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Head of Revenue Operations: Mark Feldman of Localytics

Mark Feldman jumped onto Sales Operations Demystified to share his 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 Mark Feldman of local ethics. He’s going to be an interesting chat because Mark’s root into sales ops or actually revenue operations, is [unintelligible 00:00:23] which is actually my heart and background. Mark welcome to the show.

Mark: Thanks for having me, Tom, I’m excited to be here.

Tom: Kick off with the first question about how you initially got into sales op or in this case revenue operations.

Mark: I did not take a straight typical sales ops path. My career started out in Boston in the dot-com boom and I worked for a start-up that grew fast. Then I started my own company. I have always been interested in growth marketing. I was really fortunate, sort of lucky, to end up in 2008 at a company in Boston called NetProspex that eventually got acquired by Dun & Bradstreet but was an innovative pioneer in B2B contact data.

The company I was the eighth employee. It’s a new company we were at the forefront of the whole demand gen movement. It was right during the global recession and marketing was under a lot of scrutiny and marketers were trying to show that they create value for the business and create pipeline and are connected to revenue.

What we did was at the time just selling B2B contacts, it’s really innovative and new and marketers are really climbing on to the new demand gens. I led demand gen and marketing for NetProspex and that created a demand gen program for us that led to triple-digit growth five years in a row and taught the industry how to do outbound demand gen through webinars and content marketing. I really, really just loved growth and through my career, I’ve always just lived doing growth. I was on the marketing tracks.

I was head of marketing at a few different companies. One of them was I helped grow the company from, as head of marketing, from $50 million to $150 million in three years. I just really loved the growth part, the digital part but I wasn’t enamored with big end marketing, the PR, the branding, the colors of the logo. I appreciate it, it’s interesting, but it’s not really where my heart is. Having been at the forefront of demand gen marketing ops, I was just looking to pivot my career trajectory from straight under marketing and on the CMO track, to somewhere where I’m just part of marketing that I’m really passionate about. I’ve had to do sales before so revenue ops is a natural fit, and it’s a new area. I was really lucky that Localytics came along and really just created the dream position for me. It’s sales ops, marketing ops, go-to-market strategy. Just really helping us grow. It’s a perfect role for me.

Tom: Got it. It doesn’t include some of the, you could say, fluffier parts of marketing, right? Just dealing [crosstalk]

Mark: No fluff in that sense. [chuckles]

Tom: There’s nothing wrong with that, right?

Mark: No, we have a really super creative VP of marketing, who’s awesome at that and we work well together.

Tom: Which is great, because that plays to your strengths and I think that plays to their strengths as well. Then your entrance into this came through you seeing an opportunity at the company, and you were, “Actually, that really suits my skill set.” That’s essentially what you saw?

Mark: Yes. Having been through the demand gen initiation, been part of the initial demand gen and everybody hired demand gen, and now it’s really a box standard item that companies have. I see revenue ops there. Right now, it’s a little bit edgy, it’s different. People are like, “What is revenue ops?” It’s a little bit like product marketing. It’s different at every company, but I think it just makes sense because– I work for the chief revenue officer. There is no sales marketing alignment issues at our company, there’s just us. We really use the ABM approach and it works out really well for us. It’s great because you really should have sales ops and marketing ops under one umbrella, sort of one neck to choke. Marketing never has to beg sales ops to make a change to a field and sales force. That just happened here.

Tom: Can you quickly give us a sense of the size of the revenue operations team and the size of the commercial teams that support it?

Mark: We sell enterprise deals, seven-figure deals to a very large company, so we have a pretty small sales team. We’ve got a six headcount there, then our ops team, it’s me. Then Silas, who’s our senior manager of ops is more of the day-to-day. Then we have some contractors that do a lot of the– Call it crank turning within Marketo and Salesforce. It’s a pretty small, tight team or about 100 person company based in Boston and with a presence in the media.

Tom: Got it. Then the current tech stack that you’re running out Localytics across all world of the marketing and sales.

