Interviewer: very special [unintelligible 00:00:02] operations demystify podcast. In this room now we have a grand total of 20 years sales operations experience from 10 different companies so I'd like to introduce Nia who is global head of sales operations at Jumio and Catherine who is sales operations director at Ometria. Welcome guys.
Interviewer: Thank you so we've actually been trying to get Catherine and Nia onto this podcast for like four months as they were here. First of all thank you very much for your time I think it's going to be a really really interesting session because this is a diverse, the number of business that you guys have experienced in. I'm going to kick off with the first question which is how did you get into sales ops and feel free to-- whoever likes to go first.
Catherine: I'll start so how did I get into sales ops? Actually 11 years ago now or 10 years ago I applied for an internship at Microsoft and I applied to work for the finance department. I went through the whole assessment center, did five interviews for different departments and they rejected me. They didn't want me to work for the finance department so you can imagine I was absolutely upset. Had to go back then they called me two days later and said actually we have a better role for you. We think that this particular role suites you much much better.
Which was actually the role up in education and licensing specialist in their education team. That particular role set basically between the operations, sales and enablement so I was managing different programs, educational programs, I was training our salespeople on the different educational programs we had but also our resellers and distributors. I was doing the whole operational side of things looking at what does the process look like in terms of who are we selling to, how are we working with our distributors and resellers? What is an entire sales process looks like, working with the operations center to really optimize that.
I was doing numbers understanding really what we're doing from an educational perspective. Although my role was educational licensing specialist that was my real taste in what sales operations was without knowing what sales operations actually was [laughs]. That was quite interesting.
Interviewer: A few patterns I see with these interviews is that no one really actually goes for a job in sales operations and when they do get into a job that turns out to be sales operations they don't know what it is so that's what happened with you.
Interviewer: Let's quickly go over and get Nia's origination story.
Nia: My start was slightly different. I began my career in psychology and I worked in psychology for about four, five years. I worked in the young offenders' prison in Belgium. Then I got my first cooperate role at Groupon and I was learning about buying patterns, trying to understand the buying patterns of the consumers. Then I very quickly became interested or more interested in the buying, the sales process and the process that drove a salesperson to make the sales. I spent a lot of time working on the process, my area of expertise began with the process and looking at how we can make it more efficient, what we could do to improve it and that's where I began.
Interviewer: From the people perspective because of your background in psychology that how can we make our salespeople sell more and this process sell more by looking at how you change the [unintelligible 00:03:46] people, is that it? Sounds super interesting.
Nia: Yes, definitely. It's definitely helped me along the way, I always say when I get a bad salesperson I've experienced working in a prison with other types of people [laughter] so this is nothing.
Interviewer: We're going to get onto that later. You guys actually met working at Amazon?
Interviewer: Was that in sales operations?
Nia: I always explain this by saying sales operations even as a title being defined has never really properly been defined and so we actually worked in different departments but doing different aspects of sales operations.
Catherine: Actually at Amazon was the first time I had actually the tittle sales operations, it was my first time being a sales operations specialist I think it was or analyst even. Before that, I saw the sales operations role but I was never called that, I was sales accident support or sales support or anything like that.
Nia: Even now people are called business operations, revenue operations.
Catherine: It's evolving now because I feel like sales operations came first and now its being-- now its revenue operations, now we have BizOps as well especially Silicon Valley. I think it's definitely evolving. Another time at Amazon, I had that sales operations title. She works for a different department which was still-- Right now, we would say that's still part of sales operations, but somehow because it was so early days, it felt separate.
Interviewer: Got it. Then you both moved to work at [unintelligible 00:05:23].
Interviewer: Was that together? How did that happen?
Catherine: We quit together and went to [unintelligible 00:05:27].
Nia: Catherine [unintelligible 00:05:31].
Catherine: I went first.
Interviewer: Did you move into a sales operations role?
Catherine: I did. It was a sales operations manager.
Nia: That was the first time.
Interviewer: Got it. Then you worked through that [unintelligible 00:05:44].
Catherine: Then I said, "Hey, Nia."
Interviewer: Did you join the same team?
Nia: Yes. This was the first time we were together.
Catherine: Actually together and actually made sense.
Interviewer: In sales operations?
