There’s a fundamental tension between finance and sales teams. One manages resources, while the other spends those resources. Both are united by their focus on growing revenue—at least, they should be.
Relationships between sales and finance teams can be strained. I’ve seen this personally in my career, as has the Harvard Business Review.
“The relationship between finance and sales is often more confrontational than collaborative,” writes Ed Wallace, in HBR. “CFOs are trained skeptics, whereas sales leaders have to believe the next call will produce a deal.”
Yet to reach new levels of growth, finance, and sales teams must be true partners in go-to-market strategy. Otherwise, teams risk spending precious time on internal deliberations, rather than external initiatives that increase revenue.
As WalkMe’s vice president of global revenue operations, I make it a point to work closely with my counterparts in finance. I’m also a member of the Revenue Operations Council (ROC), a group of revenue professionals dedicated to sharing educational content, research, and best practices with the larger revenue operations community. A core tenet of our work is cross-functional collaboration.
Being a revenue operations leader, it’s my responsibility to make meaningful connections across teams and functions to drive growth at scale.
WalkMe is a leading digital adoption platform, and scale is something we know well. In June 2021, we celebrated the latest stage of our growth journey: WalkMe officially went public (NASDAQ:WKME).
Alignment isn’t always easy, but the payoff is worth it. Using the same system is an important building block for effective cross-functional collaboration. At WalkMe, we use Clari to bridge gaps in visibility between our finance and sales teams.
Historically, there’s been a vast gap between what’s happening in the field throughout the quarter and what gets reported up to finance. Deals accelerate, stall, and change in an instant. A lack of visibility can make finance feel like they’re chasing a moving target and constantly playing catch-up—never getting ahead.
Finance leaders can also be under informed when they make important decisions about investments, hiring, and growth. But predictable, accurate revenue provides clarity and a competitive advantage, empowering finance teams to make data-driven decisions.
With the reliable visibility that a revenue operations platform like Clari delivers, finance leaders can confidently make key financial decisions based on true revenue intelligence—rather than relying solely on revenue projections.
With Clari as a shared frame of reference between our teams, WalkMe has unlocked new levels of revenue visibility, shared understanding, and scale. Here’s how we did it.
Giving the finance office a new window into revenue operations
Pre-pandemic, when most of our WalkMe teammates worked in the office, my colleagues in finance would simply tap me on the shoulder to chat through expenses tied to sales. Now in today’s world of remote work, our collaboration looks a lot more like sharing a screen on Zoom.
I remember clearly the first time I showed our finance team Clari, because they were so eager to learn more. We were on a Zoom call, discussing revenue forecasting and our pipeline. I spend a lot of time in Clari, so it felt natural to me to reference it in our conversation.
I shared some insights and screens from Clari, and the finance team immediately asked me a flurry of questions:
- What are we looking at?
- Can we filter the pipeline by deal size or geography?
- How else can we query this data?
And the question that was music to my ears as a RevOps leader: Can we have access?
On the spot, I provisioned the finance team with access to Clari, so that they could slice-and-dice revenue data every way they needed.
Digging into the data that matters
Many times, the tension between finance and sales comes down to discrepancies in the data and even where that data comes from.
Reaching a consensus on what source your data comes from opens the door to new levels of cross-functional collaboration and shared understanding.
Like most finance teams, WalkMe’s finance team tracks and analyzes sales expenses. They also want specific answers to key revenue questions, including:
- How many net-new logos do we expect to close in a certain amount of time?
- What are our headcount expenses, segmented by role and department?
- How much pipeline does each department generate?
- How much business have we booked this quarter so far?
I was able to quickly teach our finance team how to use Clari and it’s analytics features. Soon enough, they were up and running—filtering by opportunity types, like expansions and upsells, and by pipeline source, like marketing vs. sales—to gain new levels of revenue predictability.
Now they get those answers in real time with Clari. For our sales and finance teams alike, sorting deals by specific criteria is so much faster than it would be in our CRM. We use Clari’s full set of analytics capabilities, including:
- Pulse to track week-to-week performance
- Trend to see accurate forecast projections
- Flow to gain full visibility into pipeline by region, sales rep, and time period
As we track our success, finance and sales need to align across four key performance indicators (KPIs):
We track these metrics in Clari. And because our finance team has access, we’ve reduced the back-and-forths, so our conversations are focused on taking strategic action—rather than debating the data.
Achieving scale while driving alignment
As companies scale, finance team’s need for visibility and data to drive decision making becomes even more important—and more complex.
In late 2020, WalkMe’s sales team nearly doubled. In the best of times, that’s remarkable—even more so during a year of extreme market volatility. True collaboration between our finance and sales teams helped make that happen.
Because we all had insights from Clari, we could see that the market was gradually warming up and demand for our solutions was rising. With that information, our finance and sales teams collaborated to add significant sales headcount. We did it because we were confident we had the volume to support more teammates.
Today, WalkMe continues to grow our sales headcount. That means we have a lot of people to train, let alone align. With our sales team using Clari, we’re all rowing in the same direction.
That alignment was especially vital as we shifted our focus to forecasting renewals to track net dollar retention (NDR). During that transition, we aligned our sellers and our customer success managers around key initiatives to manage both new revenue opportunities and churn, to further connect our revenue streams.
Clari’s customer success team stepped in right away and worked countless hours to get our sales teams up and running with our new NDR-focused model. We successfully brought all of our renewal business into Clari. Now we’re forecasting renewals in line with gross churn.
The revenue operations movement is all about making meaningful connections across teams to drive growth. Similarly, RevOps technology is all about making that process more predictable, scalable, and collaborative. For WalkMe, Clari delivered our teams the revenue insights and visibility we needed ahead of IPO.