The Rise of Rev Ops
The demand for exceptional Revenue Operations talent within software organizations is greater than it has ever been. Much like Customer Success, Rev Ops has gone through its own evolution over the last 10+ years and has now taken center stage. We have witnessed the Rev Ops function solidify its place and critical contribution to the executive leadership team by expanding its scope and becoming increasingly aligned with the overall business; not just Sales.
So what are the driving forces behind the Rev Ops revolution? And how should you think about the right type of talent for your organization — and when to hire that leader?
Let’s begin with why the Rev Ops role was created in the first place — and how it’s evolved over time to become a key decision maker for so many successful GTM strategies today …
The Origin & Evolution of Rev Ops
The role of Revenue Operations has become integral to enterprise revenue organizations. There are a number of contributing factors to this evolution as modern enterprise organizations are moving away from a traditional Sales Operations leader to a multi-functional Revenue Operations role. We break down some of these contributing factors below:
- The way we buy and sell technology has completely transformed. Technology buyers have become much more sophisticated, often researching before they buy to educate themselves pre-purchase. This development influences the way sellers sell and has opened up new channels of customer engagement and revenue generation through Marketing and Customer Success. The interplay between these groups is heavily intertwined and, in turn, the data and insights gathered through these teams require a central repository to drive better analysis and cohesion across an entire organization.
- Based on this transformation, multiple GTM components are now falling within Rev Ops; it’s become both deeper and wider than the original “Sales Ops” role. These leaders are coming in to play a key role in transitioning the existing sales ops/commercial ops org into a full-fledged revenue intelligence org. This can be a combination of Sales Operations, SDR Operations, Marketing Operations, Customer Success Operations, Enablement, Analytics etc.
- The Rev Ops function is progressive in nature — in today’s competitive digital and data-driven environment, not only is there demand for someone to drive robust revenue forecasting, but also to have insights into team planning, customer growth and retention. This requires a higher degree of strategic DNA (we discuss this below) that is closely aligned with overall business outcomes and can unify the connective tissue between various functions and lines of business.
- Tools & technology are redefining the category. The traditional route was to have a siloed tool for each team, but the trend is moving towards a broader, more seamlessly integrated technology for all GTM teams to contribute to the full customer lifecycle (à la Clari, People.ai, BoostUp.ai and Outreach, to name a few).
Today’s Rev Ops Leaders & DNA For Success
Broadly speaking, we find that Rev Ops leaders fall into two camps:
- Tools and systems oriented; or
- Consultative sales strategy background.
There are, of course, nuances to this declaration and various paths to success for Revenue Operations leaders; however, the type of DNA we see if Rev Ops leaders can influence team composition, overall ownership, and outcomes we can expect from these candidate archetypes.
Type 1: The ‘tools and systems’ Rev Ops exec will come in to scale existing systems and provide input into what sorts of technology is needed in a given situation.
Type 2: The ‘sales strategy’ leader will be more involved in longer-term GTM roadmaps and embedding a sales methodology into the rest of an organization. This is more common in a sales-led, enterprise motion with repeatable processes already in place.
Most often, we see the need for someone who is tools, systems, and process oriented to blend operational excellence with tactical alignment across revenue functions. That said, this type of leader is best suited joining an org where there is already a strong sales strategy leader in place, with a broad purview, to compliment this skillset.
Whichever camp this leader comes from, it’s essential that your Rev Ops exec has the following capabilities…
- Strategic partner to the broader C-Suite. Ability to present one unified, cohesive message to the broader executive team in order to break down silos and serve as the single point of truth for the C-Suite.
- Key stakeholder management: Can provide operational support for all field facing activities and work with Finance on budget, comp, and territory planning. This person should also be able to manage competing priorities effectively and drive a unified strategy and shared vision for Revenue Operations.
- Pattern recognition & predictability: Be a metrics-oriented leader to drive transparency across (a combination of) Sales, Marketing, and Post Sales processes. These activities drive repeatable motions and informed decisions — and provide a 360-degree view of the customer.
- Unification: Scale the revenue tech stack and offer a strong POV on what tools should be leveraged for various stages of growth.
The Right Rev Ops Leader For Your GTM Motion
The type of Revenue Operations leader needed depends on the type of GTM motion a particular company deploys – (PLG, sales-led, top down enterprise, land and expand etc.)
- It’s important for a Rev Ops leader to have a deep understanding of the size/complexity of the sales cycle at hand (i.e. someone from a strictly high-velocity selling environment will have a quicker time to ramp in 9-12 month sales cycles). This is why “Type 1” will excel in a bottoms-up motion, and “Type 2” in an enterprise-heavy, top-down motion.
- PLG environments tend to evolve from product-centric to customer-first development as they reach scale, and the range of buyers/audiences widens. A “Type 1” Rev Ops leader in this situation will help define and scale an operational framework that balances bottom-up and land & expand motions.
- In subscription-based and usage-based pricing models, retention is becoming a key factor in revenue growth – it’s essential to align the entire funnel from an operational and data perspective. A systems/tools leader will add the most value here (i.e. “Type 1”).
- If an enterprise SaaS company is looking to enter new markets, geos, and audiences with an existing offering, an exec team will need a strategic thought partner to inform a roadmap. A visionary, far-reaching sales strategy exec will excel in this type of environment (i.e. “Type 2”).
The moral of the story is that there is no “one size fits all” approach to Rev Ops. Every executive team defines it differently, and it is constantly evolving as customers, products, and paths to market change and enter new phases of scale.
When to Invest in a Rev Ops Leader
The majority of the time, we are partnering with mid to late-stage B2B SaaS companies as they look for either a first time leader in this capacity or want to level up talent as they plan for their next phase of growth (path to IPO etc.). A senior Rev Ops leader in these environments will come in as a player/coach to empower tactical alignment.
Our recommendation is for leadership teams to think ahead when mapping the timeline for hiring a Rev Ops exec. Rather than waiting for repeatable revenue to be reached, this function should be established once a solid product-market-fit is achieved. A successful Rev Ops function is the backbone of any strong GTM organization and it should grow alongside revenue teams.
Above all, prioritize and define Rev Ops for YOUR unique situation and organization. What functions will fall under your leader (enablement, deal desk, comp planning, territory planning, strategy, analytics, etc.)? What sort of background should they come from? What do current paths to market look like? There are a number of questions to ask and factors to consider when scoping this role — the key is to map out the needs and objectives of your GTM organization upfront.
The Future of Rev Ops
In the near term, as we face a market slowdown, your Revenue Operations leader is a key decision maker and partner in making tough decisions around re-forecasting, talent management and customer retention. It is essential your Revenue Operations leader partners with the C-Suite to further drive efficiency across the business.
What’s in store for the future of Revenue Operations? We anticipate the demand for great Revenue Operations talent to only increase from here. As the role continues to mature, grow and evolve, today’s leaders, and future leaders, will be the driving force to further define the function and expand its strategic reach and influence across multiple departments within software organizations.
SPMB’s Recent Revenue Operations Placements:
Asana | Head of Revenue Enablement
CB Insights | VP Revenue Operations
Smartsheet | VP Sales Operations & Productivity
Omada Health | Senior Director, Revenue Operations
Exabeam | SVP Revenue Operations
Motive (FKA KeepTruckin) | VP Sales Strategy & Ops
Grafana | VP Revenue Operations
HackerOne | VP Sales Operations & Strategy
Venafi | VP Sales Operations
Juniper Square | VP Revenue Operations
Redis | VP Revenue Operations (in progress)
If we can help support your organization from a leadership recruitment perspective now or in the future — or share current comp and market data — please contact us directly or visit us at SPMB.com.