Robert Smith jumped onto Sales Operations Demystified to share his knowledge and experience in Sales Operations.
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Host: Hello and welcome to another very special episode of The Sales Ops Demystified Podcast. We are joined by Robert Smith who is-
Robert Smith: Yes.
Host: Hi Robert, – is the director of Sales Operations at Botify. Now, Robert initially started off life as a BDR and then shifted into Sales Operations and now has been running Sales Operations for a number of startups until this division now. Robert, thank you so much for coming on.
Robert: Thank you for having me.
Host: Well, were they accurate with the BDR description then?
Robert: Yes, that was part of my journey. Originally, I started as a junior sales rep at a financial research firm and I was there for about three years. I moved into an account management role for a little while and that’s where I got my first taste of what sales operations or an operation-based role could do. I can dive into that a little bit if you–
Host: Yes, first question is how did you get in Sales Ops?
Robert: In this financial research firm as I transitioned into an account management role, I worked with our VP of operations who’s actually sold the company, this was a couple of years back from me, and he’s continued to do great things there. Basically, we were rolling out a new product and in the CRM that we basically had to go into the back end as on some new fields, collect a lot of data from our clients and then that was really the way we implemented it. It was an alert based system, so we were gathering information from our clients and then I was actioning alerting based on what they’d given us. That was really the first time I had seen what the power of a system could do and that you can take a customer insight and translate it into a new product that would make your customer base more happy.
Host: Got it.
Robert: Then from there I actually went to a London-based company, I was working out in New York in HR tech company called Reward Gateway and that’s where I was in a BDR position. It was a very specialized BDR position, I would say, in that not responsible to come up with 50 or 100 new leads a day. It was more so like five to 10 would be a lot and it was very, very specialized and really the point of it was too big into what our ideal customer looked like. It was really a journey in collecting data on ICP, or ideal customer profile.
Actually, at Reward Gateway, that BDR position is really what cemented my transition into operations. In the New York office and in the US-based operation it really started with sales force there was nobody managing the US sales force instance so I have a lot of freedom to play around with that in the day-to-day. I was able to build some fields to collect new pieces of data and then get some reporting together and I worked with the two heads of our office, out VP of sales and then the head of the US in terms of what that reporting could show us. At the time, the Europe-based piece or part of the company was very well established and doing very well.
The US had the freedom to be a little bit of an experimental, the product was positioned to HR, obviously HR in Europe operates very differently than HR in the US for a number of reasons. Again, we had freedom to play around with what data we were collecting and then really defining what market we were going to sell into. I was able to hand off some of those BDR responsibilities. I actually kind of built a playbook for it, brought somebody on in the US, trained our London team and our team in Australia and then got to move more into that what would be operations. A lot of reporting, dashboarding brought on a few tools to help collect client data.
Host: Just so I understand, the reward gateway BDR position within a traditional hardcore BDR position, it was almost more strategics trying to work out who to target?
Robert: Yes, it was a really cool opportunity. They were at the time, again, the US was experimental so they were working on the idea of a sales pod where there would be a really specialized BDR, an intro salesperson and then a closing salesperson. They found success with that pod model, that’s why I had the opportunity to roll it out to my colleagues in London and Australia and then, again, I brought somebody on in the US and then moved over to that operational piece.
Host: I try to understand it like the role was more like strategic and operational and was it that you enjoyed that part of work, that part of the job more so you shifted to doing that and then well someone needs to do the BDR work? Why did you shift and why didn’t you just stay there in BDR?
Robert: I shifted because I enjoyed. It was really the system stuff, that’s what I enjoyed and that’s what got me into operations. Again, in my first position, which was a company called BCA research, that was when I got a taste of what working with systems and what data could really do, what kind of insights you could get and what you could roll out to your customer base. I knew initially that I liked that. Then when I was at reward gateway, I had the opportunity to dig into that a little bit more, and as I said, there is really nobody running our Sales force there and then there was nobody really producing kind of insightful reporting just for the US, so there was that room to move into that position. I had some luck there for sure. Then during my time, what solidified at all is during my time at Reward Gateway, they were in an interesting position in terms of how rounds of investments work. They knew when another round was coming, at least the general timeframe. I was there for that, and I got to work with as I said, our VP of sales and our head of the US in terms of getting some reporting together to tell the story of the US piece of the business, like the total addressable market and what the potential sales could be and what the pitch would be as the company got this next round of investment and moved into the next chapter.
