Claire Maisonnave-Couterou jumped onto Sales Operations Demystified to share her knowledge and experience in Sales Operations. Her thoughts on sales operations interview questions arises more interest in the topic, check out her video below.
Check out all the other episodes of Sales Operations Demystified here.
You can learn more about:
Tom: Hello and welcome to a very special episode of Sales Operations Demystified. We're joined by Claire who is based in Paris. Hello, Claire.
Claire Maisonnave-Couterou: Hello, Tom. How are you? Hello everybody.
Tom: Claire has extensive experience in sales operations based in large corporations and smaller companies. She spent a total of 18 years at Microsoft and not all of those years were in sales operations, but all in finance operations and about four years in serve operations. Now, is at a slightly smaller business running sales operations. We should hopefully get
perspective from larger and smaller businesses. Claire, question number one. How did you get into sales operations?
Claire: It's a long story. I would say getting more by chance and by choice, yes. I think I was one of the first sales-- Not in the business, because digital wasn't really existing 20 years ago. I will say my journey is really diverse, because I really started as a receptionist, I did accountant, I did a lot of things. I even done two years in Tibet to build some workshop over there.
Claire: Yes, it was nice. I joined Microsoft in- I don't remember, in 2000 around 2000. Worked in finance at the beginning, yes. After five years, I moved directly into the business. Into the business, there was a lack of data, I will say, but a dashboard data and everything. Me, I was good in data and data insight and tools and development. They were even in Microsoft, considering me as a developer, which I'm not. Then I was playing around a lot around data. From this finance, the need of data finance cannot deliver, because there was
not enough people in finance.
Then they asked me to continue to do this and they separate a job from finance and they create this new job, which was-- Now we call this sales operation, but my past it was as a different name of this job was field operation manager, business operation manager, sales excellence manager and now sales operation manager.
Tom: Got it. You were in finance and they had a big need for data about the sales process.
Tom: They were like, "Claire, can you do this work?"
Claire: Yes, exactly. Yes.
Tom: Awesome. Because they saw that you had a knack for analyzing and understanding data.
Claire: Yes, exactly, yes. Simplifying also the way how would think the problem, yes.
Tom: They offered you that work and that role and you were like, "Yes, I really want to do that. I really want to be involved in the sales process."
Claire: Yes, because I'm very creative and I like to create roles, yes and be in the middle of the sales process is all the time interesting, because you will see all the time in different companies finance people don't like the salespeople, the salespeople don't like the finance people, all over. Yes, all the different roles they don't like marketing too, yes. I will say. yes. But there is gaps between the different division. Me, I like to connect everybody to each other's area. I think then it was a good challenge for me to work with everybody, yes.
Tom: You like making everybody happy?
Claire: Yes. I will say one of the first things. I like to make everybody happy, more efficient, more productive and realize their target for both part, yes.
Tom: What do you think makes an awesome sales ops person?
Claire: For me, first of all, to be a very good sales ops person, you need to be very empathic. Empathy is crucial. You need to get-- You need to be also a good listener, because the way that people are telling their story is very important to make your point- your own vision on what they are saying and particularly on focus, yes. When people are telling you the story about what they will finish, you will see with their body language, how they speak to you and everything. If they are telling you the truth or if they are not sure of-- Yes. I will say, yes. Then it's one of the, I will say, the, button that- where you can see in terms of forecast accuracy.
The finance- the sales ops, sorry, should have also leadership absolutely. Because you need to bring-- Even you are not the manager of the sales team, you need to bring them in your journey, yes. You help the sales director to bring all the people on the same way. You need to be creative all the time, because they ask all the time, every company ask for 'Growth, growth, growth' and you need to help such people to see where they can find their growth within their territory.
Tom: By being creative.
Tom: Do you have an example of when you've been given the task of growing with a sales rep or reps in the territory and you have to be creative about finding that growth? Do you have an example of doing that?
Claire: It's really relative to white space and more logical things. When you are selling product, you will say to the guys, "You have sold this product to this customer, but did you put yourself in the shoes of your customer? Can you imagine what you can need?" Then one of the thing is really is to make some crosses between the product and also to have a different approach. Putting really [unintelligible 00:06:19], put your foot into your- instead of your customer and what they would like from you. They need solutions, they need growth, same as you and everything. What you can propose to them and in the way they can propose to them.
For example, they are here in Kyriba, there is a new solution that they have to sell. It is not selling, it's more services. I'm all the time also telling them how they can sell it in just pitch. You should tell them that, "You should buy this product, because of-- ", but you should also tells them you can found this by, this solution, by using this solution. All the time. I'm quite advisor in the pitch, sales pitch. After there is a white space and a white space is really much, much [unintelligible 00:07:13].