Mark: One thing on the tech stack, just like caveat, I’m very like anti big daisy chain tech stack. What I’ve learned the hard way is if you have the big tech stack, you become really ossified and it’s hard to be nimble. If you want to change something you have to like, has all these implications up and down your tech stack. I don’t want to disappoint you but in your audience, we have a very small tech stack.

We’ve got Salesforce. We’ve got Marketo. We just bought Engagio for account-based marketing and it really does a great job pulling all of our data together from our leads and contacts and all the activity rolls it up to an account level so we can measure engagement. We use a few points solutions. Nothing huge other than where we use quite a bit. For us and we have a few small point solutions. That’s really it.

We just bought Tableau, which we use for analytics, and it will help us really. You can do a lot more joins and data manipulation to your Salesforce data. We do have a data warehouse, hosted on Snowflakes. We send data from all of our point solutions into our warehouse. We’re in the midst of just taking all that data, normalizing it to duping it, connecting it so that we can have a single pane of glass view of our customers and fill a role up activity and event data up to the account level and really see our accounts holistically.

Tom: If you at the rev ops team responsible for defining, maintaining and assessing your options for the tech stack that you got?

Mark: Correct.

Tom: Then you’re recommending or suggesting to the CRO what the tech landscape should be and then he or she is just like, “Sure. You guys go ahead.”

Mark: Exactly. 100%. The way he looks at it is really how are we going to help our sellers and how do we become better at our strategy. We at Localytics is in growth mode, new logos. We have some really massive accounts like Verizon and Comcast. There are many companies out there globally that look like those so we’re trying to get new logos. We’re really leaning less into the what more tech can we throw at stuff, but like how do we engage at a high level with those accounts. As the head of revenue ops, my role it’s like technology is one part of it. It’s a tool and it’s really scalable, repeatable, it’s great, but I use non-tech tools like we hired a researcher. We have a one-person research team that really helps us understand our accounts and what the challenges are.

Then we developed pretty extensive solution briefs internally so that when we have a conversation with a new account or prospect account that we know more about their business than they do. I think everything that I do is just making our sales people better. If technology can do that, great. If research can do it, great. If buying orange socks and mailing it to them can help us creatively crack a door open and help our sales people, great.

Tom: I totally agree. It’s not about the tech, it’s about the kind of results you’re looking for. Can we dive a bit more into the researcher. Does that person then sit within the sales team, and what’s their job title? Are they just full-time researching?

Mark: Yes, research consultant. Right now they’re part-time. We’re on a kind of pilot and I’m hoping that that goes well, so far so good. She just pulls in research from things you can find on the web and press releases. There’s a lot of executives that we want to go after who have been quoted, so she looks at what they’ve been saying with regards to their digital strategy and where our solution can fit in.

She has ways of getting first party direct information, she can call up people within those accounts. Now, I’m getting into kind of really secret sauce stuff, this isn’t being recorded, right?

Tom: No, definitely not.

Mark: Okay, cool. She can call up an account and really she’s not a sales person, she can ask them, “Hey, what’s going on? How do you think about your digital strategy, how’s your purchase process working?” It’s just amazing what kind of information you can get just by asking nicely, even in America.

Tom: I’ve never heard of this role before [inaudible 00:11:35] your sales people who admittedly may not be expert researchers just spending their time, like hours per day scrolling through press releases trying to find the angle in, but you can have this person who I assume is an expert doing this.

Mark: Exactly, yes.

Tom: Moving on to the relationship between the ops team and the sales reps, how are you making them more productive apart from obviously employing or having a part-time researcher?

Mark: Yes, we sit, myself and Silas sit in the sales pit. We’re part of the team. It starts with just having good relationships with the sellers. We participate in all the social events actually organize them, for the team, so we do that part as well. It’s really, I think, with a small team like ours, it’s really bespoke, and we help the sellers day to day, whether it’s just configure a quote, or put a deal in that they’ve closed into finance.

It’s really on the ground gorilla helping them day-to-day, and then we pull them or pulse check them every couple of months about like, “What do you need?” We said if you had $100, and you had to spend it on one of these 10 things or spread out your $100, how would you spend it? From there, research was number one.

