Welcome to the first article in a multi-part series that will help you find the perfect fit for your revenue operations team. Because revenue operations often spans technical system administration, data analytics, enablement, process management, and project management, we’ll break down the different functions to cover them in more detail.
While it is possible to find someone who can pull off all of these functions, we feel obligated to point out that placing the burden of managing all of these components on one human will not set them up for success.
When you find a rockstar who enjoys their work, we recommend letting them focus on what they do best to avoid burnout.
Back in the not-so-distant past of siloed operations, professionals generally specialized in applications that supported a specific department. Very few people have worked across the entire array of applications that span marketing to customer success, and that’s okay!
Managing a CRM is a full-time job. Managing a marketing automation platform is a full-time job. Managing a customer success platform is a full-time job.
To know the ins and outs of each system, stay on top of regular feature releases and code updates, and be able to dedicate the amount of time necessary to manage each of these systems well, we recommend you hire a professional for each area and allow them to continue their education on other systems if they express an interest.
As someone who has managed CRMs, marketing automation platforms, and customer success owned ticketing systems, I can confidently say that had I attempted to manage any of these platforms simultaneously, I wouldn’t have been as successful in my career. It’s best to build up one area of expertise at a time as the sole administrator. If you have a primary administrator and are looking for a junior admin to span multiple systems, this is more doable.
These requirements and interview questions assume you are looking for a primary administrator.
When looking for a marketing automation platform expert, search for several years of experience on any given platform, not just the platform your organization purchased.
All marketing automation platforms perform the same functions. They store contact information and enable marketers to interact with these contacts en masse. As long as someone understands how everything they do upstream in a marketing automation platform impacts the systems downstream, your candidate will be able to step into a marketing automation management role.
A short list of requirements:
Why do we recommend some analytics background?
While we’re not recommending you look for someone with query language experience, we recommend that you find a professional who understands the basics of data structure. They should know how different objects relate to one another so they can build you a contact database that will scale to meet future reporting needs. System administration and reporting capabilities are too intertwined not to require some overlap.
Q: Which marketing automation platform do you prefer and why?
Why it’s asked: This question is meant to gauge whether or not the person you’re interviewing will insist you immediately switch platforms before you’re ready. If they’ve only had experience in one platform and aren’t confident with your platform, that may be okay if they’re willing to dig in and learn. Often the investment in training is well worth hiring someone who checks all of the boxes.
Example Answer: I prefer Marketo because I’ve found its integration with Salesforce to be more seamless than Eloqua’s integration. I’ve never worked with Hubspot before, but I hear the workflows are easier to set up in Hubspot than Marketo and are visually similar to Eloqua, so I’m sure I can quickly pick it up.
Q: Do you have any certifications?
Why it’s asked: Some people can test well, and others haven’t taken the time to become certified but have plenty of experience, so this question should only be used as one of many to determine whether your candidate is a fit.
Example Answer: Yes, in Marketo and Pardot. I don’t think it’s a good idea to be dependent on one platform.
Q: Have you used custom objects in Marketo, and would you recommend them?
Why it’s asked: Asking about custom objects or whether or not certain objects exist are good ways to confirm someone has experience in a platform.
Example Answer: I have, but only because it was a workaround for an integration. I wouldn’t recommend it. Since custom objects don’t seamlessly integrate with Salesforce, they’re generally more of a headache than they’re worth. If I had a chance to do it all over, I would have gone with a tool that has a standard integration.
Q: Name a time you faced a system challenge that could have been avoided and how you handled it?
Why it’s asked: Humans make mistakes. How we deal with mistakes differentiates a bad admin from an excellent admin.
Example Answer: We had an opportunity to either start our Marketo instance from scratch or overhaul the existing instance. I was worried about losing data--and it was my first time overseeing a Marketo instance. Had I known that the 300 plus custom fields created by switching bolt-on applications over and over by my predecessor couldn’t be deleted, I would have done a data migration into a new instance and started over.
