I was looking forward to this interview. Not only was I giddy at the prospect of a sneak peek into the high-flying Lucid’s sales operations practices, but I was equally intrigued as to what Brandon Bussey (Director of Revenue Operations) was able to bring and implement from his time at giants like Qualtrics, Amazon and Concur. As you read on, you’ll learn about everything from using OKRs (objectives and key results) to drive the right success metrics in sales operations, to methods that impact adoption of new processes and technologies. Brandon hopped on our call nice and early from Utah, and we got going. The interview began…
Rory Brown (RB): Can you tell us a bit about Lucid?
Brandon Bussey (BB): I’ve been at Lucid just over a year. It’s a great culture and a real blend of everything I like. I worked at a company called Qualtrics before this and although I knew there was an exit coming (and a lot of people thought I was crazy to leave when I did), I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to get onboard with Lucid because the culture really resonated with me.
What’s interesting about Lucid is it started as a freemium B2C product. It all started when they hired our SVP of Sales, a fresh young grad from Harvard Business School. He had a background in investment banking and private equity, and Lucid hired him in a general ops role. They were looking for a project for him and came up with this idea of trying to sell the product. That was the birth of sales here at Lucid. His very first action was putting a phone number of the website. It started there, evolved over time and resulted in us developing our enterprise solution and building out our sales team. Our sales team is growing aggressively. We’re a little over 100 sales people now and we’ll probably double that in the next 18 months. We’ve also expanded internationally. We opened our Amsterdam office on January 6. Lucid’s origins mean we really have a data-driven culture and because of my background, that’s something I’m really passionate about. It was exciting to take this data-driven approach and apply it to the B2B world. That was what drew me to Lucid, in addition to the general culture.
In terms of general culture, we have some great leadership principles. Team work over ego is probably the biggest one we tout. It really is the lifeblood here.
RB: Moving onto you, at Concur and Amazon you were in finance and you moved into a sales ops role at Qualtrics. How and why did you make the transition from finance to sales ops?
BB: Finance was really a means to an end for me. When I was getting my Finance undergrad degree, a lot of my peers were thinking of banking, investments on Wall Street, you name it. And that never appealed to me. It didn’t seem very exciting. Even to this day I don’t care for capital markets and that type of thing. What excited me was leveraging numbers to make data-driven decisions. And finance seemed like a natural path. I was very selective in each one of my jumps to make sure that I wasn’t going to sit in the back and act as a gatekeeper with budgets, but instead really enable these businesses to be very data driven. What was exciting for me about both Concur and Amazon was they didn’t have a business analytics team. It came under finance. I was always looking for those type of roles that, yes had an element of building budgets and some of the more classic finance remits, but also analysed the business and helped them make those data-driven decisions.
I was actually very happy at Amazon, but I happened upon sales ops when my good friend moved from Seattle to Utah to work at Qualtrics. My wife and I were in town for a weekend and went to dinner with my friend and his wife. I ended up going to his office the next day where I met my future boss and the sales ops guy. He started explaining the world of sales ops to me and I was sold.
RB: And at this point the role was new to you?
BB: Yes. We didn’t have a sales ops function at Concur. It was kind of baked into finance and I had worked closely there but this whole concept of sales ops was new to me. I thought it would be a great next step in my career as it leverages a lot of my passions. I was obviously interested in the data and analytics side, but also the high-level strategy and helping to drive decisions element. And I found the psychological aspect of it really interesting. Morale has such a huge impact on the sales floor so it’s about considering how the salespeople will react to these processes. Even if something logically makes sense, you have to step back and view it from the lens of the sales reps.
So, I fell in love with sales ops, took the job and moved to Utah. The other thing that’s exciting about sales is you are at the heart of a company. You have the leading signals of what’s working from a product stand point, what’s working from go-to-market etc. I found myself sitting on almost every product steering committee. And I was the only one doing that because everyone needs sales’ opinion. The involvement cross-functionally is very fun.
When I then moved to Lucid, I was excited to come in early and scale the team. It was exciting to get in early and help define and craft the vision and long-term strategy.
And it really came down to the people, as it always does. I met our SVP, Dan and the CEO and COO, Dave and Carl, and my team, and was sold on the company and the people I would get to work with. I don’t see myself moving out of sales or revenue ops.
