SF Sales Ops Happy Hour – June 2016

The second SF Sales Ops Happy Hour hosted by Lyft, AlwaysHired, and Datahug was on 6/2 at Lyft Headquarters. Sponsored by Datanyze, Nova.ai, SalesLoft, Inkling, and DocSend, over 200 Sales Ops, Marketing Ops, Sales and Operational professionals, and many others attended to network and learn from each other.

Moderated by Kevin Mannion (VP Marketing, Datahug), Jerry Simonson (Head of Operations & Strategy, Lyft) kicked off the panel talk with a case study on how Lyft built their Sales Operations Team over the past year. The panel talk following Jerry featured Sales Ops leaders such as Christine King (SVP Global Revenue Operations, Innovid), Munish Gandhi (Head of Sales Strategy & Operations, LinkedIn), and Arwa Kaddoura (Senior Director Sales Operations, Xamarin). They discussed improving Sales Efficiencies as well as how Sales Ops, Sales, and Customer Success should be aligned.

Lyft Case Study

Jerry: My name’s Jerry Simonson and I run Strategy & Operations here at Lyft. The big takeaway here is whether you’re in Sales Operations or in Sales, at some point you’re going to have to sell. Whether it’s a product or yourself in a job interview or a budget or a product you’re trying to get approved, it’s just a good skill to have. I encourage people to think about that as they think about their roles.

So why am I here? I’m here to build the Sales Operations function for Lyft Mobility Solutions. David Baga, our CBO, brought me in to build this. When you think about corporations today, they have ground transportation stems that’s largely unmanaged. So people are going out in taxis, they’re taking limos. The travel managers don’t have much insight into that. Partnering with us, they can get visibility and they can get clarity. We’re kind of changing the ways we are moving and providing solutions to our customers.

In 10 months, the team is growing, the win rates are getting higher, and the sales cycles are getting shorter. To me, this is process-driven structure: efficient, repeatable. So David wants to create the vision, he wants to lay that out and let me worry about building this engine, about building this vehicle. So how do we build that? How did we do that here at Lyft?

We had a number of people who were pulled throughout the organization that were selling. What they were selling were largely perks – you have an event and you want some codes for people to get to and from that. Or you want people to have a safe ride home. They aren’t traditional sellers. So there was a team in place and there was a product in place.

The first thing we did was we had the tunes: to go in and make sure that we were operating that team efficiently. Let the team know that we’re going to build this engine, this is what it looks like, this is your role, these are your accounts, these are your responsibilities. Start to get some structure so that we could understand how are we going to build this enterprise team. The next thing we wanted to do was that we basically blueprinted. We took the data from this enterprise engine that we had running and it was bad. But we have to put a stake in the ground, we had to start to the plan and go after it. After that, we sold – not externally, but internally. This is a B2C company: people aren’t going to pump money into this thing if they didn’t believe in what we’re doing. You have to sell this to marketing, you have to sell this to legal. You’re not going to get the resources you need to go attack the enterprise if nobody believes in what we’re doing. And then we had to execute. We had to go be the expert, we had to make decisions quickly and keep moving. There’s not time to wait for answers or wait for something to push out.

So we were very prescriptive on what we were trying to accomplish from the onsite. We continued to refine and expand. We have not stopped refining and trying new things. If they work, they get rolled in and if they don’t, we move them out. We moved from this small kind of events and unsophisticated sales team to closing large accounts. You’re going to start to suck in resources that you didn’t even know you were going to use within the organization. People’s time, people’s energy, money – everything. If people don’t believe in what we’re doing, you’re not going to be able to get those resources and you’re just not going to win the accounts. You’re not going to have the resources for your sellers to go out there.

Q: How big is the team now? How big did you scale over 10 months?

Jerry: The team under David Baga is around 100. A vast majority of them came under the last 10 months.

Q: You had the blueprint, the sell, and the tune. What was the hardest of those – what was the most challenging piece?

Jerry: It’s the sell, it’s the resources. Like I said, we’re still a tiny part of this massive organization. So for us to get the resources we need to continue to grow at the speed that we want to, we have to keep selling. Every single day.

Panel Talk

Q: What is the biggest blocker to aligning Sales and Sales Operations?

Christine: Going off of Jerry’s presentation about Sales Dependency, that is one of the biggest things that we run into in our company. There’s so much that the management team wants to accomplish in a very short period of time and to do that well and efficiently, we know that we have to plant the seed.

Munish: In LinkedIn, Sales Ops is with the Head of Sales. Which means that Sales Ops and Sales are always in perfect alignment because I’m in all the meetings that my Head of Sales is in. So it’s all about driving consensus and alignment not just with the Sales Managers but ultimately across with all the different departments.

Arwa: Sales Operations also tends to be this dumping ground for anything that a Salesperson or a Sales Engineer does. So I think for me the biggest piece is really acting like a Product Manager and thinking one step ahead from what a Salesperson is asking for. To think what has the biggest impact, where can we make the right investment, and how do I make sure I’m looking ahead of where they’re looking so that so we’re not only defensively reacting to everything they need today.

