RevOps tech stack expert Don Otvos recently spoke to Abhijeet Vijayvergiya about the components of a modern revenue stack, how to make tools work for reps and how to steer clear of messy CRM data. He also shared some practical examples of how he uses data to drive better decisions at LeanData.
Here’s the link to the full conversation:
With forced budget cuts and productivity being on top of RevOps radar in 2023, what are the core components of a tech stack that revenue leaders must target at acquiring? And most importantly, how do they ensure these tools deliver ROI and help reps close more deals? Is there a list of top priorities revenue leaders must look at to lock in more revenues?
We sat down with Don Otvos to unpack some of these nuances when it comes to a modern sales tech stack. Don is the VP of Business Development & Alliances at LeanData and has also been the VP of RevOps there. He is a highly valued leader who helps companies establish operational solutions that produce repeatable performance and sustainable results.
Don shares some brilliant insights on not just how to build a RevOps tech stack in an uncertain economic environment, but also shared tips on how revenue leaders can use data to lock in more deals.
If you’re short on time, here is a quick summary of the conversation.
On a Mission to Make Lives of Sales Reps Easier
Abhijeet: Don, thank you so much for joining us today. So nice to have you here.
Don: Thank you for having me.
Abhijeet: The best part of your story that I like is that you’ve been into the sales role yourself before you became a SalesOps person. That just gives you so much empathy about the role and what it means. So that’s amazing. There are very few people who come from that background and they’re able to have that user empathy. And I’ve really noticed in our conversations in the past, the way you think about tech stack, sales process and the, we look at like designing your sales ops function.
Don: What I always try to do is to come from the angle of a sales person. I know that as a salesperson I wanted to make money. I didn’t want to have to be burdened with having to do manual things. I also know that doing some of those manual things is required because we need to be able to accurately report on things. So the mantra that I’ve always had is whatever we can do to automate things for the sales rep, let’s do it. I want to minimize the burden on a salesperson as much as possible so that I can free their time to sell.
Because that’s what they want to do, that’s what they’re good at, and that’s what’s going to make them money. So I’ve always viewed my role in RevOps as what are the things that I can do, what are the pieces of tech that I can bring into our tech stack that can help make our sales teams lives easier. And still be able to provide me the reporting and the analytics that I’m going to need to be able to drive the business and be able to share with my executive team to help our decision making process and decide what directions we want to go with leading the sales team. That’s the angle I have always taken with RevOps.
Don’t Let RevOps Be an Afterthought
Abhijeet: What was the most challenging part of transitioning from a SalesOps to a RevOps role for you?
Don: It was actually pretty easy for me. It was kind of a natural flow. When I got to Yammer, I was very lucky. They had just bought Salesforce and no one had touched it. They hadn’t done anything with it. So I really had a clean slate which really helped me. Because I think a lot of times when someone joins a RevOps function, they’re cleaning up somebody else’s mess. A lot of startups, the leaders don’t have the foresight to hire somebody in RevOps quickly.
They always want to hire a VP of Sales first. The VP of Sales comes in and maybe they aren’t as thoughtful about the process, doing the right things and setting up the right tools and RevStack. RevOps is an afterthought. And then a year or two years later, all of a sudden they’re trying to hire a RevOps person. And the RevOps person has to go back and clean up all the mess.
Convince Leadership to Have a Data-Driven Mindset
Abhijeet: One thing that stood out with me is where you mentioned the team that you had at Yammer. The leadership team, different stakeholders that you serviced in your central role in the ops function. They were very data-driven. So how do you convince an organization to have that data-driven mindset when you’re just starting out in that Ops role?
Don: That can be a challenge. I think thoughtful leaders understand that data drives a lot of decision making processes. I think really good leaders are hungry for data to help drive their decision making process. So if you have the right sales leadership, they’re going to be keen on acquiring data around what their team is doing.
