For anyone working on sales and marketing alignment right now, this is a great read. Last week, I had the pleasure of interviewing Beamery‘s Director of Sales and Revenue Operations, Tyler Holmes. Given Tyler’s extensive marketing career and his recent move into revenue operations, I couldn’t wait to hear his perspective on how to make sales and marketing stick together like glue. Our connection spanned San Fran to London, and after the usual WebEx banter, the interview began…
Rory Brown (RB): Can you tell us about your career and how you got into sales operations?
Tyler Holmes (TH): My background is in microbiology, which is why I’m very numbers focused and process driven. I started my sales/marketing career at a creative agency where I eventually built out a performance marketing division. It was there that I taught myself about analytics, SEO, SEM, etc. We were primarily B2C and I wanted to expand my experience into B2B.
I then moved into enterprise Salesforce consulting at Bluewolf, looking at large-scale implementations of Salesforce particularly focused on the marketing platforms that plug in.
That was where I got into sales operations and sales strategy and where I became Salesforce certified and ‘every other piece of marketing technology that plugs into Salesforce’ certified. I learned a ton there and started to realise I also really liked the sales side of things as much as the marketing side.
Up until then, my career had always been in some sort of consulting so I moved to a company called Newton Software that was my first brand. I joined as the Director of Marketing but I really got into the sales side when I found out there was no process and no true Salesforce owner.
I ended up running both sales operations and the whole marketing department, managing the top of the funnel to revenue.
My current role at Beamery is my first role solely focused on revenue operations. I still dabble in marketing because I have some perspective on it. My background gives me an interesting perspective on both sales operations and marketing operations because I don’t meet many people who have done both.
RB: In your experience, what is the best way to get marketing and sales functions working together?
TH: I think connecting sales and marketing operations as a function and having them report into a single role – a revenue operations role for example – rather than having them separated between sales and marketing is a good first step.
RB: How do you make sure that they are aligned so that they are working towards something together rather than working separately, which is what typically happens?
TH: I tie everyone to revenue, which gives them a unified target.
RB: The key moment of course is that passing of marketing lead to sales. What have you found that has worked well here?
TH: Having a really solid, agreed upon target account or target prospect (however you break it down, depending on what type of an organisation you are).
It is difficult to manage that if you have a wishy-washy understanding of what your target market or target accounts are.
RB: And how about speed or how intensely leads are being worked?
TH: I’m not a big fan of lead scoring. More often than not it works to your disadvantage. Either you are not scoring right and the leads don’t go in the right place, or you are scoring it right but a couple of errors and sales no longer believe it and they do their own thing anyway.
I have always tied it to channels e.g. a simple number scale, or a temperature gauge: cold, medium, hot. And then tying an SLA to that.
I don’t like sales looking too closely into whether something is a 49 or 50 to decide whether or not to should reach out.
RB: Do you have any tips for unearthing insights and actioning them?
TH: The difficulty with sales operations in general – and the way that CRM’s are set up – it is fairly difficult to get reliable leading indicators, especially when your sales cycle is long. So it’s about trying to get down to what are the leading indicators that might lead to whether it is a different pipeline or a different revenue and managing to that.
I call it ‘spot the weird’. Set up benchmarks, alerts and dashboards and look for things that are odd.
Then ask ‘why’ several times until you get down to the bottom of the answer. For example, why is person X’s email volume so low this week? Why are their meetings lower this week? Or why do they have high email volume but low meeting rate?
There is a progression of questions that you ask based on the leading indicators.
RB: How do you get the sales people to input their activities and tasks into the CRM and ensure it is reliable? Do you have any thought or advice on how to set up these critical early data points that would come before an opportunity?
TH: Measure everything and then figure out what actually matters. Pare that down to what you think actually matters and keep it simple as possible.
I think the ability to just measure comes first. And that seems so easy on the front but anybody who does this job knows that usually it is the most difficult. You are dealing with humans and technology. Used at the same time, they don’t always work the way you want them to all the time.
RB: You probably receive demands from sales, revenue and marketing leaders for reports and insights that they want to see. How do you manage those requests?
TH: I love suggestions from all corners of the org. Multiple perspectives gives unique takes on data, process, people, etc that I would never think of. I also don’t have a problem saying no or questioning the reasoning for what they want. You have to be confident enough to be able to 1) ask why they need it, and 2) provide reasons why a different way would be better or explain why it is not necessary. You have to dig into their motivations.
RB: How in tune do you think a sales operations person should be with marketing, and how it all works?
TH: If I can hire a sales operations role who has been in the marketing department I would hire and prioritise them over anybody else. All operations related to revenue should be in one department and that department should be the centre of excellence for marketing, sales, customer success – anything that touches revenue. You need to have a functioning understanding of what all those people do in order to do your job. The classics sales/marketing friction is almost always caused because neither side really understands what the other does. You have to walk in each other’s shoes before that gets better.
RB: What is the perfect setup for leads going from the marketing CRM into the sales CRM?
TH: I have leveraged LeanData for the last five years.
All the lead routing mechanisms built within Salesforce are not up to par with a third party tool in my opinion.
You can write different rules and code to handle it but it can be very opaque. So, I would start with choosing a third-party tool and having a very clear map of what you want to happen. Using something like LeanData allows you to troubleshoot and also make on-the-fly changes to routing when someone is on vacation, sick, etc. It’s just so much more efficient.
RB: What would you say is your favourite and least favourite part of revenue operations?
TH: My favourite part is the challenge. I love solving problems.
The tricky part is dealing with all of that while also dealing with all the various personalities and needs. At the end of the day, I work for my team so I have to put their needs first and make sure they are taken care of. When you have a big team that can be a big challenge.
RB: When implementing a new process or technology, what is the best way to set expectations and to make sure people are on board with everything?
TH: That is the hardest part about the job. Sales operations people naturally get how these things work, so we sometimes fall into the trap of ‘this is easy’. So, change management and expectation management is the most important and most difficult part. Communicating the ‘what’s in it for them’ is super important. Why are we doing this? Why is the change happening? What are the advantages for them?
It’s about understanding their pain and having ways that show that the pain is worth it. Having executive buy-in is very important. And we all need to be on the same page with our reasons for why that change is happening. And obviously training, enablement and ongoing help as things are rolled out is crucial.
Want to get more insights from the sales ops leaders? Read our other posts in the sales ops interview series.