Companies (mostly) exist to solve problems for customers. The longevity and survival of a company is ultimately measured in terms of its ability to generate revenue and profits.
Over the years, the various titles, roles and functions that manage revenue generation in a company has changed from Vice President of Sales to Chief Revenue Officer and other variations. Depending on the stage and type of organization the VP of Sales might be in charge of New Sales, Existing Customer Sales and sometimes Marketing. You can still see the title Vice President of Sales and Marketing in “old school” companies or in smaller companies where a few people wear many hats. For many reasons, most SaaS and software companies separate the roles and have a VP of Sales (who is in charge of Sales) and a VP of Marketing (who is in charge of advertising and marketing) and a third leader in charge of Customer Success / Upsells.
Recently, the role of Chief Revenue Officer has emerged as a way to consolidate and align the various departments of Sales, Marketing and Customer Success. While the CRO title is often reserved for later stages in a companies lifecycle it is becoming more common to see the CRO title in early stage companies as well.
This same progression of titles has occurred in the management and operational functions of sales, marketing and customer success. Rather than silo’ing the three departments – the function of Revenue Operations was created to align and streamline all aspects of revenue management. Revenue Operations goes beyond sales operations which tends to be more sales-centric and tactical with regards to who the function serves and looks to align all revenue generating and revenue interested parties. This would include Finance, C-Suite and the Board of Directors.
Sales Operations historically served the VP of Sales and the sales organization by managing their reporting requirements, ensuring Salesforce.com operations are running smoothly and tactically managing the process and training for the sales organization. There is some cross-over into Marketing and Customer Success (usually around reporting) but the primary role of Sales Operations is traditionally “sales-centric.”
The role of Revenue Operations expands the “customer” that they serve beyond the Sales Organization and includes Marketing, Demand Generation, Customer Success, Upsell and Retention. Revenue Operations is a strategic function that crosses departments, roles and functions and aligns everyone around the core function of why the company exists in the first place: revenue generation.
The revenue operations role takes a more holistic view of the company’s revenue strategy and manages the outputs required to improve and grow revenue and profit. They often have a louder voice at the executive table and seek to serve the various needs of Finance, Sales, Marketing, Operations and Strategy (not just sales). Rev Ops also think about how to efficiently deliver those outputs and to eliminate operational redundancy that might exist across multiple departments.
For example, if various versions of the same sales report are being generated by Sales Operations, Marketing, Finance and the CEO is asking for an update – then the role of revenue operations might look for ways to consolidate these reports, ensure the data is accurate and pulled from the same source.
The switch from Sales Operations to Revenue Operations is driven by the need for a single view of the customer’s buying journey. Most SaaS and software companies generate their leads online since customers often research solutions on their own before they ever speak to a sales representative. The customer’s journey starts with their product needs, their online behavior, their online businesses, etc. Aligning the customer’s journey with your entire business is best served by taking a holistic view of your revenue engine and making the appropriate adjustments across multiple departments. How your company markets to your customers needs to align with their entire journey that starts days, weeks, months and even years before you ever know who they are.
In the early days of your company or if your sales organization is not mature, organizing your revenue operations in small silos is still okay. Depending on the the company’s maturity – the role of revenue operations might be “too heavy” of a function. Early on, one of the founders or the CEO often play the strategic role of revenue operations as they wear many hats in the early stages of the company. They often carry the vision of the company’s revenue cycle or will experiment with different business models before they ultimately find the one that best fits with their customers.
No matter the stage of your business – you have someone playing the role of revenue operations already (even if you have someone with the sales operations title). Seek out that person, whether it be your sales leader, a founder, CEO or someone else on the executive team, and fashion their vision into what your revenue operations should look like. Use their vision as a way to build a holistic view of your company’s revenue and leverage it to align the company around its ultimate purpose: to solve a customer’s problem and generate revenue.