Follow-up Q: And what is the one takeaway for a company that’s starting out a Sales Operations organization – what’s the one piece of advice you’d give them?

Arwa: I would say very clear definitions of roles in terms of what they’re responsible for, especially if you’re a startup where scope create is huge.

Q: What initiatives have you started to increase Sales Efficiencies?

Christine: Sales Ops is a very new department in my company so everything we do is a initiative in a way. I think one of the biggest things that we did was we really focused on planning this year. We really focused on who are the targets we’re going to go after, why are we going after them, and how are we going after them so that we can really make the Sales team’s efforts and resources much more efficient.

Munish: I think the biggest one that we’ve done this year is focusing on the accounts. What drives new Sales? And then we chomped it down into a single account based score. So we start with saying, “this is your perfect account, this is how you go about it”.

Arwa: For us, I think many of the companies here are SaaS-based companies so renewal automation and renewal management is a huge piece. I think a huge part of any business, in running a SaaS business, is to get your renewal base figured out.

Follow-up Q: If someone here has a Sales team and they think they’re spending too much on Sales, what is the number one thing they can do to make their Sales team more efficient?

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Munish: Opinions are easy to come by but think about where you are in your current market and have a clear point of view. Mobilize people, mobilize tools, mobilize organizations.

Q: What kind of Sales Performance Benchmarks have you put in place?

Christine: We have all the normal ones like revenue attainment, retention rate and things like that, Beyond that, we really broke it out into the product lines. So we’ll look at the different product lines that we’re targeting, that we’re trying to promote and put weights onto the product line.

Munish: We’re based on deal size, win rate. For customer business, it’s renewal, churn rate – how much we’re adding on, how much we need to move on.

Arwa: Conversion metrics are really important too: looking at top of the funnel, how many of those can go into qualified pipeline, and then into what you’re winning. We look also at deal sizes as well as deal cycles to see how our businesses were short.

Q: Customer Success is huge. How is Customer Success Operations a part of what you do?

Christine: We have not yet operationalized Customer Success but it’s something we are looking into. Another thing that we do look at constantly because we are a service business is Client Satisfaction. That’s something Datahug would help with – are we doing well, what can we improve on, etc.

Munish: We started our Customer Sales Ops very, very early. Roughly about 25-30% of our business is acquisition and everything else is customer.

Arwa: You need to be able to differentiate when customers are coming on, when you’re losing them, and how long it takes before you lose so you can fine-tune your renewal business to continue making that strong foundation of your business.

Q: Everyone here is in Sales Ops – a big part of the role is assessing new tools and software. What’s the first thing you do when you’re looking to solve a new problem or you’re looking at some Sales Software?

Christine: I think the biggest thing that you need to do is to really look at your long-term goals and see if there’s any gaps in your process or if there’s anywhere you can find more efficiencies to reach those long-term goals and then look. The best way is reaching out to my network. From there, we gather on who we want to talk and we work with them on beta testing and stuff like that.

Munish: I want to make sure that it solves a problem that I actually have. Sales Ops are not buyers. What is this product going to do for me that I should stick my neck out for?

Arwa: That type of social connecting with your peers: connecting with other people in similar industries and similar goals to validate before making that investment. And make sure you always get some kind of pilot or trials.The last thing you need is to invest in a technology that you’re going to rip out in a month or two.

Audience Q: Since Sales Ops works with Marketing, with the VP of Sales, etc. you’re always trying to get your idea across. What kind of qualities do you need that you think would be very helpful with Sales Ops?

Christine: I think one very big thing is to make it all about them. How can we help solve your problem together? And then from there, you can figure out how that problem fits into the overall agenda and then look for a solution.

Audience Q: The effectiveness of Social Selling makes it a highly valuable technique or method. But there are so many people out there that you’re not going to be able to reach through your network. Apart from improving Inbound Marketing, is just straight cold-calling a strategy that you know is going to be a part of your Sales Strategy and if so, are there ways to improve on cold calling instead of just being blind?

Jerry: What I need is a tool that actually solves my problem. When I get calls, there are so many times that I don’t know what it actually is. So set it straight – here’s a problem, here’s how we solve it, and hopefully we have it. And then we’ll talk.

Munish: You have to latch onto what isn’t working for the prospect. Why should they take that call?

Our number one criticism from our first happy hour was being overwhelmed for networking; there were too many people to effectively talk to someone you’d click with. To solve this we offered “Sales Ops Connect”. This was an opt-in service for attendees with the goal of directly connecting you with another attendee to meet at the event during the networking period. We’ve had great feedback that this allowed folks to know in advance who they were meeting and enabled them to talk about Sales Ops topics that affected them. We’ll be doing Sales Ops Connect for future happy hours as well.

See below some related articles and resources that might help too:


Sales Ops Blackbelt Checklist – eBook

B2B Sales Ops Playbook – eBook

Four Sales Activities That Kill Sales Performance – By Don Otvos

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