Again, I think that was like the final piece that, I would say, solidified my interest in operations and what this role could be because I had the chance to take this data and help tell a story with it.
Host: Got it. If we fossil it today at Botify, could you share like the size of the operations team and the size of the sales function that it’s supporting, just roughly?
Robert: You’re looking at the operations team.
Host: If something happens.
Robert: Yes. My experience has been in, as you said, in growing tech companies and Botify secured their series B right before I joined– [unintelligible 00:07:36] then February, I joined at March of this year. Then before that, I was with another series B company called WayUp but Reward Gateway was about, I think, a little under 300 in my first position was a much more established company. Back to your question, yes, I’m the sales operations team. Right before I joined, we brought on a chief marketing officer and she’s been great building up her team. I have had to similarly focused colleagues, but more so just focused on marketing operations. Then the sales function, we have globally about 18 account executives, they’re split between senior and junior, and then we have an SDR, BDR function. We tried to keep it one to one, it’s about the same 18. Then we have obviously our account managers, customers managers, there’s about 10, and then we have a few more people who are split between technical implementation or ongoing technical work.
Host: Got it. What is it sales tech stack you guys are using?
Robert: It’s split up between a few things. We have obviously Salesforce. We have LinkedIn Sales Navigator. We have Outreach, that’s mainly for our SPR function to set up Cadence’s check for emails, it gives us activity tracking as well. We have a ZoomInfo to help enrich the data that we already have. We use HubSpot on the marketing side. As I said, we’ve recently brought on a CMO, so we’ve been really trying to build up that inbound function.
On the customer success side we use something called ChurnZero. I think it’s been a pretty interesting tool to help implement to make sure we’re tracking customer health score. Then another recent addition has been Gong. That’s been a really cool tool to help get some insights into the prospect journey and ways that our account execs could deal with objections or was seeing common roadblocks, and then it’s also been great to help enable our team in onboard. A few things.
Host: Yes. It seems to be tying together quite a few different applications. On that point, data quality, is the sales ops function, is that your job?
Robert: Yes. It’s my job to action. Luckily, I have a few people throughout the company that help keep their eyes on it, but data quality in general would fall on me. There is another tool that we have, which is more like a data lake, I would say, or an application that can really take in data from a lot of different places called CaliberMind. Are you familiar with them? I think a similar company would be like [unintelligible 00:10:48]. That tool has been helpful to age, data quality. It’s a very good tool to be able to scan your entire CRM as well as other systems you’re feeding into.
Host: Cool, and then it will tell you if you’re having data quality issues?
Robert: Yes, it can. I guess when you say data quality, I initially think of like duplicates or things like that. we have obviously the standard Salesforce functions turned on. I think with Botify we’ve rolled up an ICP scoring mechanism, and that’s really what’s linked to CaliberMind, and in that specifically there are certain signals we want to make sure filled out, that help contribute to the score if it’s really spot-on on the bull’s eye ideal customer, or if it’s somewhere in the middle or on the lower end, that’s based on signals that we have. CaliberMind helps make sure that we have those pieces either filled out or will highlight it to us when they’re incomplete. Something like that.
Host: Got it. Now shifting onto your relationship with the sales reps, what are you doing to make them more productive?
Robert: A few things. Again, being the dedicated operations, sales operations resource, there’s definitely a fair amount of just day-to-day troubleshooting, making sure they’re able to enter information into the CRM as they need, or get quotes out to the customers, things like that. That’s the day-to-day. I think the more strategic stuff that I’m working on and the more strategic things you would find in maybe a series B or series C tech company would be growth in the tech stack. When When I think about productivity for them, it’s for me right now, I think the best things that that I’ve helped with has been rolling out tools or advocating for additional resources to help them in their day-to-day, whether that’s getting them access to ZoomInfo or implementing Gong and giving them the ability to listen to prospect calls and maybe a sector that they’re working on currently.