I’ve always tried to present that with whatever tools that I have, even if it’s just a simple report or a dashboard in Salesforce. It can help you put together data points to show your management what directions you need to be heading. Or explain why certain things are happening.
Like where are deals getting stuck? Working backwards from a number to understand, for example, if we wanna be at a million dollars, we’re going to have X number of meetings. If we need X number of meetings, we’re going to have to make Y number of calls. Really simple things that you can do and then demonstrate success around it.
Once you’re able to do that, you can then expand into doing more things. I think there are platforms out there today that you can get as part of your rev stack that’ll help you make those decision making processes based on the data that you can get from your CRM and have it presented in a way that makes sense to your sales team and to your executive team.
Track Sales Activities to Close More Deals
Abhijeet: You touched on a very interesting point around activity tracking or activity led selling. Where do you think it becomes more critical? Is it more important for a high volume sales process or for a consultative sales process with longer sales cycles? Where do you see the whole opportunity there?
Don: It’s important across the board. If we have a less than 30 day sales cycle, it’s going to be very easy for you to generate a lot of data very quickly. But if you have a longer sales cycle, what becomes more important is the activity of the reps that are working those deals.
So things like how many meetings are they having? Do they have a meeting on the calendar for a future opportunity? How many people are they working with? Are they multi-threaded? If it’s an opportunity for a longer sales cycle and you’re only talking to one person, that’s probably not a sale that’s going to be closing anytime soon. If you have a long sales cycle and you see an opportunity where there’s only one person engaged and it’s going to close in 30 days, as a RevOps person, I’m going to tell you that you’re probably incorrect. That deal’s not going to close in 30 days.
You should be able to drive the data to understand, for example, when an enterprise deal closes, there’s at least seven people involved in the sale. It’s gonna sit in a certain stage for a certain number of days. You should be able to look at those data points to be able to understand the opportunities that are in your pipeline.
Where do they sit? How do they measure up against that? What does an ideal closed one opportunity look like? And then compare the existing opportunity against that to know if you’re doing well or if you’re doing poorly.
Select the Best of Breed for a RevOps Tech Stack
Abhijeet: So moving on from data to tech stack, I know you’re one of the best when it comes to tech stack evaluation. You’ve built a robust tech stack in all your organizations. So what advice would you give to some of the folks who would be building their tech stack? How can they start putting together a tech stack?
Don: The number one thing that I look at is I want to be able to get the best of breed of what exists in the tech stack. I don’t want to put all my eggs in one basket. I don’t want to go all out with one vendor.
A lot of vendors that are out there became very good at one thing. But in order to justify their valuations, they have to expand and get their tentacles into other things to drive their valuations higher.I try to steer away from those vendors because they’re generally good at one thing. They’re not as good at the other things they end up getting their hands dirty with. So if you focus on looking at just the technology that they’re good at and look at the best of breed of what’s out there, you can really put together a good tech stack.
The basics that you need is CRM, obviously. You wanna look at sales engagement. That’s table stakes. You will probably want to look at forecasting, call analytics. You want to be able to record the meetings and phone calls that your team is making. And be able to drive analytics around it for coaching. You might want to have a coaching platform for sales enablement and a marketing platform. You obviously want a customer success platform.
I think those are probably the biggest pieces that I look like. Everything else is kind of ancillary to those things. I think if you have those things, you’re on your way to putting together something that’ll work from a RevOps perspective, end to end.
Dealing with a Complex RevOps Tech Stack
Abhijeet: For a matured organization, like a Series C company getting towards an IPO, I think the tech stack is a lot more complex. There could be 15 or 20 different categories of solutions out there as you mentioned. A lot of people choose to work with specialists, so they’ll go for one feature from a particular vendor and then another feature from another vendor because that’s what they are good at. So that basically means that the tech stack is more complex. And a lot of solutions are interacting with the CRM. So what are the typical pain points that arise because of this complex tech stack? And how can automations navigate these pain points as they emerge?
