During his eight years as a salesperson, Morgan Miller discovered a passion for building a sales team and creating a process. It’s fair to say he’s been successful in following that passion, as he’s now Director of Sales Operations at SimpleNexus. I was keen to learn more about his career and how he drives success in sales operations. We spoke about capturing an optimal amount of data from your salespeople, building a rev ops team, Morgan’s data clean up project, and more!
Rory Brown (RB): Could you tell me a little bit about Morgan Miller and how you have found yourself in the wonderful world of sales operations?
Morgan Miller (MM): I spent 7 or 8 years as a salesperson doing various roles. I worked on the business development side and a little bit on the SDR side, but mainly on the AE side of things. To begin with, I had spent about 2 years in SaaS after I graduated college, diving straight into a tech start up. I was one of the first in the door there, besides a few part time programmers. At the time we had a parent company that was funding an idea from some of their developers. So I had an opportunity to do project management, manage developers (which I found I didn’t want to do), and then take the product to market. When I started there was only an idea to speak of – we had to build it out first, and we spent months building and branding it. But my real passion within that was building a sales team and creating a process.
So, a staff of 2 or 3 of us had to start selling this product right off the bat. It was great to just start from nothing – decide what our process was going to be, decide how we’d demo, present and pitch, choose our message and ICP. By the time we went live, we had built up some demand and began the business development side of partnering with those initial customers as references. I loved diving into that and figuring out how we could leverage these early customers to get more success and more customers. Although that was my first introduction to sales ops, I was unaware that those very steps we were taking were what made up sales ops.
RB: Great. You’ve spoken a lot about process. Having been in the game a little bit longer now, how do you identify that either a process is missing, or that one needs to be evolved or reinvented?
MM: I had a lot of experience with that in my first official sales operations role. At Canopy, the VP of Sales taught me that you don’t necessarily want to just keep hitting your head against the same walls, even if you’re yielding deals with it. The most important thing is to keep analysing your approach, looking at the data, and seeing what’s working. I.E. if you’re getting less clicks, less impressions, if your close ratios are dropping or if your deals are taking longer to close; all of that is your ‘sales health’ and the health of your sales organization. It’s important to keep metrics and dashboards, so I did a lot of work on maintaining that as we grew.
RB: You talked a little bit about looking at the data. When you first set out a process, you’re probably thinking about the amount a data you capture and not wanting to overwhelm or underwhelm the salespeople.
What are your tips for capturing an optimal amount of data?
MM: In my opinion, the more data the better. But you must use your data wisely – not all that data is good for everybody. You need every source of input, output and results metric, and you need to be able to track it from the beginning of your funnel all the way through to the end of your sales pipeline. Also, when you’re looking at that, you need to compartmentalize it so that an BDR/ADM gets the exact information they need, but not so much that they’re going to get bogged down. An AE needs different info than the director of the BDRs, but they’re normally on common ground. Then the VP needs different info to them all. It is sales operations’ responsibility to be gathering and sorting all that data, but the real art is in presenting it.
I have been in situations where we didn’t have the correct data, and we couldn’t draw certain conclusions. I’ve sent data sheets that were terrible and were not readable for non-analyst type people, and/or simply didn’t have enough data – normally you need more data than you think. Otherwise, even the people who ought to have that data are left unsure about what to decipher. So, I think it’s really in painting the picture of saying: Okay, I took all the data here in this central location, here’s some analysis from it and here’s what I think we should do.
It’s about drawing a direct correlation from the data down to individual roles. Then we can make use of our KPIs, which enable you to say: In this role you ought to be doing this, this, and this; and this is what success looks like in your ramp. You can also provide data on what a salesperson of 10 years is doing and the average of their efforts, to make sure people aren’t falling off the horse and not keeping up with their prior ability to sell.
RB: You talked about analysis and conclusions. When it comes to spotting an insight that would be of use to Management and VP level, how do you go through the process of presenting that to them and ensuring that the appropriate action to be taken?
MM: I think the biggest thing is understanding the inputs and the customer – not just the sales piece. From a revenue ops standpoint, if you know what marketing is giving you through the funnel and what an average MQL looks like, as well as knowing in what array those MQLs are getting passed to your sales team, then you can analyze how they’re really doing. I think it starts pre-sales. With regards to post-sales, renewals, and the longevity of a customer, I would consider who we sold to and if it met that ideal customer persona. There have been times where we thought we had an amazing customer profile, but it wasn’t a great fit to use for the software long term. You can hit your sales numbers perfectly, but if you don’t have the correct inputs and you’re not able to measure what’s happening post-sale, what’s happening in the middle doesn’t matter. It’s just putting lipstick on a pig, so to speak. At this stage, everything you’re doing in that sales org could be for nought.
