Senior Manager, Sales Operations: Eamonn Filinski of Achievers
Eamonn Filinski jumped onto Sales Operations Demystified to share his knowledge and experience in Sales Operations.
Check out all the other episodes of Sales Operations Demystified here.
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Tom: Hello, and welcome to another very special episode of the Sales Ops Demystified podcast. We’re joined by Eamonn Filinski, who in his own words is, in the past 10 years been immersed in technology, specifically, sales and a bit of marketing and has been jumping in and out of sales ops between marketing and sales management roles. I think he’s going to be a super interesting interview. Eamonn, welcome to the show.
Eamonn: Thank you. Thank you for having me, Tom.
Tom: Let’s kick off with the first question, how did you initially get into sales operations, the first time you did it?
Eamonn: That’s a good story probably. I think like many people, I probably kind of fell into it. I don’t think it was necessarily a path I thought of. It was many years ago with a small tech company called Netmail and I started my career as a sales developer and work into a sales role, but I always had a passion for the analytics and numbers behind what we were doing. I think that’s just the way I think and the way I love to look at things.
I was always the one building my own reports and getting my own analytic on information. Within a small company, word gets around pretty fast that someone’s doing this and someone could rely on this person to do it so organically, slowly but surely I was the person to go to, to build a report or get some more information and at the time, this was many years ago, we were using a CRM called Sage SalesLogix, very archaic kind of system. I’m sorry for anyone that’s still using that out there, but we were going in a transition to the Salesforce at that time.
We didn’t really have a traditional sales operations person in the company, it was kind of under IT, so I was the one pointed out to lead that transition into the world of Salesforce and our new CRM, so kind of got dropped into sales operations organically because I was definitely just focusing on numbers and analytics a lot and just grew into a role from there in that small company and that led to a passion of being in that world for the next 10 years.
Tom: Got it. I love what you say about when you were, being an SDR , you were just a person who is like– Probably your sales manager was like,” Eamonn’s building the reports again,” and then word spreads and then you say it kind of moving organically it really makes sense, I’ve seen that happen here. Cool, so that first role was at Netmail?
Tom: Then you commissioned from there to Hootsuite?
Eamonn: Yes, that’s when I had an opportunity to go work for a growing company Hootsuite and really steer their sales development department. My whole time at Netmail, I wore many hats. I was in sales development, sales leadership. A company, it’s like 50 people you do many different jobs and then grew into a traditional sales ops role eventually and then had an opportunity to go back and run and manage a sales development department.
I think the theme throughout that whole thing was I came into that role with a sales operations outlook, to that role as well and still at my time at Hootsuite in the three or four years I was running the sales development team was the de facto sales operations person, even though that wasn’t necessarily my title for that, where again, was the person relied upon to dig into the numbers and understand a little bit more about systems.
Definitely, I love sales technology and the tools we use and have a passion for that so was the one leading the charge for new technologies that we’re using and the tools that we were going to prospected with. Along that time, we didn’t necessarily have a dedicated sales ops person again for our departments and the sales ops team was just run at Hootsuite. It leaned heavily upon to build out that sales operations process and what we were doing within the sales development team.
Then that led to an actual sales ops role after three or four years of being in a good suite where we really needed a focus on our sales tools and technology because like many companies that are growing. We threw a lot of money at technology, got a lot of tools. Some of them worked really good. Some of them were lying dormant and there was this big hodgepodge of sales technology that we were using and not using and there needed to be someone to go in and draw that process more to the technology and start building ops.
What we needed, what we didn’t reduce our spend obviously because we were just spending all over the place and trying to clean up that whole entire process and so then I spent a lot of time doing that during the later years, half of my time at Hootsuite.
Tom: Got it. If we fast forward to today at Achievers, you’re the most senior resource in sales operations.
Eamonn: Not really. [laughs] I’d like to say in sales operations, what’s different and the reason why I came to Achievers is we’re building out a revenue operations department. That’s what I really loved and what really drew me to what was going on here. The person above me, she’s the director of revenue operations and is running– I guess [unintelligible 00:04:55] meet maybe a chief operating officer.
We’re really building out a larger than sales operation. I head up sales operations but then we’re starting to bring in marketing, we’re bringing in customer success. We’re bringing in more IT things and really being the hub of revenue operations. I love that. We have a team of 9 or 10 people now but we’re growing it out and probably to 15 people in the future and then just building out everything from sales operations to sales enablement and engagement and training and then analytics and reporting and BI and everything in between.
