Interviewer: Welcome to another special episode of Sales Ops Demystified. We are joined by Ondrej Bosak of Exponea. Ondrej, welcome to the show.
Ondrej: Thanks a lot.
Interviewer: Can wait in fact to jump in, but I’ve been waiting to have someone on from IBM onto the podcast and here we are.
Interviewer: Ondrej, you’ve spent six years at IBM, right?
Interviewer: At one point you were running, not sales operations, but operations for the asset management department.
Interviewer: Cool. Then more recently have moved over to what looks to be a more a younger and more nimble business and where Ondrej is currently running revenue operations. Welcome to the show.
Ondrej: Thanks a lot and thanks for your introduction.
Interviewer: How do we initially get into– Actually, with your current role, you were in sales ops before you moved- before you transitioned into revenue operations, okay cool. How did you first get into sales operations?
Ondrej: I think it all started actually at IBM. When I was thinking about a question, I really think it’s like combination of two roles, I had at IBM. The first one was being operations lead for asset management in a logistics area. Primarily, I was responsible for building the processes, looking at the metrics, making sure that there is ownership behind the processes, highlighting the gaps, and basically fixing the gaps in the logistics process. Also, it helped me, I would say project management skills because I was also responsible as a subproject lead to deliver the ordering application within the IBM for internal hardware software.
This was like first part of my skill I build for ops manager position and the second one was also at IBM when I was client experience advisor or for senior salespeople at IBM. Basically, I communicated with concrete general managers with the regional directors about the client experience and making sure that the client’s voice is here and listen through the surveys. Here it really helped me to develop and to understand sea level salespeople and to make sure that I’m able to get the buy-in from their side.
Interviewer: Got it. Why did you then transition over to join Exponea?
Ondrej: I was really looking at something, I would say smaller. Basically, to be more let’s say the business because previously at IBM I basically supported the region when I did not sit. I wanted to have more strong connection especially to the sale and understand in more details and to really be let’s say in the kitchen of the sales. That was one of the reasons why I changed and basically the Exponea, it was originally Slavic based company which moved to the new markets.
Interviewer: Right now, how many people in the revenue ops team and how many salespeople are you guys supporting?
Ondrej: Basically, we do have the structure where we have a team which is called Business Operations. Primarily, the revenue ops is basically me. Then we have a daytime reporting team who is more looking at the data qulity things. We do have also accounts receivable specialist, billing specialists, and also marketing operations. Basically, we have a technically skilled people. We have people who are doing the daily job like, for example, invoicing accounts receivables. Then we have people like me or my colleague from marketing. We are more looking at the business insights and supporting our C-level in the strategic decision within the company. In case of salespeople, we will have around 18 to 20 sales reps. Also then, we have a sales development people also are around 50 people, that’s it.
Interviewer: What’s the current Exponea?
Ondrej: Actually, I would start with a CRM system. Because I think maybe I would be the only one who did not use the sales force yet. Actually, I use sugar CRM before. We did to use a pipe drive. I’m not sure if you hear about those guys. Now we are using copper which used to be called the post for works. They are a US-based CRM system. Actually, it’s is a great tool for small and medium-sized companies like we are. We also do have Google accounts. It has a very nice native integration with our Gmail suit. Basically, you can do a load of actions within your Gmail account and you can see them directly in the CRM. In case of other key tech stacks, it’s definitely topical for analytical purposes. We are more focusing on the quality rather than quantity. We really try to build the reports which are aligned with our wildly important goals in the company and with the KPIs. Another tool which is free and new for us but it’s a great tool to use is Similarweb. We really used to identify the traffic of our potential customers and existing customers and also understand more details like, for example, what is your month to month changing case of traffic or year over year traffic change?
Our customers and potential customers are primarily the online E-retailers, so traffic is one of the most important indicators to understand how they are picked, and also if they’re a good fit for our company and if we are for them. We are using a Similarweb for identification of ideal potential customers. For example, what I have also developed this year or at the beginning of this year is Exactlink. Exactly for our commissions, I’m pretty sure or exactly based on my knowledge is like leader in commissions. We do use Exactlink.
For example, for us, it’s important to get information about the next step of the potential customer. To understand like what tools they’re using because really Exponea is the pool which sometimes replaces multiple pools on the customer side. For us, it’s definitely very important to understand what tools our potential prospects are using to really run down the effective campaigns against the [inaudible 00:07:55] my marketing counterpart, he’s very patient about the sales law. Basically, he’s using a sales law tool for his automation and email communication to our potential prospects, setting the cadence ease in the right time to make sure that the conversion from the lead to opportunity will increase.