Then I would add a final piece, which I’m lucky to work with a really great sales enablement manager. Then in terms of productivity, her and I have tried to work on kind of perfecting the onboarding experience. Her more so than I, but some of the systems that that we’ve worked on together have helped.
Host: Got it. Do you have any tips on influencing sales people to do things?
Robert: Yes. An ongoing challenge of anyone in operations, when I think about sales operations, I think you’re the bridge between the front office and back office, if that makes sense. You have have to be cognizant of the fact that you do need your sales reps to do certain things, like fill out data and follow process, but you also don’t want to be a traditional back office personality, where you lose empathy or the ability to communicate.
When I’m thinking about working with salespeople, I think about having empathy for their role. They deal with a lot of different personalities all day. They’re trying to be the engine of the company. They deal with rejection. You definitely want to start out at least with a strategy of empathy and making sure your communication is coming from that place. I think from a tactical point of view, having effective training is always good. We have, again, at Botify another part of our stack of the training platform. As you roll out new process, which is common in a growing tech company, things change, you have new products, you introduce new pieces to the sales playbook, you want to make sure that you’re staying on top of training, then as you troubleshoot, communicate from a place of understanding and empathy.
Host: Got it. Yes, I totally agree being the link and managing the different personalities, and trying to– I realized what you said about not being that cool back office person. Yes, you have to try and engage, because we can just imagine the typical sales force admin or even a developer trying to interact with sales and then just completely clashing. Awesome. Okay. You did mention onboarding. Do you have any tips on increasing ramp time by doing really good stuff in onboarding?
Robert: Yes, it’s definitely a challenge, onboarding is obviously a company effort. I think that Botify, they’ve done a great job of working on sales people or customer success people or SDR has come on, making sure they understand the culture. Then, obviously, moving on to that sales playbook or customer success playbook.
I think the tips that I would give would be, try to make sure you have a scalable and consistent process as soon as you can. For us, it is about a month-long process and there are step by step actions to be taken. Obviously, we touch on the culture piece. What Botify sells is a suite. It’s a platform, but it’s a unified suite of applications to help with technical SEO content and ranking. The technical SEO piece is really important to cover, because anybody, client facing needs to know how to talk about that, so that’s another piece of our training.
We touch on culture, we touch on general sales information. You need to have products training. Then again, I’m jumping back on the phone, but having a library of calls to listen to is also really, really helpful. Again, our sales enablement manager spends time picking out and adding to a library of calls, that would be helpful. I think making sure you focus on step by step and that it can scale as you bring people on.
Host: Got it. I just have one more question on that. You mentioned scalability twice. How can you make, or what have you done to make your onboarding process scalable?
Robert: I guess, to just jump back one step, the reason I’m always going to scalability is, again, my experience has been in growing tech companies, series B, series C, and it’s all bout scalability. You want to make sure that the process you are implementing can work for 50 employees or 50 salespeople and a 100. You don’t want it to break somewhere in the middle. That’s in my experience and why I think in those terms. It holds through probably to anybody in operations, but I think specifically during the high growth.
To answer your specific question about onboarding and making it scalable, I think what we have right now that’s been working, is we do legitimately actually have established playbooks, and they’re broken into, you could say, chapters. Part of that is for a split into that technical training I was mentioning before, listening to recordings and then ending with shadowing. I think just having those firmly established pieces and actually having a legitimate playbook has been what’s helped make the onboarding process scalable.
To be candid that a lot of that was in place before, I joined I’ve given my feedback and I think it’s been tweaked and perfected every single day.
Host: Got it. Moving into forecasting, how does sales forecasting process work, and are you responsible for creating it?
Robert: I’m involved in it and I’ve been responsible for, I guess, the structure of the reporting and ongoing tweaks there. I guess to give a little bit of context, we have sales reps in our Paris office, London, New York, and Seattle. That being a global company presents its own challenges. What we do is we pick a time every week, that works across the time zones, and we have each sales lead from those offices join call with our SVP or a head of global sales who sits in New York, who I work with on a day-to-day basis, and we have a few specific reports that we go into, we have a few specific fields in sales force that indicate the strength of the forecast by specific team or specific team member, and we just dive into that for about an hour.
