MBA | Revenue & Sales Ops Champion: Heather Bruder
Heather Bruder jumped onto Sales Ops Demystified to share her knowledge and experience in Sales Operations.
Check out all the other episodes of Sales Operations Demystified here.
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Tom: Welcome to [unintelligible 00:00:08] of Sales Ops Demystified. Welcome, Heather Bruder to the show.
Heather Bruder: Hey, thanks for having me, Tom.
Tom: My pleasure. Heather, as you know is one of our first guests that we have on the show, Jeff. I believe in your time at Marketo.
Heather: Yes, that’s right. Jeff was my VP while I worked at Marketo. Fantastic guy.
Tom: Interesting. He came on and he was probably the first really, really impressive person we had on the show. Obviously now, after you, Heather. Heather has significant experience in sales Op space. I understand now you’re in between the roles, is that correct?
Heather: Yes. That’s right.
Tom: Okay, cool. Let’s dive deep into this previous experience and start off with understanding how you first got into sales operations.
Heather: Sure. That’s a great question because I think everyone has a different path into sales operations. Coming out of college, it was nowhere on my radar. I was a pre-med major and even went to medical school for my first year before realizing that that wasn’t the right path for me. Sales operations was truly something that I came back and fell into, but it was a fantastic opportunity, especially for someone without a business background to learn about what it takes to make a company successful and run it.
Tom: You started something or nothing to do with sales ops.
Heather: That’s right. [chuckles] That’s correct. Education isn’t the key.
Tom: Can you remember your first exposure to something that– It might not actually been called sales ops at the time. It could’ve been called just being in a small business. How did you first get exposed to sales operations?
Heather: I came into a technical recruiting company and I was the branch administrator. That was the name for it under the national operations organization for Randstad. By coming in there, it was learning how to run all of the outside portion of the office as far as just front desk admin. You also had the back end portion which is the beginning of HR operations. That part of it was fantastic to me. I was also reporting numbers into the US organization for Randstad. All of that accountability and that requirement to really understand the impact of your work on a data and administrative basis, that’s really where it started for me.
Tom: Got it. From then, you progressed through to working at a number of different companies up to where you are today, is that right?
Heather: That’s right. Then I moved into the text-based right there.
Tom: Which was your favorite?
Heather: My favorite. It’s so tough. It’s so tough to have a favorite there. I really found the first place that I worked, AirWatch, is truly in the technical in the software space to be the most exciting. That was almost like getting an MBA just through trial by fire. Because of the challenges, being a startup that was based, not out of California, but out of here in Atlanta. It really is the bootstrapping mentality that I fell into, and I really fell in love with that startup hustle.
Tom: Good. Which role did you think you’ve learned the most?
Heather: I think my most recent role was probably what I learned, the most technically, that was where I was managing the Salesforce instance for a software company, but also some of the tech stack that plugged into it. It got me involved with teams that I never worked with before. I started working within our support teams, our customer success, the sales development teams, as well as sales.
Tom: Cool. If we focus on this latest role for the next few questions. What was the tech stack at the time?
Heather: Yes, I’m sorry– That ring maker we were on Salesforce is the baseline. That really was the system of truth, the CRM and where we really were maintaining our data pieces. From there, we worked with an outreach tool, we actually worked with the sales soft. STR has worked our cadences through there, and also a HubSpot plugging in as well for the marketing and marketing automation teams. Then we also– We were working with a supplemental case system for the Service Cloud side for customer support system. Our four teams there and we’re using– It’s called email the case premium.
Tom: Got it. Any other tools around those cool ones that you’re using without [unintelligible 00:04:53] ?
Heather: Yes, a lot of sales tool, so LinkedIn Sales Navigator, and then we do data enhancements. The most recent company I was working for is very niche. Most of our enterprise data didn’t really cover the supplementing of it. We used a system called STR. They really focus on the hotel industry and those relationships there.
Tom: Good. The size of the Sales Ops team and the sales team that you were working with there, just roughly was the ratio between reps and people in Ops?
Heather: Yes. Most recently, it was probably the most even organization we had a very small sales team. Probably eight to 10 total including SDRs in sales, as well as we– That would make up our core and then about three sales operations people. Someone handling the data and administrative tasks, someone more on the technical side and maintaining of the systems and then a director,
Tom: Interesting. That violates the ratio that I have been counting.
Heather: Yes, it has never been that way and every other organization. -that’s been that one to 20 stretch out, and really trying to grow to meet as you grow a sales team, you’re trying to also in step-grow your sales operations.
Tom: Do this mean that all of the salespeople there felt like they were almost luxurious to be a great Rainmaker Group?
Heather: I would hope so, but really the hope is that everyone feels that way and no matter what sales team size you’re looking at. Because if you can really scale the process out and really have those considerations in mind, you’re really trying to make it the limousine for everyone.
Tom: Got it. I think you mentioned it, I’m not sure if this was the last role or one of the previous ones about being responsible for salesforce and data. On The Rainmaker Group– it is Rainmaker Group.
Heather: That’s right.
