Tom Hunt: Sales Ops Demystified. The podcast, we have sales operations four leaders from around the world on to run through nine specific questions. The goal of the podcast as you’re probably aware is to turn you, the listener, into a sales operations ninja. Those questions come through the frame of someone who doesn’t have that much experience with sales operations. Myself, my background is more in marketing.
Which is why I think is super interesting kind of delve into this new crazy world of sales operations. Today, we are joined by Dante from Springbot. How are you, Dante?
Dante Hawkins: I’m doing fantastic. Thanks for having me.
Tom: No, way. Thank you so much for joining. As with every guest, I’ve done a bit of research, I’ve been to your LinkedIn profile because of some questions here, they’re quite polarizing, let’s say. I think we are going to get some interesting answers from you, Dante. I may kick off with the first question. How did you get into sales operations?
Dante: Most of my experience has actually been sales. I have about five or so years of different types of sales experience. I’ve done door-to-door sales, selling knives. Before I’ve done retail sales, I’ve actually had my own marketing sales firm where I’ve hired and mentored a team about 15-20 reps or so so. All of [inaudible 00:01:31] of the sales experience but funny enough, you think you’re all that, I’ve actually never heard of sales ops before until about three years ago.
It was actually at my current organization here at Springbot that I actually got the exposure. I started at Springbot maybe three and a half years ago or so as a BDR. At the time, our team was pretty small. It was about maybe 18,19 sales reps. About four months in, I was getting promoted to an AE role and I just saw a huge need in the organization at the time. There was no structured training, there was no consistent process, no CRM admin, we used Salesforce.
There was nothing. It was like a complete free-for-all, the wild wild west as we called it.
Tom: Sorry, to jump in. What kind of a number of people in the sales team did you really see that start to happen?
Dante: When I began, it was still pretty small. It was maybe like 12, 13, 14 people but then as we started to grow, I saw a lot of fractures between how people were positioning things, how we go about capturing data. Right about when it was getting close to about the 20 people, I started to see that we needed to do something to make sure that we can scale the right way.
I went to my VP of sales at the time saying that I felt that I had much more to offer than just my sales ability. I thought I could help put in processes and trainings in place to really help create that consistency, help the team scale essentially. We sat down with one another, I broke it down and explained to him how I would do it and he said, “Continue doing what you’re doing right now, continue to be successful in your current position to really help gain credibility within the organization and then we’ll see what we can do.”
Then two months later, he offered me the role of Sales Ops, which originally when I asked, we both didn’t even know it was sales ops that I was asking for. We just, “Support role?” He’s like, “Yes, that sounds good.” Then a couple of months later, he offered it to me and it’s been a great journey since. It definitely evolved a lot from when I started to what I do now.
Tom: When you were getting into sales operations, you didn’t know it was sales operations?
Dante: I didn’t. A lot of my sales has been more face to face like B2C consumer and base sales. I didn’t get much as B2B, so seeing a company that needed a sales ops team was something that was pretty new to me.
Tom: At what point– Right now on LinkedIn, I think your job title is Sales Ops, Director of Sales manager. Now, your organization, Springbot, recognizes the field of the sales operations but they didn’t before. At what point, were you guys like, “We can have the thing?”
Dante: Honestly, I think when I was getting promoted, it was already needed. Funny enough, our CEO previously had another company, a large telecom company. In that organization, he had a sales ops team before. He’s very familiar with another function of that role but my VP of sales was not and of course, I wasn’t. When we originally had the conversation between each other, we didn’t know it was sales ops.
We knew that it was coming and then our CEO was like, “Yes, sales ops would be a thing,” and then it grew into what it is this day.
Tom: You’ve been in that role for three years?
Dante: In this role particularly, about two and a half years.
Tom: What is the size of the sales organization now?
Dante: Our sales organization is about just shy of 50 reps. It’s about 45 or so and actually about two months ago, I moved from being more sales ops focused to more revenue ops focused.
Tom: Very interesting. This is a very common theme we’ve seen with almost every guest that’s actually– It’s almost constraining too much just to be focused on the operations of sales and actually, if we can optimize the other revenue-generating departments as well, we might need somebody in that revenue ops role. That’s super interesting. We’ll talk about that at some point for sure.