Tom: The key is putting yourself in the shoes of the customer and try to understand what they're trying to achieve and how you can help them?
Claire: Yes, exactly. Yes, most of the time.
Tom: Do you think that sales experience is necessary to succeed in sales operations?
Claire: Not necessary from my point of view. I don't have any sales-- Yes, I have sales experience, because between Microsoft and Kyriba, I was in a start-up where I was placing some babysitter, completely diverse. Yes, completely different. I was the sales manager for this company, but from my point of view, you don't need to have sales experience to become sales ops. You need to understand the sales people, you need to-- Selling is also-- When you are a good seller, you like people, because you like to help the people to realize what they want to do. Then I think you need to-- To be a good sales ops, you need to like to help people. This is the first thing and because you are really in between everybody. All the issues coming to you.
Tom: Yes, a lot of people say that here the [unintelligible 00:08:37] in sales operations is to manage the stakeholders. If everybody's requesting numbers from you or sales people are requesting access or tools from you and you have to somehow make everybody happy.
Claire: Yes, exactly, yes. You need to have also-- Because you can be on a very detailed things and you can also be- you have to be in global view and a detailed view, yes. Sometimes at the same time. Then you need to play between detail and global. With the general manager, often even in Microsoft, the director of the division or in Kyriba, I'm working a lot with the general manager on strategy. From the strategy to the detail of the, "My CRM. I cannot open this order or this opportunity."
Tom: Let's talk about technology quickly. Can you outline your current tech stack that you were using at Kyriba?
Claire: Yes, at Kyriba we're using Salesforce. Then in Microsoft, it was CRM online, here is Salesforce. It's nearly the same. People was saying to me, "Yes, Salesforce", but for me it's the same. Yes. I'm using-- They are using a wave. I don't know. Einstein within Salesforce, but I'm not choosing this one, because you need to be a developer to use Einstein. I'm Power BI. This is my best tool and the best of the- better at this time is still Excel.
Claire: You mentioned another tool there called Wave.
Claire: Wave. You don't know Wave? I think it's an add-on to Salesforce. [unintelligible 00:10:24] introduce some dashboard.
Tom: Sure, okay. Anything else, you think? Any self-enablement tools.
Claire: Self-enablements tools, I will say there is a webinar. They use webinars, they will use-- What they are using? They are using DocuSign, but it's not as implement. IU really don't choose that in parallel, yes. But for them is really-- Yes.
Tom: Do you have a favorite sales operations related tool?
Claire: For me, it's Power BI, yes.
Tom: Is Excel?
Claire: Excel and after, Power BI. I think I put my hand on the fire, we say this in France. That Excel will be replaced by Power BI or tableau or these kind of tools in three years.
Tom: Cool. But right now, it's Excel.
Claire: It's Excel, because CRM, I never see any clean CRM. You need to [unintelligible 00:11:25]. Excel is a good tool to clean the data.
Tom: Which leads very nicely on to the next question which is about data quality. How do you manage data quality in the CRM?
Claire: In the CRM, first of all, I will say I'm making some pipeline every weekend, pipeline [unintelligible 00:11:45]. I'm working out there with the salespeople when I see some gaps and the gaps I can see in terms of pipeline velocity or forecast accuracy. There is two two parts in the CRM where the people are putting their opportunities. The velocity over the pipe, these are in proposal or signature or whatever. In parallel of that, they will commit on their opportunity. I say there is a lot of discrepancy between the forecast and and the sell stage, this is first of all. After there is all the time, also these kind of things as the date of the opportunity. The close date is in the past or--
This I'm correcting with them. I'm pinging them, "Please correct your opportunity. Please fill this field, because it's necessary for you." I explained to- all the time to all of them, because to make people do some things you need to explain why they are doing the things. Most of the time in the CRM, they were just filling out what they need, but not feeling the marketing part of the industry or other things. All the time, I'm explaining to them, "We need it, because if you want this after, we need to have this field filled."
Tom: The point a couple of people have brought up, is you have to when you're trying to get someone to do something explain why they're doing it. What do you say to a salesperson? How do you explain why they should update their close date correctly? What's the 'Why' that you share with them?
Claire: What is the why? This is good for my finance path. It's good for me, because I really explain to them, "You are doing your opportunity and what you need in it, but the finance needs to do forecast here. If you want them to get a good forecast, you need to get the field filled." You explain the challenge of the other division to make them act. I also tell them, "If you help them, they will help you. If you don't help them, they will not help you."
Tom: Cool. You put it in their- it's in their interest to help finance, then finance may help them in the future.
Claire: Yes, in the future. Exactly.