Tom: Were your three sales Ops resources responsible for keeping the data accurate in salesforce?
Heather: As far as the correction of data and actual manipulation on the accounts, yes, that was a truly on the sales operations side. We really relied on our sales development teams, and our customer success teams to keep us abreast of what’s happening in the industry. For us, specifically, it’s a company structure that can be purchased on many levels, and so the structure is always changing. That was probably one of our biggest challenges was to make sure that the data stayed intact. Because when management companies sell different assets it’s impossible, there’s no press release, you’re not getting that information. That was kind of the duties that fall outside of sales operations was alert us to let us know what’s happening. Really the maintenance and the automation was set up through us.
Tom: Got it. Getting buy-in from the sales team. If you’re trying to getting them to adopt new total process, what things worked to actually get them to do your thing?
Heather: I think it starts everywhere from where you’re coming up with the solution from and what problem you’re trying to solve. I think sometimes you’re being reactive and that’s completely fine because problems come up and maybe to address them then. There’s also the proactive step and that’s really the side that takes you into understanding how to sell yourself, how to really build out what the value is for doing something that’s really not an issue you get and trying to get ahead.
I think first having that baseline relationship between sales and sales operations is huge, because if you, as a sales leader, trust that the operations person is bringing something up, not for a frivolous reason, but because they can seriously see an issue and are trying to get ahead of it. That trust bypasses all of that having to sell.
Tom: you’re saying that if the sales Op team is super proactive about potential issues and then you go to whoever in the sales team and say I think this can happen and the impact on our pipeline is going to be X, he then immediately he believes you have his best interest at heart and therefore he can trust you. Is that essential is it?
Heather: Yes, that’s what I think.
Tom: Quick question, do you have experience in sales yourself?
Heather: No, no I’ve never sold.
Tom: Has that ever been a challenge with trying to build the buy-in relationships with sales teams or not?
Heather: I think it’s because I’ve always worked in stark with them in every position I’ve always been really that. I’m the partner, I’m riding along. There because the interest is for you’d have an easier time selling, for me to have better numbers to report. There’s a very instep relationship but I think it goes along with it where you don’t have to have sold to empathize for the position of a different salesperson.
I think even if you do come from sales you are also dealing with customer success, account management, sales development. Other teams that didn’t your same objectives so I think empathy, above all, really helped you succeed in this role.
Tom: Got it, this might be a super novice question but the big revenue or let’s say I have a sales manager is responsible for 10 SDRs and four As. The sales manager is responsible for the quota, for all of those As and SDRs.
Tom: Then let’s say the sales manager works with one sales operations resource who is responsible for making the whole thing work. Maybe it won’t be like that because if you had 10 teams you’d have a central sales Op team. Would then the sales, or like the metric for the sales ops person. Is that also revenue or is the salesperson judged by different metrics?
Heather: That’s a good question so you’re asking should a sales ops person’s performance be measured on those same numbers?
Tom: Yes, or do they have different metrics?
Heather: I think there’s definitely different metrics that they come into. I supported the sales team of all size from SMB all the way to enterprise and the needs are so very different but you’re really juggling with an SMB company, you’re talking volume of deals even though everyone isn’t an incredibly high volume or high value. It’s still a lot of them happening so you have your challenges there.
Then on the enterprise side, you’re really tracking engagement and activity on sales and a lot of other factors over a longer time. It’s tough to say there’s a dollar for dollar value but it is really important to come up with metrics that are important internally to a sales operations team to understand their perfomance. I think that you should be eating your own dog food. You should be doing the same metrics, have a dashboard for your sales operations team. Understand and get your requests into cases so that you can start tracking those and understand what kind of issues you’re dealing with.
Tom: Yes. If I’m the CEO of a business or like their COO, let’s say, and I’m trying to understand how my sales ops team is performing, you’re saying that there should also be dashboards and metrics that they’re accountable to, they probably would be different?
Tom: Awesome. Thanks for that education, Heather.
Tom: Okay, cool. I’m presuming you’ve on-boarded a few salespeople in your time in this industry. Do you have any best practices you can share?
Heather: Yes. I’ve worked with teams at a remote and I’ve worked with teams that are in person. A lot of things has to do with really curating your content for your audience where you’re going to meet them. Understand if you have someone in person to on-board, you can have a very different type of program that’s very intense over a short period of time, as opposed to dealing with a remote employee where you really need to make links that are accessible at the times that they need them. Reviewable content that is there when you’re not there.
I think that personalizing across a couple of different factors are really important in onboarding. Thinking about size and location of your team, how complex is your sales process. Overall, how complex is your product. This is something that someone needs to learn continuously and needs to invest time in that. Then enablement and training should also be involved in this onboarding for sales.
Tom: Nice. Then making reps more productive. What have you done previously that has had a good impact on the amount of activity or results the sales reps can produce?
Heather: I think really meeting people where they are. A lot of times we get really distracted by a very, very tech stack. Really picking a place that you’re going to say, this is going to be our source of truth, or source of information, our source of activity, that’s a really huge piece because no one wants to be logging into a bunch of different places just to capture that they’ve done work, or do more work just to show that.
