In any organization, revenue is king. So creating a streamlined, efficient, and effective revenue engine that sits at the heart of the business is the ultimate goal.

Building that world-class revenue engine that'll take your organization to the next level isn't easy though. There's a lot of hurdles in the way, and if you don't know what you're doing, you're likely to get lost.

Attendees at our Chief Revenue Officer Summit in September 2021 were lucky enough to hear from experienced industry leaders on exactly how to construct that revenue engine in a sustainable way.

Leading the panel was Aaron Landgraf, Head of Marketing at Syncari, with Kathleen Lord, Chief Revenue Officer at Skilljar, and Chris Thompson, Head of Marketing Operations at Conga making up the rest of the panel on building a world -class revenue engine.

We're sharing just some of the knowledge they imparted on attendees with you now. Here's a selection of the questions they answered:

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Q: How has your approach to revenue growth changed over the last two, three years?

Kathleen: There's three things that I'm seeing have emerged over the last two to three years.

First is this need to focus really on that end to end customer journey, and what it  looks like. It's not enough just to measure individual components of it, we need to know how cohorts of our prospects and customers are moving through from first touch all the way through to their nth renewal.

As a result of that, we're seeing that the metrics in which we're measuring our business are shifting and maturing. It's no longer just looking at siloed, funnel metrics. We're looking at broader metrics such as what our customer acquisition cost is, and what our customer lifetime value is. As well as how that's shifting over time.

This reporting, analysis, modelling and planning in our business is happening on a continuous basis. It's no longer a once a quarter, or once a year type event as we're putting together our plans.

As a result of those two changes, what we're seeing is this need for cross-departmental collaboration and alignment, which has always been important, but it's just so critical if you're going to successfully scale up your business.

Chris: If you rewind five or six years ago, you watched a lot of companies, ecome out with mission statements saying: 'Hey, we're going to be data focused and data driven.'

Well, that's all changed because now there's this insatiable appetite for being data forward. There's that difference between data driven and data forward. So now you have to have the data to be able to make intelligent decisions on where you invest your time, people, money, and resources to grow your business.

That growing appetite has to be filled

I'm also going to talk about the need for data definitions and standardisation, company wide. Not data silo-wide, but company wide.

What one thing means to one department should mean the exact same thing as anyone else in business sees it. Then cross-departmental data needs are changing rapidly. Now, the environment that I see in our business is where real customer success data is as valuable to prospecting and determining how we drive our revenue engine on the front side of the sales cycle like I've never seen before.

Q: What do you feel (beyond silos) is preventing people from achieving their data-driven desires?

Chris: I think one is misalignment, or a lack of alignment, rather. Then customer experience gaps as well.

Gone are the days, especially in B2B SaaS, where a buyer's journey was linear. It was: 'How do you get to A to Z?'. Once you got a contract you thought 'we're good, we're done'.

Well, those days are way behind us. You have to look at the buyer's journey as more of a circular experience. After post-sale, once you get the contract, what happens next as you go through implementation, as you go through onboarding? Then you come back and say: 'Alright, well, how can we do across upsell opportunity?'. That thing just keeps turning and keeps turning and turning and turning.

The other thing that goes with that is all of the human and non-human touch points within the buyer's journey are kind of segmented and siloed by a tribal ownership.

You have product marketing that does their thing. You've got marketing that does their thing. You've got sales enablement.

If that's not very homogenous and built out for all the human and non-human touch points throughout the entire buyer's journey, your prospect feels it, they feel the segmentation, they feel the silos, they feel that disrupted focus on them.

Katherine: It shows up at every organisation I've been at, and it always is a challenge to solve.

The number one issue that I see it create is a lack of executive alignment.

We've all showed up to that planning meeting where finance has one set of data sales has one set of data, marketing has another set of data, and CS may have yet another and you end up spending the whole meeting arguing over whose data is right and why and what the definitions are.

That's as opposed to actually planning and working on accelerating the business. As a result of that, you end up making the wrong, or bad go-to-market decisions. Without that common set of processes, definitions, and data across the business, you just get those stops and starts that that Chris alluded to, where marketing runs a set of data, sales, CS and finance all run another, and it doesn't tie together to help you really run and grow the business in an aligned fashion.

Q: Data allows us to find veins of gold that we should be tapping into, because they are what's going to help us grow our revenues fastest. But what has not worked for you? What would you advise audiences not to do?

Kathleen: So, you create a data lake and say: 'Okay, well, if we're going to get  all the data across the systems, we'll get it into one place, we'll have one source of truth there'.

But what ends up happening is that data lake actually becomes a data swamp, because you can't find what you're looking for.

So many of the business intelligence tools that sit on top of those data lakes are not made for business leaders to be able to actually get in and understand the data. So you end up with a reliance on data analysts folks to get you the data you want and the format you want, and by then it's too late to use that data to run your business day-to-day.

Chris:  I've got a contrarian point of view here. In my experience, data lakes have actually been a pretty good thing.

Let me caveat that, though. There are two things with data lakes that have worked well for me. That is if you begin the process of creating the lake by defining a single source of truth, with all of your requirements, your needs from the business, and business leaders and business owners are driving those requirements of what data goes where and how it's aligned in the data lake, you're off to a good start.

If you do that wrong from the get go. You've already tripped.

So if you do that, it does work. However, the time value can be really, really slow. It is a very, very slow process and that might organization-specific, but I would I would say a little different than Kathy, I think it's not something you wouldn't want to do.

I just think if you do it really clearly, have succinct goals with the proper steps and you follow a very regimented, disciplined approach that's driven by the business, I think you can I think you can get there.

Aaron: I feel like this notion of the data warehouse, or data lake being your single source of truth is still relatively new for a lot of organisations.

A lot of revenue leaders that that I chat with, when asked what their single source of truth is, they say their CRM is their single source of truth. I think that that path is unfortunately well worn and is often not the best, and doesn't get you to the best end state.

The data model of your CRM, and the data available in the CRM is optimised for sales, maybe sales and marketing, but certainly not for the broader go-to-market team.

Interestingly enough, we we asked a panel of CFOs that same question and their response to what's your single source of truth was the ERP, NetSuite, or whatever your ERP is. So we have a bit of a trust breakdown if sales leaders are saying it's the CRM and finance leaders are saying it's ERP, we have to find a way to bring all that data into one place, unify it, clean it, and then distribute it back out to the the people that need it to do their jobs.

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