Interviewer: Cool. Let's focus on the [unintelligible 00:05:56] experience real quick. It's like that you joined when they were relatively small. How many people were in the business when you joined?
Catherine: When I joined, we're just over 30 people.
Interviewer: Were you the first sales operations resource?
Catherine: For Nia, yes. I was the first one. Obviously, [unintelligible 00:06:14] in Vancouver. They had sales operations in Vancouver that was managing sales ops for their global business globally. It was unrealistic. There were only a couple of people. They actually needed someone who can manage [unintelligible 00:06:31] also just because the market is totally different so they needed someone who actually understood and had that sales operations experience in [unintelligible 00:06:37].
Nia: You always need someone in the trenches who's there with the salespeople working day to day.
Nia: Having someone in a different time zone is always very difficult.
Catherine: It's very difficult.
Interviewer: Because that relationship is so important, right?
Catherine: It is so important, yes.
Interviewer: On that actually, we were talking before we went live about the needing sales experience to do sales operations. From what I've heard from you and from the stories defies that we don't have experience in sales. Tell me if I'm wrong.
Catherine: I have. [laughs]
Interviewer: Okay. Great.
Catherine: Before I joined Microsoft as an intern, I had two sales jobs before that. I'm from Holland. Actually, when I was 17, my first role was knocking on doors selling energy, NACo. That was my first hardcore sales job. After that, just when I was in uni, I was working for Nationwide Building Society selling loans and credit cards. I had a little bit of a sales background when I went to it, for sure.
Nia: Like I said before, when I was at uni, I was working in retail [unintelligible 00:07:46]. My first proper working role was doing psychology work. I have not come from a typical sales background having done sales work, but I would say that you don't necessarily-- I personally think you necessarily need a sales background to be good in sales operations. I do think specific skills. I think there are certain skill sets that are needed to be able to do the job effectively but I wouldn't necessarily say a sales or a typical sales background is required.
Interviewer: Cool. Do you agree with that opinion?
Catherine: A little bit. I think if you do have a sales background and you go to sales operation, providing you also have the operational skills and can do that, but if you go into that role, I think you can be the best sales ops out there because you have to understand salespeople. You have to understand or you'll not be able to do your job. If you don't have that experience, I do think that you still need to go into sales operations role trying to understand the salespeople, trying to understand the sales organization in order to be able to do your job. That's my take.
Interviewer: Got it. Moving on, next question, current [unintelligible 00:09:02] for both of you guys. I'm assuming we're using Salesforce. Is that [unintelligible 00:09:08] for both of you?
Catherine: We're both using Salesforce, yes.
Interviewer: Cool. What else are we using?
Nia: This question, [unintelligible 00:09:15]. When we're looking at the questions, this question puzzled us because I don't think it's as important the tech stack that you're using. The way I try and describe it is that you've got-- It goes back to my point being that sales operation doesn't just deal with salespeople. That's the reason why it can be called business operations, revenue operations, because you're dealing with the business as a whole.
In terms of the tech stack that you're using, each department potentially will have its own one. If you think about each department as being a different cog in the broader scheme of everything. Each cog needs to be able to turn with each other one. The different tools that they're each using all needs to be at least integrated or work alongside each other. Saying that I use Salesforce or using X or Y. I don't think it's as important as making sure that this tech stack that you're using, or interacts and works cohesively with each other. Because ultimately, if I'm the startup, my tech stack will be completely different to [unintelligible 00:10:22], and we're an enterprise company.
The tech stack is changing and growing and evolving. As long as it's always working together, and you're always ensuring that whatever it is that you are using, it's benefiting the other departments and is working alongside them. I don't think it really matters.
Interviewer: Got it. If the sales department had like the ultimate tech stack, but it wasn't talking to the rest of the business.
Catherine: There's no point because I think and what we're definitely trying to do because [unintelligible 00:10:50] definitely, certainly smaller than Jumio. We're just starting out. We're just implementing Salesforce. Now we're really starting to think about what kind of ecosystem are we building for the business? Because like she said where it's like a cog, it's a sales entire sales organization, not just a sales team. Every other department adds value to sales.
