You’ve probably heard of the book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. There is a lot of wisdom in the book and I won’t spoil it for you. But, if you are new to revenue operations, fondly known as “RevOps,” what can you do to be more effective at being an operator?
I cut my chops in operations roles in different companies and industries and there are underlying themes to the kinds of skills you will likely need to excel. Skills I thought were most important turned out to be helpful. But there were skills and habits that I wished someone shared early on, to be more effective as an operator earlier. So I’m sharing 5 ‘habits’ of highly effective revops practitioners. You’ll notice none of them are a Salesforce certification. *Wink, wink.*
First, let’s level-set on the definition of revenue operations. It’s the discipline that is responsible for processes, systems, reporting, and enablement that empower revenue teams to generate revenue. (Is that the definition we were all thinking of? Good.) Being certified in a tool is helpful, but it’s not the only thing that makes you effective as a revops professional. Project management, systems thinking, continuous process improvement, analysis skills, and communication (particularly around building presentations and speaking to senior leadership) will really increase your effectiveness in your career. Let’s take a closer look at these ‘habits.’
If you would have asked me what I thought or knew about project management when I first started my career, I probably wouldn’t know how to answer. I certainly wouldn’t have understood why it’s important to revenue operations. Monday.com defines project management as: “Project management (not to be confused with program management) is the process that guides a team’s work to accomplish all project goals within certain parameters.” That sounds broad and general. Think about procuring a new technology for your marketing, sales, or customer success team. Even though you’ll likely have the technology’s support in implementing the tool, you will still have internal goals to meet. You’ll still need to understand the impacts of buying the new tool. Which teams and processes are affected? What other existing technology does your new tool need to connect with? Who has governance or control over the systems? How will you measure success? How will you communicate change? All of these questions can be answered by using a project management framework. Using this framework enables you to think through the phases of your project from the initiation to the post mortem.
Other examples of revenue operations projects could include: designing and implementing a lead scoring model, sales territory changes, operationalizing ABM, building a new set of revenue dashboards as a central source of truth, establishing a data GTM governance framework, systems audits, process documentation audits, revamping lead and contact statuses, implementing or updating customer onboarding processes, and many other things.
There are systems everywhere you look. The ocean has an underwater ecosystem, our cities have public transportation systems, schools and universities make up our education system, and businesses have systems made up of people, processes and technology. So what is systems thinking? The Corporate Finance Institute defines it as, “Systems thinking is an approach to analysis that zeros in on how the different parts of a system interrelate and how systems work within the context of other, larger systems.” In order words, it’s the ability to look at things holistically and understand impacts across different parts of the system and how different parts are connected together.
This is helpful because as revenue operations people or teams, we are meant to support teams across the entire customer lifecycle. It means understanding how each team’s processes and tools (like CRM and marketing automation platform) are connected. And if you make a change in one place what upstream and downstream impacts will it have? Having a systems thinking mindset really empowers you to think about your revenue organization as a system and all of its counterparts. This is invaluable to being an effective revenue operations professional.
There are many methodologies around process. Given that the work we do as revops professionals is built on processes, continuous process improvement is in the top 5 of these revops habits. First, what is a process? The Mirriam Webster definition is, “a series of actions or operations conducing to an end.” The word operations is literally in the definition of process. Is that a coincidence? This is the reason I would have opted to adopt the continuous process improvement mindset early. There are many frameworks to choose from. Lean Six Sigma is a great one that combines two methodologies together: Lean and Six Sigma. Both come from the manufacturing industry but there are so many applications to revops (yes, even if your company sells software or a service and not physical goods).
The core of Lean is to reduce waste and the core of Six Sigma is to reduce variation for quality control. A more formal definition from ASQ.org is, “a fact-based, data-driven philosophy of improvement that values defect prevention over defect detection. It drives customer satisfaction and bottom-line results by reducing variation, waste, and cycle time, while promoting the use of work standardization and flow, thereby creating a competitive advantage. It applies anywhere variation and waste exist, and every employee should be involved.”
How does this help you in revops? Well, being able to identify “waste” in your inbound lead routing workflow can be an example of a place to use the Lean Six Sigma framework to analyze your existing process and the impact waste has on your team and in turn, your revenue!
One of the 8 wastes of Lean is waiting. In your revenue organization, leads that go stale can be one of these 8 wastes. Using Lean Six Sigma principles will help you approach your work knowing you don’t establish a process once and never revisit it. You continuously improve and iterate on it to drive more results.
This one sounds kind of generic. While it’s related to analysis, it’s more than running a report or manipulating data in excel. The ability to build a report, visualize data (by creating a chart or graph because people like pictures), and then tell the story to people is very important. But it also makes you really good at your job. Being able to generate insight and not just build a report or dashboard because someone asked for it will get you far – whether you are in revops or not!
This one is very important because it’s not a technical skill. It’s not Salesforce administration or Marketo administration. It’s not building reports. But it goes hand in hand with number 4. The ability to give a concise presentation that conveys information to an executive audience really is invaluable – especially for revops professionals. Sometimes, by nature of our work it can be challenging to convey what we’re doing on a day-to-day basis and how that impacts the business.
There are a lot of books, YouTube videos, and workshops that teach you how to influence if you aren’t in a position of power. That means, if you are an IC and you have to communicate sales pipeline information to a VP of Sales, what you say and how you say it will be critical.
Making a justification to add headcount to your lonely operations team, buying new software, leading a Lean Six Sigma improvement project are just a few of the times you’ll want to be good at giving a presentation to your leadership team. Start practicing with 3 slides: slide 1 is the current state, slide 2 is the future state, slide 3 is the cost (people, time, or money cost) vs. the benefit.
You’ve chosen the career path of an operator. Congratulations! It can be one of the most gratifying things to do. Balancing tactical and operational work can seem like a challenging undertaking. But you can set yourself up for success and increase your effectiveness with a few “habits.” Start practicing them now if you haven’t been. It’s never too late.
So what makes a really effective revenue operations person? It probably isn’t a salesforce admin certification. 😉 Now go forth and be great.