Don: That then becomes a challenge. So if you’re looking for the best of breed, everything is touching your CRM. You need to start worrying about things like API calls, making sure that your sync works properly, understanding what you’re using as a source of truth when you’re looking at a particular data point, making sure that that information is mapped properly across different pieces of your tech stack, and really having a platform that orchestrates everything within your CRM.
So making sure you have something that allows a signal coming from one vendor to flow through your CRM and turn into an action on another vendor on the other side of your tech stack. When you have that kind of end to end rhythm and flow across marketing, sales, customer success and support, that’s really where you’re going to be on the track of high growth. Because then you have everything working and everything humming.
Maintaining CRM Data Hygiene
Abhijeet: CRM data hygiene becomes like a sore thumb for most organizations.
You’ve got a CRM in place, you’ve introduced a lot of tools, and user adoption is a number one pain point. Apart from the CRM, there are data hygiene issues that happen because of multiple different reasons like teams being scattered, people working in silos, remote work just added to the complexity and that whole digital data communication that’s exploding in front of us, right?
There are so many channels of interaction that have opened up beyond just email and calendar meetings. Maintaining that CRM data hygiene is even a bigger challenge. So what would be your advice to the organizations out there in terms of how to deal with that data hygiene problem?
Don: You definitely want to make sure that you have a single source of truth. Typically that’s going to be your CRM. But you can’t have other tools that are going to fight for that. Maybe you have an SDR who learns that somebody has a new phone number. So they’re going to update that in their sales engagement platform because that’s where they’re operating day to day. You want to make sure that change makes it back to your CRM because it is your source of truth, right? So you really have to make sure that those kinds of mappings and syncs are done properly.
Because at the end of the day, if you’re using your CRM as your source of truth, you want all that data to be current and valid. And you want to make sure that you also have a really good enrichment solution. Because the data that is in your CRM should be where you’re driving all your other actions from, whether that’s marketing or SDR activity.
If you’re already in a sales engagement from an AE perspective, that data I would hope is bulletproof. And then obviously as it flows through to a CSM, the CSM’s are going to engage with that customer. And you want that data to be solid as well. So data and the data quality ends up being foundational across the board.
So make sure that you have a single source of truth. Make sure that the fields in your CRM are homogenized. And this is basic stuff, but I’ve seen it being such a mess. For example, like a state field, you have a code that you use. Do you spell out the state?
Is it California all spelled out or is it CA? Because if you don’t do that, all of a sudden you’ll see CALIF, you’ll see CA, you know, you see CAL. You see all these different things. So if you’re trying to run a report and analytics, you’ll have California five different ways. And if someone doesn’t know that, you’re going to be reporting on things inaccurately because you don’t have that data homogenized in a way to know that when somebody runs this reporting in our CRM, state is the two digit, two letter postal code that the post office uses.
It’s very basic things like that. You want to make sure it’s all documented and that everyone’s adhering to it. So that when you do that reporting, all your reporting is accurate and correct. Otherwise you’ll have gaps and you don’t want to have gaps. You want to make sure everything’s bulletproof. That’s important.
Solving for Manual CRM Data Entry Requirement
Abhijeet: And what about adoption? A lot of CRM data needs manual update from the reps. Or for that matter, anybody who’s a user within the CRM system. So how do you solve that?
Don: So one of the things that drives me crazy in a good way is – I know that reps are horrible at adding people to the CRM that they’re talking to, right? It invariably happens that an SDR sets up a meeting, the person in the meeting suggests adding two more people from their team. Those two people get added to the meeting. But they aren’t in the database and they aren’t in the CRM. There’s a follow up email. That follow up email gets cc’d to people internally. Those people don’t make it back to the CRM.
