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RevOps is Having a Moment, But Does Anyone Really Know What it is or How it Should be Structured?

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Creator Guild member, Mike Ciulla, agrees that RevOps is the most effective model for managing go-to-market operations because it centralizes operational responsibilities and helps businesses focus on their overall objectives. But how should it be structured? Let’s take a look at the options.

This post by Eddie Reynolds, CEO and Revenue Operations Strategy Consultant at Union Square Consulting, showed up in my LinkedIn feed the other day, and it got me thinking. At first it made a ton of sense. And then I let it marinate a bit and wasn’t so sure, so I thought I would work it out. Eddie is suggesting that if a business spends $4M on the go-to-market team then it’s the responsibility of RevOps to maximize its investment through data, technology, and process.

Sounds great. Right!?

But it seems like we’re putting the burden of fiscal responsibility, optimization, data analysis, and effective use of technology on a single team. And then I start thinking … wait a minute this sounds pretty amazing.

I can offload 90% of my problems to RevOps.

→What channels are deals coming from? Great question. Let’s ask RevOps.

→Why is churn so high this quarter? Yeah, we should ask RevOps.

→What’s the experience like for new customers? You know, we should check with RevOps.

→How does the revenue model for our Partners channel work? Not sure, RevOps built it.

→Why is our win rate declining in EMEA? RevOps has a report for that.

… are you starting to see my point?

Am I exaggerating? Yes, but not really.

I know this model can work incredibly well for some organizations. But, It all depends on the people. And the complexity of the business. And the speed of change.

And by the way … if RevOps has this much power and responsibility, who do they report to?

Feels like directly to the CEO in this model, but is that right? Is RevOps is its own branch in the org chart and they operate horizontally across the organization? Swooping in and out as needed? 

You know, like a Special Ops Team.

A tactical team that swoops in … tells you how to do things right, makes sure you know what you were doing wrong, fixes things, builds processes, and identifies new opportunities to use technology effectively.

Let’s take a closer look at some of our options.

Sales Operations Does It All

We know this model doesn’t work, but right or wrong, this is where many early stage companies start. They hire a person to administer their CRM. This is often the first go-to-market operational challenge they face. They need to build processes around the sales motion to ensure AE’s are executing to plan, following the right steps, recording the right information …  and then they start building workflows, and enriching data …  and then marketing and customer success start to fall out of sync and one day you turn around and either your CRM has become a complete disaster, or your CRM Administrator has turned into a RevOps Manager.

Sometimes the stars align and your first Sales Ops hire can transition into a RevOps focused role, but the stars really do have to align. In most cases this is where businesses realize they need to hire an experienced RevOps professional.

Sales Operations + Marketing Operations

At first glance this option might appear better, but don’t be fooled. It’s significantly worse. Sales Ops is building for sales while Marketing Ops is building for marketing. The two functions are almost immediately propelled out of sync. And, to make matters worse they both start to tinker with Customer Success.

This model gets a bit better if there’s a manager involved that's operationally focused and responsible for the overall performance of the go-to-market organization. It could be a CRO, CMO, or COO, or similar functional roles at the vp or director level. Still, not ideal, and in my professional opinion should be avoided.

Sales Operations + Marketing Operations + Customer Success Operations

This ones even worse. Now we have 3 silos all operating within their specific organization. Again, with the right upper level manager you can make this model work, but if you truly have specialized operational functions it's going to be tough.

These first 3 models all have the same problem. The initial focus is on one specific GTM function, rather than on the business as a whole. 

RevOps FTW

So, yeah …  this model starts to make a lot of sense. We’ve centralized the operational function of the go-to-market organization, and coined it RevOps. But, what we’re really talking about is go-to-market operations, right? Yeah, I know … everything in SaaS is all about revenue, but there’s much more to it than revenue. 

This is about getting the engine humming. Fixing any oil leaks. Reducing weight. Eliminating friction. Optimizing tooling spend. Ensuring proper adoption … And, when we’re ready, adding on a nitrous tank so we can kick things into hypergrowth.

Ok - this is good. Things are starting to get more clear. 

Of course we need all of our go-to-market teams supported by one unified operations team. And yea, they should be experts in data, process, and technology. 

But, they should also be experts in documentation, knowledge sharing, and training.

Because what we really want is for every member of the go-to-market team to have a little RevOps in them. At a minimum we want GTM teams to have access to resources that can help them learn, solve problems, and reduce the burden of “supporting the business” on all things operations.

We also need the business teams: the operators in Sales, Marketing, and Customer Success, to be leading RevOps. These domain experts are building plans, adjusting to changes in the market, pivoting, building models, committing to quota’s … 


So, I think it’s actually this model that makes the most sense to me:

  1. GTM Teams educate RevOps about their areas of the business.
  2. RevOps looks for opportunities to build processes, inform with data, implement technology, or support in some other way.
  3. RevOps documents, trains, and supports the GTM teams in adopting new processes, technology, and data strategies.
  4. RevOps ensures all of GTM is operating from a single source of truth, enables them to leverage tools, process, and data, and raises concerns as they arise.
  5. Repeat.

This is the way.


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About the Author

Mike Ciulla is a 3x SaaS VP who has been helping early stage SaaS businesses bring products to market, build demand, and grow revenue for over 10 years. He believes in the power of story telling and openly shares his opinions (backed by experience) on everything related to building successful SaaS businesses.

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