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Director Business Operations: Jennifer Laurie of Bonfire Interactive
Jennifer Laurie jumped onto Sales Operations Demystified to share her knowledge and experience in Sales Operations.
Check out all the other episodes of Sales Operations Demystified here.
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Tom: Hello, and welcome to another very special episode of the Sales Ops Demystified podcast. We’re joined by Jennifer Laurie of Bonfire Interactive and previously of Vidyard and have actually spent some time working with a very popular previous guest, actually, Joe. Jennifer has kicked off a commercial creating in sales operations but then has brought them down into more general operations. We’re going to spend a bit of time understanding how the sales operation’s world overlaps or compared with the more general ops world. Jennifer, welcome to the show.
Jennifer: Hi, Tom. Thanks. Thanks for having me.
Tom: It’s a pleasure. Can we start off by understanding how you first initially got into sales operations?
Jennifer: I would say, by accident or by chance is how I first got into it. I had the classic go-to university, still have no idea what I want to do. Finished university, not able to find a job and I don’t know what I really wanted to do anyway. I ended up traveling for about five years, I was super lucky that I had a friend on who worked on private yachts and she was able to get me a job on one with super short notice, and I loved it. I did that for about five years, I worked on four different yachts and just traveled all over the place and just had an amazing time and a lot of great friends and had a lot of really cool experiences.
Then the downside to that was when I came back to Canada, I still couldn’t find a job. I had no Canadian connections. Yachting doesn’t really translate on a real-world resume very well. I had a lot of interviews where people asked me about it, but not a lot where people were talking about the job I was applying for. I ended up going back to school. I took human resources and then following that I got a job at Sandvine, temping in HR. I did that for a month and then I was temp for another month and then I temp there in IT and then finance and then a job opened up in sales operations that was full time.
I had never heard of Sales Ops, I had no idea what it was, but started doing it and that was it. I was hooked. I loved it. It’s a bunch of little things from a bunch of different places and you’re just figuring out how everything fits together. For me, that’s it. That’s what I really like to do. At Sandvine where I started we did manufacturing, so it was quite different than what I’m doing now at SAS. Manufacturing you gel a lot more with customers, you do a lot of order fulfillment, shipping, logistics, product forecasting. Very different than software-only and SAS, but still the same challenges where you’re working together with finance and manufacturing and the customer and trying to figure out what the right thing is to do for everybody and how to do it as well as possible.
Tom: Sure. You’re at Sandvine for approximately five years, right? How much of that time was in sales operations?
Jennifer: I think almost the whole five years. It was a little more than five years, so almost five years totally in Sales Ops there.
Tom: Awesome. Then you moved to Vidyard?
Jennifer: Yes. I moved to Vidyard and I was there for a little over three years.
Tom: I think Vidyard have grown pretty fast over the past four years, right? You must’ve seen quite a lot of change or growth in that time.
Jennifer: Yes, definitely. When I joined, we had about 100 people. Actually, the first event that I attended at Vidyard was our 100th employee party. When I left, we were just under 200 employees. Definitely, a lot of change in that short amount of time and also a lot of change just with people coming and going and product changing, new product lines, a lot of different streamlining. Definitely a lot of change.
Tom: Have you only been at Bonfire Interactive for a couple of months. I think it would be great just to drill in a little bit on Vidyard for now. When you were a Sales Ops manager, what’s the size of the Sales Ops team and how many reps were you guys supporting?
Jennifer: Sales Ops at that time was just me. It was a new part, like a new org when I joined. We had– I want to say maybe about 10 salespeople. It’s thinking back quite a bit over the years first is how many we had when I started. I would think probably about 10. The main thing that I worked on when I joined, they wanted to buy CPQ. They wanted to buy a Configure Price Quote tool. I had been part of a team that have recently launched one at Sandvine.
That was my big project when I joined Vidyard was rolling out CPQ. Definitely a lot of that was figuring out what do we sell, for how much money, how are we going to package that, what’s the branding look like on that, what are the different product roles we want, the sales team to follow, which foreign organization that up until then, everything was a Word document. It was really fluid. We were tracking things in Excel. Our finance team was the team that was tracking basically all of our revenue, what our KPIs were. It was a pretty big mental shift from just writing things down super organically to having something with a lot more structure.
Tom: Got it. We put in the CPQ system, what was the rest of the tech stack that you’re working with at Vidyard?
Jennifer: When I joined, we had Pardot and made a shift to Marketo around the same time as the CPQ launch. Those two things at the same time were awesome to do together. We used Quest, Dooly, and DocuSign. We had a lot of changing tech stack. We definitely had a lot of tools when I first joined, and part of that was we weren’t really siloed at that point. It happened as we grew from 100 to 200 but each team was buying their own tech based on what they needed. Part of the evolution of our reps at Vidyard was figuring out, “How do we get a better hand on this tech stack? What’s everybody using? Instead of having three tools that are doing a similar thing, can we get everybody on to the same tool?” That was definitely a process over that time as well.