I just wanted to quickly touch on before we move to the next question, the doubling of the sales team that you’ve overseen I guess for the last two years. How did that go? Were there any big stresses? [inaudible 00:05:56] experience to that?
Dante: Definitely, a lot of stresses. Just growing pains, just things that we didn’t know or foresee as we just moved into a larger organization. It was interesting. We had to change a lot of how we did things like our process, operation, how we captured data in our Salesforce, how we trained, to really be able to get to the team that we have now. When I originally moved into this role, I was wearing multiple hats.
Not only was I the sales ops guy, I was also our sales trainer, I was our sales admin. I was doing a lot of different things to really help lay that foundation to be able to have now– we have a separate sales trainer, a separate sales admin that can help us really get to a point where– Now, wwhen they’re bringing in people, they have a really good training program, that they’re pretty effective within their first week.
They can get on the phone, start making calls, and you really start to be able to provide value to the organization much quicker than they were able to do before.
Tom: Just on you now, you’re now sales operations team. Are those– Well, actually the question is, those individuals you mentioned, the trainer and the admin, do they sit within your team and do you have any other resources?
Dante: I don’t have a direct team that reports to me. However, we do have a support team. Funny name, we call ourselves the profits, but essentially on that team, there’s myself, we have a business analytics, finance is part of that team, as well as our sales manager and enablement training manager. Together, we are the support backbone of the organization.
Whatever the revenue generating teams need whether that sale, success, marketing, finance, we’re there to help, be that support them, and make sure that they’re being as successful as they can.
Tom: Next question. What do you think makes an awesome sales ops person?
Dante: I think there’s a lot of hard skills, technical skills that will probably help but, for me, I think it boils down to two main traits. The first one I would say is really the ability to see the big picture without missing the details. It’s both sides. Sales ops or revenue ops, the goal of it in my mind is it should be helping increase organization performance by supporting sales teams or any revenue focused teams.
There’s an overarching goal which I call the strategic side of sales ops, kind of have an overarching strategy. To accomplish those strategies, you need tactics, which are the details of the day-to-day. The overarching goal may be, “How do we improve discounting right across our organization?” Then the little details are like, “What do we do with sales? What do we do with success? What do we do with our packaging?”
I think that’s one trait is the ability to see the big picture without missing the details. Now, I think the second one which marries into it a little bit is ability to be a scale. With sales ops or even rev ops, there’s a little bit of a balancing act when it comes to and especially with have my role plays out here. Not only is there a balance gap being a cross-functional role, but there’s a balancing act in terms of what’s good for the business and what’s good for reps because unfortunately, they don’t always align.
Something as simple as, “We need to add a new field in our database because the business needs to capture a new data point.” Well, how does that field affected a rep’s day-to-day. How many more steps is it? Is it absolutely necessary? If it is, at what point of the process should we capture it? There’s a just a variety of questions that you have to be aware of and doing the best to be that scale and be that balance.
Which can sometimes be challenging because there’s not always a right or wrong answer. You just have to fill it out.
Tom: Being the scale can be quite taxing on your soft skills, if you have to manage these two?
Dante: Oh, yes. Absolutely.
Tom: The salespeople, and the business people. I really liked that, we haven’t had that analogy yet. Balancing their desires and demands.
Dante: Yes, definitely.
Tom: Awesome. Do you think that your– Actually, no, I’ll ask the question generically. Do you think that sales experience is necessary for a decent [inaudible 00:10:26]
Dante: I would probably go with no. I would imagine a lot of sales ops leaders would probably say something similar. I don’t think it’s necessary to be successful, however, I do think it definitely helps. It definitely enhances your ability to be successful, especially if you have sales experience in your specific industry or organisation. I think as a sales ops leader, knowing the process internally for your reps intimately can greatly enhance your ability to make changes and be impactful.
If you’ve gone through that role or that process as a rep, your understanding of a small change here and there is magnified. In addition to that, you have a level of empathy for sales reps. You know what it going to take to adopt it, knowing what they’ve gone through, knowing what you’ve gone through, I think can help them and their experience as well.