We need to understand how do we collaborate with each other? What is the information exchange? How does that look like? Because there's hand over between the departments. We need to have a system that talks to each other. We combine silos. Now, what we're doing is we're just speaking to other departments trying to understand, what do we have today? Does it talk with Salesforce? If it doesn't, do we need to change? What is the right tech stack?
Nia: It makes our job more challenging because we have so many more stakeholders to get by it but it makes our job even more important because otherwise, you end up spending all this money and all these different tools that don't know what they're doing. They're probably doing similar things, which you always want to avoid.
Interviewer: I love how you avoid answering the questions. Going back to the toolset, if they want the tool that you have used that you thought that's really good, [unintelligible 00:12:08] not matter? Because it's what really matters [crosstalk].
Catherine: No, there's definitely some cool tools out there that you can use. For us, like I said, we just implemented Salesforce now I'm looking at different tools that we can potentially be purchasing and implement more integratable sales with Salesforce. I will abstain for saying until I actually have it. In the past tools that we used and intergrated with Salesforce, actually there's one we've just bought, and that is specifically with the CSM teams and that's inside, which I think is a pretty cool tool to really have that single customer view as well.
Nia: [unintelligible 00:12:51] as well. Just to be able to get a holistic view, I think any tool that can give you a more holistic view and provide additional data that's relevant.
Interviewer: Moving on to data quality, and I work using Salesforce, do they sit with you or all your team's head of operations to ensure that quality audit that sit with the [unintelligible 00:13:12] or Salesforce admin.
Catherine: Everyone is responsible for data quality.
Interviewer: Equally with someone's earning.
Nia: Everybody's responsible for the data that's in the system. In terms of who's responsible for looking after and owning it, that's RO, we are there to do that. If anybody's using the CRM tool, anybody who's taking part in the business is equally responsible for ensuring that what they do within the company is providing data that's useful.
Catherine: I think there is a lack, from my experience and other business that I worked at is there is a lack of really educating everyone in the business about data quality, data integrity, just data governance, so it's creating data governance within your business and making sure everyone is aware of that for sure. Then but also having then data quality control team, which needs to be sole operations or any other dedicated data quality control team you want to have, that can definitely champion it and drive that and make sure that people are doing what they're supposed to be doing.
Interviewer: On that point, actually getting salespeople specifically to do these things that you want us to do to maintain data quality, how do you do that as a psychology question?
Nia: I think psychology helps understanding that definitely helps but I think it's about adoption and adherence in as much as anything else and getting someone to adopt to using the tool correctly or in the way that the business processes require you to use it. It's about including them in the process. When you purchase new tools, ensuring that they are I guess heavy stakeholders in [unintelligible 00:15:03] purchase it.
Interviewer: Interesting. Actually going out and asking people what they think would be good.
Nia: Yes. Ultimately, the way I look at it is the salesperson is my customer so I need to make sure that they are happy with what we've purchased and it worked to the needs that they have. Ultimately, my goal, I have to [unintelligible 00:15:22], right? My goal is to make sure that the business needs are met, so when they're suggesting this tool or this new fancy tool that does this and has these pretty colors, that's lovely, but it doesn't meet the business needs, then it doesn't mean anything.
Catherine: There's something to be said about doing the right thing for the business, but then also, as a salesperson are there to support the salespeople because we want them to be as productive so things needs to be efficient for them. For me, in terms of getting, really, buy in from salespeople, actually, it's quite easy because it starts with them. It start with them saying on a day to day, they are working with different processes, with different tools, they will tell me and voice out, "Actually, this is not working for me." "Why not?" "Because it's not efficient, it's not fast enough am getting this box."
Actually, from the start, you are making sure they're involved and [unintelligible 00:16:16] them to make in order to improve things. That's where it starts. After that, it's just more reeducation. Making sure that the entire business is also bought into that, that you have senior management that's also bought in that can drive them from the top. Just getting [unintelligible 00:16:32].
Interviewer: Yes, but it starts with communicating with the salespeople every day.
Interviewer: That's why if we needed someone in [unintelligible 00:16:40] when they're growing the sales team because it's hard to do that if you're on the other side of the [unintelligible 00:16:42].
Interviewer: Got it. You mentioned about salespeople being productive, what are you currently doing at the moment to improve the productivity of your sales teams?
Catherine: That one I find it's such a broad question.