Host: Got it. Are you bringing the data to that meeting [unintelligible 00:20:46] to review?
Robert: I’ve created the dashboarding that we all look at, our head of global sales runs the meeting, but as we discuss if there’s any tweaks or anything that stands out, we’ll dig into it after the meeting and circle back from there. I walk out of that meeting every time with a few things to dig into a resolve or find out more about.
Host: In your experience is sales operations, which has been your favorite sales KPI?
Robert: Which is my favorite? I like that question. Monthly bookings is a really exciting one if you’re in a good place. I think that can be very exciting too, especially in a growing company when you have goals and you hit those goals, it’s a great feeling across the company. Instead of saying favorite, I might say ones that I would think about in terms of health and that you’re moving in the right direction, would probably be average sale site goal, average deal size.
I think for any business that already has a robust, customer base renewal rate is super important, especially in a SAS business. I would probably say a combination of those three [crosstalk]
Host: Got it. Final question, do you know who has taught you the most about sales operations?
Robert: There’s actually been a lot of people. Everywhere I’ve been when I’ve been in an operational role or sales operations I have been the only sales operations person, so I feel like I’ve learned throughout my career from people who didn’t necessarily have the title but who had a similar thought process. To give you one caveat, I think the reason that happens and probably happens to a lot of sales operations people is another company I worked at, Five Point, my manager was the head of Finance and we had a couple conversations about it and he always said like, “You can’t go to college or university for sales operation.” So everybody falls into it in a way.
I think at each company I worked at there was somebody that I learned something from. At BCA Research there was a guy, his name was Dennis Metcalf, he’s still therem, he’s now their VP of Sales Operations. They didn’t even have a Sales Operations title when I was there. I think that shows that he already had that mindset and then was a great fit for that role. A company I worked at, WayUp, there was a person named [unintelligible 00:23:40] Garg. He actually moved into the private sector but he was our head finance. I learned a ton from him, understanding how to look at revenue from the company perspective as well as little day-to-day things, like great excel tricks. At Flashpoint, Rob Resnick. He’s their VP of Finance and Corporate Development, also super operationally focused. I learned a ton from him. Then I think to jump back to Reward Gateway, there were two people, Tom Lavery and Shelley Packer, they actually now have their own sales training platform called Jiminny. They were entrepreneurial, obviously, but both had a great insight into making a business scalable and how to set up an operational framework, obviously to the point that they’ve created their own company. I think those are the people that come to the top of my mind when I think about people that I’ve learned from in this space.
Host: Awesome. Let me pick out what was particularly valuable there. Your point, which I haven’t actually heard before about the field operations linking back office and front office and the soft skills you need as a salesperson to be that link, I think, is super important. Onboarding being a company effort, which I think is very interesting. Normally, it’s just given to sales ops or sales enablement and then people would just say, hi, to the new person, but they [unintelligible 00:25:20] engage in onboarding. I think that’s important. Then the answer, and I agree with this as well, to a scalable onboarding process, I totally agree. It is playbooks, it’s documenting everything that you have, having a living, breathing playbook that gets updated and tweaked and improved as we go on. Those are the things I particularly liked.
Robert: I’m glad to hear it.
Host: Any final sales ops gems that you like to share with the audience?
Robert: Sales ops gems. I think even touching on my last point about people who I’ve learned from, there isn’t at this point a university degree for sales operations. If you’re interested in it or you think you have the mindset to dive into it, a way to succeed is to really lean on similar people or people that you think you can learn from in that regard. Then also because there isn’t a degree system for it, there’s actually a huge community that you can learn from. So dive into things like this podcast or dive into things like Google groups or meetups or online forums.
This is not a part of my current tech stack, but I’ve used it before, which is a tool called InsightSquared. They have a yearly operation-focused conference. Actually, one year it was sales operations and then they grew into revenue operations. There are great conferences out there. I think for anybody who wants to grow in this field, those are great resources to dive into.
Host: There we go. Rob Smith, the Director of Sales Operations at Botify, thank you so much for coming on and giving us your time.
Robert: Thank you for having me.
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