Tom: We should actually mention that you transitioned from Sales Ops to Rev Ops role at Vidyard, right?
Jennifer: I did. We’re in a smaller company or a startup or a scale-up, and you’re in SAS. Sales Ops and Rev Ops are pretty fluid. Sales Ops at Sandvine was definitely Sales Ops in the sense that we were just dealing with customers and sales in the sales team versus in SAS, you have so many different teams that are so much more connected. Your leads from marketing move to sales so quickly and then your clients and customers move to customer success so quickly and you still have to go back and forth between all of those organizations all the time. It’s really that more holistic piece that moves from Sales Ops to Rev Ops.
It was really just more like the focus changed from just looking at the sales team as one piece of the pie to looking at the whole pie but it made more sense to move into Rev Ops because it was just that was what was happening, that was the reality. In SAS, it definitely makes sense when you’re in a larger company and you need to have that dedicated resource and focus to be marketing ops, Sales Ops, customer success ops, and it’s just like a smaller shop and you’re doing a lot of different things. It’s good to have that overall focus.
Tom: Got it. Now shifting to relationship with reps maybe even into today’s role. What are you doing at the moment to make Reps more productive?
Jennifer: To get Reps more productive, I’m definitely a lisez-moi fan. There’s definitely been a lot of focuses, especially in the recent edge future on Big Data and data-driven decisions and get all of the information and said, “Yes, that’s all really, really important.” I don’t want to just throw all that at the sales team. They have a lot that they have to sift through. I want to avoid bogging them down with too much content, too much information because it just gets overwhelming. To me, it’s all about getting that right information at the right time.
What can I do as part of operations to make sure that we’re getting that information to them on time and in the right context that they need? Rerouting, and what’s that basic criteria? How can we spend time figuring out what our ideal customer is and then getting those types of leads to sales as opposed to just giving them a whole bunch of leads? What’s the way that we can pair that information down to them and then content? Our marketing team here is amazing. They work so well with our sales team.
There’s such a good relationship between the two orgs, where sales is great at communicating with the need. Marketing’s great at getting that information to them. After that information has been delivered, how are we storing that content? Can we make sure that it’s in an easy to access, easy to find way, that stays up to date? That sales team can get easily so that when they’re looking for something, is there on a call or researching before a call, they don’t spend a whole bunch of time trying to find something. It’s easy for them to get to.
Tom: You mentioned something quite interesting about how you have a great dynamic between sales and marketing. How have the new company, Bonfire Interactive, managed to do that?
Jennifer: Right now they sit really closely together. Being right beside someone is important. Having remote workers is always a big part of your job, and especially as companies grow, you sit in different areas. Being right beside someone, that makes a big difference. When you’re in a marketing team and you can hear a sales call, you know what’s going on right away. You don’t find out about something weeks after the fact or maybe never at all because you’ve heard it in that moment. Being able to have that real-time direct communication has been been really key. I think also with our size, we’re at about a hundred employees as well, having that fat cross-functional, that tight communication, is just something that happens at the size too and just the people in general, everyone here is super open, pretty out there with what the needs are, what the challenges are, what’s going on and having that open communication is huge.
Tom: Got it. Can we talk more about your role at the moment? You’re in Sales Ops, you have a more general operations role. Are there marking up Sales Ops people within your team or how does the operations function work at the current place?
Jennifer: Yes, right now, it’s myself and our Systems Manager. She focuses mostly on our tech stack and doing some analytics around that. It’s something that I’ll definitely be doing in the near future is expanding the team to get more of a full-service shop to help the overall business, but right now it’s quite small. Then funny enough my primary job when I was starting at the gate here is they want to launch CPQ.
[crosstalk] So taking the experience I had at Vidyard and what I learned there to do that here, to roll out our CPQ here.
Tom: That must be your biggest selling point of the interview, right? You’re like you guys are-
Cool. Right now the two of you guys in operations, how many sales rep are you guys responsible for managing?
Jennifer: Yes, right now we have about 10 Account Executives and we have about 10 BDRs and then on our customer success side, we have six CSMs and then, of course, additional people in implementation and support as well.
Tom: Got it. Maybe this question [unintelligible 00:14:08] but in terms of onboarding new salespeople, I assume you did that quite a bit at Vidyard, do you have any insightful tips to reduce ramp time?
Jennifer: At Vidyard we had a sales enablement manager and she was really focused on onboarding our new salespeople and as well for our BDR. Our BDR director there had a super-tight onboarding program set up for them because BDRs tend to come in and move into other roles pretty frequently. So they always need to be on board right away. Here we have a buddy system because we don’t have a sales enablement function right now. So when a new aide comes in they have a buddy of somebody else who’s been here and that buddy and shows them the ropes, shadows on calls with them, gives them an idea of what our product is, what the tools are. One thing that looking at with our buddy system is do we have clear KPIs for our buddies? Are we making sure that everybody has the same onboarding experience? What are we expecting our new aides to be able to do after their first week, first month? What kind of calls are we getting them to shadow on? Then making sure that that content is delivered at the right time.