Catherine: It's in different ways. You can try and get the sales team to be productive from, "This system doesn't work." It creates a bottleneck. That is one. It can also be from a place where, going back to data, if we don't have the right data in the system and they have to go out there and call prospect but they don't have the right numbers. They don't have the right elements on account to understand how to go and move that forward, then that is a question of data quality and data enrichment, for example, in order to get them to be more productive.
In account-based marketing for example or prioritization, which are the right accounts to go after. Should they just call a list of 1,000 or actually one should be prioritized over others. Now you start thinking, "How can I do that?" By implementing lead scoring. There's so many ways. It just depends on what the question is in productivity.
Interviewer: Can you talk about one way that you've implemented something you used to improve productivity?
Nia: Lead scoring. That's in the beginning of the funnel.
Catherine: Currently, [unintelligible 00:18:21]. I have implemented lead scoring to prioritize accounts, but I definitely think that we could do so much more with that. Why do I say that? Because in order to do lead scoring, you need to have all the right data elements in there. Right now, we are still in a place where we're trying to just enrich informational data so that we can then have a better, accurate lead scoring so that [crosstalk].
Nia: [unintelligible 00:18:43] right?
Catherine: That comes with time, for sure. That is one thing that definitely helped that I can name of now, but I always think there's a lot that we can do to make things better.
Interviewer: I try to ask everyone about the ratio between people in sales ops and the number of sales reps. I heard earlier that one [unintelligible 00:19:04] to 25 sales reps, is that right? What do we think about that?
Catherine: Say that again?
Nia: The ratio between the salespeople to sales ops members.
Catherine: Sales ops? Not sales manager. Okay.
Nia: I think it depends on the way in which the business runs, how much automation you have. You can have hums on seats who are useless or not useful, productive, but it's more important to me to have people who are able to provide something for the business. If I've got five people, for example, in the US, and then they've got a sales team of 200 people. For example, when I was at [unintelligible 00:19:47] and you had gone by then. It was me by myself and I was easily within three or four different countries, maybe 80 people.
Nia: It becomes really difficult, but it's how you learn to manage what you can automate, how you're able to build the relationship and connection with the sales managers and things like that and what kind of ecosystem you've got that you can rely on.
Catherine: Are you talking about specific sales ops hat? Let's break down sales operations.
Interviewer: Yes, let's do that.
Catherine: There are many different aspects of that. We have the process side of things, so optimization. We have just managing the tools that we're using today, so let's just say sales force. Then you have [unintelligible 00:20:32] and then you have other tools on top of that. We have data and analysis. Deriving insights from that designed to make decisions based on that. Sales [unintelligible 00:20:42] side as well. We have enablement. That's just another thing to label, right?
Nia: That's the thing. So many people categorize sales ops in different ways. You have all the admins, and then you've got all the enablement team, and then you've got people who are actually doing this. Even that categorization.
Catherine: Indeed. Let's say me. Right now I'm alone in [unintelligible 00:21:00]. I'm the only-- I am alone.
I'm the only head for the sales operations hat. I hope that I won't build a team. Maybe not this year, probably by next year, that's all right. What am I looking at? I am then looking at getting people who are more specialized in those areas. Right now, I can manage a little bit more myself, but as we scale and as we're trying to be bigger and better, in order to do that, sometimes you do need extra hats to support you with that.
I definitely think it's not necessarily sales ops to people ratio, it's more about the growth you're going to have as a business because you can be adding more salespeople but it's more about the skill, so what is your strategy. Apart from sales, there's other strategies you have around that. It's about what are you doing with partnerships as well that [unintelligible 00:21:55]. What are you doing with customer success? It might not mean that you're adding more people, but it just means that--
Nia: You've got to think differently.
Catherine: You have to think differently, you have to do things differently. That means you have to put some sales operations initiatives against that in order to scale the business. It's not always a sales ops to people.
Interviewer: It can't [unintelligible 00:22:15] sales ops is more complex.
Catherine: It is more complex.
Nia: Even with many, many hats.
Interviewer: Okay, cool. Now I want to move on to-- I think you're going to dislike this [unintelligible 00:22:26]. KPIs. If you could only use one single KPI for the rest of your sales operations career to measure individual reps, what would it be?