That led us to bring in the researcher. It’s really driven by them, we give them ideas and say, “Here’s our point of view, here’s what we you need.” You have been doing this for a while. You know what you think, up in the bleachers, up in the cheap seats is not always what’s going to help the sellers on the ground. We try to give them ideas and ask.

Tom: How about, if you’re rolling out something new, getting them to buy into doing the thing, when you may like take a more of the time or how you go about doing that?

Mark: We just rolled out, Engagio or part of Engagio where it gives you weekly emails and heat maps about engagement at your accounts, and marketing is doing all this great stuff to create engagement, and then we want the sellers to be looking at these reports, so we piloted this with one of the sellers. It’s like pick somebody who’s open to new things, who is flexible and gives you feedback, good, bad and ugly.

Again, it’s like what we think is best is not always going to work for the seller. We do just really small scale, like one on one pilots and learn, and then we push it out, and then we also think our sellers are adults, so we don’t have to say, “Here’s the support, you have to look at it. We’re going to shame you, if you don’t log into the tool.” It’s more like, “Here’s all these things we’re providing for you.

You’re the CEO of your territory, you lead your accounts, and these are all the things we’re making available for you.” You do what’s best here on the hook, you get the big bucks, but you’re also on the hook for making stuff happen, so take advantage of what you think is going to help you get there.

Tom: I’m thinking of a liberal theme where the salesperson is not separate, but they’re intelligent enough to know what right and you’re there just to facilitate.

Mark: Yes. Also, we’re cheerleaders to make excitement, make a lot of noise, bang the gong, and stuff like that to help with the adoption. It’s not totally just like, “[unintelligible 00:15:35], here’s the stuff and decide what you want to do.” We will try to encourage adoption as well.

Tom: Can we move forward on to the forecasting process? As a revenue ops team, do you actually review and you roll it up and run through the CRO, how does that process?

Mark: Yes. That’s a process there. We’re kind of end of the quarter right now, so it’s really front and center for us how we going to do this quarter, but we have several different forecast categories for every deal. There’s commit deals, there’s upside-stretch deals as well, and then closed one. We have the sellers categorize those themselves. The CRO scrutinizes those deals. I’m close with some of the deals so I weigh in as well same with the other sales ops person. [crosstalk] Sorry, go ahead.

Tom: You will have a list of all the opportunities and then you, and the CRO, and the other sales ops person going in asking questions to try to identify any issues or–

Mark: It’s the sellers, categorize, take the first pass at it and then the CROs scrutinizes that along with myself and the other rev ops person. We’re not as close with all the deals, but, for us, it’s a small number of deals. Forecasting, is challenging, there are high six-figure deals, low six-figure deals so one deal whether it comes in or not can sway the whole thing by 20% or 30%. I think it’s definitely an evolving science here, more of an art, I guess, than a science. We’re right at the end of the quarter, so I think we’re all going to end up about 10% within forecasts, which actually is pretty good, given the deal size.

Tom: That’s pretty good. You almost, you predicted the number of deals that are pretty close.

Mark: Right.

Tom: Fantastic for the [unintelligible 00:17:52].

Mark: That’s actually the dollar value, actually.

Tom: Within 10% and therefore, you’re probably within the right amount of deals so you [crosstalk]

Mark: Correct.

Tom: Awesome. [unintelligible 00:18:04] from next month.

Mark: Yes, it’s easy squeezy. I’ll take 10% any day.

Tom: Then KPIs, I think you’ve been at Localytics for the seven months, right?

Mark: Right.

Tom: What’s been the most insightful, fascinating KPI that you’ve been tracking?

Mark: We are tracking a new KPI that I think is going to be game-changing for us, it’s a return on engagement.

Tom: Interesting. Tell me more.

Mark: Silas and I are actually presenting this–it’s not known but we’ve done a lot of research and a lot of thinking into it, we’re presenting this at the ABM alliance in Boston next week. I’m not sure how familiar you or your listeners are with the concept of engagement minutes. Every activity, every engagement, websites visits, downloads, event visits, they’re all assigned a number of minutes and the number of minutes doesn’t mean time, it just is a random word for it.