It’s not the sales rep’s job to add stuff to the CRM. I want to automate that. So I’ve always looked for tools that connect to the mail server and inform me about everybody that your company is talking to in a particular domain. And tells me which ones don’t exist in the CRM and gives me an option to add them. And if you have a really good enrichment process, you should be able to just add that person’s email and have the process set up. With just the email, you should be able to enrich that record with the person’s name, their title, location etc. You have all that information that comes from your enrichment partner so that you have all that information available in your CRM for reporting.
For example, if I know that my sales team is talking to five different people and only one of them is in my CRM, that’s a problem. But if I can automate adding all the other people that they’re talking to, associate them with the opportunity, have them available for marketing. And then when the deal closes, I have all those people, we know what the conversations were, I can hand that off to a customer success person so that they have the context of knowing here’s everybody we were talking with during that sales process. It makes that customer journey much more seamless and a much more improved experience.
Opportunities for Automation in Your RevOps Tech Stack
Abhijeet: So moving on to the automation track, where do you think are the best opportunities for automation when it comes to driving sales productivity? Which are some of those favorite features that you typically focus on?
Don: Yeah, I mean that one I just described is one. I really like that one. I have worked hard at Lean data again with our data team to drive what I call a deal health score. A lot of times when you see something sitting in the pipeline and it’s not moved and you see all these deals that are closed lost, you want to understand why. I really want to be able to understand that when I have a closed lost deal, that it was closed lost for a good reason. Not because of a lack of interaction with the sales team.
Ideally, your close lost opportunities are a gold mine for your product team to understand where we are losing deals? Winning is easy when you lose, you want to know why and you want to be able to go through those opportunities in a way of knowing that it was a well engaged opportunity from end to end. We were talking to the right people, we were doing the right things, but we lost them. Why? Then you start really getting into the nitty gritty of helping your product team. This is something RevOps can do to help the product team, right? You can go in and you can be like – I know that my sales team is well engaged with all of our opportunities. Here’s the data that proves that all the closed lost opportunities that we had, I know were really well engaged and here’s why we lost. And then you can go through and be able to provide that to your product team to say why we’re losing deals.
If there’s one thing you take away from this, remove “went dark” from your closed lost reasons because that’s BS. “Went dark” is not what happens.
That’s one way that we can drive using data to help other parts of the organization, have an understanding of what’s happening in a way that is not requiring a salesperson to have to manually do something.
How Does LeanData Do Forecasts?
Abhijeet: Forecasting is still a big challenge and for various reasons. Pipeline is bloated, revenue leaders don’t know the reality of what’s going on, prospects leave the company and move on to a new role or the market forces budget cuts which is probably the trend right now. This leads to a lot of uncertainty.
So how can technology help in driving accurate forecasts? And in your experience, how have you solved it?
Don: So one of the processes that we’ve set up internally at LeanData is we have divided our sales team into two segments – enterprise and commercial. Within the enterprise segment we have a large enterprise and an emerging enterprise. Within commercial we have mid-market and emerging commercial. We know that each of those four segments behave differently. For example, emerging commercials are much more transactional. Maybe you are engaged with just one or two people at the company and shorter sales cycles.
Large enterprises on the other hand are completely different. Sales cycles are longer, you have to be engaged with a lot more people. So what the data team has done is they look at a closed won opportunity. And they determine what is the behavior of a closed won opportunity. When it moves through each of the stages, how long does it stay at that stage? And when it moves to the next stage, and then the next stage and the next stage, what is the number of days it stays in each stage? What does a healthy opportunity look like?
They can coach the reps on the type of personas that we know need to be engaged at this stage. Why aren’t we engaged with them? Or if we are, it just helps you drive to the point of understanding why things aren’t moving forward. And that’s such an important analysis to do, Because once you’ve done that, you have a much better handle on knowing how well your sales team is performing.
Work Backwards From a Number to Determine Pipeline
Don: Let’s say you have two reps, a million dollars in the pipeline. If one rep has all their deals healthy, and they’re all behaving like a closed won opportunity should, I am not concerned about that rep. But if I go to the other rep and none of it is behaving the way a closed one opportunity should, that’s really where I have a concern.