Tom: Do you think that experience you have of selling in an organisation has helped you in the role that you have now?
Dante: Yes. Not so much the selling piece of it, but going through the process. Knowing the headaches that the reps go through, the pains points that they have, so using my own creativity, my knowledge of Salesforce and operations, how do I streamline that and make their day much easier? At the end of the day, I’m here to help them and support them. Knowing that as much as possible, it helps you with that.
Then, when I have to do training for them, I can tell them like “Hey, I’ve been there. I know it, I get it, but this is why we do the things that we do.” It helps them understand it and adopt it as well.
Tom: Awesome. Next question. Current sales ops tech stack?
Dante: Yes. We use Salesforce as our CRM. We use Ebsta as well for email tracking and stuff like that. I don’t know if you’ve heard of Ebsta before, you must have heard of them. We use Datanyze, I’m sure you’ve heard of Datanyze. A little technology profiler. We also use ZoomInfo for contact data strategy point. We have Nextiva for our phone system, helps track [inaudible 00:12:42] calls and stuff like that. GoToMeeting for screen share doing demos.
We use Slack for communication, although our sales reps prefer Gchat for whatever reason. I guess they live in their email more so, but the rest of our organisation uses Slack. Then funny enough, we actually use– We don’t pay for some of these tools, but we use Google Chrome as our browser and we use a lot of extensions that Chrome has that really makes our job a lot easier.
To be able to dissect what technologies a business may have on their website, what kind of traffic that website might have, how many visitors, how they ranked in relation to other websites.
Tom: Can you name a couple of those?
Dante: Yes. One extension we use is Alexa Rank. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with Alexa Rank, but [inaudible 00:13:28] Alexa Rank is basically an international ranking algorithm that ranks websites based off of the traffic and engagement they get. The number one visited website in the world would be Google, so if you look at Google’s Alexa Rank, they’re number one. That helps understand what level of traffic is a website getting for our tool to be valuable because they need to have a certain level for it to be a good fit.
We have a tool like BuiltWith and Wappalyzer which are very similar to Datanyze from a technology standpoint. It breaks down what technologies a website’s using. We use a tool called WHOIS which is– When someone buys a URL, they have to put information about who they are so this gives us insight on who that person is, phone number, contact data. We try to be resourceful in those extensions that really help our sales team, especially for our market.
We go for small to medium size businesses, so it’s very tough to find information on those companies, so as many tools that we can use just really helps.
Tom: Yes. To me, it felt like all of those are basically saving salespeople’s time. They’re not going to–?
Tom: Yes. They can just go, click on the button, find out how traffic on the website is, who owns the website, without having to go search for it.
Dante: Yes. That’s it. That’s exactly it.
Tom: Quick question from Jack who’s back again. How do you guys forecast? Do you use any tools or methodologies for forecasting sales?
Dante: Forecasting, we use a combination of Salesforce and another BI tool that I didn’t mention called Domo. Within Salesforce, the sales reps have a forecasting tool, the forecasting tab in Salesforce, but I also created what’s called “Reporting Snapshots.” Reporting Snapshots in Salesforce, you can actually capture what a report looks like at a certain date and time. Then we can see month to month how forecasts change.
We’ve actually just recently implemented that so we use that as well. Then we use a BI tool which kind of combines a lot of different reports, kind of crunch numbers so that we can see. A combination of those, we meet with our sales leadership [inaudible 00:15:29] weekly and go over the forecast. What we are seeing, what are they expecting, how we can help, and go from there.
Tom: Nice. You’re able to– You have the forecasting tab in Salesforce, but then you’re able to take a screenshot of that forecast at specific times, so you can see how that forecast has changed over time with different–
Dante: Exactly, and then you can run a report on it so you can see like this particular rep forecasted this, this week they forecasted this. How well that are they forecasting? Then you can have room for opportunity for coaching as well.
Tom: Yes. I’ve had some really good conversations about forecasting for different reps. You know how different reps would have different biases, some will be pessimistic, some will be optimistic. It’s almost like you need to profile. Speaking to one guy, he profiles all of his sales reps for a level of optimism or pessimism and then multiplies the forecast they give by that factor to try and give what he believes is a more believable factor based on how optimistic or pessimistic the salesperson is.