Q: Explain how you’ve prepared a company to handle a new privacy law?
Why it’s asked: The marketing automation specialist manages a large volume of personal data and should understand the laws that impact how the team can or can’t use the data. Look for experience with implementing a process for GDPR, CPRA, or CCPA.
Example Answer: Our team sold to EMEA, so I had to figure out how to implement all of the necessary pieces for GDPR. I worked with the legal team to write up our privacy policies, gave our minimum requirements and future requirements to web operations for cookie handling, and built a process in Marketo to record explicit opt-ins, including the date they opted in and how they opted in. This also included a double opt-in for Germany and an opt-out process complete with date and time stamps. At the time, we didn’t delete all information but had a process on standby should we need to take that measure. These were early days, and best practices hadn’t been established yet.
While you definitely want someone with technical chops, said person also needs to interact diplomatically with a large volume of people spanning departments. I look for people who:
Ultimately, you can train people to ramp up the technical skills. You can’t change someone’s character. How they respond to stressful situations matters more to me than whether or not they’ve set up an integration between On24 and Marketo.
Q: Name a time you made a mistake supporting a campaign and explain how you handled it?
Why it’s asked: I want to know that my prespective employee will fess up the minute something goes sideways instead of trying to sweep it under the rug. I don’t want the greatest admin of all time. I want an admin who is a team player and cares about impacting others.
Answer: I accidentally emailed a partner communication to our prospect base. I cloned the workflow and didn’t change the audience. It was a total rookie mistake made because I was in a rush. The minute I figured it out, I called the CMO, sent him a sample of the email in question, and reported the percent unsubscribes. The communication was pretty benign, and we only lost 50 people, but I worked to find a reliable source of 50 people in our ICP to take their place. I never made that mistake again.
Q: How do you prioritize your work?
Why it’s asked: Younger employees tend to either take on too much or tell people no without explaining. Both are coachable, but I want to know that they’re comfortable asking questions and know to align priorities with company goals.
Answer: I prefer to meet with my manager weekly to review my priorities to make sure we’re on the same page. I don’t always know when a strategy has changed, or people have deprioritized a product—getting an opportunity to sync cuts down on those gaps and gives me a way to explain what’s happening to the people who are being impacted.
Q: Tell me about a time you found that someone’s campaign wasn’t performing, and tell me how you handled it.
Why it’s asked: Emotional intelligence matters. If someone goes straight to an executive with a problem before talking to the team member, it may be a red flag. Or they may have a good reason. Ask them to explain either way.
Answer: A team member bought a new direct mail tool, and the numbers were really bad. I talked to her about it, and the sales team didn’t give her a list of names, so she randomly chose 200 people in the target demographic. I let her know to talk to me first next time because we could look for people in the database who had already engaged with us or had an intent score. I did have to share the results with management, but it allowed her to form a game plan for a better approach for the next campaign
Burn out is too prevalent in revenue operations. Our talented employees deserve to get the rest and recovery time they need, along with the proper resources for them to be a success.
Make sure to watch for weaknesses and help your employee manage them.
If you hire a people pleaser, make sure to help prioritize their workload. Use a ticketing system to figure out the volume of requests your employee is taking on. Check-in with them to see how many hours they are working per day and week.
While it’s understandable to work additional time during a major product launch, event, or implementation, make sure you make your employees rest after these sprints.
If they make a mistake and come to you as soon as they realize it, don’t berate them for the error. Watch the response and coach them through a recovery plan.
If your system admin is working twelve-hour days, it’s past time to hire them some help or find ways to automate processes so they can look forward to a typical workday. Remember that an employee walking out the door costs you at least 33% of their annual salary to replace, and marketing automation professionals are particularly hard to find.
To some, RevOps is the glue that holds the entire go-to-market function together. To others, it's like trying to convince your dad that a Tesla Model S is a faster, smoother, and more comfortable ride when all he wants is his tried and true ’65 Lincoln Continental.