In recent years, we’ve seen a rapid increase in revenue operations roles at big companies, with the aim to integrate sales, marketing, and customer success under one cohesive structure. But not all revenue operations leaders are equally empowered to live up to their titles—and that fact impacts sales performance management (SPM) sales cycles.
For example, while revenue operations titles are the fastest-growing on LinkedIn, CROs are 2.9X more likely to manage sales than marketing and 1.6X more likely to manage sales than customer success, according to Forrester. Such variations significantly influence how SPM sellers must position their products to best-appeal to what prospects want to buy.
Let’s dig into the traditional sales mindset, the revenue operations approach, and how to ensure you understand which buying committee you’re dealing with as you position SPM.
Personas for Perspective
First things first. Personas help humanize prospects, giving you an overall sense of how they think, feel, and act. We put together one-page personas outlining leaders in Sales Operations and Revenue Operations to help you understand the nuances between the two.
Traditional Sales Leaders
Sales is traditionally run as its own department. Recently, the numbers show this approach doesn’t add up:
- Reps spend on average 35% of their time actually selling. (add footnote)
- Nearly 80% of decision makers say reps aren’t prepared for first conversations, and only one-third actually trust salespeople. (add footnotes)
- Quota attainment has steadily decreased every year throughout the last decade. (footnote)
As a result, sales operations leaders face increasing pressure to make the numbers through efficiency improvements and keeping reps motivated. Sales operations leaders’ focus tends to be on automating current sales systems, boosting sales team morale and engagement, and chipping away at quarterly goals. When considering sales performance management, they may be more likely to pursue a small-scale project to automate incentive compensation across a few key divisions over, for example, a major sales performance management initiative that includes data across multiple revenue departments.
Revenue Operations Leaders
More recently, we’ve seen a shift away from the “sales island” approach, toward a focus on breaking down silos and creating more useful connections between sales, marketing, and customer success. At least, that’s the dream. While a lot of revenue operations leaders hope to achieve this vision, many struggle with entrenched silos—each with their own specialized roles, technologies, and culture.
Revenue operations leaders typically have some background in sales, but they tend to be generalists. Think of them as strategic thinkers adept at building bridges across teams, thinking big picture, leveraging complex data sets, and finding ways to align the right people, processes, and supporting technologies efficiently.
For SPM sellers, these attributes can represent a larger deal size. Because their purview includes more than sales operations, revenue operations leaders are more likely to have budgets to support large-scale initiatives to integrate technologies and data systems holistically. For example, they may pursue a large-scale sales performance management project to streamline sales planning, compensation, and accounting with sophisticated reporting and the ability to make ongoing adjustments. And they’re willing to dedicate major time, budget, and operational resources to make it happen.
The downside? Selling SPM to this kind of leader generally involves a larger buying committee and takes more time.
Spotting Your Opportunity
While the revenue operations role sounds ideal, reality can vary. As it is a relatively new concept in business, revenue leaders often have to contend with traditional thinking. Sometimes revenue operations leaders get stuck in the classic sales ops structure, just with a new title.
It is important for sellers connecting with revenue operations leaders to understand this nuance and be able to support them, no matter their limitations. It just may mean scaling down the vision from holistic systems integration to singular point solutions—at least for now, with the intent to scale with them as their organizations evolve toward the ideal revenue operations structure.
Here are some of the key differences between revenue operations leaders and sales operations leaders. Look beyond job titles to determine your prospects’ actual motivations, goals, and needs.
The Evolution Continues
While many companies are now hiring sales operations leadership roles, we must keep in mind that it will take much longer for many of them to evolve culture and systems to truly maximize the value of such hires—particularly when it comes to implementing full-scale SPM solutions. We look forward to a time when holistic revenue operations is the norm. Until then, consider adapting your selling approach not based on job title, but to the buyer’s actual circumstances.
- Heuer, Megan. “Revenue Operations and the CMO: Game Changer or Game Over?” Forrester, 2019.
- Moravick, Andrew. “Visibility, Insight, Impact: Simplifying Complex Sales Processes with CPQ,” The Aberdeen Group, 2016.
- Reicheld, Fred. “Prescription for Cutting Costs,” Bain
- “Sales Managers Are Overwhelmed & Under-developed,” CSO Insights.