RB: Would you class rev ops as marketing, sales and customer success?
BB: We’ve actually consolidated most of operations here for both sales and customer success. We don’t include marketing at this point just because there’s so much overlap in our business.
They report to the CMO, whereas 90% of the customer success and sales functions roll up through my team, the support side. Everything from compensation structure to building out territories we handle full spectrum across the board because they’re so interrelated. The only thing we have separate is our VP of CS has a Chief of Staff that helps him on his daily analytics. But we’re really cross functioning. That’s how we’re initially looking at our rev ops function right now.
RB: You say marketing is quite separate for you at the moment. How engrained in the marketing funnel should sales ops be?
BB: Our marketing is divided into three groups. We have our growth team, which is focused on our B2C self-service business. We interact a little bit with them. We work a lot more closely with the other two functions – product marketing and demand gen. Together with our Head of Enablement, I sit with product marketing at least once a month and we also have weekly meetings to ensure that we’re constantly working in alignment. And then the demand gen side works closely with the SDR team. We all meet at least monthly to talk about initiatives.
We have a very strong alignment, which eliminates the need to consolidate the team for now. There are definitely areas we need to align more on but since we have a good relationship it’s definitely doable for the future.
RB: Other than the obvious counterparts such as customer success ops, who would you say are the main stakeholders you’re working with on a daily basis, particularly within Lucid?
BB: We work really closely with our product marketing and product team. They want access to our data – both anecdotal and quantitative so they can learn what’s working and where we need to change the product.
RB: In your experience, what kind of data points or trends help the product team?
BB: A couple of things we rolled out at Qualtrics that were incredibly beneficial were post win/loss customer surveys. We rolled out a broad quantitative survey and we had some sampling and rules around that, all automated in Salesforce. And we gathered qualitative data on pricing, product features, you name it. Then we would also select about 10 – 20 deals that were key wins and losses and we had a third party do in depth interviews that were turned into a five page debrief on what they learned with the customer. Everyone in the company consumed that data. Especially the qualitative interviews because they were great insights into our key wins and losses.
RB: So, a lot of the insights from that piece of research you would use to improve the processes under your control. But was it also having a huge impact on product?
BB: Yes, exactly. We always received a lot of feedback on pricing and other areas of the sales process. But once we started to scratch the surface, we saw there was a wealth of information about product that we could be gathering. V1 of our initial survey, the more quantitative version, was very focused on sales process. But when we asked open ended questions, the answers we were getting were very product driven. So for V2, we pivoted to lighten up on the sales process and go heavier on the product features and we did the same with the qualitative information.
A lot of times people would come and say they were disappointed we didn’t have a particular feature, when in fact we actually did have it. So clearly there was a disconnect between the product team, enablement and sales reps. The research allowed us to evaluate that and find out where we needed to improve. Whether that was improving our sales content one-pagers or providing more training for the sales reps, or the product itself.
RB: Enablement is an interesting one. Are they separate or are they combined? How would you describe that relationship?
BB: At Qualtrics it was separate. I had a good working relationship with the enablement team but I think we could have been more blended. Even reporting under the same individual could have been helpful.
At Lucid we were restarting our enablement team when I joined. The gentleman that was running the enablement team left to travel around the world and with that we were able to reset. We brought in a new individual to run and build that function out and we moved the function into sales ops. It’s been beneficial in making sure both teams are aligned and that we’re partnering on our initiatives. It also helps enablement to focus on where they’re driving metrics and what metrics they should be focusing on.
We have our regular team meetings, which results in good osmosis. But I think the water cooler effect is where the best interactions happen between the team. That’s what our current Head of Enablement is great at. She’ll hear someone talking in the background and she’ll ask to listen in, give her feedback and share ideas. It drives a more cohesive team and a more go-to-market approach to the sales floor. One area we are now pushing is to also have our enablement team out with the sales floor more for that same reason.
RB: This is a two-pronged question. You mentioned at the beginning that you’re interested in the psychology and how your initiatives affect the sales team. Do you have any tips for successful adoption and have you faced any challenges with this, especially coming from a finance background where you haven’t necessarily walked in the sales reps’ shoes before?
