Is Revenue Operations the Secret to Account-Based Success Right Now?

We’re hearing that a number of companies are shifting investments from cancelled events into account-based efforts. Great news! Of course, we’re biased when it comes to all things account-based here at Engagio, but that’s because we know it works. The challenge now is to get those programs up and running both well and quickly. How can you make that happen and speed time to results?

Two words: Revenue Operations. There’s a reason so many people signed up for the recent OpsStars event hosted by LeanData and co-sponsored by Engagio. RevOps is a movement in B2B whose time has definitely come. How do we define RevOps? I’ll use the definition from my time at SiriusDecisions:

Revenue operations is made up of sales operations, marketing operations and customer success operations teams that work together in accordance with a set of operating principles that align planning, processes, technology, data and measurement that help organizations maximize revenue and performance.

I really like how our customer GoNimbly talks about Revenue Operations:

RevOps is a methodology that allows organizations to streamline their customer experience, making sure it’s seamless and personalized at every stage of the journey. It reduces internal friction between your go-to-market teams so that they’re able to put the customer’s success and satisfaction above all else, which means that your customers will feel comfortable putting their trust in your organization, leading to loyalty and evangelism.

These descriptions point to a pretty big set of responsibilities, but consider that this is all necessary for the success of an account-based program. Note that I’m not just saying account-based marketing (ABM) on purpose. Though many companies will start with an ABM program, right now we need to see sales and marketing, as well as customer success, working together. If they don’t, they’ll risk losing the customers they’re trying so hard to win and keep in difficult times. Limiting the thinking to just marketing doesn’t match the moment of need we have, now or in the future.

Having an aligned set of functions or a dedicated team to deliver them makes it much easier to build an account-based program the right way. See if you agree with these reasons why I believe RevOps makes a difference to each of the key steps in going account-based.

Step 1: Build a data foundation.

All effective account-based efforts begin with data. To reach and engage the accounts and people you care about, insights are the key. They allow the entire revenue team to know where to focus and what to do and share a complete understanding of what’s important. Sending out a clever message is only clever if the person who receives it finds it useful, and they’ll find it useful if it speaks to something they care about right now. Data to segment and select accounts and contacts as well as to define useful messages comes from multiple sources across sales, marketing, and customer success. An account-based data foundation has to bring those sources together and make the data usable for the program to succeed and scale. Even something as basic as lead-to-account matching can be a game-changer.

How RevOps helps:

A RevOps function has oversight of the relevant systems across the revenue tech stack. This makes it easier to integrate data, and significantly simplifies the process because you don’t have to negotiate a treaty across three separate departments and leaders. Time to insights is shorter and those insights are more complete for when sales, marketing and customer success go to use them to determine who to engage and how to engage them. Another benefit comes from being able to tap into the same data for planning and budgeting purposes, as well as segmentation, targeting and territory planning. RevOps makes it easy to have sales, marketing and customer ops on the same page about the go-to-market model.

Step 2: Align around a shared view of accounts.

Great account-based programs bring sales and marketing closer together, but sometimes companies just getting started wonder why alignment is so important. Account-based programs succeed when everyone who interacts with a customer is aware of how that customer has been engaging with both your company and others. The power of account-based outreach comes from engaging buying center contacts based on the situations those people and businesses are in, at a time when they’re likely to listen. This is even more important in our volatile economy. While some may be more or less operating normally or even growing, others are struggling mightily. Any generic outreach will land badly with some part of the intended audience, and could harm your brand for a long time to come. A steep drop-off in engagement could signal that this isn’t the right moment, while steady or increasing engagement across multiple contacts could say it’s a great time to offer help. But not knowing is an unacceptable risk in these times, not to mention distressing for both sides.

