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Exploring key technology innovations with Forrester’s Seth Marrs

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The tools and technology that shape today’s revenue processes are constantly changing. Seth Marrs, principal analyst at Forrester, recently sat down with us to talk about the evolution of revenue operations and the value that various solutions can provide to businesses today. Following are some key takeaways from the conversation.  

The revenue approach depends on collaboration 

There’s been a lot of discussion about revenue teams and the move to a revenue approach. How is this different from a traditional sales approach? 

“I think it starts with collaboration,” Seth responds. “When you just look at the terms themselves, ‘revenue’ and ‘sales’ seem like the same thing. But ‘sales’ doesn’t leave a lot of room for collaboration with other functions like marketing or customer success. By calling it a revenue team, we’re including all the customer-facing teams that facilitate the interaction with buyers.”  

He continues, “For us, the revenue team involves sales, marketing, and customer success working in collaboration to manage customer needs and focus on the customer experience. That’s the core of how we think about the revenue team.”   

The role of revenue lifecycle technology 

There’s a lot of technology available to help drive revenue, and one of the roles that analysts can play is to help people better understand those various solutions. What role do you see solutions like Conga playing in the revenue ecosystem? 

Seth replies, “A tool like Conga plays a critical role in connecting the revenue team with the rest of the business. Even if you have sales, customer success, and marketing working together on the front end, you need a connection point to the back office—including finance, legal, and manufacturing.” 

He explains that many companies lack that connection point, which means they aren’t able to connect customer-facing activities to the rest of the business. They can’t get the right data to sellers and marketers, so they can do their jobs more effectively. They also can’t facilitate the sales process through finance and legal, which play a big role in revenue generation. 


How revenue lifecycle tools add value to interaction capture 

You’ve also written about “interaction capture” tools, like Gong and People.ai, that are able to capture business/seller discussions. What value can a revenue lifecycle tool contribute to interaction capture? 

Seth believes that revenue lifecycle tools can add significant value to the interaction capture equation. As he explains it, it’s one thing to know that a phone call happened and quite another to know what was said on the call.  

“When it comes to buying behavior, there’s a similar need to know more than just what the customer bought. Revenue lifecycle tools add value by providing a view into what the transactional data really means,” he says. “They give you visibility into whether a customer is buying the same amount as usual, or if they’re suddenly buying less. And if the purchase amount drops, revenue lifecycle tools can help you figure out what to do about it.” 

Other valuable use cases include:  

  • Conducting like-customer reviews to develop target buyer profiles and identify new prospects 
  • Analyzing insights from the quoting and buying process to uncover cross-sell and upsell opportunities. 

Seth concludes, “These are all big opportunities to drive growth, but they tend to be invisible for companies that don’t have a revenue lifecycle tool.”  

The evolution of “next best action” technology 

There’s a lot of discussion these days about “next best action,” a capability that’s been available to some degree in quoting solutions for years. What’s different about how people are talking about “next best action” today versus what we’ve seen before? 

“The concept is very much the same as what you see in quoting systems, where you’re guiding the seller to configure each quote in the best possible way. It also plays heavily in ecommerce, where you’re guiding a buyer through the process of purchasing a product,” Seth responds. “What we’re talking about today is really combining the two for B2B, so you’re looking across all interactions rather than just a one-off sale.” 

He explains that because the B2B buying process is more complex than a typical B2C purchase, it involves far more interactions across a variety of channels. “Next best action” technology for B2B looks across all those interactions to see what steps a buyer has already taken—like visiting your website to search for a specific product or calling support to ask a specific question—and uses that information to determine what the next action should be. 

“It’s a more sophisticated approach to ‘next best action’ that aggregates all of the previous interactions to inform the next one,” Seth concludes. 

5 must-have tools for top sales organizations 

There’s no shortage of tools available for sales organizations today. If a company wants to have a best-in-class sales organization, what are the must-have tools they should invest in? 

Seth lists five critical solutions for best-in-class companies. He says the first four are absolute must-have tools for today: 

  1. Customer relationship management (CRM): Every company needs a place to store customer data, and that’s your CRM. There’s some debate over whether CRM technology will continue to exist in its current form, and it may evolve over time—but it will be around for the long-term. 
  2. Quoting tool: Especially in the B2B world where sales are complex, you need a quoting tool that can connect your products and selling processes in an efficient way. 
  3. Content management: As a seller, you need to have the right content to help you execute at every stage in the selling process. 
  4. Sales performance management tool. Sales reps are paid on commission, so you need a tool to facilitate that process and incentivize sellers efficiently and effectively. 

“I believe the fifth solution is on its way to becoming a must-have, and that’s a tool for revenue operations and intelligence. You need something that can aggregate interactions to help you analyze what’s really going on in deals, help your reps sell more, and inform the overall business strategy,” Seth concludes. “I may be biased because I write in this area, but to me, these are the five must-have technologies to run a high-level sales organization.” 

To learn more and get first-hand insights, watch the full video with Forrester principal analyst Seth Marrs.   
This blog post is an abbreviated version of the video that's been condensed and edited for readability.

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