BB: I’d love to pretend that everything I’ve done has had great adoption. But really, I’ve learned through experience.
For 2019, I’m looking at purchasing a sales enablement tool to evolve our tech stack and enable the sales reps. Rather than me doing a bunch of demos, I put together a team of sales leaders and reps and presented five categories (including enablement software, insight management, call recording etc) and we discussed which would be the most useful and chose a category. Then enablement and I surveyed the market and came up with who we think the top two to three players are for us and we had them come in and run demos with that same panel. We’re currently at the stage of doing the POC. Then I’ll sit down and find out what they thought. This is proving to be a much more impactful approach because the sales leaders and sales reps have more involvement. It doesn’t feel like Brandon from his glass castle is making decisions by himself. It’s their choice as much as mine.
I’ve seen a big impact with this approach compared to other projects I’ve seen or even done myself. We’ve failed with full transparency in the past and that’s sometimes because of tight deadlines for rolling out a process. The learning from this is giving ourselves enough time to bring sales leaders and reps up to speed as to why we’re doing it and getting them involved in the decision where possible.
A key ingredient for us is those front-line managers. If they’re bought in, the reps will buy in. The managers have garnered a lot of respect from their reps.
RB: When you’re rolling out something new, who is responsible for that success?
BB: It goes back to our leadership principle of teamwork over ego. Enablement and I are ultimately accountable as to whether we’re getting the ROI. But we all have buy in on making it successful. Everyone is accountable.
RB: As sales ops is moving, evolving and finding its feet, how have you measured the success of your role and how is the sales ops department held accountable to those success metrics?
BB: With my team, we have four overarching goals. One of the goals is to increase the total amount of bookings. This is important because we have an aggressive growth target, so we need to make sure our goals are aligned with that. The second goal is increasing average bookings per rep across the board. I’ve seen companies that increase the overall number of bookings but it’s a ‘the rich get richer and the poor get poorer’ situation but that is not success. The third goal is transparency and visibility upward into our executive team. Our exec team doesn’t have a traditional sales background so a lot of it is educating them and showing them the key metrics. It’s about providing better transparency and visibility upwards and across the wider organisation too. The last goal is creating a vibrant culture in the orgs that we support.
There are a lot of ways we can influence culture, one is how people are paid and how they’re motivated. This is an area where we can have a huge impact. People want to feel successful.
One of our founders came from Google and a lot of our culture has come from the Google model, a key example being OKRs (objectives and key results). Every quarter, we look at what our objectives are and the results that define those. As we’re studying our OKRs, we make sure they impact each of those four metrics, although culture and transparency are not as quantifiable.
RB: Would you be able to share an example of an OKR you’ve done recently?
BB: One of our objectives is to create an overarching efficient book or territory strategy. And so, our key result was to deliver the timeline and training. Then from a metrics standpoint, we’re tracking whether reps are able to hit their quota given their new book and secondly, looking at book penetration. We’ve set some basic targets using historic data. Historically they were reaching out to X many and we think they should be reaching out to Y many, depending on which segment they’re in.
It’s crucial to make sure you’re not creating your OKRs in a vacuum but thinking of the wider company objectives and making sure your objectives align to those.
RB: What is the most prolific sales ops trend you’ve noticed in 2019?
BB: Something interesting I’ve noticed this year is the question of how we move into specialisations whilst maintaining that cross-department collaboration. For example, one of our team members is in charge of compensation and quota management, which is great from a specialism standpoint but now it’s about ensuring she doesn’t become siloed. To avoid any siloes, I set up a two-hour meeting at the beginning of every quarter to discuss our previous quarter’s OKRs progress as well as our current OKRs. This sparks a lot of conversation and collaboration. I’m also a big proponent of hot desking, I don’t even have an assigned desk myself. By sitting next to different people, you drive different conversations. Weekly stand ups are also useful. Keeping that constant dialogue has been really huge for us.
The other trend that I think is interesting is analysis paralysis. With our land and expand strategy, we have a load of data on our users. If we were to just let the sales people have full access to that they would be overwhelmed. Wading through the noise is really critical. So, the trend that I’m trying to drive is not getting more data but trying to get less data that is more actionable.
Want to get more insights from sales ops leaders? Check out our other posts in the sales ops interview series.