So, I think it’s important that there’s that cross pollination, not only from data in the sales org, but the VPs down all the way to the SDRs and the AEs. Or we get data from sales ops that’s been quarantined and set up, so we all get the right data – but not too much. At the same time, we need to pass data and receive data that shows us what we’re dealing with. Did our MQL value and the viability of us closing them drop? Is that affecting our close rates? If we don’t look at the data coming in, we don’t know what the source of the problem is.
RB: That’s an interesting point. I think the role of sales ops is getting broader and broader.
You’ve mentioned how you work with customer success, sales ops, marketing… Just how engrained do you have to be in their processes to ensure that you are all helping each other?
MM: I think there are two different paths to go down this one. If there’s a revenue ops team that has an operations person in all facets of the company, I think that’s ideal. If not, the teams need to come together and act as one to make sure the correct data is being passed and that it remains succinct, clear, and helpful. Correlation and communication are essential. What I’m trying to build now is a team where I’m technically a director of sales operations, but there’s not currently a marketing operations or a client success operations person. As those are needed, our goal is to hire for these roles, and those individuals would join my team, turning it onto a revenue ops team, so that data will enter our team and leave it with a synced message.
In my current role, I’ve seen that the HubSpot data from sales and the internal system with the client list acted as disparate systems that both had different lists of customers. After taking that data and looking into the client success data, and the implementation of team data, left us with even more disparity between the lists. So, one of my projects over the past 6 months has been making that one source of truth.
We’ve been cleaning up and trying to get everybody on the same page, and we have been able to find that unity between implementation, the sales team, customer success, and the back end of the system. We also learned that finance must be involved as well, as they were charging people who hadn’t used it for a while and not charging people who had. The ripples went so far though the company that it just made so much more sense to try to be on the same page, and the more we can collaborate on the data the more successful we’ll be as salespeople.
RB: You touched on ICPs and getting the right customers. How do you start thinking about the areas you should target and how do you arm the salespeople with that?
MM: Where I’ve seen the most success is the product end, and on the finance end, seeing what the different customers truly mean to us. Those two ends of the spectrum really help us to see what we want in a customer. We could go to a product person, someone who’s a project manager for example, and storyboard what an ideal customer does, looks like, how they are going to use the product, and so forth. But it’s only when we run that through the whole sales funnel that we find out which customers are worth a darn. For instance, they could be using way too much support. We found that some of our smallest customers are using the most support, are the hardest to implement, and their average sales cycle was 140% longer than our average customer. There is a lot that you can take from it.
It really comes down to starting with that storyboard and really selling to whatever that person is that we built the software for. So often we build up these different profiles and when we get into the selling mentality, all we do is just pull up a list from LinkedIn navigator or ZoomInfo and call up as many people as we can. We run through so much of what doesn’t really amount to anything if were not targeting the right people. It starts at the very beginning, and there’s always that important aspect of grabbing the data and understanding it throughout the entire process.
RB: That’s a good point because I think that’s somewhere where even large companies might struggle. ICPs are usually based on other things than the experience of the business themselves.
Onto the next question: What does success look like for a sales ops team? And how can it be measured?
MM: Simply put, I believe that it’s the sales team running without a hitch. If you don’t know that there are people running behind the scenes running everything smoothly, then we’ve succeeded. If you know who the person is to call to come and fix what’s broken every single day, then we have a problem. It really comes down to understanding that sales operations are all about making everybody’s life a little bit simpler. Everything from making sure the QBR runs effectively, making sure that a message is sent around if there is hiring or firing, business intelligence – ensuring that the right people have the right data at the right time. That’s all sales ops being successful – if you’re able to make good educated decisions off the right data at the right time. I’m watchfully philosophical on this, but I think it really all comes down to people not knowing what you do because the machine is running so well.
RB: Fantastic. I really like your use of the phrase about providing the right data and making the right decisions as a sales ops team.
So, if you take that relationship between a sales ops leader and sales leader, what famous double act is most representative of this relationship?
MM: I would say it’s a president and chief of staff. President is VP of sales or CRO and Chief of Staff is Director of Sales Ops. We are literally writing the speech for their weekly meetings and the data we give them maps out exactly how they will present their story.
RB: That’s a really good answer. It’s been an absolute pleasure, thank you very much.
Want to get more insights from sales ops leaders? Check out our other interviews in the sales ops interview series.
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