How RevOps helps:

Account-based program success happens faster when sales and marketing align early in the process, and both teams use a “single pane of glass” to see what’s happening in accounts every day so they can coordinate action. A shared RevOps team will have an easier time planning and delivering insights that show both marketing and sales engagement. This avoids the scenario where different teams make different choices for what to do based only upon the systems and contacts in their part of the tech stack. Insights from a complete, cross functional data foundation get summarized into relevant and actionable messages for sales, marketing or customer success. For example, in a great account-based program, Sales sees daily alerts about account engagement across all channels and intent surges for outside activity and research. They then use this information to prioritize outreach to contacts that day, review accounts with their manager, and meet with marketing in an ABM stand-up to see what resources might help or to plan something new. Customer success sees an alert that points out activity from their accounts so they can reach out to those showing low activity, or alert account management to intent surges that signal a cross-sell opportunity or interest in competitors. For RevOps, when you’re on the same team, it’s easier to communicate and plan what gets sent to whom and when. Bonus: The RevOps team can be accountable for making sure what gets delivered is actually used by the different internal sales and marketing audiences.

Step 3: Orchestrate meaningful experiences.

With data, insights, and guidelines for how to interpret them in place, the next requirement for your account-based program is to design and deliver the right experiences. Each function needs to ensure the right action happens with the right message at the right time, with no overlap or conflicting messages across functions. That takes careful orchestration, especially with existing customers. Most companies have a go-to-market model that relies upon a significant portion of growth coming from existing customers, from upsell or cross-sell. Most companies also have a goal to improve retention. Thoughtful, coordinated orchestration of activities to engage accounts and the people in them can help with all of those goals. How does that work? For account-based programs to deliver the best results, customer experiences need to include both sales and marketing touches for an ideal combination of online and offline options for engagement at all stages of buying. This same approach can be continued into the post-sale relationship by including customer success and operations to optimize outreach for retention, expansion and customer advocacy opportunities, again using a combination of digital and human touches.

How RevOps helps:

With a RevOps structure, operations teams can collaborate on cross-functional engagement that leverages technology from sales, marketing or customer success tools. A shared tech stack and data foundation make it possible to design experiences the way the customer sees them. An account-based program with this customer-centric perspective does a better job of creating, automating and scaling experiences customers find valuable. It’s another way for companies to stand out for the relevance and timeliness of their overall engagement. RevOps teams see a better reflection of the complete customer experience of pre- and post-sale activities so they can help go-to-market functions optimize their activities and results.

Step 4: Measure business impact and learn from analysis.

When building an account-based program, operations teams need to adjust the metrics, benchmarks and goals they measure. The first — and perhaps biggest — change should be a shift away from battles over who claims credit for a “lead.” When sales, marketing and customer success are focused on a set of target accounts and have designed insights and responsive experiences that tap into the best of each function, who sourced the lead becomes less relevant than the overall output of the account-based model. Great account-based program focus on the four Vs: Delivering sufficient pipeline and revenue value from target accounts, having the right volume (and quality) of contacts and engagement from the defined universe of accounts, having optimized conVersion (okay, we cheated on that one a little) rate of accounts moving from stage to stage, and finally having deals move at the right velocity through the sales cycle. Note that we’re not differentiating between sales or marketing deals, just focusing on the overall list of target accounts with the leading and lagging indicators of success from the combined efforts of the revenue team.

How RevOps helps:

Ultimately, the goal of the revenue team and every account-based program is to deliver a better experience for customers, while also delivering the lowest customer acquisition cost (CAC) and highest lifetime value. With a shared view of operations, it’s easier to break down measurement silos and expectations that make optimizing these outcomes easier to achieve. Measurement should reflect shared goals across sales, marketing, and customer success, and each functional area must understand and track its contribution to the whole. If numbers aren’t where they need to be, diagnosis isn’t meant to place blame but instead to optimize a revenue ecosystem. All four of the steps for building an account-based program let a RevOps function build a shared foundation of data, use that data for insights and optimize orchestration of activities across the revenue team, then measure the overall effectiveness of the engine and tune it accordingly. A RevOps mindset quickly becomes a revenue team mindset, and that creates a better reflection of the customer perspective and faster growth for your business.

Megan Heuer
Megan Heuer

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