At SEC's Chief Revenue Officer Summit in September 2021, industry leaders from around the world shared their knowledge with our audience.
One of the top talks of the week was a panel discussion all about communication gaps between revenue-generating teams. How do they appear? How do you fix them?
Our passionate panelists were:
- Stephanie Jenkins, Chief Revenue Officer, Flowhub
- Natalie Peled David, Senior B2B GTM Leader
- Mark Walker, Chief Operating & Revenue Officer, Student Beans
Over the course of an hour, Stephanie, Natalie, and Mark dove deep into the topic and shared some fascinating insights.
While the full, unfiltered panel discussion is available OnDemand for SEC members, we've picked out some of the best bits for you below. Enjoy!
Q: Why does alignment matter and what's at stake?
The first thing that comes to my mind is, what happens when alignment doesn't happen? I’ve been on teams where every department is working on different things, and that doesn't help us at all.
We need to be working towards the same goal or the same mission. For me, it really feels like an opportunity lost.
You lose a lot of opportunity if you're rowing in two different directions.
That can happen, for example, if CS is rowing in a slightly different direction than sales or marketing. There’s a lot of efficiency lost, and a lot of good work lost when we don't have that alignment.
When there's misalignment, I think there's a few things that happen at a company.
Firstly, all your core sales metrics start to go the wrong way. Conversion to the funnel starts to deteriorate, because one team's not passing the right type of lead or prospect on to the other, and then they're unable to convert it. This then drags down your unit economics and makes you a less efficient go-to-market team.
From a customer perspective, it puts you in a really poor light. It makes it look like the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing. You ideally want to have this well-integrated, well-aligned revenue team where a customer feels like they're getting the best possible service from each interaction they have.
Looking at it from a personal standpoint, frustration breeds over time when you look over at your teammate and wonder "what are they even working on?". You really see the impact that it has on the individual, and you have to wonder what that does to the morale of the team over time.
Q What role does the operations function have in this discussion?
The Revenue Operations function is absolutely critical. Over the last few years, there’s been a rise in demand for experienced heads of Revenue Operations.
It’s the glue that sits between all of your different revenue teams and functions. Fundamentally, they help to shape and operationalize the systems and processes that your teams should be working towards. That way, they're all working in a similar fashion.
If it's set up correctly, they will provide the insights and the shared source of truth that helps all the teams remain aligned. You're all looking at the same data, you're all understanding it, and hopefully, interpreting it in the same way.
It really is about creating that shared language, or that shared data set. A lot of times, you're all working towards the same metrics. They may be slightly different metrics, but it's all adding up to the same ultimate goal.
Q: How can teams start to become more aligned?
Firstly, I think you need genuine understanding, and genuine understanding can then breed empathy. That empathy can then help really drive great alignment, both culturally and operationally.
I remember encountering friction between the marketing team and the SDR team, in which the SDR team were frustrated about the quality of the leads being fed to them.
The marketing team would say: "Look, we’re meeting all the criteria, the SDR team just aren't working on them properly.” The SDR team would claim that the marketing team were wasting their time, especially when they had quotas to hit.
I encouraged the marketing team to approach the SDR team and really try to establish some empathy, some genuine understanding of their problem. It gave them a lot more empathy with the SDRs over how tough a job it is and how difficult it is to convert a prospect even if they're interested in your company.
From the SDR perspective, they saw that as a real willingness and an investment from the marketing team to understand what they were going through.
You have to break through a lot of walls. You have to spend a bit of time on the other side of the playground, so to speak.
I think there's different levels of alignment, and things can fluctuate on a quarter-by-quarter basis, even within an organization.
In June, we did an alignment workshop between CS, Marketing, Sales and Operations.
In many cases, it was the first time that some of our leaders were actually meeting each other in a conference room.
It's funny that something as simple as a leadership alignment meeting can result in these departments really coming together effectively. During that workshop, we all described a future state. Where do we want to be and how do we get there? How do we create a shared vision for the future?
Workshops are always a great idea, also. They help us to understand everyone's objectives. How much do the objectives cost? What are the key results?
Q: Is bridging the gap a top-down responsibility, or is it everyone’s responsibility?
It’s a little bit of both. A lot of it has to do with the culture that you're creating at the top and the spaces that you're creating at the top. It involves coaching your directors to reach out cross-functionally. I think how well they bridge the gap really does end up being a big part of their internal brand too.
It can be a great coaching tool to encourage strong cross-functional work.
My honest opinion is that everyone should feel really empowered to take the reins on this. If you experience tension between departments, or that classic example of Sales and Marketing clashing, rather than complaining about the friction, it really helps to take responsibility and try to bridge that gap with empathy.
I've got to agree with Stephanie on that. It's a bit of both, clearly. But my hot take would be it is ultimately the responsibility of leadership. If they are structurally setting things up to not be aligned, they've got to take some responsibility.
I do think they will also help set that culture of collaboration. Are they working together? Are they bringing people together? Or are they pointing fingers? I think the ultimate responsibility is on leadership.
However, if you have a great empowered culture, the biggest change can start from absolutely anywhere.
Isn't that one of the best ways to get on your manager's radar as somebody who has senior management potential?
In other words, showing you have enough awareness to recognise that there's an alignment issue, but also proving that you're willing and brave enough to do something about it.
Those are great ways to stand out and put yourself up for promotion.
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