focus on their customer’s desired outcomes and develop the most straightforward path to get there. Removing boundaries, impediments and agendas is as essential as using automation to remove redundant tasks.
Akin to simplicity, agility requires organizations to focus on customer pain points and outcomes while quickly developing go-to-market solutions. Data is essential to that process.
Sandeep Sachet, EVP, Customer Information Management and Operational Excellence, Wolters Kluwer shared how agility is ingrained in their organization. “When you think about it, ‘agility’ means ‘the ability to act fast.’ The operative word here is ‘action.’ We recognize that to keep our [data] sensors action-oriented is incredibly important. They must be connected to the connective tissue of our revenue and cost operations. The earlier in the structure, the more we can act fast with our customer-facing functions before the customer realizes there has been a disruption. So we kept our sensors very closely integrated in the operations world.”
Across verticals, leaders agree that sales reps must stay close to the customer, communicate problem areas, and work within the organization to deliver value. However, this mandate is a tall order for reps who do not have access to critical customer information, are not adequately trained, have outdated tools or are bogged down with administrative tasks.
Today’s sales reps need to be in constant motion, identifying opportunities and supporting customers. High-growth firms invest in hardware and enablement tools that keep the entire organization connected and open to customer opportunities. Updated devices and apps keep Sales connected in the field while training and coaching align them with company strategy and goals. In addition, leaders are doubling down on metrics to track sales rep productivity, sharing that information with their teams with complete transparency.
“In the past, we’ve seen that many of our people are generalists. They did everything, identifying, retaining, delivering, all of it. We’ve moved into more specialized roles to free up the sales person’s time to manage the strategic relationships and drive revenue. We have had success. We have created account management. We have created post-sales project management who are in charge of adoption. The account manager has the daily responsibility of engaging with buyers. Once the sale is closed, it goes into the system, is driven through to completion, and the client experiences the value.” Yaron Zimmerman, EVP, Transformation, Dynata
“If there’s a standard process part of that journey, we have people and scripts for that. If things fall through the cracks, it’s up to the salesperson to resolve it, becoming cumbersome on seller time. When they spend the time in the right place, the deeper the sales reps understand customer needs, and it sets up for a richer renewal conversation and upselling.” Jason Kofman, Managing Director, Sales & Customer Service, Moody’s Analytics
Pipeline health will either “feed” or “starve” a sales team. Poor pipeline health reasons range from insufficiently qualified leads to outsized resources relative to opportunity. What’s the cure?
Traditionally, organizations relied on field reps to maintain relationships, grow new accounts and feed the pipeline. However, the pandemic locked out many field reps from their customers’ premises, forcing companies to move to a digital model to attract and retain customers.
As an alternative to personal selling, organizations heavily invested in digital marketing and lead generation. Digital is here to stay, and internal teams are advanced marketing tools to improve the number of qualified leads to keep sales teams in motion.
Leaders find that these critical digital investments drive better customer engagement, particularly in post-sales and service. For example, virtual events and meetings, new tools and apps, digital marketing, and CRMs and connected systems help companies understand how customers are using products and deliver more value.
Enhanced scoring approaches are driving predictive marketing and presales insights. Companies are investing more in high-value virtual demos customers and prospects can readily access. In addition, training investments in data and technical fluency among customer service and success technicians help these roles identify trends across those services.
As companies began to work remotely, they were concerned about seller productivity, scheduling meetings, and driving outcomes. “We were pleasantly surprised by the willingness of prospects to take meetings with us. Reddit also saw a huge boost in user engagement. We benefited from that because everyone was at home looking for a community to belong to.” Kevin Tan, Senior Dir., Business Operations & Analytics, Reddit
“The pipeline metrics are critical to us as an organization. We have a huge focus on the quality of the pipeline, and as a result, we’ve doubled our conversion rates. We look at the health of the opportunity and have a data scientist who developed a specific method for us. We look at every opportunity and predict the outcome. Our pipeline health is a combination of engagement – our outreach to the customer – and the customer’s outreach back to us. We combine engagement with metrics about time and stage. We look at how long it takes to lose or win a deal and the time in between. If we find an outlier to that time frame, there’s a risk we must address.” Lisa Agrella, VP, Global Sales Operations, Quest Software
“We look at qualitative and quantitative aspects. If we see a customer score trailing off, we look at the last conversation to understand the circumstances. For instance, if something stalls out at the late stage of the pipe, we find out what is happening at that stage. With the qualitative data, we can ask if it is pricing, security, or another issue. We receive and unpack the signal to understand what is happening with the customer.” Bryan Bayless, VP, Revenue Operations, Gong
Across industries, companies are investing in data analytics to segment customers and deliver enhanced CX, including tools and talent that reveal new customer behavior insights. However, the two bottlenecks they encounter are 1) finding skilled data analytics talent, and 2) accurately interpreting the insights produced by analytics. Organizations overcome those hurdles by leveraging data scientists across functions while pairing operations and data professionals to define actionable insights.
Data transparency and operational truths are the goals of these investments, as leaders search for ways to maximize organizational resources. Collaborative teams analyze data streams ranging from CRMs to social media, creating customized early warning systems that alert Revenue Operations and Sales organizations to changing customer and market behaviors.
“The more automation you have, the simpler you can make the pipeline, the more insights you can drive into the data. Then the more predictive engagement you can have with your customers, the more actions you can drive with customers because you better understand how they are using your products and the stage of the journey you are in. Recognizing that, identifying that, and using it to drive actions is where the secret sauce lives.” Biren Fondekar, CXO, Head of Customer Experience, NetApp
Developing tools that create a deeper connection between users and data is essential. Change management approaches will help employees trust, understand, validate and use data insights while driving better decisions that deliver enhanced CX.