Dante: That’s interesting. The report is just something we recently implemented so as time goes on, we’ll have more data and trends that we can analyse. That’s the goal of it, is to be able to look at it overall and then individually as well.
Tom: Yes, and you can also– You could flag alerts, or like not warnings, but you could get alerted when a forecast has dropped by 50% say. You go speak to that rep [00:16:55] and they’ll be like “We lost a big deal,” or whatever, but that quite useful.
Dante: Yes, absolutely. It definitely is.
Tom: Okay, cool. Might be a bit of a loaded question, but your favourite tech tool?
Dante: My favourite tech tool?
Tom: Yes. Related to sales operations.
Dante: Yes. It may be a little biased but I’ll have to go with Salesforce. I am a certified administrator as well. Funny enough, when I started here at Springbot, I’d never had any exposure to Salesforce. I used Zoho as a CRM before, but never Salesforce. Everything that I learned about Salesforce was all self-taught. We just needed someone that understood it, could own it to a certain extent, so I just kind of took that on when I moved into this role.
I learned so much about it to the point where there was a lot of business challenges that came up that I was able to help solve or mostly solve using my creativity and knowledge of Salesforce. It is such a robust, powerful tool, so customizable, that it can pretty much do anything. If it can’t do it, then it has an integration with another tool that can, so it’s been great. Even to this day, I’m amazed and like, “Wow, it can do this?” I don’t even know why I’m still impressed.
Yes, Salesforce has been a great tool. When Salesforce went down a couple weeks ago, that was a [inaudible 00:18:23] time.
Tom: Scary? You did this– You became a certified Salesforce admin after you started the sales ops role?
Dante: Yes. I moved into this role having only exposure to Salesforce as what I did as a rep. The administrative side, the setup configuration, all that stuff, I learned trial by fire. I kind of learned breaking things in production when I probably shouldn’t have. All in all, it helped me learn a lot to the point where I am today.
Tom: You’re kind of the only admin in the organisation? You’re managing the whole Salesforce [inaudible 00:19:05] ?
Tom: Nice. Awesome. Here’s a relevant question. How do you deal with data quality in the CRM?
Dante: Data quality. That’s fun. I think this is probably one of the biggest challenges that I’ve actually seen across the board throughout different organisations. It’s just one of those tough things and it becomes exponentially difficult the larger that your organisation gets. I approach it from two ways to deal with that. The first is using the tools to reinforce data quality. With Salesforce, you can put in a lot of rules and automation and boundaries to make sure that certain data points are captured correctly at certain times.
In addition to that, we have dashboards where myself and other organisation leaders can audit either our our database or their teams.. Things like you know overdue tasks, unclosed, lost opportunities, opportunities about products, of course the list can go on. We have a dashboard that we use to monitor those at a high level, but then I think the best way to really manage the data quality is actually through training, through reps. The best individuals that can help correct the data are in my mind the ones that use it daily. They’re daily and constantly inputting data.
I work closely with our training enablement manager to make sure that our training documents are very thorough on outlines how to correctly document things that are in database, but also teaching the importance of good data, the why behind it. Bad data equals a bad database, so it’s in everyone’s benefit to have a good database. I give the example from sales standpoint of a report running from our database.
They like to run reports in our Salesforce for accounts that are sitting idle. Pretty simple report. However, if they are looking for certain data points that are wrong in our database or are missing, the reports are very limited. It’s to everyone’s benefit that they make sure they’re documenting things correctly, putting in all the information so that if they come to another account or another rep [inaudible 00:21:21] account, they have all the necessary information they need to make a choice of how they pursue further.
Tom: It’s such a crucial thing. You have to– If you put someone into a training session about data quality and they don’t know why they’re doing it, it can have zero impact.
Tom: Such an important point. The biggest current challenge in your role and how you are overcoming it?
Dante: I would probably go back to the two traits that make a good sales ops person, I would actually say being that scale is probably one of the biggest challenges. Just managing all the different departments as well as kind of managing the just kind of day-to-day things and priority. It becomes tough especially since I’m more like a one-man army when it comes to the operation side of things. How I overcome it is I use to two methods to stay on top of it.
