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Sales Operations Analyst: Joe Gates of Spendesk

Joe Gates jumped onto Sales Operations Demystified to share his knowledge and experience as a Sales Operations Analyst in Sales Operations.

We discussed:

  • How Joe got into sales operations
  • What his role entails as a sales operations analyst
  • The current tech stack Joe is using
  • How Spendesk forecast sales

Check out all the other episodes of Sales Operations Demystified here.

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Tom Hunt: Welcome to another episode of Sales Operations Demystified. If you're watching live, thank you very much for joining live. If you have any questions, ping them in chat. Anyone listening, Ebsta also on podcast. Thank you so much for tuning in. Today we're joined by someone who has less experience than other people that we've spoken before, but I think that he's super interesting, to get a different look at the sales operations career.

Last last week, we had the guy called Jeff who's been in the game for 20 years. Obviously like a massive value there, but I think we're going to get different insights here. We have someone who's super smart, who's been at sales out of two different startups, that I'm really happy to have on, so Joe, welcome.

Joe Gates: Thanks for having me.

Tom:  My pleasure, as you know guys, we're going to run through the standard nine questions, but also if we find stuff that's interesting, we'll jump in and highlight that. I already know the answer to this, but I'm super excited to find out more is, Joe, how did you get into sales ops in the first place?

Joe: It all started when I was working as a SDR at GoCardless. We had a few internal changes within the sales structure and as such, we saw a drop in commission of about 60%. As all sales people, we're very focused on our commission, so I started digging into the numbers.

Tom: Sorry, you guys where, you were selling stuff. Then you notice that you guys were getting paid less.

Joe: Correct.

Tom: You were like, "Okay, let's try and figure this out." What did you find?

Joe: I first started digging into leads, obviously the trends just year over year, and then try to tie in when the drop of leads happened. What types of sales addressable leads shall I take in terms of how we could sell to them and any internal changes. As such, we managed to tie this back to an internal change.

Tom: Okay, would you say the work for you we're doing that was sales operations work?

Joe: Pretty much it was sales operations work at that point. We didn't have a fully-fledged team then. I think we had one member of the sales operations team.

Tom: Okay, what happened after that?

Joe: After that, I raised the issue internally with my boss, and ended up being offered a move into sales ops.

Tom: Fantastic, I assume that when you were doing that investigative stuff into the process, you enjoyed that more than doing the SDR work?

Joe: I enjoyed both, but I think I've always had an understanding of, we'll try to think as to why things happen and what causes it, right? I'm very easy and able to do the sales op job.

Tom: Got it, nice. Okay, so then, you switch out to sales operations. What happened from there with GoCardless?

Joe: We were managing a sales team of about 40 to 50 people between the two of us.

Tom: There's 2 people in the sales ops team, 40 to 50 sales people?

Joe: Sales and customer success, correct.

Tom: Cool. You are responsible for all of those people?

Joe: Exactly, Everything and anything, really.

Tom: Did you have to report into the VP of Sales or sales manager?

Joe: Correct, so we reported into the VP of Sales and the CRO at that point.

Tom: Cool, so the VP of Sales reported into-- the VP of Sales with the CRO.

Joe: We had a VP of Sales and Chief Revenue Officer.

Tom: Cool, then in your team, there was yourself and there was another sales operations person?

Joe: Correct.

Tom: Okay, cool. How did you find it ?

Joe: It was more challenging at first. I didn't really have a very clear scope. Our general role was to help enable the sales team but it wasn't clear on what things we were doing that with. It was is up to own any new projects to understand where we want to go, which sometimes can lead you down the wrong path, or sometimes it can lead you down the right path. You do hit those hurdles very quickly.

Tom: Obviously it was quite a-- the person who joined sales operations before you joined, I assume wasn't there for that long?

Joe: No, he'd started about three months prior to me.

Tom: Okay, fair enough, so it's quite a new operation. Since then, you've moved onto a different company in sales operations again?

Joe: Correct.

Tom: Is that department in the new company as mature or slightly, it's been there for a while?

Joe: It's smaller, it's just me.

Tom: Oh, really nice.

Joe: I'm now leading out the function and just trying to make sure that we get the company along the right tracks at least.

Tom: How many sales people are you currently working with?

Joe: We currently have 19 and scaling very quickly. When I started in January, we had 11 newly hired.

Tom: That is fantastic, that's cool. Okay. I'm getting carried away here. I'm going to segue back into the main questions. You might have touched on this already, but what do you think makes a awesome sales operations person?

Joe: As I said, it's just this ability to dig into the why. What is happening, why does it happen? What are the impact of this? I just think from that side, having worked in sales, had a very good experience, kind of understand what changes and how that would impact the sales team. I was responsible to help the sales team to enable them to do their job. Having done that, I had great experience in going, "Okay, this will influence them in this way or this will hinder them and how can I get buy-in from the reps are?", which is ultimately one of the harder things. Having the buy-in from the team to agree to the changes that you're trying to make and that will make their lives better. How can you get a visible agreement?