You really need to get that granular to understand and get a grasp on the pipeline that you have and whether you’re on track to hit your number or miss it. And then once you get that down, you can really understand from a sales team at a higher level, are we missing our number because we’re not performing well or are we missing our number because we don’t have enough pipeline?
Because if you’re performing well against the opportunities that you have, you have a bigger issue of pipeline, which is top of the funnel, right? Then I would be able to go to the marketing team and be able to say, look, I know the sales team is performing throughout the stages. We need more opportunities at the top of the pipeline. You can make that argument to the marketing team and, and you can back it up with data and that’s really how you can really provide those kinds of insights from a RevOps perspective. This becomes a critical piece of your organization and you become a valuable member of being able to provide decision making data to your executive team.
Measure Productivity With Leading Indicators
Abhijeet: What are the typical leading indicators that you look at which give a good indicator of a rep becoming productive or not?
Don: You work backwards, right? I’m going to take this from an AE perspective. Let’s say I know that to be at my quota, I need to close a million dollars this quarter. I know there’s probably a multiplier of that number that I need to have in my pipeline in order to close that million dollars, right? I strive to make that multiplier as low as possible. I want to make sure that whatever is in someone’s pipeline is going to track to closed won. So from a RevOps perspective, I tightly manage that multiplier.
Because you don’t want to be in a situation where you have to 6X your pipeline. I don’t wanna have a 6 million dollar pipeline to close a million dollars. Because that means I’m doing a lot of activities that are going to result in not a closed won deal. So if I know I need a million dollars, I know I need a multiplier of that to get there,
Or I can see where people are highly engaged and their deals are healthy. Well, then I know that they are going to make their number. It’s very easy to do that. If you’re not making your number, how many meetings are you having? Are you having enough meetings? You’re not, okay, well, how many emails are you sending? You’re not sending enough emails. Well, how many calls are you making? You’re not making enough phone calls. A rep may not be able to control a closed won opportunity. And you absolutely wanna inspect and understand why. But the things a rep can control are the number of phone calls they’re making a day, the number of emails they’re sending a day, and how many meetings they’re having per day. That is absolutely in their control.
So if you have a rep that is not in control and is not executing on those three things, You may want to question if that rep is in the right role. Because those are the three things they can drive. If they’re making the phone calls, if they’re sending the emails and they’re having the meetings and things aren’t turning into opportunities, or they’re not closing deals, that’s really where a sales manager should be able to understand that the reps are doing all the right things. They have the will. They might be missing the skill. So then you could start coaching them, start understanding are they doing the right things when they’re in the meeting? Are they sending the right message? Are they using the right use cases when they’re selling? That’s really where it’s more subjective.
But they have to do that basic work of making the calls, sending the emails, having the meetings to know if those soft skills in selling are resulting in the right things. You absolutely need to make sure you’re doing the most you can around that every single day in order to get your closed won number up.
Tools in your RevOps Tech Stack Should be Invisible
Abhijeet: I remember in one of your interviews that you mentioned that a tool needs to be as invisible as possible, so it does not interrupt the daily workflow of reps.
So what do you mean by that? When you said that in that interview, and if you can elaborate, how does this help drive productivity and adoption?
Don: There are so many tools in the tech stack. As a sales rep, I’m probably not going to engage with every single one of them. So if I as a rep am not going to engage with it, I need to make sure from a RevOps perspective that I can demonstrate the value that tool is bringing to the organization. For example, if I have something that can do automation and never have to involve the sales rep, those are the kinds of tools I want. I have something that’s going to bring value to the organization that I don’t have to have the rep engaged with. Something that can do analysis, or provide data or help me make those reps productive without them even knowing that it’s happening. Those are the kinds of tools you want in your organization.
Abhijeet: Don, it was amazing to talk to you today. Thanks for being so candid and sharing such great insights for our listeners.
Don: My pleasure. Thank you.