Interviewer: Got it, can we now talk about your relationship and interface with the sales reps in the SDRs, what are you guys doing to make–
Ondrej: Yes, that’s a great question and that’s also the tough question, right? I think like one of the things which is very important is from my perspective cooperation with the VP of sales, because if there is a healthy relationship with the VP. When I can feel his pain, and what are the things I can help him with, these are one of the things which are super important for me. How do I see a sales operation is, at the first point really help regional directors, VP of sales and, of course, I’m trying to help sales reps through effective CRM system. What is mostly important and what I’m trying to achieve is really provide insights, especially to VP of sales, VP of client services for a client success part for up sales and then for sales development part.
To make sure that they have all insights. I’m sitting on the data, and I want to provide a meaningful and actionable insights to those guys to make them more productive. To really show them, for example, right now in case of accounts to set the right thresholds for the account we want to target. We don’t want to be focused on many items, as we are opening a lot of new markets, sometimes it’s difficult to be focused on the right things.
Really shaping the strategy based on the data and insights [unintelligible 00:10:23] That’s the most important part on it. In case of sales reps, the most critical part for me was when were switching from the Pipedrive to Copper to make sure that the system will work fine, and there will be still the user experience on their side. Sometimes we build the CRM systems to make sure that the sales management is happy about it, and they get what they need. I really try to make sure that also the users are happy, and it’s not making a ton of work for them. Basically, it’s making their life easier. Also what I’m always trying to convince people around me, is to really hear all level in sales. From sales rep to regional director to VP of sales because sometimes they have different kinds of problems or issues they are trying to resolve.
If you do not have a good connection with them, you can lose also the information which is not, maybe, directly on data, or you don’t see it from the data, but you hear their voice, so you can hear what are the issues they have on the regular basis.
Interviewer: If you were to do one other thing, or implement on other thing, based on the data so it makes it more productive, how would you go about rolling out the process so that it would actually be accepted? [crosstalk]
Ondrej: That’s also a great question. I think there are primarily two things I’m thinking of. One, and it is connected to my previous answer is to make sure the VP of sales is happy with it. He’s very reasonable and respected guys in our organization. If he’s asking something for, people understand that this is something we really need to do and it will help us to move forward. First, we need to get buy-in from the VP of sales. Then I’m thinking about two additional things.
When there is a complex change, for example, when we were switching from CRM system to another one or when we decided to use a new sales commission software, I’m always trying to approach, I would say, power users or people who are well respected within the sales organization. When I convince them and when I can hear them and when I can hear what they see as potential problems, I usually cover all potential problems, then it’s easier for me to get by in from entire sales organization.
The third one is actually the training material on the presentation itself. If the presentation is not very strong, you don’t understand the value out of the change. People will not care about it especially salespeople, right? What I’m really trying to do when we are changing something and we want something new from the sales guys, I spend a lot of time on material, on the presentation itself to make sure that it’s understandable and it’s clear why we want to use it and why we want to move forward the certain action.
Interviewer: Got it. We haven’t actually had that before. Actually focusing on the documentation of the change. It’s definitely an interesting way. Definitely interesting strategy. Cool. You mentioned earlier that you had a separate team or number of people there to manage the equality. Are you not responsible for this equality [unintelligible 00:14:26]?
Ondrej: Correct. I would say in the certain aspects of, for example, sales forecasting is very, obviously, very sensitive topic for our sales operations. Basically, my KPIs are also set based on the accuracy of the sales forecast. For me, it’s a very sensitive topic where I’m taking care of more like, “Not if the data is filled but if the data is accurate.” In case of the accuracy and sales forecasting, that’s part of the data I owned. However, in case of the data, for example, we have a new customer and we want to make sure that we have all the necessary details to do the billing rights, to do the client success part, to make sure that we create the account in our application for them, this is up to data and reporting team.
They did it great, I really must admit to them because they also created data quality reports in tableau, where you can basically see the data quality on the department level, on the individual level, and you also can see what certain fields need to be updated, so it’s very actionable. It gives you a great overview, what is our actual data quality. Again, great reports, actionable reports, and it works fine, much better than a year ago, there is a huge step forward.
Interviewer: Sure. Do you have any tips for onboarding new reps? I actually knew you guys recently.
Ondrej: We do have a sales enablement leader who is directly under the VP of sales in our organization and he’s primarily responsible for enabling people to make sure that they are onboard very fast. What I did not mention and what is the tool to use for a sales enablement is basically shown there where you can easily go through a different kind of material. You can search within Google very easily different topics. This is something we were missing a year ago when we didn’t have a centralized tool where a sales rep can check or can access and can get them meaningful information. For example, use cases for potential customers. Understanding the sales process end to end, really different kind of information like how the quota should look like, really all this level of detail. This is, from my perspective key to make sure that during the onboarding everything is going as it’s supposed to go.
Interviewer: Good. Moving on to the sales forecasting process and you said your KPIs are aligned with the accuracy. Are you actually using the forecast or are you working with the sales manager?
