Sales Operations Demystified: Mohit Bhargava of Big Tech Company

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Mohit jumped onto Sales Ops Demystified to share his sales operations examples from knowledge and experience from a Big Tech Company.
sales operations interview

Mohit jumped onto Sales Ops Demystified to share his sales operations examples from knowledge and experience from a Big Tech Company. The interview and learn how he nailed this sales operations interview .

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Tom: Hello welcome to another episode of Sales Ops Demystified and today, we have quite an interesting session because we have someone who's extremely experienced in sales operations. We are not actually-- We're not going to say the company that Mohit works for which is going to be interesting but I can assure you it's a company that you may have heard of before. They're a big tech company but Mohit, I'm super excited to welcome you on. I'm super excited for this session.

Mohit: Thank you. Thanks for having me here, Tom, excited to be here.

Tom: A little bit of an admission here, we did try and have Mohit on about a month ago but then we messed up the time zone, Mohit's on the west coast of America. He's in San Fran.

Mohit: Yes, I'm in a suburb of San Francisco.

Tom: Fantastic, so jealous. Okay, well let's kick off. Mohit, how did you get into sales operations?

Mohit: Yes, it's a very interesting story actually I never intended to be in sales operations. I think for those who may track me and see my profile, will actually-- Might notice that I used to be an architect many, many years ago designing buildings and hotels. At some point in my career, I actually decided that I wanted to be on the other side of the table as in I wanted to be a real estate finance and a developer. I went to business school to get an MBA to switch over my career. In 2008, was when I was looking for internships and real estate was really in a difficult [inaudible 00:01:47] there.

I actually had to make a very quick choice what my career is going to be after I finished my MBA. I figured I had taken a lot of finance courses and so, I got myself a summer internship at a large tech company at Yahoo and they have-- Into a rotational program. I landed up in sales operations [crosstalk] yes, as part of the finance rotations.

I held my career from that point on to where I am here today, yes, at Facebook. Obviously, I want to go on record and say I'm not representing my company here. I'm here in my individual capacity. I think I want to just safely say that obviously, that's where I work but I'm obviously representing only my personal views here as I talk about my career.

To summarize your question, you could say that I stumbled into where I am today in sales ops going through those ups and downs of my previous career and through the financial meltdown of 2008.

Tom: It's actually a surprising number of the people that I have on stumbled in. They didn't finish college or university and be like, "I know exactly what I want to be," but for some reason they got placed into a role or they found the role and they just like you did. You just took it from there. Does that mean that since 2008 when you had that rotation at Yahoo, since then you've been focused on sales operations?

Mohit: Yes. It's been almost eight years now I've been part of sales operations, specifically related to revenue planning and strategic planning for the sales team.

Tom: Cool and how long were you at Yahoo and then at what point did you transition into Facebook?

Mohit: Yes, from business school, after business school, I spent three and a half years at Yahoo and last six and a half years, I've been at Facebook.

Tom: That's quite a journey but we're not here to talk about Facebook, we're here to talk about sales operations.

Mohit: Absolutely.

Tom: How has your role specifically evolved over those six years of Facebook?

Mohit: Well, look when I joined it was early 2013 and obviously, the company was at a different space and time. The company has grown over time as we all know. My role has evolved since then. Initially, the things we were doing at that time were really quite different, a lot of initial building blocks of setting up operations to scale, setting up some processes and systems to being structure into our day-to-day operations. Our work was a lot more operational at that time to set up the infrastructure for future, but obviously as the organization has evolved as the business has become more complex, our roles have changed.

Also, six years is a long time. People grow in their careers and obviously take on different scopes and positions in the company. I think you can say that it's a long course. It's been a long journey and definitely things have changed a lot from when we started.

Tom: For sure. What do you think makes an awesome sales operations person?

Mohit: Yes, that's a very interesting question and I'll answer that from the lens that which I view sales ops, because sales ops essentially in many different companies can mean different things. At a high level, a very successful sales ops person is somebody who's partnering with the senior sales leadership on different aspects of sales planning and operations both. That actually includes aspects of revenue planning, forecasting as well as sales go-to-market strategy and strategic planning. What makes somebody successful is playing in this spectrum of being a trusted adviser to the sales leadership and being their fiercest critic.

Which means that you want to be their right-hand person first one they think of when they have a question in their mind. They want to-- You want them to come to you and you also have to be the first person to tell them that something is wrong in their business. I think once you establish that level of trust and partnership with senior sales leadership, that's what makes a really successful sales ops person in my opinion.