Trying to come in and then look at it almost from like a marketing standpoint and saying, where’s my audience? Are they already, and what can I do to not bring more work into your day that isn’t really valuable to you? Then on the other side of it is, if you can’t do that, if there’s a step that you need to take that, another team within the organization needs data put in, they need information, really try and make that one step as multifocal as possible. Go out there and say, “Okay, marketing team, you need this information and this contact typed here, what other teams could possibly use this information and which other ones could benefit from using this and making more value out of that one step is my consolation prize.
Tom: Nice. If you have to do something to tweak the process, try and find other people that would use the finger doing.
Tom: Cool, now let’s talk about KPIs. [unintelligible 00:15:22] now for the actual sales reps, if you had one KPI, if you can only measure the performance of your reps with a single KPI, what would you choose and why?
Heather: There’s so many. I think right now I’m getting a lot of focus on opportunity ages.
Heather: It ties into a lot of things, but if you have an opportunity management process that allows opportunities to last for a long time, and you don’t quite have a standardized sales process, you have a very long engagement. For me, I’m starting to see, just looking at that one factor and saying how long has this opportunity been open? Even if you don’t have those other factors yet, and you just have to dig in and find it. I think that that tells you a lot about how long has this pushed? How many contacts and people do we have engaged in this opportunity? What different channels are we hitting on? Right now, I’m a little focused on that, but it can change.
Tom: Interesting because you will know, the average or the average close time and so you’re saying that’s one metric that can give you quite a lot of information and prioritize things you need to do?
Heather: Well, mostly on a rep level, looking at the opportunity age for things that are in your pipeline. Really parsing out stale deals and cleaning out distraction, I think is something that is become a big focus for what I’d like to do, what I like to see, because I think that it gets to be when you’ve got a big– When you got a sales force that turns over or changes territories, it’s very easy to get this backlog of opportunity pipeline that hides in a long sales cycle. Being able to really look into those and then now getting into more of the sales velocity side, is where I’d start to look.
Not really your average age of your deals, but specifically on a rep what they’re holding in their pipeline and how long.
Tom: Got it. I quickly want to talk about sales forecasting. The last role we had the three people in Ops and people in sales. Who were– Were you responsible for forecasting sales or was the sales manager responsible for that? Or did you work together? Then how did you did you meet every week to understand the forecast, how did you– How did that work?
Heather: Yes, I think a lot of it has been parsed out into the sales managers are responsible for reporting the number and then digging into information and coming up with the reports and the template and the format is to the sales operation side. I think that the structure really should fall to the operations team but the cadence, the content, how much we want to dig in on each meeting that should always be– And what numbers are ultimately rolling up. I think that should always fall to the leadership and ultimately to the sales team. Because then you– This is me giving you the format to see the information as you need it, but really managing the data and managing the truth in what’s happening in these deals– I will always give that up because that’s not my area of expertise [laughs].
Tom: The sales manager is then responsible for the forecast, but he’s able to get to that number effectively and accurately with the work from the sales operations team?
Heather: Yes. I think they’re definitely a person at the table. They’re there in those meetings to call truth to anything or to see live issues that can be solved quickly. If there’s just a quantity that’s off. If there’s a date that’s off. If something is sitting on the wrong account. Those kinds of things. If you can knock them out in seconds as opposed to asking someone do it and waiting for them to get it corrected, that’s quick data manipulation right there.
Tom: Final question. Who– And we can’t say Jeff for this one I’m afraid– Who’s taught you the most in sales operation?
Heather: Let’s see, Jeff would have been so easy [laughs]. I really do credit one of the sales first leaders I worked with as really giving me an insight into why data is important and why numbers are important. I worked with a sales leader, Kevin Kylie, and he was at the time the executive director of our enterprise sales at AirWatch. There was a lot of that trust there, but also a lot of that– Like I said, the delineation of responsibility. For me, it was running meetings and running the forecast and making sure that those were represented correctly and then the real-life of it was that someone else was getting that stuff done. Having that trust and also having that ownership over my realm showed me how sales and sales operations should work together. I think that that was one of the first areas where I started kicking into it and saying, “This is why this is important.”
Tom: Just a few things that I picked out that I really wanted to cover over again. The point you made about getting buy-in is– Before you or even after the question you said that actually, it matters more where you got the affiliation from and if you got that from the right place and if you’re truly partnering with the sales leader or sales team they’re going to be brought into the process anyway. The part about understanding how the forecasting, how operations provides for the structure and the data for the sales manager to be responsible for the forecaster is an insight that we haven’t had before, and then having– Almost like marketing to the reps. If they’re here in this place in marketing, you go and advertise there and you wouldn’t try and take them off Facebook or whatever. The same with the reps, to make them more productive. You’re trying to understand where they are and then bring what they need to them so they can just do their thing and have to think less about process and more about closing the deals.
Immensely valuable 20 minutes. Heather, thank you so much for your time and for coming on. Hopefully, we’ll speak again soon.
Heather: Great meeting you. Thanks for your time.
[00:21:57] [END OF AUDIO]