Tom: Got it. We have the head of revenue operations or we have a chief revenue officer at the top, right?
Eamonn: Yes. At the top, we have reports up to sales now-ish but eventually, there will be more of a COO that would be in the realm of reporting right to the CEO on the leadership now.
Tom: Then you have a senior manager within marketing success and sales that will report up to that person?
Tom: Awesome. When you said you’re going to a team of 15, was that the RevOps team or was that the sales ops team?
Eamonn: That would be the RevOps team. I think overall, there’s some gaps that we have in all aspects of the game. It is a good framework right now but now we just need to amplify that a little bit more because everyone on the team is under constraints of a lot of work being done right now without a lot of people. I think we just need to amplify that a little bit more with the amount of people [inaudible 00:06:26].
Tom: Got it. How many, I guess, because you have success reps, you have Mark in the marketing team, and then you have the sales reps as well but just if we forget about the others, how many sales reps are you responsible for?
Eamonn: Sales reps in our department, we have about 20 accounting executives, we have about 9 or so SDR hours. We have a 2:1 ratio of SDR to account reps and then our CS department is around 25 or so.
Tom: Okay, cool. That’s good to get an understanding of. Moving on, the sales tech stack that you are using?
Eamonn: Yes, something there, like I said, I’m definitely very passionate about and spend probably way too much time after hours reading to the latest tech of what’s out there. We use at a base, Salesforce as our CRM. Then from the sales side, we’re using Outreach for our Sales Automation. We use LinkedIn Sales Navigator for prospecting. We use DiscoverOrg for data supplementation with the sales team.
We use [inaudible 00:07:33] something we just recently started using for call coaching and recording. I love that whole space whether it’s [unintelligible 00:07:39], just the ability to review and manage that call structure something I wish I had probably 10 years ago when I started. We’re using WebEx for meetings and conference calls, using Tableau for a lot of our dashboards and analytics as well as Salesforce.
DocuSign for contracts, we’re actually using [unintelligible 00:08:03] data for rerouting and in management of the path and cycle and that’s one of those interesting tools that bridges marketing and sales. It was a marketing-led purpose if you will, but then it’s a sales use tool. That was definitely a very good example of why RevOps is important because there’s these tools that transverse both departments and you need them to have a central spot where they live and you can’t just have one tool on one side and being used on the other side.
Medata is something very much like that. Even something like drift, which we’re not using yet, but would be one of those tools used by sales but usually purchased by marketing. Using Litmos for LMS and treating, using [unintelligible 00:08:47] recently just for the sales signatures and getting information out there. Then in marketing Marketo, Visible, ZoomInfo, past factory, g2 crowd and probably a couple others I’m forgetting. It’s generally then marketing stacks such as Marketo and ZoomInfo to aggregate and enhance the data that we have in our system as well.
Tom: Data quality, does that fit with your team?
Eamonn: Yes. It’s something that we’re actually looking to quite often as many companies probably are but I think particular challenge I saw when I came in here is that, Achievers has been around in a couple different iterations for about the last 13, 14 years. It’s not very old, maybe if people are working for more established companies. In the tech world to me, that was pretty old. There’s a lot of data and a lot of information that has gone through many different processes.
It is been very important, especially when we’re trying to look back and get an idea of conversion rates and consistency and forecasting right now because it’s almost looking at those areas of growth within a rock. Over time you see the lines, it’s hard to look back and compare different years and different segments of the business because they weren’t all the same.
That’s something we’re trying to do right now to clear that data and see where the commonalities are and try looking at that data consistency, like, “How do we actually get better at forecasting? How we get something consistent going forward? As well as how do we prove in the past that that will work with what’s working today?” The data overall is something that it’s pretty big project to centralize the data. Something like tableau get into a data repository or data lake and get it in one spot as well because it moves in many different iterations. Then also try to get that consistency over time.
Tom: Then now shifting to your relationship with the sales reps. I assume you’ve onboarded quite a few SDRs in your time. What have been your key learnings from doing that?
Eamonn: That everyone’s different, I guess, the first thing. I think having a cookie-cutter approach to onboarding or teaching anyone a process, I think is not a great idea. I think you need definitely a stable platform, you need a good repeatable process, is very important. You need to know who you’re teaching. Difference between SDRs and AEs and CS and level of experience, and just how someone wants. I think the first thing I was asked is, “How do you like to learn? How do you like to absorb information?” Because everyone’s different.