Tom: When you're working with-- like what will you see in the job title of the sales leadership team or person that you were working with or that you're currently working?

Mohit: They would be the country sales lead and their direct reports who would be regional sales leaders.

Tom: Sure, so you would go to them and say, "Look, you're not going to hit your number this quota because of X."

Mohit: Yes, normally they’ll also know that because in a good working environment, you have a really good pulse of the business, where you have your eye on metrics on a daily weekly basis. Yes, so it's not as black and white as that, but I think where we add value is looking ahead, looking around the corners and looking at some of the trends and metrics to indicate that if something is not done now, there can be a problem in future. I think that is probably a larger value add because in real time, I think people understand what's going on. I think it's working around the corners is where a good sales ops person can add a lot of value.

Tom: Cool. I really like what you said about being both a trusted advisor but also fiercest critic to the leadership. It's also interesting we have some-- Sales ops people who come in and when I ask the question, they focus more on the sale of people being their customer you could say but this is a different perspective of it. You're looking towards the other side of the marketplace if you wanted to use that analogy.

Mohit: Yes, just to elaborate a little bit on that. Obviously, your sales leaders are your customer at some point, but your larger customer is the company you're working for. You have to wear that neutral hat to be very successful where you want to make sure that sales teams are, they have an eye on the pulse of the business and you are able to point out things that are not okay as well as things that are okay.

Tom: Sure, awesome and that was another mindset that we haven't heard is you’re having like your biggest customer is not the sales people or necessary the sales leadership but the actual business itself. Awesome, another question which divides our guests on this podcast/webinar is, do you think that sales experience is necessary to succeed in sales operation?

Mohit: I don't think so. I think it's a mindset that makes you successful. Look every role is defined a little bit differently and the companies have different ways of operating, but I don't think a short answer is that I don't think sales experience is necessary to be a very successful sales ops person.

Tom: Have you had sales experience before?

Mohit: No, not at all.

Tom: Yes, I was going to say, you are clearly must be performing at a high level to work at Yahoo and Facebook for a number of years. It's almost like you're living proof that you don't need a sales experience.

Mohit: Yes, I hope so. I have actually-- If anything, I'm a proof that you can change your career and you can define it the way you want it to be.

Tom: Exactly, so you are-- I was jumping back a bit here but prior to doing the MBA you had just been doing architecture?

Mohit: Yes, absolutely. I was designing custom homes, custom residential projects as well as well as hospitality which would be hotels, high-end hotels.

Tom: Fantastic, okay cool. [unintelligible 00:10:25] that Facebook are using to manage their sales operation, is there any tools that you guys are using that are being effective at the moment?

Mohit: Actually, I don't think I'll be able to talk about [crosstalk] anything that we are using at the company. Let's focus on some of the broader aspects versus something that's specific to the company I work for.

Tom: We can't give away the trade secrets, can we? [laughs] I totally agree, okay. Let's skip forward. I want to focus on actually like-- Because sales operation spans a whole different range of disciplines. You mentioned specifically sales planning in the intro. Can you elaborate more on how that sits into the larger sales operation skill set and what your focus is at the moment in sales planning?

Mohit: Absolutely. I think sales planning essentially would mean two aspects so obviously planning from the revenue generation and sustainability perspective. It clearly has two sides to it, one is what we call revenue planning. That's forecasting revenue, setting sales targets, creating various flavors of forecasts which would be quarterly forecast, annual plan, long-range plan.

That's the world of models and numbers where you're projecting revenue and setting sales targets. That's one aspect of planning. The other aspect of planning is what we call strategic planning, right? Those would be things such as looking at sales portfolios around segmentation, looking at sales organization. Should you be creating more sales teams to go after new verticals or new areas of businesses?

Looking at sales productivity, looking at sales quarter market strategy for new programs, new sales programs or new products that are being launched, looking at health checks for your specific sales organization in terms of performance.

Those are strategic planning aspects which are often range from looking at a snapshot and going deep and understanding what's happening in the business that informs your future planning, or you're proactively planning for a specific different outcome, like a new product launch, a new sales product. As you take a step back, there are two aspects of planning overall, one is quantitative and the other is strategic. I think together those two make what you would call sales planning and operations.

