Digging into revenue operations with Conga’s Jeff Ford
5 min read
Today, leading organizations are making a fundamental shift from traditional sales management to a forward-thinking approach focused on revenue lifecycle management. Conga CMO Randy Littleson recently sat down with Jeff Ford, Senior Vice President of Revenue Operations at Conga, to talk about this evolution, as well as his own experience with revenue management.
Following are some key takeaways from Part 1 of their discussion. A recap of Part 2 is coming soon in a follow-up blog post.
The shift toward revenue operations
Randy: How would you define revenue operations as a function? How is it different from sales operations and what’s driving the shift?
Jeff answers the last part of this question first, explaining that there are several key factors contributing to the shift from sales operations to revenue operations:
- Proliferation of technology. Companies have exponentially more data than they once did. Much of this data is being generated by the new applications that are now available to support sales organizations. Customer relationship management (CRM) is a great example of this, as well as technology that enables teams to generate quotes and execute contracts. These solutions help to drive efficiency, whether it’s through conversational intelligence or leveraging intent data to ensure your offering aligns with what the customer is looking for.
- Breakdown of organizational silos. More and more, the operational barriers between traditional functions like sales, marketing, and customer service are coming down. There’s more cross-functional collaboration on things like go-to-market strategy and demand generation. Companies are also realizing the importance of working cross-functionally with finance and legal to streamline processes and improve the overall customer experience.
- A “change agent” mindset. When you combine these new applications, new processes, and tremendous amounts of new data, it’s clear that companies are dealing with unprecedented levels of change. The revenue operations function can obviously help the sales organization execute more efficiently, but its real value is in making sure the entire organization embraces these changes and adopts a new way of working.
He continues, “To answer your original question, the difference is that sales operations is really just one part of revenue operations. The easiest way to think about it is that revenue operation creates the news, while sales operations reports the news.”
Jeff explains that the role of revenue operations has expanded in recent years, so things that were once owned by other functional areas now often fall within the domain of revenue operations. These include:
- Customer data, which was traditionally owned by the IT organization
- Revenue data, previously under finance, which is now often co-owned by revenue operations
- Enablement, a function that was built into sales operations and may now report to revenue operations
- Go-to-market strategy, a traditional part of sales leadership that is now part of revenue operations
He concludes, “All of these things—new systems, new processes, increased collaboration, and realignment of traditional responsibilities—have really given rise to the revenue operations function and allowed them to serve as a business partner to sales.”
6 key areas of focus for rev ops
Randy: You’ve been with Conga for about a year now. What have you been focused on during that time?
Jeff responds, “Fortunately I’ve had a lot to keep me busy. As they say, being busy is always better than being bored.”
He outlines six areas where he’s been focusing his attention over the past year:
- Customer data and engagement platform. Data is vital to sales execution and growth. That means making sure that everything is set up in our CRM correctly so we can understand the relationships between Conga and its customers and prospects.
- Measurement, dashboards, and KPIs. You can’t execute without measurement, so it’s been critical to set up the right metrics for monitoring sales performance and growth.
- Cross-functional alignment. Growth is the ultimate goal of any sales organization, and a big part of growth is about simplifying sales processes and breaking down operational barriers.
- Software consolidation. Conga is the result of a merger between two separate companies, and we were using two different CRM instances in Salesforce to drive business. Consolidating those two instances has been a big win, as we now have a single source of data to inform business opportunities.
- Go-to-market approach. We’ve implemented a new go-to-market strategy in the last six months, so we want to make sure that everyone in the process is adding value, collaborating effectively, and not getting in each other’s way.
- Cross-sell and upsell. New business is important for any company, but so is maximizing your relationships with existing customers through cross-sell and upsell opportunities.
Top KPIs for revenue operations
Randy: You mentioned measurement, dashboards, and KPIs. Which KPIs are most instrumental to achieving your goals?
Jeff points to eight key performance indicators that are critical for measuring success:
- Demand generation. Simply stated, are you creating enough pipeline to achieve your sales goals?
- Progress toward plan. At any given time, you need to know where your sales stand in relation to your bookings target.
- Conversion rate. The goal isn’t necessarily to improve our win rate, but to leverage this metric for insights about the customer experience and how our products resonate in the market.
- Sales breakdown. It’s important to understand what percentage of revenue is coming from new business as opposed to cross-sell and upsell.
- Sales retention. This has all kinds of implications for customer experience, as well as success with cross-sell and upsell efforts.
- Employee retention. Monitoring attrition rate can deliver some surprising insights. Sales teams can’t function effectively if they’re constantly replacing headcount.
- Customer acquisition cost. Increasing your revenue as a percentage of costs is key to growth and efficiency. We measure CAC as a percentage of the total sales and marketing expenses.
- Sales productivity. This is closely related to many of the other KPIs listed here, but ultimately you need to know whether sales reps are hitting their numbers.
“We’ve also seen a fundamental shift across a variety of industries over the last three to six months,” Jeff continues. “Where companies were historically focused on top line revenue growth, they’re now paying more attention to bottom line profitability.”
He concludes, “This really speaks to the idea of efficiency—which is all about getting more out of an organization. Reducing operational expenses means I can potentially reinvest in sales hiring. And every dollar I invest in sales, on average, will generate about four dollars in revenue. That’s why driving operational efficiency is so important.”