Nia: Again, I'm sorry, do not hate me, but [unintelligible 00:22:41]. We couldn't do that because I think reps are measured in so many different ways. One compound [unintelligible 00:22:48] together that have multiple KPIs.
Interviewer: I totally agree.
Nia: Okay, that's good.
Interviewer: If you could name one.
If you could only choose one, which would it be?
Catherine: That's an interesting question. It's such a tough one.
Nia: It is.
Catherine: I'm thinking about the business. I'm trying to derive my answer of what does the business need at all. Is it do one want to track just AR, do we just need to track the dollars.
Nia: Do I need pipeline [unintelligible 00:23:23]. Does that mean that I need to then focus on that KPI? [crosstalk]
Catherine: I find this a difficult question.
Nia: It depends on the [unintelligible 00:23:32].
Interviewer: A business in two different situations would need a different answer.
Catherine: I think a business always wants to track how much money you're making.
Nia: It's a staple.
Catherine: Maybe if you're asking the question after that, what else would you want to track or what one thing would you ask, I could think of-- Let's say average order value. That could be a good KPI. How could we increase our average order value.
Interviewer: Without pointing that wouldn't be the only one you would measure.
Catherine: No. [laughs]
Nia: You told us to pick one, so we picked one.
Catherine: If it was to pick one obviously after revenue.
Interviewer: [unintelligible 00:24:17] actually there are [unintelligible 00:24:20] same revenue.
Nia: Yes, because if the CEO, what's the most important to them, where's the money, how much have you made.
Interviewer: That's what you're going to choose.
Nia: If we had to pick one.
Interviewer: Okay. Cool. Moving actually back. [unintelligible 00:24:35] question now is bringing new salespeople on, do you have a structured process for them to come on and how long do you expect from when they joined to when they'd be fully productive or fully--
Nia: The ramp-up time can depend. Generally, in terms of ramp-up time, I would normally say probably about a quarter is what I give to fully engage with them. Again, depending on the type of business. For example, if you're a startup, there may not be any process, there may not be any onboarding put together.
What it is it's our job to work out, "Okay, there is no onboarding process," but as a salesperson-- them as our customer, we have to provide with guidelines, allow them to work in a structured manner to ensure that the business needs are met.
I might have salesforce training over X amount of days. There may be sales enablement training that they need to go through. [unintelligible 00:25:35] marketing.
It's up to the business to be sure and that's the reason why [unintelligible 00:25:40] a quarter of ramp-up, to fully engage and immerse them, in as much as they can.
Outside of that, onboarding is continuous. It can never stop because if it does stop then they stop learning, the business stops growing. It has to continue.
My team probably hate me for it, because I work a team of four people and I'm constantly having them go back and we do launch and learns. We spend time doing refreshers and things like that, but it's all necessary.
Tools change as well, right?
Interviewer: That's a really good [unintelligible 00:26:09] is that onboarding should never actually stop-- or learning.
Catherine: Learning, exactly. You have onboarding and then you have an ongoing training program for anyone else who has been there much longer, after X time-- or actually not after X time. I think after you've done the onboarding, you're done with that. There's still going to be training because you're still learning, right?
Catherine: I think in Ometria we're still-- I don't think we're structured yet and we've had this conversation, and it'll be up to me to really structure our enablement program.
Right now we're looking at dividing it in almost three areas where you have the sales enablement, you have tech enablement. That's basically products.
Also, just industry, what does industry look like. Then, we also have just general company onboarding.
When it comes to ramp, it's really different. For example, Ometria is just such a more technical sales, you really need to understand the workings of the platform when you sell.
There's more that goes into onboarding, but there's also longer ramp time. Whereas when I was with Adobe, a salesperson could ramp-up max three months, and understand how to sell it, because it was so transactional because I was working less [unintelligible 00:27:40] part of it and it was so transactional, so quite quickly because even-
Nia: [unintelligible 00:27:43]
Catherine: Yes, exactly. Even the sales process, the sales part of that, of how to sell at Adobe, there wasn't much because it was [unintelligible 00:27:51] with the sales cycle.
You can get on the phone today and make a sale today, depending on what product it was. I think it just differs by [unintelligible 00:28:01] .