Tom: Got it. I can really see, because you really like this, digging in and finding out why thing, as an SDR, someone's like, "Here's the process." You're going to implement the process and then you might feel something wrong with the process, but then that's not your job, right? Your job is to book more meetings, and that really makes sense to me. You obviously touched on another important point here is, yes, you can dig into why, you can make changes to the process but there'd be no point if you can't influence the people who are actually running the process.

You need these analytical skills to understand, and assess, and tweak processes, but then you need-- that's what I actually find fascinating about the writers, that you need more hard, traditional skills, but then you also need these softer influencing skills. Can you share like, I don't want to put it on the spot here Joe, but a time where you've used your softer skills to influence a rep, or an SDR, to adopt a new change that you're making?

Joe: I'm in the process, obviously that's the sales operations function. We're in the process of making a lot of changes. Some which the reps will obviously agree with and some which they won't. I think one of the big ones for me is doing, we're moving or migrating CRM at the moment. There's obviously a huge challenge of getting the reps over. You're going to have a completely new function and how it works, et cetera. For them, it's about selling or not selling. It's about influence and what are the benefits of it as opposed to the disadvantages.

Yes, you obviously have to work to understand the new tool, but it's going to make your life easy in terms of automation. I think this is a rule you have stick to by, in terms of automate where you can and just going manual where you need it.

Tom: You're painting the vision of how great Salesforce is going to be.

Joe: Exactly. Whichever CRM you migrate to.

Tom: Exactly, yes. Out of interest, if you can share, which CRM are you moving to and from?

Joe: We are moving from over to Salesforce.

Tom: Cool, yes, nice. Maybe we'll talk about that later. Do you think that your time as a BDR has made you more successful in sales operations?

Joe: I definitely think it's impacted the way that I work in the role in a good way. I have a great understanding of, if I make a change, how will that affect the reps and what will their objections be to that? How do we help the team get around these changes? How do we help them in their daily job? Ultimately as sales operations, you're there to be the backbone for the function, for the team.

Tom: Would you say that you think that experience is necessary to be effective at sales operations?

Joe: I wouldn't say necessary, but even coming to Spendesk, I did a little bit of selling here just in the first few weeks just to understand what the reps are doing and go through the process. It's a good to have but it's necessary, it's a very nice to have.

Tom: Yes, fair. Actually, even if you don't have past experience at sales ops, why can you not just jump into a sales person's shoes for two weeks to a month? Did you get big respect from your reps of you doing that? Did you think that helped you with the--?

Joe: Yes it definitely helps when you're giving them advice or helping with changes. I know the process, I've gone through the process with you and do it, and therefore there's more of an element of trust between the two parties.

Tom: Nice, okay. Quick question. James has been a loyal supporter of the podcast/webinar. I would love to know more about how you/Spenddesk forcast. Is there any gems you can share?

 Joe: Okay, I guess the way that we do is we take a very mostly complicated model. We use the close date, and we use the percentage likelihood to close. This is probably one of the easiest ways of doing it. You can use the multipliers to go, "Okay it's going to close in this date at this percentage, therefore we know that we're going to hit X amount as our expected revenue."

Tom: I was actually speaking, a super interesting conversation with some sales guys the last week about how they take that data, but then they also have to tweak it, or modify it based on how optimistic or pessimistic their rep is. It feel like for every rep you actually have this optimism/pessimism factor. Do you have those formally, or do you just do the--?

Joe: No, we equally have a confidence level, same thing. We apply the percentage likelihood to close, depending on the stage it's in, which is, we decide the case, so if it's in the 50% of the funnel, it's about 50% to close, and then we have the rep confidence or the confidence to close. The rep then saying, "Okay it's 60% or it's 100%." Then we just multiply the two percentages.

Tom: Then you also have to apply this factor to that confidence figure because that's from the rep, right?

Joe:  Exactly. It just gives it a little more human touch as opposed to this is what I think it should be.

Tom:  Nice. Okay, moving on. The current ops tech stacks, so we have Salesforce as a CRM moving from Close, do we have other tools?

Joe: One of the biggest ones for me is This is one of our data sources.

Tom:  Is that Hold, as in H-O-L-D?

Joe: H-U-L-L.

Tom: H U, cool. This is data source?

Joe: It's kind of a data warehouse. It's like a Zapier. Zapier on steroids I guess is what they market themselves as.

Tom: Oh, really?

Joe: It allows me to store all the data and push it to whichever tools I need them to push to regardless, if they're integrations or not.

Tom: That's pretty sweet. We haven't hear this one before. Anything else?

