Sales leaders often ask me when they should start building out their Revenue Operations engine.
My answer: As soon as possible.
There’s no specific revenue level or number of customers that marks the right time to kick start this process, which usually involves hiring an operations leader who establishes a vision for aligning the entire customer journey and building out vital revenue processes.
One of the core goals of Revenue Operations, or RevOps, is to align your go-to-market infrastructure from end-to-end. The danger of investing in RevOps too late is that you build teams and processes that don’t work well together as you scale.
But that remains a vague example. You’re probably not hiring a RevOps leader as employee number three, for example. So how do you decide when to transition to revenue operations, bring on a RevOps leader, and start thinking about how to activate a revenue operations structure?
What does a revenue operations team do?
Revenue operations is the end-to-end business process of driving predictable revenue, across marketing, sales, renewals, and expansion 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, and achieve revenue growth.
An investment in a revenue operations framework includes not just hiring for one position, but also ensuring your tech stack allows accurate, real-time data to flow seamlessly along the customer journey.
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.
It's a decision made by company stakeholders and the entire revenue team to start operating with a new way to revenue.
The risks of not making these investments—or making them too late—are plentiful.
For example, siloed teams employ different processes and goals that cause friction at the points where teams work together. Without proper oversight among revenue teams, the sales funnel sprouts holes.
Prospects can get lost during a handoff. You can lose track of valuable insights that can help your sales and customer success teams stay properly informed and enabled. Disconnected data and a bring-your-own-report mentality plague productivity. Teams sporting different identities, interacting in different ways with customers and prospects, risk damaging the affinity for a company.
What are the benefits of revenue operations?
Investing in revenue operations means you have an entire team—or even just an individual contributor—dedicated to making the revenue process more connected, efficient, and predictable.
This means everyone on the revenue team is aligned on the target and understands how to execute. Technologies are connected across organizational silos, allowing all relevant stakeholders to have the same view into a single source of truth, and processes are run with operational rigor through integrated cadences, including sales one-on-ones, forecast calls, pipeline calls, QBRs, and more.
The result is transparency and accountability from the boardroom to the front line, ensuring the entire revenue team is in lockstep as it operationalizes growth at scale.
In practice, this means everyone can see what’s going on in their deals, territories, and business, and everyone knows exactly what they need to do and when to do it.
Some executives believe a data analyst can handle this role. That misses the full picture of revenue operations. Or they haven’t bought into the holistic vision of revenue operations. If they don’t understand the value, they’re not ready to invest.
On the flip side, you’re ready to invest in RevOps when you want the following:
- A predictable revenue process
- Data insights to better understand your business
- Sales forecasting metrics and revenue process optimization to enable and incentivize your teams
- Silos torn down among sales, marketing, and finance teams, bringing everyone into alignment
Let’s break down what this investment looks like.
How do you transition to revenue operations?
I won’t lie. It’s difficult to find one person who can lead a go-to-market strategy and handle day-to-day operations at the same time.
A common mistake I see is executives asking sales reps or sales managers to cover RevOps tasks, like pulling sales reports, analyzing sales metrics, or designing processes. If you think about it, you're paying a sales manager or sales director a lot of money to do things that are likely not their strengths. And, whenever they're doing something internally focused, they're not doing what they’re best at—selling.
Another mistake companies make is hiring for cost, and not for impact. I often see firms hiring a junior or mid-level person with three to five years of experience, and expecting them to have deep expertise in the full funnel—in sales, marketing, and customer success. They likely won’t have the experience necessary to lead an end-to-end strategy. Furthermore, when one person is expected to do everything, they aren’t equipped to build something comprehensive that can scale.
What happens then? Well, when the company needs to hire a more experienced RevOps leader to reach the next level of growth, that new leader often has to spend several cycles cleaning up the existing infrastructure—the data, processes, and systems— and then rebuilding, so the company can scale.
Do you need to hire a VP of RevOps from the start? Probably not, but I do recommend finding someone who understands the entire revenue funnel and who has experience building infrastructure around processes and systems.
When should you invest more in revenue operations?
For early start-up businesses, I recommend making that first operations hire when your founder is no longer your primary sales person. When you have a sales leader and small sales team in place, you feel confident about your product market fit, and you’ve started seeing sales momentum, you’ll want someone who can leverage your learnings and insights to build a solid revenue foundation.
A mature RevOps plan includes managing, owning, and strategizing for the entire go-to-market process, but when you're starting, you might not need that end-to-end operations function yet. For example, you may not be ready to build out full support for back-end post-sales or customer success support. You may not have an internal marketing team in place.
But you can start gathering the pieces of plan.
A good starting place is to look at the most critical needs of your current revenue process and then what expertise you already have within the team and in the organization that can be leveraged in place of a full revenue operations team.
For example, you may have a strong demand generation resource that can help with operations from a marketing perspective. Or you may have strong finance support that can help with planning and compensation.
After assessing the biggest gaps between what you need for the business versus what strength you have on the team, you can start to plan for your first hire, your second hire, and so on.
Start and invest as early as possible. Ultimately, the goal is to have a fully functioning, comprehensive, RevOps function to help enable and optimize your revenue process.