Building A Lean, Mean Sales Operations Machine with Rob Stanger of XANT
This week, we are talking to Rob Stanger, currently serving as VP operations and GTM Strategy at XANT. Having worked in Silicon Valley with huge names such as Yahoo and eBay, Stanger shares how you can build a lean, mean sales operations machine.
In conclusion, Stanger shares how regular pipeline reviews help drive growth.
A legendary journey from Silicon Valley to sales operations
Upon graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, Rob joined eBay as a program manager, catering to business development and growth requirements.
Rob spent his time in product management at Yahoo and, similar to eBay, built customer support tools. Later on, Rob served as a consultant for a marketing and management firm called Archstone. This experience helped him pave his way into McKesson (a huge pharmaceutical distributor in the San Francisco Bay).
McKesson provided Rob the exposure to sales operations; sales operation at McKesson was not centred on the digital transformation and integrating technology in the process. It was still more focused on core sales strategies to help sales get more organized, focused, and precise in a capital sustained market. This was when Rob and his teams, including Eric Davis, VP sales ops McKesson, suggested the transition.
SaaS based hyper-growth model
Qualtrics offered Rob the role of sales operations director when the team consisted of four people. A legacy of integrated efforts to learn the transformation of operational rigor into SaaS-based hyper-growth mode.
At Qualtrics, there were many failures during the transition phase with a lot of learning of sales operations fundamentals such as forecasting, planning, and goal setting.
“Learning the key aspect of sales operations during the transition, the hard way has been worth it for the team as it served as an element of excellence in sales operations”.
Sales reps are your customers
Sales operations should swear by one rule that – “Sales are your customers, and sales success is your success“.
Sales operations’ success can be related to when a salesperson says they made it to the president club because sales ops helped them with enablement, messaging, and targeting. This is why the sales ops team should be highly engaged with sales teams.
Divisions within sales ops
At XANT, sales ops are divided into two parts. One caters to discrete or improvement projects, and the other caters to varied projects or BAU stuff. At XANT, the work is delineated through annual calendars.
The key aspects that XANT adapts to ensure sales ops growths are territory and coverage design, planning, new hire, onboarding, training, and forecast calls.
“At times, planning is not enough, and there are unforeseen challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic. Project management is a holistic effort by sales ops and rev ops combined”.
Leading indicators in sales operations
“Analytics play a major role in managing sales operations well, and that’s what sales ops individuals are naturally equipped with”.
It is beneficial to have people familiar with both sales and operational functions in sales operations so that they can be both analytical and empathetic towards the sales teams.
At XENT, OKRs (objective and key results) ensure annual planning, breaking it into four quarters. Leading indicators evaluate each quarter.
Many people make a mistake by targeting lagging indicators (win/loss rates and metrics).
“If you’re targeting lagging indicators, you’re already late. Whereas, leading indicators help you decide what’s next”.
Having a small sales ops team can be difficult as improvement projects take certain weeks to achieve desired goals. While comparing sales ops to CMT or salespeople look at ratios.
Although rev ops is a new concept, and are evolving very quickly. Previously rev ops used to be rules and engagement, territory coverage, and now it caters to sales enablement, sales systems, analytics, deal desk, etc.
Biggest sales ops opportunities for 2021
The sales ops opportunities lie within;
- Sales ops and sales relation-building
- Appropriate forecasting.
The transformation is done in a log step with sales leadership. If sales ops feel disconnected with sales at any stage, you have to opt for organ rejection, i.e., throw out territories, work together, and build things in advance. You can’t start a new fiscal year and then get your territories locked.
Prepare for the coming year proactively; like
- Start in Q3 with a data quality refresh
- Update your CRM with appropriate data
- In Q4, change territories based on the new data and place new teams accordingly
By doing the above mentioned in Q3 and Q4, you will have your territory, number, and evaluation on day 1 when you have your sales kick-off (SKO).
#1 sales metric: regular pipeline reviews
“Regular pipeline reviews, strong sales leadership, review of opportunities and pipeline, regular forecast, and accountability for calling numbers”.
Rob is a strong believer in forecasting as it’s a science. The bottom line is sales; therefore, the pipeline should be regularly discussed with sales reps to have a standard sales progression through sales stages in the Salesforce. Sales individuals should be able to put their judgments on an opportunity. Then manager/leaders should add their suggestions and numbers.
The trick for sustaining a sales metric is to review the forecasts and pipeline regularly. At the beginning of the quarter, forecast within 30% of the goal, and after two months, lock the forecast, and it should be within 10% by quarter-end.
“Sales leaders need to know their territories, know their accounts, and be accountable for it”.
Who in the sales ops world would Rob like to take out for lunch?
- Steve Silver, Vice President, Research Director at Forrester
- Rafe VanDenBerg, Editor in Chief at SellingBrew