Joe: I use SalesLoft. That's kind of part-and-parcel of sales engagement. Comes in with dialer, email. That's obviously very good for all the tracking, and that's kind of what our reps seem to use. Then as we go down the funnel, obviously you've got your video conferencing with Zoom. You move over to our contracting quote system, which is [unintelligible 00:12:13] moment, but we are looking to move to DocSend.

Tom: Nice. Solid. Okay, cool, and out of those, or do you have a favorite tech that you're using? Is that

Joe: In terms of power it brings, yes. In terms of the power, it brings something else. Just easy to clean data, move it around between the tools, and it gives me a lot more control of each item.

Tom: I'm going to take a quick look at this now because it sounds super interesting. If anybody is listening or watching, is Joe's favorite tech tool. The only real-time B2B customer data platform. A single source of truth to unify your martech stack and orchestrate your entire customer journey. It's good copyright. Okay, awesome. Probably related to Hull, how are you currently dealing with data quality in Close and how do you think you'll deal with it moving towards Salesforce?

Joe: Again how in and merging that with Salesforce will become the source of truth. I think it's super important to have this source of truth. As I said early, you need to automate where possible, to kind of release the burden from your reps so we can take data from LinkedIn, and pass this over to Hull, which then is passed to Salesforce automatically, saving them. Just have to fill in a few fields, but it saves the reps a lot of time going down the funnel.

Then obviously, when you're manual, I think the best way to do this is again get the rep's buy-in. If you can explain. Yes, this is manual, but every time you do it, I'm able to give something back. If you think that this has got a bounced email, then I can go and find you the correct email. I can pass it back to wherever it needs to go, and that's crucial.

Tom: Selling them the vision.

Joe: Exactly. Always sell the vision.

Tom: What I'm hearing is everything's automated, so you can use SalesLoft, take information from LinkedIn into your Salesforce. Is that what you're saying?

Joe: Hull.

Tom: Hull, sorry. Really? I can take information from LinkedIn straight into Salesforce.

Joe: If you can code in JavaScript over the top of it, yes.

Tom: Can you?

Joe: I can't, but we have an engineer who can.

Tom: Cool, so that's okay. All that information is going into Salesforce which is going to be the one source of truth, but then when you have manual processes, you sell the vision, explain to them how much more commission ultimately they're going to get if they do this thing.

Joe: Correct.

Tom: Cool. However, we've had other people come on who have challenges where they have their one source of truth like Salesforce or CRM, but then they get all these duplicates, they get all this other stuff in there, and they're like-- do you have any processes that you use to clean or--?

Joe: Yes. In terms of Salesforce duplicates, even at GoCardless, there were always going to be duplicates. It's very hard to completely avoid it. This is where Hull comes in. It has such a good tool, it allows you to clearly and visibly see accounts and it merges them automatically. Based on either a script you build, or based on whatever kind of keys you were using, identification tools. If you use website domains or whatever you're looking to include. This is such the power part.

Tom: They should be paying you, shouldn't they?

Joe: They should.

Tom: Okay, awesome. What would you say is your biggest challenge you currently have in your role, and how you have overcome this?

Joe: It has to be at the moment a balancing act in terms of time and stakeholders. Migrating CRM is not easy as one person in a team. Let alone during the six or seven other projects that I'm working on trying to set up a sales operations function. It can be very tricky to be balancing teams such as marketing, sales, operations, data, as well as migrating a CRM. It's a lot of time. As I said, this is a balancing act. Its's a fine line to make sure you're hitting those deadlines properly.

Tom: All of these different people are coming to you, and they are being like, "Joe, when are we migrating? Joe when's the new SDR process being published?" You have to be like, "Sorry guys," and you have to prioritize your time to who you think is most important.

Joe: Yes, prioritizing, but it's also going the other way. I think sales operations, it does have that beauty of interacting with pretty much every team in the company. Operations as you would have it in general, like speaking to products, getting the feedback from why you've lost the deal and passing with the product. There's always triggers within each team. It's important to have that balancing act between them all.

Tom: We haven't heard that before. I like that. One of the beauties of sales operations is the ability to-- well the exposure you get to every part of the business, because I guess you're going to be in the tech team and being like, "Can you write through JavaScript code for my application?"

Joe: Exactly.

Tom: Okay. Cool, and do you have a single metric that you judge your sales team by?

Joe: A single metric?

Tom: What's the most important?

Joe: I guess the most important for us is and what we're looking at, like any companies, is always the MRR, but we tend to take a delayed look on that, so we tend to wait a few months just to ensure the MRR's okay.

Tom: Interesting, so you would judge-- sales doesn't base on how much they've added to the MRR in a time period.

Joe: Yes, we like to follow the growth. From month one, to month two, to month three, just to see that kind of trend of growth, that's kind of the really important things for us.

