Whenever I started a new revenue operations job at an organization, my first focus areas were cross-department handoffs. Among the many reasons to inspect the marketing-to-sales handoff are:
These transfer points often produce a cringe-worthy amount of waste, and the investigation can reveal a great deal about the degree of tension between the two teams.
In this article, we’ll explore how to create a bullet-proof argument for allocating resources to correct the problem(s) you uncover during your initial assessment.
When I first started digging into department handoffs, I reviewed the system architecture first. Sometimes this paid off, but I no longer start with systems.
My preferred process is:
1. Interview sales & marketing managers
2. Anonymously interview end-users
3. Time users as they perform tasks in the system
4. Review the data
5. Review system design
6. Cost Analysis
7. Meetings to review findings & recommendations
Why not start with systems?
After conducting anonymous interviews with end-users, I realized perception and rumors could have a bigger impact on efficiency than actual system operation.
No one likes going through a lot of effort only to learn that no one wants to improve a system they already believe works well. Interviewing management will help you understand whether they think there’s a problem, whether they care if there’s a problem, and whether they support you spending time with their busy employees.
In organizations with a lot of tension between marketing and sales, suspicion is a typical reaction to a RevOps inquiry – so it’s important to make sure people realize that the goal of the exercise is to help both marketing and sales get more out of the funnel. You’ll need to sell them on the idea and communicate throughout the project to retain their trust.
Making people feel like they’re under a microscope will jeopardize your findings and relationships with these organizations. Take the time to explain the project's goal, and don’t be afraid to emphasize how you benefit from learning the ins and outs of the systems and processes they rely on.
Ask both sales and marketing managers to volunteer people from their teams. On the sales side of the house, ask for access to a couple of people who are diligent about using the systems, a few people who are middle-of-the-road, and at least a couple who are notoriously bad about using the CRM.
If you’re new to an organization, interviewing managers and asking for their input is a great way to develop allies and convince people your primary interest is helping make life easier (and more profitable) for everyone involved.
Demand generation is a touchy topic with marketers and salespeople. Their livelihood depends on the quality of their output, and an investigation can uncover unflattering information.
When you interview end-users, make it extremely clear that their feedback is anonymous. If you want to keep their trust (which will come in handy during future projects!), you must stick to your promise. I’ve gained allies for life by stubbornly refusing to reveal which salesperson admitted to cutting corners. This person was a high performer who had the respect of the rest of the sales organization. Once I had his trust, I had an ally who would promote system updates and help train users who didn’t like talking to corporate.
Another tip that will help you make headway with end-users is making it abundantly clear that you’re not emotionally invested in the technology and asking open-ended questions. Some people are afraid of criticizing systems because they’re worried they’ll hurt your feelings.
When asking questions, it’s easy to influence someone’s answer if you reveal your own opinion. Don’t bait people into answering how you want them to. Example questions include:
Feel free to dig in and ask follow-up questions, but try not to let your opinion slip. Forming some hypotheses after a few meetings is normal, but leading with your opinion can distract people from revealing something new and valuable.
If you only take away one thing from this article, let it be this section. It will help you establish baselines and put a monetary value on your project's impact on the organization - which will make your resume stand out.
Sit with multiple salespeople (or have them screen share over video conference) prosecuting leads and use the stopwatch function on your phone to run through the process. Run through the same procedure with multiple people and average the time it takes to perform any given task (logging phone calls, emails, meeting set, and opportunity creation).
If your system has been overengineered, the time adds up fast. If an opportunity takes ten minutes to create, and a sales rep creates ten a day, that's 50 minutes daily that could be used to prosecute more leads. You can then calculate how much time they waste per month, quarter, year, etc., and then multiply that by the average hourly rate.
Calculating time wasted is a more indisputable metric than how much revenue could be generated if they got that time back (but it's worth doing both).
The same process can be used with marketers. How long does it take them to curate a list for a campaign? How long does it take them to segment their database for an email blast? These exercises are tedious time-sucks if systems aren't set up correctly.
Provided your company already has proper benchmarks and campaign taxonomy, calculating conversion rates can be extremely useful. Layer in which campaign channel sourced the leads. Dissect the data by individual salespersons. Doing this analysis will help you determine whether particular channels convert poorly or inside sales representatives that could benefit from some coaching.
Leveraging your network and communities like the RevOps Co-Op to determine conversion rate averages for your industry.
For example, before 2022, a demo request in a B2B SaaS organization converted higher than 25% from lead to opportunity. That rate has since declined to around 15% or less, depending on the organization.
Once your interviews and data reviews are complete, you'll have a better idea of where to start digging into your systems. If your overall conversion rate from lead to meeting or lead to opportunity is low, investigate how obvious warm leads are to the sales team. If specific campaign channels perform lower than others, determine whether it's a quality or configuration issue.
I worked for a company with a strange "Marketing Ops" lead channel category that comprised nearly two-thirds of its lead volume. The conversion rate was less than 1.5%. I talked to the system architect to review how the system was intended to function, then discovered their lead management system had been configured (accidentally) to qualify leads that were passively enriched by their third-party data source.
The rest of their system was near ideal, but the mistake had caused a lot of suspicion on the sales team without the marketing systems team ever suspecting.
The fastest way to get executives invested in your projects is to determine the cost of not doing the project.
During one review, I wanted to crawl under my desk and hide when I learned one B2B organization with an average new acquisition booking of $125,000 didn’t have a defined process for responding to “contact us” forms.
As the old saying goes, “Time kills all deals.” For every person persistent enough to follow up on their submitted form, ten people went with a vendor who actually called them back. They were throwing away millions of dollars, and the fix was simple!
When we uncovered the issue and shared it with management, they were horrified at the lost opportunities but thrilled that the issue was corrected.
Once you gather your findings, determine who needs to be involved in a project to fix the issues. For example, if people would benefit from better goal alignment, you’ll need revenue operations, sales, and marketing management to sign off on KPI changes.
If the tech stack is a mess, you’ll need to approach things a little more cautiously.
I preferred going straight to the team responsible for the systems and talking them through my findings without their manager in the room. If they took my findings and fixed the issue, life was good. If they didn’t know how to fix them, I offered to help build a case for their manager to bring in consulting services to correct the issue. They could take credit for the work (I didn’t care as long as it got done). If they got defensive and nothing was fixed, I went up the management chain after talking to my own manager.
Once you meet with the individual teams, you and your manager must determine whether the scope of work needed to correct uncovered issues requires a major initiative. If so, your cost analysis and thorough research will have uncovered data you need to convince the executive team the project is worth doing.
Marketing attribution aligned with a CRM gives marketers and RevOps professionals insight into what activities are working for which buyers.
The buyer journey maps out the process a customer goes through from first learning they have a problem to finding and buying your brand’s solution.