Tom: Cool. How would your role crossover with the owner the CRM or are you owning Salesforce? Are you the Salesforce admin?
Claire: No, I'm not the Salesforce admin. I was Salesforce admin in Microsoft, because I think they are more mature. Here there is two guys who are managing Salesforce. Then I'm just going at their desk, but when I need somethings.
Tom: You request things from them.
Claire: Yes, to them, yes. It's a tense territory, the owner. All these kind of things.
Tom: What is the biggest challenge in your role?
Claire: My biggest challenge in the role is really to put the people on the same line, marketing, finance and everybody. To make them speak to each other. I will say, thisis the biggest one, yes.
Tom: It's managing those stakeholders-
Claire: Yes, the stakeholders.
Tom: -and keeping them happy.
Claire: Yes, exactly and make the things done, yes.
Tom: Get things done.
Claire: Yes. Execution is one of the tough parts.
Tom: This is a big challenge. I think this is probably the most popular challenge is managing all these people. I'm thinking maybe we will get opinions from all of the people we've had on this podcast about strategies to manage stakeholders. That could be a really useful piece of content I think, because seems to be everybody seems to be struggling for
that. Awesome. Do you have a single metric or if you can only use one metric to judge all of your sales reps, what metric will you choose?
Claire: It's really pipeline velocity versus forecast accuracy.
Tom: Cool. Just take me through that.
Tom: It would be both of them. It'd be pipeline velocity and forecast accuracy?
Claire: Forecast accuracy, yes. Within the pipeline, it's really between your weight pipeline and your pipeline owner versus the forecast.
Tom: If you only had to choose one of those, which one would you choose?
Claire: Weighted pipeline versus quota, yes.
Tom: Weighted pipeline versus-- ?
Claire: Quota objectives, yes.
Tom: Weighted pipelines, sorry. You can tell I'm not in sales operations.
Claire: You know what I mean by weighted pipelines?
Tom: Amount of deal versus likelihood of closing. Is that the weighted pipeline?
Claire: No. No, it's really- it's-- Maybe you were telling the same things, but it's within those different sales stage. You weighted the sales stage by [unintelligible 00:17:04] and you multiply the opportunity by this percentage.
Tom: Got it. A pipeline may have $5 Million in, but it's weighted pipeline may only be $1 Million, because--
Claire: $1 Million, yes. You can see that the pipeline is mature or not mature and if you have 80% of this pipeline in the forecast, I would say there is a big issue, because the pipeline is not mature or the sales of your pipeline is bad.
Tom: Do you do this on a weekly basis, then? You look at the weighted pipeline and the different stages of building the pipeline for all reps?
Tom: Then you'll speak with them and you'll try and understand the likelihood of that coming in.
Claire: Exactly. It's really at this time that they tell me the story about each deal, yes. I say, "Okay. You did a proposal, yes. You did the proposal, then put in a proposal." "No problem-o", okay. Because they are shy or so they don't say-- Most of the time they reduce their velocity to be more secure I will say, to feel more secure. When the pipeline is
showing mature, then mature, yes.
Tom: Well, if you could just repeat that again. Sales people will under forecast.
Claire: Yes. Instead to put that an opportunity under due diligence, I will say or short list. They will let the opportunity at the proposal stage, because they don't want to be stressed by the management first, because they will say, "Your opportunity's in short list", whatever or is in contract, "Why it's not signed yet?"
Tom: Cool. Okay. The stakeholders are going to be pressuring them. Awesome. Now, a final question who taught you the most about sales operations?
Claire: Who told me? What do you mean?
Tom: Taught you.
Claire: I will say myself, yes.
Claire: I learn the sales operation by myself somewhere, but really by the insight of everybody. I built the job by the need of everybody. The insight and the need.
Tom: Interesting. You're talking about Finance, Sales and Marketing. They've helped you, they've taught you.
Claire: Exactly. Finance, Sales, Marketing, Support also, yes. Satisfaction, the people who are managing the satisfaction is really all stakeholder, yes.
Tom: They have shaped you. That's a really interesting answer. We've never had that before. Awesome, that brings us to the end. A few things I picked out I really liked. I like how you mentioned the importance of empathy and how when you're talking with the reps about the different deals, you look at their body language to try and tell actually what's going on. I thought that was really clever. Detailed versus global view. You have to go and strategize on the approach with management, but then you also have to go and work with a rep directly on their challenges.
Then explaining why, when you're trying to get people to do stuff. One way of doing that is by saying that if you help finance e.g. with forecasting, then they might help you in the future. Claire, thank you so much for coming on.
Claire: You're welcome.
Tom: We will speak to you soon.
Claire: Okay. Perfect, thank you. Thank you for your time too.
[00:21:59] [END OF AUDIO]