One is OKRs, which stands for objective key results. Our CFO kind of brought that from Google, he used to previously be at Google. Then I have what’s called like a, more like a request sheet or road map. The OKRs, we meet once a quarter and come up with our main objective and then key results that we’re going to use to achieve those objectives. Those objectives could be typically tied in or aligns with overarching business problems or challenges, could be some personal growth that I want to pursue, just things operationally.
All those different things and then tactically those key results, how we go about to achieve those. Then I have a request sheet where different individuals in the organization can go and say they want to request for something so I need to change the Salesforce, I need this new process, what have you. Then I prioritize that into my road-map based off of my OKRs.
They know that if it aligns with my priorities, I put it a top priority, if not, it may get pushed down to another quarter or just kind of lower priority depending on what I have going on.
Tom: Nice. You get all these requests coming in and then the filter is you map them if you can to OKRs, and that will help prioritize what will be prioritized.
Dante: Exactly. Some things maybe important to others as an individual, but in the overarching challenges, what the business is trying to achieve, it may not be as pressing. I have to be that scale, and let them know this is kind of what’s coming, here’s where I imagined it can be accomplished and just making sure that’s very– it all makes sense. Everything is always transparent so everyone has access to my OKRs.
Everyone has access to my request sheet, so they can kind of see what’s going on, what’s going in my world, and where things are stacking up to one another.
Tom: Does everyone in the organisation do that or just you?
Dante: Our profit team does the OKRs and there are a couple individuals that have a similar request sheet, but it’s not something that’s company-wide. It’s just something that was put in place based on conversations that I’ve had with different leaders.
Tom: I think everyone should be doing that in organizations, but anyway.
Dante: Yes, it could definitely help.
Tom: Do you have a single metric that you can judge all sales reps by?
Dante: This is a tough one. I actually thought long and hard about this one. I really tried to come up with a singular metric that I thought could provide insights to such and such user and I couldn’t. I couldn’t come up with just one. Once again, able to boil down to what I felt were two overarching metrics. I think both of these metrics could be broken down even further to different things. The first one I would say would be activity, and the second one would be convergence.
Activity is pure will in my mind. Activity can be measured in different ways. It can be calls, it can be emails, it can be maybe in-person meetings, maybe sending some [00:25:22] swag to the customers. Depending on your business and your industry, it can be measured in different ways, but I think that at the end of the day, that just shows pure will to do something. The attitude behind the drive and actually going out and make something happen.
Then I think where you really measure success and skill level of someone is the convergence. How are things converting to the next stage in a sale cycle, from a quality conversation to a demo schedule, from a demo scheduled to a completed demo, from a completed demo to negotiation, to eventually a closed deal. That gives you insight on how well is this person doing. Are they moving down the phone? At what point are they having hiccups where we can help, kind of coach?
I think it’s almost like a like a quadrant, like a scale. High skill or high will, or low skill, low will. That gives you also insight on coaching abilities. Someone that has high skills and high will there are people that are high performers reps, people that you probably need to empower more. It could be your next sales manager. Someone that has high skill level but a low will, they’re someone that needs probably motivation.
They clearly have the ability to do the job but they’re not necessarily putting the activity to be a successful as maybe some of the other reps. How do we put things in place to motivate this rep, right? Opposite end of the spectrum, high will, low skill, maybe someone that’s new. They have the drive to do it, they go in and crush it as much as they can, but they just don’t have the skill level to actually make those things happen just yet.
Then you have the bottom quadrant, the low skill, low will. This needs to be new people in general, or they just need a lot of guidance for that. I think a combination of those two can really help you understand how well is someone doing. Then how do I coach them to make sure that they are all high-performing reps?
Tom: Very good answer. I like the splitting how you would judge a rep based on activity which is something that’s completely under their control, right?
Dante: Yes, completely theirs.
Tom: I think that which is not completely under their control, the will is an indication of skill. Also, is there a specific sales ops person or reve ops person that has taught you what you know or somebody that’s been a big leading light?
