• Revenue Operations

Building a Revenue Operations Team That Sells

Rosalyn Santa Elena

Rosalyn Santa Elena
Head of Revenue Operations

Building a Revenue Operations Team That Sells

I’m often asked how to structure a revenue operations team—who to hire, when, and how to organize that team—as a company grows.

In a previous article, I outlined when to invest in a full revenue operations staff, and what that first hire should look like. 

To be clear, this is how I think about revenue operations:

Revenue operations is the end-to-end business process of driving predictable revenue, across marketing, sales, renewals, expansion, and customer success through transparency and execution rigor. The role of Revenue Operations is to deliver visibility across the entire revenue team, improve efficiency across the revenue process, drive revenue predictability (especially around the sales forecast), and achieve revenue growth. 

Investing in RevOps is an investment in transparency and accountability. It offers the ability to operationalize growth at scale, with rigor that offers repeatable processes replicated throughout the organization to drive predictable revenue and growth. 

When you’re ready to think about building a revenue operations team, you should think about the entire operational team that will support the whole company as it grows from a few straightforward revenue processes, to more complex revenue streams.

So how do you move from a single operations leader to an entire team or division dedicated to a revenue operations framework?  

Just like the answer to “when should I invest in RevOps” relies on many factors unique to each company, there’s not one specific structure that works for everyone. But in this piece, I’ll examine trends and offer insights into how you can make team structural decisions based on your sales process and revenue goals.

What does a revenue operations team structure look like?

To start with, a RevOps team might consist of a single operations leader per division that works together to align revenue teams. I’ve also seen companies utilize a committee structure where someone from each team—that may work as a sales or marketing leader—serves on a revenue committee that reports to an overarching revenue leader. 

As a company grows, it will often form a separate revenue division that will consist of individuals whose sole responsibility is to support a RevOps function.

I typically see RevOps leaders report directly to the chief revenue officer, or whoever is in charge of revenue if the company doesn’t have a chief revenue officer. For instance, as the head of revenue operations at Clari, I report to Kevin Knieriem, our chief revenue officer. I help Kevin manage the RevOps process across Clari’s go-to-market teams.

A RevOps leader reporting to the CRO is most common for a number of reasons.

  1. Revenue operations positions often evolve out of sales operations. Many of my RevOps colleagues began in sales operations, which traditionally reports up to heads of sales or chief revenue officers. I spent almost 20  years with a sales operations title, even though my role gradually shifted to being the more encompassing role of RevOps. The flip side is true as well. Many people adopt the revenue operations title without having the full scope of operations across all go-to-market teams. What matters most is the core belief and dedication to creating visibility and rigor across the entire revenue process.
  2. While revenue is a team sport, the revenue process typically originates from net new logo sales. A focus on top of funnel pipeline creation and the post-sales renewal or cross-sell/upsell motions typically come later. For this reason, it often makes sense for RevOps to focus on serving the sales function first, then expand as the rest of the company grows.
  3. Sales leaders often evolve from heads of sales or chief sales officers to chief revenue officers. This new breed of revenue leader has an extended purview compared to past sales leaders, thanks to revenue model complexities and the emergence of SaaS. Today's CROs require visibility and coordination across the entire revenue funnel. This visibility is best provided by a dedicated revenue operations leader.

But the top of the revenue operations org chart depends on each company and that business’ goals. I am starting to see more companies moving the RevOps function under the chief financial officer or chief operating officer, where they might take a more impartial role overseeing the entire go-to-market operation. 

The array of placements demonstrates how RevOps can reside anywhere in a company structure. What’s most important is whether they’re empowered to drive alignment between all of the go-to-market teams. 

For instance, what happens if the operations leader reports to the chief revenue officer, and the CRO has direct responsibility for sales and post-sales, but not marketing? Is there full collaboration to extend policies and procedures across the company? To see the full value of a RevOps team within a company, there needs to be people, processes, and technology that will allow this to happen.

From there, the revenue operations leader builds the rest of their team. 

How to build a revenue operations team

I wish there was a magic ratio between the size of your sales team and the size of the operational support structure that works across most companies, but unfortunately there’s not. There are just too many variables. 

The number of sales reps or customer success experts you need in order to scale may vary widely depending on things like the complexity of your sales cycle. For example, you may have twice the number of sales reps as a company bringing in the same annual revenue because your average deal size is significantly smaller. Your selling motion may be more complex or you may have a longer sales cycle.

When reviewing how many operations professionals you need in order to scale, it’s better to use your own growth plan as the ultimate touchpoint. What gaps in operations are you missing that are prohibiting growth? For instance, you may need more support as you move down the sales funnel.

Typically, however, a revenue operations team might initially include the following roles as a starting point:

  • Sales operations: This includes sales-related functions like forecasting, opportunity management, sales process, deals desk, and compensation.
  • Data, analytics, and insights
  • Enablement
  • Systems and technology operations

As the company matures and expands, so do individual go-to-market teams. For instance, your customer success may eventually need their own operations team. When this growth begins, it’s useful to think of revenue operations as the overarching organization of these operations teams.

Once companies reach a certain size, many transition away from division-specific operations teams and build out function-specific revenue teams. For instance, a company may move to tech, enablement, processes, data, and strategy revenue teams.

Using this format, instead of only viewing sales or marketing operations, a revenue leader or team responsible for data, for example, would look at data across the sales funnel, end-to-end. This change further breaks down silos between departmental handoffs and supports revenue as a whole.

The challenge many companies face during this transition is that their existing operations talent might not have the expertise to manage a specific area, such as the tech stack, across multiple divisions across the entire revenue process. If the company is not willing to invest in multiple people sitting under that function, they can get stuck. 

When building out a separate revenue operations division, you’ll need a wide range of talent that can strategize and build infrastructure across the entire revenue funnel. 

As you grow, whether you’re maintaining a counsel of operations leaders that come from each respective go-to-market team, or you’re structuring the team horizontally across functions, such as strategy, enablement, systems and technology, the primary goal is to ensure the entire team is aligned, especially across strategy, objectives, data,  and success metrics.

Why you need a dedicated revenue operations team

No matter where the RevOps function resides or how it’s structured, the revenue operations team members serve as liaisons and strategists across all revenue teams. In this way, investing in RevOps is less about how the team is structured and more about a commitment to collaboration and alignment.

A dedicated RevOps team examines the big picture of how the strategy, goals, data, metrics, and actions of each team work together to drive predictable revenue for the company. The team can assign and review these metrics to provide full visibility and alignment across all teams. These shared success metrics also aid the company’s efforts to successfully forecast revenue and pinpoint your pipeline needs. 

Add a tool that provides seamless data, like Clari, and RevOps leaders can have that big picture at their fingertips, in an instant. You can glance at Clari to see which deals are moving up the sales funnel at a reliable pace toward sign-off, and which are stuck and need more work. In Clari, you can see how much pipeline you need to reach your goals this quarter, and how much you'll need—and have—next quarter, and which departments might need more support from RevOps.

These are examples of how a RevOps structure can support your entire sales funnel and goals for reliable, predictable sales forecasting and growth.

Read more:

Revenue Operations: What it Takes