Tom: Okay, cool. [crosstalk] You are looking at the numbers that the business needs to hit, but also more strategic things like, "If we're going to hit a number in this country are we going to need to hire a new sales lead for that country and give them 10 reps?"

Mohit: Exactly, yes. Looking at market opportunity, looking at sales productivity in that market, what market share you want to grab, which timeline, [unintelligible 00:13:35] the organization is going to look like and what kind of investment [crosstalk].

Tom: That for me sounds more like sales leadership work-

Mohit: Absolutely.

Tom: -but for you would be-

Mohit: Yes, it's in partnership. That's why I'm saying that you almost want to become a right hand person of your sales leadership. You want to look around the corners and help them grow the business as well as help them manage the business on a day-to-day basis in terms of metrics and insights.

Tom: Got that. I have a question, Chuck Roberts here who's a very loyal listener. What skill set and like say for that transition into the sales operations role? I guess you went through that transition from architect to sales ops.

Mohit: Yes. I think at a really basic level the skill set that you really need is looking at vast troves of data and connecting the dots and using all the insights and understanding what's really happening. There is a lot of-- There are tons of metrics and you can look at a lot of different things. Really, I think the skill set that you need is understanding what's going on in the business and then bringing that to the sales leadership to make sure that they understand what's going on, because as a sales ops person you can add a lot of value by bringing your analytical mindset.

Looking at insights and trends and making sure you can look around the corners, and let your sales leadership know what are some of the watch-outs and also it helps you plan going forward. I would say that those would be the necessary skills. I think you can transition from almost any background into a sales operations role as long as you have the mindset to do these things.

In addition I think you probably have to love numbers and have to love operations and have--You are going to wear both hats on, strategic hat and operational hat. You got to be able to switch between those two things. I think those would be the skills that I would call for [crosstalk].

Tom: When you say large amounts of data, do you mean you need more than just Excel skills, you need other SQL skills?

Mohit: Well, it depends how the organization is set up. I think if you do not have a lot of automation and a lot of reporting set up, you would definitely have to rely on SQL skills to pool data. I think inside an organization there are also dedicated BI and IT teams that can actually create standard reporting for you. I think in the long run you actually should not be relying on SQL skills as much because that is something someone else can do for you.

Try to do that, because it helps the organization scale very quickly. Then you can spend more time analyzing and understanding what's happening rather than [crosstalk].

Tom: [crosstalk] SQL skills, but we won't say because that could be a trade secret. How do you currently deal with the quality of that data and does your role-- Do you have any interface with the CRM or platform owner?

Mohit: Yes, we definitely, we work very closely with-- Our CRM platform owners are IT platform owners. We ensure data quality by creating very strong partnership with the BI and IT team leadership, making sure they understand what are our large objectives, what are our big objectives. What is it that we're trying to achieve, why certain reporting is important.

Not only why it's important, the different aspects of reporting such as timing, stability, accuracy. I think it works best if you have a tops-down alignment between leadership that these things are important. I think that should trickle down into day-to-day people you're going to work with so that they provide you the support you need for the type of data that you need [crosstalk].

Tom: Yes, I was going to say because it’s challenging when you're working with another department or another team and you have your priorities which may not necessarily be their priorities. How do you manage that? I think you just said that you need a top-down leadership to set the priorities aligned I guess?

Mohit: Yes. If you are in the part of the same company and your groups have different priorities then I think there's a problem. If you're part of the same company you have to have same priorities. I cannot imagine an environment where they are different, but I'm quite sure in some companies that might be the case. In those instances it's up to the top leadership to make sure that the priorities are aligned.

Often I think there are softer skills where you meet with people and then make sure they understand your perspective, but I think more than that you also need a tops-down alignment in your priorities. It's a problem if these departments [crosstalk]-

Tom: One more question from Jack. Which departments in a company i.e marketing, sales, [unintelligible 00:19:12] most important have the best relationship that would drive the business? I should ask which departments is it most important for the sales operations team to have that relationship with? Does that make sense?

Mohit: Yes it does. I think for sales ops probably the relationship with sales and product is probably most critical. Often there are groups within the company that act as a glue between product and sales to take the market insights, bring them to product for product development or take product development timelines and features and bring them to the sales team.

I think that include between the two departments which often is product marketing is very important. I think sales ops plays a role across creating relationships across all three functions sales, product marketing and product. I think I would say that acting as a hub and glue between these different groups is probably [crosstalk] groups.