I know one of the challenges we had at Vidyard and I think it’s a challenge that we have everywhere really is you get that content overload in your first week where it’s all your product knowledge and tools knowledge and customer knowledge, client knowledge and it’s a lot to retain so how are we delivering that? Are we delivering at all in the right cadence? Are we making sure we’re revisiting stuff at the right time so that people can retain all that information and be as successful as possible?
Tom: Sure. Is your operations team at the moment responsible for forecasting sales?
Jennifer: Our sales VP forecast sales right now. He mostly does it through– he knows our sales team and he knows our product, he knows our clients. He’s really got that half-magic half-science behind what our pipeline looks like, what’s going to convert? The other half of that that I’m spending a lot of time digging into right now is what is our top of funnel look like? What do our conversion metrics look like? So even before it gets to our sales team. What’s happening there? Do we have enough pipeline to support our current quarter? Where is it coming from? How does that convert?
Once it gets into your sales team’s hands and through your funnel, that’s happening in real-time. Sometimes it’s almost too late to make your number depending on what it looks like so getting all those leading indicators of what is our top of funnel look like to make sure that we’re going to be set up that quarter and if we’re not, what can you do about it? What are some efforts we can throw at maybe our best performing campaigns to get more results in that quarter?
Tom: Go it. This is the advantage of having a Rev Ops team because you are looking at the operations from right all the way through the lifecycle and if you were just in Sales Ops, you would probably just focus more on when an opportunity is created, right?
Jennifer: It’s definitely true. I know at- I’d say and obviously being in Sales Ops and it was manufacturing, we had a lot more into it than just what do our opportunities look like. We had to do manufacturing, material forecasting as well. We spent a lot of time with our manufacturing team figuring out what material to order because it needed to happen months in advance, maybe even before a deal existed or when the deal was at a super early stage in the pipeline, which make buying decisions. Sales Ops and that type of function is definitely a lot more focused on sales team and deals. As opposed to Rev Ops and SAS, is your whole funnel, your very top all the way through to the bottom of the funnel.
Tom: Switching to KPIs or metrics, which is the one, either Salesforce dashboard or actual metrics that you have really enjoyed tracking over the years in Sales Ops?
Jennifer: I think my favorite metric is probably net retention. I think as much as it can be your lagging indicator, it definitely, for me anyways, is the leading one as well. If you have a positive net retention number, if you’re over 100%, that’s huge. It means not only are your clients renewing and staying with you, they’re buying more. They’re happy with what you’re doing, and they want to do more of it. If your base is happy, they’re going to tell your their friends. They’re going to talk about this awesome product that they’re using, and other people are going to start using it.
If your base is happy, your new clients are going to be happy, because every tool sounds better and shinier when it’s new. Everything always has all that promise and glitter at the very beginning. You have an existing customer who is still that happy, your new customers are going to be that happy as well. For me, net retention is huge. It’s so intertwined with your other metrics, your lifetime value, your customer acquisition cost. Yes, for me, probably.
Tom: Just to clarify, you get positive retention when your expansion revenue is greater than your churn revenue?
Tom: Cool. Awesome. Basically, if you didn’t get any new customers, you would still be growing?
Jennifer: Yes, absolutely.
Tom: Awesome. Then finally, who have taught you the most in sales or revenue operations?
Jennifer: I think I would have to cut it, probably my first manager at Sandvine, Elisa. I knew nothing when I joined Sales Ops, I had no idea what it even was. She was so passionate about it that she really instilled not only all of the actual learnings that I had about ops but also that passion that she had really translated into everything and made me really excited about it.
Tom: That’s really nice. Here are things I particularly liked about this chat. My favorite thing was building KPI. When you have an enablement team, it doesn’t make sense to pair a new person up with a buddy but to give that person KPIs related to their role with the person I think that’s really really good. Nobody’s mentioned net retention but you are right, it’s supercritical. It’s actually much more broader than what people are saying, and that makes sense with your role. You have experienced over the revenue function where the most makes if we get like super nerdy, you’re not nerdy, sales metrics, very nice.
I like your definition ofSales Ops and how you’re saying that it’s basically figuring out which things fit together. Then it’s really simple about lots of people have been playing around with sales and marketing teams that they clash, but obviously, if you have them fitting together, that can really help. Maybe there are some ways you can do that if they’re remote or in different offices where you somehow improve the communication. Those are the things I really liked.
Jen, Thank you so much for joining.
Jennifer: Thanks again for having me.
[00:22:15] [END OF AUDIO]