Ondrej: I tried both actually. When I started to look at the sales forecasting more deeply, I definitely was engaged more with the sales managers and with the sales guys to understand individual-level and individual deal. However, once we move forward and once I see that there is a strong management system and strong people on the Regional Director roles VP of sales, I can fully rely on their judgment and their, I would say, quality of work that I know that we do not forecast something which is totally off. Primarily I’m working with VP of sales and regional directors, they have a very strong management system around their sales managers. As our sales cycle time is around 90 to 100 days. We do especially forecast for upcoming month and then we do have the forecast for rolling 90 days.
We use a different approach for monthly forecasting. It’s more subjective or there’s also subjective part of it, where sales managers are categorizing the deals based on commitment. If the deals are committed, basically we are only chasing signature and there is no commercial or technical blocker. Or it’s a 50/50 deal, which means that there is still some technical commercial work to do. However, we are very confident to close the deal this or next month. Then there are upsides which are deals which happen, definitely, they’re not dependent on miracle and we do have the action plan.
There is something about the deal. For example, if that’s a deal which is not from our typical industry or vertical, where it’s sometimes difficult to get it done, or it is from the country region where we do not have a legal presence. Sometimes it’s more difficult to be aligned legally on a stuff. That’s our monthly forecast. Commitment and the stage and then based on this information we put together the figures. My threshold for accuracy is 80%. What I’m trying to achieve every month that the sales forecast is still at least 80% accurate, which sometimes it’s not that difficult to work out.
Sometimes it’s pretty difficult when you have big players in the pipeline and one deal can really affect your actual month achievement. In case of three months rolling forecasts, this is more, I would say, statistical approach. We are looking at the conversions from the certain stages and we also take into consideration the slip rate. We calculate the slip rate for this year or what is usually slip rate from month to month. Based on this fact, we also have buyer slip rate conversion rate. Again, we have a, or I have a KPI to make sure that it’s at least 80% accurate.
Interviewer: Focusing on metrics, is there a single metrics that you finding the most valuable right now?
Ondrej: For us at this stage is all about the growth. We are a company which is in the category of revenue from 10 to 20 million. Growth is for us the number one thing. Obviously, the contracted annual recurring revenue especially a year to year comparison and the growth month to month are most critical metrics for our company.
Interviewer: Got it, so you’re tracking every month, how much you’ve grown and then [unintelligible 00:22:00]
Ondrej: Definitely [inaudible 00:22:02] month or after three months. We are also focusing on that area a lot but the critical thing is growth. Sales forecasting is super important and the very next step, how to move forward is to have a better traction on the sales development part and how much time it takes us to even build opportunity and how many activities we need to get there. I must say that right now we agreed that we don’t want to [crosstalk] we want to see results.
Previously, we used to also track for sales reps, number of emails, number of calls, a number of meetings we are much more focused right now on obviously the achievement against the quarterly target and also then how the pipeline looks like for upcoming 90 days. If you see these two figures together, you know how the salesperson he’s performing. If someone is not able to deliver but he has a very strong pipeline because he has a very strong, big customer obviously you need to take into consideration this information. We have more achievement, how much revenue you booked and what is your pipeline for upcoming 90 days? That’s the most important thing. Actually, we decided to– When we build the [unintelligible 00:24:02] dashboard and half of the dashboard is including this information and we decided to turn it on [crosstalk] is on the TV to [unintelligible 00:24:12] if people can see them every time every day. Yes. Actually, I would link it to the different roles I had [crosstalk] when I was at IBM, the mentor I got [crosstalk] was my direct manager and also the project manager which showed me how to do the project management.
Then I realized that there are not always that many strong project managers, so definitely this to chance. I’m also having a mentor right now, I’ve never met him face-to-face. I would love to meet this guy, he used to be also sales operations in the company which is doing pretty much the same thing as we do. Based on the first interactions I had with him, he is a super-skilled guy and he’s able to answer on all my questions. I would definitely love to meet him in person. Michael Bern. Actually, I don’t want to misspell his actual company [crosstalk] I can show you his name after this.
Interviewer: Which company? Okay, cool. Thanks so much. Ondrej, that brings us to the end of the interview. Thanks so much for your time. I like the piece about your focus on documentation when you’re trying to influence sales people, no one has brought up that before. People have always said prevent the idea that you’re attracted to them so they can see the value thanks to how much commission they’ll get. Having documentation [unintelligible 00:26:31] is really valuable. The piece about metrics, when you’re judging sales people that focus on results. Not necessarily other things around that are not– [crosstalk]
Ondrej: Sure, thank you very much for your time.
Interviewer: Shutting that in an office can be super influencial. That’s what I liked. Thank you so much for your time and for coming on. It has been an absolute pleasure.
[00:27:02] [END OF AUDIO]