Tom: That's quite interest because I totally agree having that link between marketing and a product part of marketing sales, we have the challenge [inaudible 00:20:32] as well but then how does the-- Without going too much detail, how does sales operations link? How do sales operations link those three groups together?

Mohit: Well, a good example of this would be, for example, the sales team is often there are-- between product and sales, there are often product needs that sales gathers data or intel from the market things that are needed. Often, those cases need to be made to the product team to be able to change the product or create the products. Sales ops can actually bring a lot of value there because they can start building a business case for the product team to understand the opportunity that exists in terms of the size of revenue, size of the pie or some other factors.

I think sales ops can actually start building those investment cases out from the sales side to the product team to make sure that product roadmaps start to get aligned to what sales is gathering with what's needed in the market.

Tom: Yes, for sure. If a salesperson is trying to explain to a product person, they should build this feature of this thing and the product person is like, "Okay why would I do that?" The sales person is probably not going to be a big financial model explaining the market opportunity. That's definitely sales operations.

Mohit: Yes, and often sales ops brings that neutral point of view. On one hand, they can translate the opportunity for the product team on the other hand, they can also ensure that the sales teams are also understanding the opportunity correctly. They obviously gather data very granularly from the market but once you start aggregating it does that add up to-- Is it-- Does it add up to creating a liable new product. I think you actually end up talking to both sides and making sure that you're actually putting [crosstalk].

Tom: [unintelligible 00:22:45] sales operations with every interview that's my one for today is how impactful sales operations can be in that relationship with products. Okay, biggest challenge in your role currently without getting too specific?

Mohit: Well, I think the biggest challenge is keeping up with the pace of the business. The way I've defined the role that I just defined for you right, it's very broad. It actually goes from revenue planning to sales strategic planning. I think in that big spectrum there is a lot that you can do and there are a lot of roles that you can play and put a lot of different hats. I think the biggest challenge and understanding where to focus your energies, there you will create the biggest impact for the long term. I think there is also this balance between long term and short term.

You're obviously trying to on strategic planning side, you're continuously looking at long term sustainable areas of growth for the company. You're continuing to create plans how things can grow in longer basis, but then on the revenue planning side its next quota metrics, its next quota targets. I think also creating that balance between long term and short term focuses can be a challenge.

Tom: Yes. How do you-- Because you’ll have a big list of things that you would do and then you have to go and prioritize and that's what we talk about here. Do you have a process that you'll go through to prioritize what's going to have the long-term value or is it just a gut feel? How do you make that selection?

Mohit: Yes, it's a really good question. Yes, gut is difficult because it's hard to justify and it's hard to defend. I think the way you create confidence in where you are, where you're going to devote your time. You start off with-- You normally you would start off with quantitative metrics as to what is the size of the pie? How much market share I can get here? What is the long-term potential here, then understanding the numbers behind it. Then you’ll work with a group of leadership which would be often sales leaders and product and your own sales ops leadership to make sure that your point of view is well understood.

As well as you whet that with other people within the company. Once you do that you normally end up with a really good sense of what's the right way to move forward. Yes, I think gut can be a little bit difficult to explain sometimes.

Tom: Yes. Another question, Jack is on it today. I'm not sure American office [unintelligible 00:25:47] actually used to prioritize work or duties. That could be a personal project management tool.

Mohit: Yes, personally I'm pretty low tech. I look at things what are my own priorities? I set my priorities for the quarter, for half of the year, what are some of the big things I need to do? Based on that, I prioritize my time. This is a pretty broad question but I would say that look at your-- Always have your eye on a long-term objective, what you're trying to do and based on that, you should always prioritize your time. Make sure that it's not reactive, you're not spending time, you're not peanut buttering yourself over a lot of small things. Make sure that there are big things in play always.

There is a story about rocks and pebbles and sand and water. If you're trying to fill all of those things into a big jar, how would you go about it? The only way you can get a lot of those things into put the big rocks first, then pebbles, then sand, then water, but if you start putting water and sand in first, you'll never get the big rocks in. I think the lesson from that is that make sure your big priorities are always first. Make sure you identify your big rocks and put those in first and [crosstalk]

Tom: Tell me about metrics if I-- Okay, I'm going to rephrase this question. If you could have one metric to judge a sales team, what would that metric be?

