As companies move toward responsible growth, the RevOps team is more important than ever. They are the secret weapon for getting more revenue per head and bringing down the overall operational cost of running the GTM engine.
In this Fireside Chat, Tyler Simons from Fullcast sat down with Will Urban, Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) at Flexport, a leader in global supply chain technology, to discuss how RevOps is a key driver for growth and revenue efficiency at the company. Below is a summary of the conversation, edited for brevity and clarity. You can listen to the entire conversation here.
Tyler: How is Flexport’s Sales and Revenue Operations structured?
Will: Flexport’sRevOps engine has key 4 pillars and handles:
- Top of Funnel Demand Generation
- Sales and Business Development
- Account Management
Flexport’s business is a domain expertise sell. Our sales team has to be extremely knowledgeable in our business as well as global trade in general. They need to understand current events, such as new tariff schedules, environmental regulations or geopolitical unrest, plus market dynamics across air and ocean freight and trucking, and how those factors could impact our customers’ supply chains.
The four pillars of Flexport’s RevOps engine support several functions, including enablement, a team that supports seller training and education (critical as there are a myriad of complex topics Flexport sales teams must understand to be effective), and a SalesOps team dedicated to driving pipeline.
Tyler: What are good RevOps teams doing in the current economic environment?
Will: Flexport isn’t a typical SaaS company where you sign up, and then someone starts using your software on the web. When we bring on business, we're implementing the operational piece of managing their physical shipments on a global scale and across a variety of modes (e.g. air and ocean freight, trucking) as well as services including customs and compliance, insurance and finance. All of this is underpinned by the Flexport Platform, a technology platform our customers can use to track, manage and have visibility into their shipments down to the individual item (i.e. SKU) level.
Our sales pipeline is so important for two reasons. One, we want to know how we’re doing against our goals and numbers for the year, obviously. But the second part is we need to give visibility to the rest of the organization on what's coming their way. We need to plan labor to manage those shipments and air and ocean freight capacity on airlines and steamship lines to manage the flow of cargo. That takes time, and it also takes insight, and we have to know when it's going to come on board. The RevOps piece is critical so we can project the business’ needs in order to support our customers.
Everything starts with discipline in RevOps, from the very first time we're doing discovery with a client and recording that information all the way through until we're actually shipping something. If we're very focused on the front end with Sales and RevOps, we’ll have a good outcome on the back end from an operational execution perspective. It's all linked together.
Tyler: How do you use RevOps to drive pipeline and velocity through the funnel?
Will: Pipeline is the lifeblood of a company. As a Chief Revenue Officer, that is my greatest responsibility. We use RevOps to gauge where we're at at any one time, that's the most important thing. It takes discipline to get data in the right places and to ensure that the right tools have visibility to that data. It needs to be easy for our people to use because I want them to spend time talking to customers, not trying to figure out how to capture data or slog through administrative tasks in Salesforce.
When we get these things down it drives velocity. It's that balance of giving our people the best tools, enabling them to move as fast as possible, yet capture the most accurate and up-to-date information. That drives velocity through our sales pipeline.
We have deals that take three years and we have deals that take two weeks. It really depends on the scope and the size and the complexity of the client. When you talk about velocity we have to move that three year deal along as fast as we possibly can, just like we do the two week deal. So velocity is very important. It all stems from great RevOps tools and processes.
Tyler: How do you help give RevOps a guiding light of what to focus on?
Will: I spend a lot of time with salespeople and join lots of calls. I listen to them and ask what's working and what's not. We've developed a culture where it's okay to say what you think and no one will get defensive. We just want you to tell us what's working and what's not. Sometimes salespeople can be the most vocal and kind of harsh on everyone internally, but I mean that in the best way. It's really hard to close business, and if everybody could do it, they would. It takes a special person to be able to deal with rejection and continue moving forward. The first thing is I listen to what people are saying.
The second part is that we have a strong cadence internally where we do weekly business reviews at every level. It starts with the executive team meeting every week, and then I do one with my team and then down a couple layers. This allows us to bubble up a lot of issues that can be operational issues. As a result, we don't let anything go past a week where we don't flag and then try to resolve it. We don't always fix it that week, but we’ve got it on record and are proactively listening.
Another piece of that is we have a twice a month S&OP meeting with our operations and GTM teams. We cover key items such as what's working, what's not, wins and losses, any operational issues impacting our ability to close business, or if we're not performing the way we need to be. Again, it's an open and safe space for anyone to raise issues, but we do it in a collaborative way where we keep track of what's going on and what we need to fix. Then that takes it off of a salesperson’s plate so they’re not trying to solve operational issues all while knowing the core issue is being addressed. This enables our sales team to do what’s most important: getting in front of customers.
Tyler: After collecting all this feedback, how does RevOps prioritize? Does RevOps drive the agenda?
Will: It depends on the issue. If it's an issue that's impacting an account manager or SDR and their ability to close business or open up doors, or keep them from doing the work that we want to do, then the RevOps team steps in and really drives it. Tactically, they solve many things day-to-day, and I never hear about them. Those things that get bubbled up in our weekly meetings or if I hear the same issue multiple times, I go back to our RevOps team and say something's off here. If we have three people in three different geographies telling me the same thing, we need to be listening to them. There's really no silver bullet. It's just listening.
Tyler: How do you support the transition from Ops as order takers to an important contributor to a company’s growth engine?
Will: Our operations teams, whether it's RevOps or commercial operations that manage shipments, are closely involved with customers and the overall sale. It's a very knowledge-based sale. A lot of times our AE gets the deal to the point where our customers say, I want to hear from the people that are really doing the work. It's a very complex business, and since there’s such a large operational component to make it work our operational experts are part of the overall sales process. Maybe not during the prospecting/hunting phase, but definitely as we get to a point where we're getting ready to close business and or we're trying to convince a client that we can manage it for them. All our Ops team members are available to our sales team to help close business and they're really good at it. They might not naturally be a salesperson, but what comes across is that the salesperson has juice within the organization. They can get someone on the phone with the client who really understands what’s going on down to the expert level. It also keeps our salespeople moving right to the next account and to the next account.
At Flexport, we also have operational customer service teams who are managing customer interactions and requests day-to-day directly after we've closed business. Oftentimes, these accounts are so big we don't close everything all at once but we get a chunk of it here, a chunk of it there. That client interaction with our in-house operations expert is a huge piece of why we get more business. You could say Flexport’s operations team is more customer-centric and sales minded than most. They’re an integral part of the feedback cycle that enables our salespeople to grow their book of business; it’s all interconnected, and we live and die by each other.
Tyler: What is the number one thing a RevOps team can do to make the CRO’s life better?
Will: The number one thing I need from our RevOps team is that any time I ask I get an accurate forecast on our pipeline. I need to know what's coming in the next two weeks to six months, and then what's out past six months that we need to work. I need to be able to see that almost in real time anytime. Our RevOps team is disciplined to always keep that information fresh and meaningful. They also need to drive the discipline throughout the rest of the organization to make that happen. In a nutshell, that’s what I expect from our RevOps team.