Dante: For sales ops, there hasn’t been an individual that really mentored me. A lot of what I learned about sales ops has come from just sales experience and just a lot of research that I’ve done myself, watching Sales Ops Demystified, funny enough. Playbooks, like newsletters that I get that are sales ops related, I really learned alot from there. I would say maybe one of the biggest influence probably my career has been a sales manager that I had a few years ago, his name is Jesus.
He was one that really taught me a lot about just people in general, like people, sales, managing people, how to develop people, how to mentor, understanding what what their needs and wants are, and make sure they achieve that. Which I think has just translated not only through sales, just in all aspects of my life.
When I look back on to one individual that really has taught me a lot on how to be a leader and has helped me get to the point, I would probably say him, not sales ops directly but just a lot of leadership. Leadership that has really helped excel my career.
Tom: Was Jesus at Springbot or elsewhere.
Dante: No, he was elsewhere. This was probably maybe like five years ago, four five years ago, it’s been a while but I just learned a lot.
Tom: Awesome. I want to quickly finish up by taking your thoughts on rev ops as you mentioned earlier in the interview. Why did that start becoming a thing? Why did you start to realize that actually your skills were required over other [inaudible 00:29:13] ?
Dante: For a while, two and a half years or so, three years I guess, almost, it has always been sales ops, been sales ops focused. I sat on the sales side amongst the sales team. I was integrated with them and I was viewed as one of the sales leaders. However, there wasn’t anyone that really gave– for lack of a better word, attention to a lot of the other departments as much as I gave to sales.
I was with them daily, look at the process, we analyzed process, changed [inaudible 00:29:44] things so much. Where the rest didn’t get that, although there was much to- there’s a lot of opportunity for that increased efficiency and scalability there.so rather than being so sales Rather than being so sales focused on sales driven, I was already being cross-functional. I think organizational [00:30:07] is building this time to expand that, and do a lot of things, what I’ve done for sales for other departments as well. Helping customers assess scale, helping automation things from a finance standpoint, making sure that marketing has everything that they need, just be more widespread, so no singular focus on the sales side.
Sales is there, it will always be there, but they’re not the only ones generating revenue for the organization, so we make sure that everyone else will have that support.
Tom: Nice, awesome. Do you think your official job title will change a move to be around new operations would you think? Is that now happened already?
Dante: Yes, it’s just recently happened, maybe a couple months ago, I see revenue ops as something that I’ll probably continue to grow in it. It does give me more exposure to the business, which I enjoy, as well as working with other departments. Just using my creativity to help at the end of the day, that’s from my sales experiences, I’m always solution oriented. if there’s a problem out there, I figure out how I can be a solution to that to that, whatever that may be.
Tom: Nice. Dante, I realized we haven’t actually explained what Springbot does? I want to 15 second pitch, please.
Dante: Springbot is a all in one marketing conversion automation tool, designed for small to medium sized businesses. If you have a mom-and-pop online store, you can think of Springbot as your command center comms in marketing. You can plug in all of your digital marketing channels so it’s email, social media, ads, what have you, into one dashboard, have a clean understanding of what’s working for your store and what’s not working for store.
Then what’s really cool is you could actually turn around and push content out through Springbot. You can automate emails, campaigns, on lot of reengagement, marketing collateral that you sent out to your your potential customers to help reengage them and bring them back to your store at the end of the day. Any of those abandoned carts emails you’ve ever gotten from a store, or like, “Hey, we miss you,” kind of things, Springbot helps companies do that.
Tom: Fantastic. Dante, thanks so much. A lot of gems in there, let me pick out a couple. I really like the scale, and everyone talked about managing stakeholders, but they haven’t talked about it in like a scale between business and rep. that was really, really nice way to look at things. What else do we have? Yes, obviously, explaining why to the reps about data quality, there’s no point of telling them to manage the data better. You have to explain why?
Then I thought, actually one of the best answers we’ve had to the how you judge salespeople. Through the skill versus will and activity versus conversion. There are the gems. Thank you so much. If you want to reach out to Dante, I think if you just Google “Dante Springbot LinkedIn”you’ll probably come up, your LinkedIn will probably come up. Please, reach out to Dante I’m sure he’ll be happy to take any questions if you have them.
Dante: Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me, Tom. It was a pleasure.
[00:33:17] [END OF AUDIO]