Tom: You are waiting until month three, in order to really come out, because the the sales person could have sold the absolute dream, they get passed on to customer success and then they realize that they've oversold, and then they might churn early on.

Joe: All true, correct.

Tom: You know if they pay you three months in a row, they're probably a solid. You are just focused on the topline revenue these sales people are bringing you?

Joe: Correct.

Tom: Awesome. Is there anyone that, in your sales operations career, that you've worked under or have advised you that you've thought that's really what kind of sent you in your way or educated you?

Joe: Not so much in sales operations. I've only had a very short span, and in terms of, I had two very small teams, myself, and myself and one other. I actually think my manager when I was a SDR was really influential for me. In terms of digging into why and understanding more from a customer's side of view, and then obviously when you look at sales operations, the sales people are your customers from that side. Always making sure that you're putting them first, or understanding their pains, and working towards them. I think that was what my SDR manager was telling me, always.

Tom: Was that person also the person who helped you move over to sales operations at GoCardless?

Joe: He definitely influenced me to keep digging, and he wasn't the one who offered me the job, but he definitely motivated me to keep going.

Tom: What's that persons name?

Joe: Joseph Robins.

Tom: Joseph Robins.

Joe: Worked for GoCardless in Australia at the moment.

Tom: Cool. awesome. Joe, fantastic. That was a brief one, but let me highlight the things I really liked. We heard a couple times before, but when you're trying-- the way you influence the people in your sales team is to explain to them how much their life is going to be better, and you're selling the vision. I really like that. I also really like the part of the beauty of you being able to interact with every team. Then finally one, a little gem there at the end is, putting-- We've asked before who is the customer of sales operations?Some people say it's the CRO, some people say it's the sales team, but here you're saying, "Putting the sales people first. They're the customer." You learned that from Joseph Robins.

Joe: Exactly.

Tom: Awesome. Joe, do we have anymore questions? I need to quickly check. We answered the forecasting one for James. I have Jack here. How do you map accounts to someone who has just joined your sales team midway? Good question, Jack.

Joe: Fortunately, this is something we do a lot as we're scaling very quickly. We have a very short inbound function in terms of we'll, after a few weeks of training we'll start giving them inbound leads. Also, we're able to take old leads which haven't been contacted in the last three weeks as we have a very robust outbound function, so we're able to knock over old leads which haven't been contacted in the last three months, for example. That becomes the core of who they'll be contacting and get some emails through. We then refresh our lists every quarter, so that mainly gives them a bit more.

Tom: If I joined now, I wouldn't be given an account that is already in the sales process with someone else?

Joe: No.

Tom: I actually don't know, but your sales cycle I assume is not like 6 to 12 months, right?

Joe: No. Our average sales cycle is about 31 days.

Tom: That's really great that you knew that off by heart, straightaway. You can tell a true sales ops ninja by if they can. You're mostly saying that the sales cycle is relatively short, so if a new sales rep joins, you can just chuck them, either some inbound after a couple of weeks of training or you refresh lists every quarter or so, they're going to get assigned those stuff.

Joe: Exactly.

Tom: Makes sense. Joe, thank you so much for joining. You have any other gems you'd like to share with the audience before we go?

Joe: Any other gems? Once cliche I always use is that sales ops is the metronome of the revenue function.

Tom: That's good. Can you explain that, because I don't really understand?

Joe: It's basically saying you're the ticking beat for every new function. I say revenue, because I always like to merge marketing and sales together. We always have this misalignment between the two functions commonly. Why we think of them as two functions, I think is something we should change. They should stick together, like they're just an earlier part of the sales cycle, so we have to think of that. In terms of that, you're just making sure that everything ticks and is moving.

Tom: Yes, like a metronome.

Joe: Exactly.

Tom: You're actually saying that sales and marketing should be one team and you could just call that team the revenue team?

Joe: Yes. You can include customer success in that as well.

Tom: That I think is a big trend we're seeing as well. Have you pitched that to your COO or anyone in the business?

Joe: Pretty much. We tend to stay relatively aligned. At first when we came in, even in the CRM, the values for our source was marketing or sales. It's not competition. I very quickly, just some subtle changes inbound and outbound. Not quite change, but it's like the two functions work together, because if you have an outbound lead which you know you can get interested, you can pass that back to marketing to do some inbound work. There's really this link between the two.

Tom: What's the source then, right? If it was outbound, then it's inbound then it was outbound again. Do you know what I mean?

Joe: The source for us is the source where it comes into the rep, when they would create the opportunity. If it didn't work outbound then it would be changed to inbound source.

Tom: Awesome. Joe, thanks so much for your time.

Joe: You're welcome.

Tom: We'll speak to you later.

Joe: Have a nice day.




"Sales Operations is the metronome of the revenue function." - Joe Gates

"Sales Operations is the metronome of the revenue function." - Joe Gates