“We believe in understanding the connection between individuals and processes by asking three key questions:
You have to find your process or methodology and run it in your technology to see if it works.” Julien Lesaicherre, Chief Revenue Officer, Pigment
“The sales and commercial teams came in saying, by giving me an account with a 360֯ view and merging that data set, you’re helping me understand not only where I’m having issues but blending in other data feeds with the propensity to buy.” David Houston, VP Optimization & Delivery, Merchant Solutions Global Operations, FIS
“We use a ‘pull not push’ approach to gain user acceptance of new tools. We identified initial groups who were interested, shared market data and trained people to interpret insights. As word spread about our successes, sales leaders joined in to share with their teams.” Stuart Kerst, VP, Global Field Sales Operations, Workday
“The most recent data ask is to get all of the key 5-10 data points into a single pane. Previously, we had multiple panes for key metrics. I’ve been working with the CRO, CFO, COO and other leaders to get everybody on the same page with a single view. I think organizing the entire organization around the metrics that matter most. It’s incredibly challenging but very rewarding.” Bryan Bayless VP, Revenue Operations, Gong
Keeping the customer as the control point of the organization is no easy feat. It requires coordinating with Marketing, Sales, IT, Operations, Product Development and business partners to deliver on the value proposition consistently. So who should remain at the center of this effort to provide CX while optimizing revenue?
Alexander Group has found that many of today’s companies would rather hire an additional Revenue Operations person than a new seller. With changes in the customer engagement model and complexity of the operating environment, the value of the new Revenue Operations capability often outweighs the sellers of old. Today’s leaders know that Revenue Operations teams help with strategic differentiation and scale by improving sales techniques and delivering the last mile of delivery and service satisfaction.
Revenue Operations is emerging as the trusted advisor to the C-Suite, delivering on the corporate strategy goals through coordinated efforts and clear metrics. The path to becoming a trusted advisor includes:
Revenue Operations is in a unique position to contribute to strategy and execution while also uncovering new opportunities, mapping out the capabilities required to capitalize on them.
These challenges require today’s Revenue Operations leaders to have experience in everything from sales strategy to IT requirements. Firms must ultimately groom Revenue Operations leadership similar to other strategically critical functions.
“We have the imperative to reduce energy consumption. We spend 95% of our time in buildings that consume 40% of the world’s energy. Our areas of focus include transforming how sellers sell, challenging the way they hire and train, and moving to a subscription-based mechanism, primarily through loyal partners.” Patrick Hogan, Chief Commercial Officer, Honeywell Building Technologies
“We established a charter for the sales organization that included a vision, restructuring our organization, and creating a strategy of the commercial business. Later, we evolved into a customer-centric organization wrapped around different customers and invested in technology to free up resources. I put a leader in place to lead it and help me own it. Up to our board level, we have presented out where we are going to revolutionize and change and organize our business and the way we support our customers.” Lana Lee, Global Head of Sales Operations, U4B, Uber
As the economy emerges from the pandemic, revenue organizations are going full steam ahead while balancing customer access restrictions. Many companies underwent a forced digital transformation in less than a year while simultaneously improving how they deliver value. Going forward, they will use both in-person and digital means to connect with customers and provide the next evolution of CX.
Next on the sales agenda is to gear up for a new mindset, shifting sales organizations from work-from-home routines to the new hybrid of field and digital sales infrastructure. Revenue Operations will play a pivotal role as not just a trusted advisor but a pathfinder, helping organizations find their way in the midst of new business realities.
“Part of what I think as a pathfinder is the value of it expands to include marketing in service ops and bring insights proactively. What we do to incorporate sales is to talk about client engagements. We can track meetings and activities at the client level. We can say we are getting good tractions in these sorts of environments to give greater insight into those engagements’ topology. “ Jeff Taylor, SVP, Strategy, Client Solutions & GTM Operations, Pegasystems
Organizations will continue to navigate customer access restrictions, supply chain glitches and transitions to a “new normal” depending on the business sector. To re-energize sales teams, companies are improving their digital connections to ensure CRM data is current and re-establishing quotas that have been off the table for a year, while keeping CX front and center.
“We believe that volatility, uncertainty and complexity are the new realities. Business models must incorporate those. Given that disruptions are here to stay, we evolve our system to be agile by design. We focused on two key elements. First, we needed a robust set of sensors that can uncover the fast-changing needs of our customers in real-time. Second, having a decision-making process that is ready to act on new and emerging trends. Both are important.” Sandeep Sacheti, EVP, Customer Information Management and Operational Excellence, Wolters Kluwer
At HP, they have adopted a hyper-personalization approach, believing that each printer helps customers create a customized manufacturing system within their homes. Therefore, the CX required for this buyer requires thinking of not just a “Consumer” but a “Prosumer – Consumer and Professional User.” Christoph Schell, Chief Commercial Officer, HP, outlined their three-step personalization approach to delivering CX to Prosumers:
1. Build flexible products and services
2. Create a “Segment of One”
3. Create sticky relationships
Schell believes their organization succeeds by transitioning from the mindset of “owning” a customer relationship to a flexible, personalized relationship that gives the Prosumer what they want before they know they want it. Creating a company aligned around that concept requires leadership and a daily commitment throughout the organization to deliver exceptional, future-thinking CX.
Leaders are rapidly learning how to align with customers and pivot their operations for an exceptional CX. What will Executives learn from 2021 as they prepare for an eventful 2022?
Join us for Alexander Group’s 2021 Performance Management Symposium or Executive Forum as we explore insights from Revenue Leaders across industries.