Some people love to just work on a whiteboard and see [unintelligible 00:11:33] work through the process. Other people just like to discuss things, some people want to just sit down with information, absorb a little bit more and then go back to it later on. I think that’s a big part of it, just understanding who you’re teaching and who you’re instructing.
Tom: Do you run a test at the start of the process to understand the type person or do you just observe them and then tweak as you learn more about them?
Eamonn: I think I sit down. If it’s reasonable with individuals or groups and just understand who you are. Sometimes just, I guess, from my experience in working with people, knowing a little bit of the hour, difference between an entry-level person and an AE that’s been in this market for 15 years and it’s kind of like that old dog, new trick mentality. If I can, I think asking them quickly before we even start, just at the beginning of the session, like, “How do you like to learn? What’s the best way for you to absorb this information?”
Tom: Sorry, I cut you off. I think you were about to share something else.
Eamonn: I was saying I think it’s important as well just to have the skill-building, what you’re doing and making sure that they understand what it means to them. I think that’s the other crucial point, especially when you’re dealing with more established sales reps or people who’ve have been in the business for a while, I think they’re going to pay less attention or not adapt to something if they don’t understand what it means to them individually and how they’re going to benefit from it. I think that’s a huge piece of it.
If you’re teaching a new process or how to deal with opportunities or something in the system or launching a new sales tool, it’s great to say, “It’s going to benefit the company. It’s going to do all these amazing things.” Or, too often, I think I’ve even got caught up in saying, “Well, sales reps will benefit from this. With all those data and will know how to do things better.” In the end, people care of what does that mean to them. What does it mean to that individual? How will that AE benefit from this tool? How will they up their numbers? How will they be more efficient, and how will it make their lives better?
Tom: Cool. They are answering one of my next questions, which is about buying. You’re basically saying that in order to get someone to do something, you really have to try and communicate clearly why they should be doing it?
Eamonn: Yes, absolutely. I think it’s so important just to make sure they know. They have to also know what the result is to the business and why we’re doing this in general because that’s important as well, but I think to really get someone to adopt to it day to day, something like a course, we just rolled that out and telling a team, “[unintelligible 00:13:59] great, we’re going to be able to work with you and get all this analytics and coaching and information about our calls and be able to review calls.”
Well, what does that mean to them? I think we doubled back after saying that because they had some blank stares but telling the team that you’ll be able to review your own calls or you’ll need to take less notes and spend more time active listening with your customer rather than writing things [unintelligible 00:14:21] down on a call and also be able to go back to your calls and better yourselves and review your calls and see the weak points in your call and have better communications with your customers and then, ultimately, hopefully, having better, stronger deals that you’re closing. When we have aspect rather than the benefit to the company or the leadership, they adopted it a little bit more.
Tom: What are you currently doing to make your reps more productive?
Eamonn: I think what we’re trying to do is automate the points in the process that are monotonous and and are just clicks and filling in fields and filling in information. It doesn’t need to be done as much as possible with an air of knowing that there needs to be human input in some points. Focusing on our CRM, a simple exercise of counting the number of clicks it takes to go through a process, and trying to understand, “Okay, to create an opportunity or fill out this form or do this thing we’re asking you to do, how many clicks does it have and how many steps does it have? How do we reduce that?”
Because too often we’re designing a process, it seems like a great process, you’re like, “Well, this gets all the information we want,” but we don’t really think of the user experience as much. We’re really trying to focus on the apps and we know with– We’re rolling out Lightning for Salesforce as we speak this weekend and going into the future and doing things like that knowing that in order to get adoption of this new landscape of CRM that seems so foreign to a lot of people, we know we need to make those processes that much easier so that it flows that much easier.
That’s something in terms of efficiency that we’re really focused on like, “How do we take up that monotony of just those simple small tasks and just make them easier?” Then things like using outreach and setting up proper sequences and cadences so that the idea of their outbound prospecting can be set up as a framework and they can spend more time customizing their messaging, thinking about the research and who they’re writing to and less about follow-up tasks and those type of things and remembering to reconnect to someone and just have that be more automatic.
Tom: Got it. I totally agree about the point you make that the analytical operations person builds a process and then, “Oh my god, he’s so amazing, I’m getting everything,” but then you put a salesperson there and they get really angry and keep wasting your time. [unintelligible 00:16:42]. Sales forecasting, are you responsible or does that sit with finance?
Eamonn: Not responsible. It sits within revenue operations in general. I think it’s something we all have a piece in. I’m involved more on the extraction of data and serving that data up to our leader of the revenue ops department. Then she would sit on the executive table and talk about what the forecasting is, but definitely involved in gathering that information as numbers.