Then we have multiplier factors for the level of that person in the company, what department they’re in the company as well and the type of engagement. If somebody visits our careers page, that’s a very, very low number of minutes, if they visit our solutions page and request a demo that’s a lot of minutes, if they are VP of digital strategy at a large telco that gets super multiplied.

We’re looking at this at an account level and how many engagement minutes were generated by each campaign and then within that campaign which we try to look granular at what channels were contributing the most and the least of minutes and then we combine that with dollars spent and we get a really neat return on engagement metric.

Tom: It’s like a custom marketing score, relates to what the prospect has been doing up until the point that they buy.

Mark: We’re really looking holistically at our market in terms of 300 named accounts that we want to go after and marketing’s job is to “engage with those accounts create engagement within those accounts” and the higher up in the organization the engagement is like a managing director rather than a an intern, then there’s more minutes associated with that. If there’s an in-person meeting or a demo request, that’s high minute multiplier, if it’s like somebody just visits our website, that’s pretty low, they open an email, that’s almost nothing. We have charged our marketing and demand gen team with creating more engagement minutes. They measure the efficiency of that with return on engagement, how much money did I spend per minute.

You’ve got the almighty minute, is what we’re going after and we want to get as many of those as cheaply as possible. Then the alignment, the magic is that demand gen is not tracked on pipeline, they’re not measured on pipeline or deals closed because that’s what sales does. Demand gen is going after engagement minutes and not like crappy download from interns, but really good high-level engagement. That’s what we’re going after.

Tom: You have for the quarter amount of engagement and a cost per minute and you can break that down into every campaign for the quarter for each campaign you have the five engagement per minute, and then you rank them and you realize your next quarter will invest more in this campaign because they got two pounds of engagement per minute.

Mark: Exactly.

Tom: That’s awesome and haven’t had that. You’re presenting at a conference next week?

Mark: That’s right, here in Boston, the ABM Alliance in Boston.

Tom: Ground breaking.

Mark: Yes, that’s how we roll.

Tom: Unfortunately, because I would love to raise this is like a global exclusive, but I think this interview him you released after you’ve gone live for the Boston Alliance.

Mark: Got it. All right. Well, we can do another one. I’ll actually be in London in November, we could do a live announcement then. How’s that?

Tom: Yes.

Mark: You can have the exclusive on the UK.

Tom: Okay, let’s do that. Final question, who has taught you the most about revenue operations since you’ve been in the field?

Mark: Boy, I would say probably somebody I really look up to is Jon Miller, who is the founder of Engagio and Marketo. I think he writes a lot, I’ve learned from him just a tremendous amount like about the philosophy, the approach, how to think about everything kind of revenue related, growth-related. He’s somebody I would say I’ve learned the most from but I think it’s a long tail of people, it’s like I just read a lot and take a little bit from a lot of different people. I like the A16z podcast, just learn a lot about growth and strategy. I think it’s really important as a revenue ops person, to understand the business strategy and I think where your value is in, which is different from sales and marketing ops. Is to connect execution and operations to where the CEO is trying to take the company, and where they’re trying to seek growth and be the tell truth to power and really help the CEO get sales and marketing aligned to where they want to grow the business.

Tom: There we go. I’m going to quickly summarize the points I liked. I really like to bring in a researcher especially for you guys with a high ACBs, and taking that away off the salespeople and obviously giving better quality insights and research for the outreach. Asking a salesperson like, “If you had $100, what would you spend it on to make your life easier?” It’s super cool.

Obviously, return on engagement, which is for the people listening live for global exclusive, measuring the marketing activities by how much actual engagement they’re creating with the right person, not just being turned down. Then what you said right in then actually about connecting operations and execution to actually what the strategy or what the CEO wants to do and how the CEO wants the company to grow. Many insights. Mark, thank you so much for coming on. That was really good.

Mark: Anytime. I enjoyed the time.

Tom: I hope we try in November.

Mark: Sounds great. I look forward to it.

[00:25:55] [END OF AUDIO]