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4 Ways RevOps Pros Can Excel in a Downturn

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RevOps veteran Camela Thompson spent 15 years in B2B technology companies and weathered a couple of major economic downturns before switching careers and moving into marketing leadership. She shares when and how she experienced the most growth and which challenging projects gave her more visibility with the C-Suite – and upward mobility.

It's a stressful time to be in B2B tech. We still see riff (AKA layoff) announcements and signs that more may be around the corner. In revenue operations, you know the good, the bad, and the ugly. Chances are high that you'll know your company is struggling before 95% of your coworkers.

This begs the question, "Should I stay or go?"

While I can't answer that question for you, I can tell you that when I reflect on my career trajectory, the richest opportunities for growth presented themselves when the companies I worked for at the time weren't hitting their goals.

Humans aren't known for embracing change. It takes a lot of discomfort for people to be willing to change their behavior. When multiple quarters are missed, executive teams are more open to ideas and projects that aim to uncover and fix inefficiencies. Projects they'd brush off when things were running smoothly.

If you have the stomach to push yourself outside of your comfort zone and believe your company has the product and people necessary to weather the storm, you have a chance to make a significant impact on the future of your company.

You Have the Data…. Use It.

Before I pitched a project, I analyzed the top of the funnel through churn and beyond. Looking at trends, I could identify potential problem areas and form hypotheses. I knew I didn't have enough context to diagnose the exact root issues, and 99 times out of 100, there are dozens of issues – some of which are out of our control. 

For example:

  • Are we recording all the signals we should in our marketing automation system?
  • Are those signals making it into our CRM?
  • Is it possible we're missing leads in our CRM?
  • How is sales following up on those leads, and how do they know which leads are the most likely to convert?
  • Do some customer profiles convert through the funnel faster than others?
  • Are certain products performing better than others?
  • Are specific customer profiles more likely to renew or expand?
  • Are certain customer profiles churning?

Looking at the data helped me understand which questions I should ask the people around me. If I was recognizing patterns, I didn't assume I was the only person astute enough to interpret the data. Only by meeting with others could I understand whether or not marketing knew about a narrow segment of accounts that were happy with our product so they could target them with campaigns, for example.

Funnel analytics were essential to these projects. If you don't know your funnel conversion rates, now is a fantastic time to build the infrastructure necessary to perform these analyses. 

Identifying low conversion rates or sticking points is only the beginning. From there, it's an investigative journey to determine if the problems are due to systems, processes, or team misalignment. Improving these factors can mean unlocking additional pipeline and reducing churn. For more on building a business case to get a project from this analysis approved, check out our article here.

Ideal Customer Profiles and Beyond

Marketers need to understand patterns in their customer base. Knowing which types of companies and buyers are the most engaged and pleased with your products and services allows them to offer more personalized campaign content to those profiles. The goal in marketing is always to target the people most likely to convert into a customer, but we don't always have access to the data or the skills necessary to do so.

Ideal customer profiles also change. Market conditions or product feature expansions can alter who we should sell to. We also learn more over time about what our product can do well and what it can't do. 

Analyzing what kind of accounts and people cancel at higher rates than others - or, on the flip side, expand more than others - is critical. Accounts of a particular profile - perhaps they have certain products that aren't compatible with your own - can be used to form an unacceptable customer profile. These accounts should be avoided when developing targets for campaigns. Sales enablement should coach your sales team to qualify these accounts quickly.

In an ideal world, customer profiles should be re-evaluated every six to twelve months, depending on market volatility and the maturity of your product. For more details on analyzing ideal customer profiles, check out this article by CaliberMind.

Team Handoff Inspection

The most significant areas of risk during the customer lifecycle are team handoffs. Even under the best circumstances, it's challenging to communicate everything necessary to interact with a prospect or new customer effectively. Information gets dropped, systems can experience bugs, and sometimes teams don't see eye to eye on what makes a good target or how a customer should be onboarded. 

Any of these things can cause friction, and all of them can be fixed.

Analyzing when prospects drop out of the buyer journey can help expose whether marketing and sales are selling differently to the same people, causing confusion or uncovering a need for better selling tools.

Determining whether customers are more likely to cancel in year one than in other years can also help uncover whether the onboarding process is running smoothly or causing early dissatisfaction. It can also reveal whether your company is susceptible to losing customers when a single stakeholder leaves the company.

There are a lot of things that can go wrong throughout the buyer journey and customer lifecycle. For more on evaluating the marketing-to-sales handoff, check out our recent article here.

You, Customer Facing? Why Not?

Interviewing people can be nerve-wracking if you're not used to talking to customers. You may not believe me now, but the more challenging part is convincing your teams that interviewing customers is a good idea. Whether you're talking about existing or potential customers, sales and customer success can be very protective of their contacts – and reputation.

In fact, a sales manager used the words "witch hunt" early on during project proposals. 

Rarely, people don't buy a product because of the salesperson. The bigger problem is a perceived lack of value, whether it's because of missing features, miscommunication, or a pricing gap. Regardless, selling your functional leads on the project's necessity will be essential. Always emphasize the need for unfiltered product feedback, competitive intelligence, and pricing information over evaluating personnel.

Interviewing customers as a neutral third party can uncover a lot of good and bad feedback about your product, the onboarding process, and the kind of support customers need but find lacking. People are generally sensitive to other peoples' feelings and don't always share honest feedback directly with customer support. Offering to be a neutral observer and asking non-leading questions can create trust with a customer.

The same can be said for potential buyers. They don't want to hurt the salesperson's feelings and may not baldly state what they don't like about the product. They may tell the salesperson the price was too high when they thought the user interface looked immature or weren't confident the product could do what the salesperson (and marketing) claimed it could.

I've never had a leadership team regret customer interviews. We always found a few nuggets that helped us improve how we went to market. However, it took abundant communication to make people comfortable with the project. Transcripts were shared, and whoever wanted to read the write-ups could. For more information on how to conduct these interviews, check out a recent webinar recording from our partner, Clozd, by clicking here.

Each of these projects touches the customer lifecycle and has the potential to decrease inefficiencies and increase sales. Because of this, you'll get access to the executive team and be able to present your findings to a broad audience. This experience is precious and will follow you throughout your career.

Best of luck, and check out our blog archives for more tips on tactically executing projects like these and more.

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