Tom: Got it, so you take the data from within Salesforce pass it to this person who will then review it with the [unintelligible 00:17:21]. Do you not review the forecast with the individual sales managers or sales reps without someone else?
Eamonn: No, I don’t personally. We do that within the department though. We’re reviewing it on weekly cadences and weekly calls and then also serving up that data to the sales leadership. Then they’re obviously sitting through one on ones and then working through that data or that forecast, but it’s on a weekly call with [unintelligible 00:17:47] sales and sales managers, revenue ops director, and other sales leadership, and they work through those forecasts.
Tom: That makes sense. Your role is really the custodian of the data ensuring that it’s right in Salesforce and then it gets to the people to make the decisions.
Eamonn: Correct, yes. A big part of what we’re doing right now is forecasting, is not just opportunities. We’re really looking into that lead waterfalls you will or transition of what’s coming in, what’s converting and what’s the output of that and doing a deep analysis of that because it’s a place where we realized we could improve a lot. Like I said, looking at the historic data, it’s hard to compare against the past because there has been so many changes in our business careers.
We’re spending a lot of time analyzing that and that’s part of that forecast as well. Like not just the end of pipeline, but what’s coming into the pipeline throughout the whole sales cycle, from MQL to SQL to opportunity and beyond.
Tom: Not just looking at what’s going to close this quarter, going back in the funnel to look at all the MQLs, SQLs. Awesome. KPIs, in your– I think over 10 years experience in sales management/operations. What’s been the most insightful metric that you like to track?
Eamonn: That’s a good question because like I said, I love data and I love metrics. If I were to think about definitely the different groups that matters like between SDR and AE and CS, they are definitely very different. I’ve always been a huge fan in the SDR world of looking at conversion rates across the spectrum, but not focusing on the end results and working your way back, I think that’s important.
I don’t like to look at– Actually, in the beginning, you just drive [unintelligible 00:19:33] needed to make phone calls and emails and then that’s all that matters. I think it’s thinking about, “Okay, what is the end goals for an SDR?” Let’s say, it’s an opportunity or a sales qualified lead. Identifying that number and then trying to break down what those conversions are at each step before that and then trying to find out where the gap is.
I think when I’m looking at KPIs or SDRs, if you have that full spectrum of that process you can look through each step and see where it’s breaking, whether it’s amount of volume of activity or amount of calls occasion of leads and not speaking to the right people or just we’re not converting those people when we do speak to them to qualify leads. It’s kind of a non-answer but I do get the full spectrum of that process because I think you need to deep dive into a specific KPI to see where it’s broken, you cant just look at one.
Tom: Yes, it is actually a set of metrics that you think insightful. Then finally, who has taught you the most about sales operations?
Eamonn: I don’t know if there’s one individual, I was actually trying to think of this before the call. There’s way too meet people across my years of sales operations I’ve dealt with. I think to nail maybe more of a persona. I think that the idea that I started in a sales role and then had an opportunity to mix and live in these roles and have experience, I felt like that was the best learning experience for me that I had firsthand knowledge
of these roles.
Whether you’ve actually done them for your actual title or your role, or you sat down for a couple of days and sat beside someone and shadowed them. I think it’s wildly important within sales operations to get first-hand knowledge of what people are doing that you’re interacting with. I think that’s been the biggest learning point or where I’ve gained the most knowledge from, being in these roles, or sitting down with people and really understanding first-hand knowledge of how they do their job and what it means to them and then trying to take that back and work that into my day to day sales operations role.
Tom: Got it, yes. We used to ask the question on this podcast about is sales experience necessary for sales ops and the answer wasn’t unanimously yes, but it was unanimously that it is helpful because you have more respect from them, you obviously understand what they’re going through so I totally agree. Amen, that was awesome. I have a few things that I particularly enjoyed, understanding that people learn in different ways.
I think I’m still onboarding to basically make the onboarding process more effective for different individuals. For the last few questions actually, when we talked about forecasting and your favorite set of metrics, both of the answers were looking back in the funnel and looking at especially for the SDR, like, what the process is from just data to MQL to SQL and then trying to tweak the different steps.
Understanding the difference between a salesperson’s view of the process and a sales ops person view of the process and how you actually need to come somewhere in the middle so they’re happy and you’re getting the data. Awesome. Thank you so much for your time.
Eamonn: Thank you, Tom. This has been fantastic.
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