Interviewer: I have a couple of questions that we're not prepped for. You guys have had 20 years combined experience, [unintelligible 00:28:11] how have you seen sales operation have changed during your careers?
Nia: The name alone has changed.
I think that even creates some confusion when you-- For example, you go for an interview and they'll say, "I need someone to do sales ops," but their exact requirement can be very, very different. What they actually need you to do can be very, very different. Generally, I think more power has been given to us to be trusted, to have the insights and to help be a right hand to our C-Suite, or whoever it is that we're supporting. To give them the insights, to do their job more efficiently and more effectively.
I think when I first tied up, that wasn't so much the case. Now, I find myself able to provide more support than I ever was, when I first started.
Catherine: For me, what I've seen is-- I just explained to you earlier about the many aspects of sales operations, right?
For example, when I was in Microsoft and I was in the sales excellence team, which was a sales operations team basically, but we're sales excellence and we supported our partner program managers.
Each one of us had a slightly different role, so it was very specialized. You had different-- other departments, if you like, who would do business analysis, et cetera.
Over the years, what I've seen is-- We decided [laughs] to combine that because we saw that actually, there's a need for each sales operations to understand all the different aspects of that because they are related. You can't have one without the other.
Nia: Which is why it's more biz-ops, business ops than it is sales ops because we have to understand different elements in different parts of the business to make sure that we can be efficient because you support the Customers Success Team and these visions engineers as well as the sales team. You're part of the business, not just the sales.
Interviewer: So then why in your guide job title is not revenue operations or business operations.
Catherine: Actually, my CRO calls me revenue operations internally.
Nia: It's just the title that makes sense [unintelligible 00:30:37].
Interviewer: The other question was the exact same question but how being a sales operations or revenue operations been different at all the ten different companies that you've worked at?
Catherine: No. I would say no, it has not. I don't think it has actually been fundamentally different at all. Apart from festival, it was very specialized because like I said, it wasn't combined, no one said actually these are all aspects that needs to be [unintelligible 00:31:12] potentially in one person depending on the size, who would manage people who might be more specialized. Apart from that, it's just been an evolution to getting to sales operations who wear so many hats and they do different things that I'm doing now, I've just evolved and grown in my role.
Interviewer: Final question, who has influenced or guided you, [unintelligible 00:31:44] shining light each that's toy the most?
Catherine: We talked about this and it's really hard-
Interviewer: Each other.
Nia: Each other.
Catherine: It's really hard to name right? Because there are so many people who influenced me and I'm sure Nia as well, but it's been, salespeople. It's been CROs, it's been PSOs of sales directors because I had to work closely but then be their number two and they taught me so much more about the sales world as well and what I need to know that would make me better in my role. It has been new customers success directors, it has been products, it has been marketing as well which has been very influential to me as well because that's also another department that I need to understand how it works because it's feeding the team, so how those that work? How can I optimize that process as well? It's been so many people in my life in the last ten years that have influenced me and I am here today because them. I am them.
Nia: I think the organization has been quite different in terms of their growth pattern and their success stories. None have been the same. What you've needed from the company or each person that you've had to lean on or have as a support has been very different. [unintelligible 00:33:00] it has been for me. I personally will only have to pick one person but I take definitely in each company, there has been at least one or two shining knights there that I've kind of shown my lighthouse. [laughs].
Interviewer: [unintelligible 00:33:12] we have a question here. I believe you owe me a couple. Or maybe we don't. I'm not sure if they have any questions and I'm probably not going to read through all of them. Anyway [laughs]. The few of the things I liked, I'm just going to summarise. I liked when Nia said about the salesperson being with a customer. If [unintelligible 00:33:40] before and they said their customers like the head of sales, always the business and to actually realizing that you are there to serve the salesperson [unintelligible 00:33:49] is talking about tools. [unintelligible 00:33:54] of the week right? How they get tools every week, where you guys were like, "We can tell you the tools but it's not going to help. It's actually how all the tools work together that's the important thing. The final thing has just slipped my mind.
Interviewer: But I'm sure it will come back to me but they are the two big things. Guys, thank you so much for your time for finally coming in. I was very nuanced into it and hopefully, you'll provide a lot more of thought-provoking insights for the audience. Thank you very much.
Catherine: Well, thank you.
[00:34:32] [END OF AUDIO]