Mohit: Yes. That's a tough one because I think you don't want to judge a sales team how they're hitting their revenue targets, because that makes them very myopic or short-sighted. You also don't want to judge them always on the long term because there is also company objectives of growing revenue in the short term, the ending cycle this quarterly. Often, I think it's hard up. Frankly speaking, the answer to your question is it's hard to judge sales by just one metric. I think it depends on space and time where your company is, if you're in a really early-stage startup, you’ll probably want to look at long term objectives, weigh them in more.

I would say that if you are ever in this situation, create a set of metrics that are important for you. Give them weight according to-- Give them some weightage depending on which stage you're at what you're solving for. Then I think you can come up with what you could call impact score. We don't do that but I think those are some of the ideas you can float within your organization. Create some kind of a scoring system which ways long term and short term [crosstalk] depending on what your objectives are. I think that might be a better balance to you to judge a sales team.

Tom: Awesome. Okay, cool. Then finally, have there been an incident [crosstalk] in sales operations in your life, whether that was at Yahoo or Facebook now? A person who's taught you a lot?

Mohit: I think there have been a lot of people along the way frankly. I think many managers, for the most part, have been really awesome throughout my career. I've always learned things from them. Choose your managers carefully which means when you're applying for a role, they are interviewing you, you should also judge and interview them in a way that you really want to work for this person. I think that's important because you learn a lot.

You learn a lot from your managers. It's like a lot of times if you have taken a course at college where things you will never forget for life because those are really good professors. I think you have to think about it that way. You're spending a year or two year, three years under a manager like what are you going to learn from them. Going back to your question yes, I've learned a lot from my managers along the way. Also you're running across the roads so [crosstalk] I don't know if I can be able to [inaudible 00:30:18] but I would say that [crosstalk].

Tom: Awesome. Then one final question, what do you think it's next from [unintelligible 00:30:18] because you've been in sales operations for nine years and I’d say surely it's time to like change to be a doctor or joking. I assume, you're very happy at Facebook.

Mohit: Yes, I am. Yes, I really love what I'm doing. It's a great company. It always very exciting and yes at this point you start thinking-

Tom: You're happy.

Mohit: -you either want to change your career or I've already done that once so I'm definitely not trying to do that right now. Yes, I'm very happy with what I'm doing. I think often you find roles that you really like that gives you the passion and I think as long as you're finding that passion every day to come into work and create a difference. I think it's a good place to be in. You really don't need to change [inaudible 00:31:26] [crosstalk].

Tom: We have one more. Okay, yes, final question from Jack Roberts. [crosstalk] I don't think anything actually did attract you to sales operations I guess when you start at that role then there must be things that you like. I guess the question is what made you stay in sales operations?

Mohit: Yes, because I was in a rotational program early on in my career and then I stayed on in sales operations. What I really like about this is that balance that I talked about it earlier it lets you-- The role can be really quite-- You can define this role, you can be the trusted partner, you can be the fiercest critic and you can play between those two extremes. I think what really attracts me to this role is one that this role allows me to do a lot of different things. It allows me to be this neutral party looking at the business and giving me the satisfaction of driving the business to the right place.

Sometimes it's by assisting the sales leadership and sometimes it's by challenging them. I think having that satisfaction of getting business to a good place is one of the big attractions. Then the way we get there by problem solving, critical thinking, being curious about the business, those are some of the things that really [inaudible 00:32:54] [crosstalk] and those things keep me going and keep me attracted to it.

Tom: [crosstalk] But also trusting adviser to sales leadership. We should get that as a quote. Joshy Boy and then the other one over link between the product or the a layer, part of marketing and sales I think that's really interesting I've never had that view before. I want to thank you so much for your time. Sorry we messed the last time, any final words for our audience?

Mohit: Yes. I think one thing I would say is that I've learned that a lot of companies have different definitions of what they call sales operations. I think depends where you are but honestly there is a need for this leadership within the companies where the court that Tom was just talking about fiercest critic as well as the trusted adviser and I think if you can balance, if your role allows you that flexibility firstly the organizational structure gives you that, try to play both of those roles very honestly.

[00:34:22] [END OF AUDIO]

Quotes:

"Sales operations can drive the business through the help of sales leadership." Mohit Bhargava
"Sales operations can drive the business through the help of sales leadership." Mohit Bhargava

Tom Hunt

Tom Hunt

Tom Hunt is Ebsta's Head of Marketing, he is passionate about sales tech, puppies and efficient teams.
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