Tucked neatly behind the towering glass structures of Ropemaker Street, I sat in Notes coffee shop, eagerly awaiting Michael Newton, Sales Operations & Analysis Manager at Perkbox. I was keen to hear how a fresh outlook might take on the art (and science) of Sales Ops among the controlled mayhem that is a high-growth tech business.
The interview began...
Rory Brown (RB) - You started in sales and then climbed the ranks through to Team Leader and then Head of Sales. When did you move to sales ops?
Michael Newton (MN) - I wanted to do something more analytical so I moved across to a sales ops role last April, which has given me a chance to experience different departments of the business as well as be part of our new ventures.
RB – Was there a sales ops function before you?
MN - We had someone doing business intelligence and Salesforce administration and when they left there was a gap for about a year.
RB - Was it your idea to move into that role or was there already an appetite for it in the business?
MN - It was my idea. I’d been in sales for three years and was doing well but I wanted to experience a different side of the business.
RB - What was the first thing you tackled in your sales ops role?
MN - There was some cross over with my previous roles and I already had an appetite for the data side. A lot of the data analytics were already in place in the sales team. Our company is growing very fast so we’re always innovating. At the time we decided to heavily build out our SDR function. That was where most of my focus was for the first 4-5 months, trying to get the process nailed down.
RB - So did you build the SDR function from scratch?
MN - Not from scratch but I took it from being a supporting role to a key component.
RB - How many SDRs do you have now?
MN - We've got 12 in London – 5 outbound SDRs and 7 inbound SDRs - and we also have a lead gen function in Sheffield.
RB - Where does your role come into play in setting up the structure for an SDR team?
MN - We have a great marketing department with a marketing operations function and I work closely with them. The SDR is a collaborative effort between marketing and sales; a lot of the tech and front-end lead assigning is on the marketing side. We use Outreach to help us with this. It’s important to get all the Salesforce technical aspects in place so we can scale that team quite heavily before we invest a lot of money.
RB - So from a Salesforce perspective, when you say technical aspect what sort of things are we talking about?
MN - Our company has changed a lot since I started working there so we had to go through all the legacy processes and redesign our lead flows within Salesforce and start from scratch because what we had before wasn't fit for purpose. We had different teams using the same functions in different ways which made the data completely null and void. Or rather it was worse than null and void because people were trusting the data and basing their decisions on it. So we had to go back to scratch. We had lots of lead flow sessions which were a joint effort between sales and marketing. Now we're happy with the process.
RB - Traditionally there's been a disconnect between sales and marketing so it's nice to hear about sales and marketing working together. Would you say the way that sales ops and marketing work together on the SDR function is beneficial?
MN - Yes. We've formed an Operations Tribe within the company. At Perkbox, we have some unorthodox organisational structures where we arrange our seating by topics, rather than departments. If there is a particular topic you want to work on, such as operations, you might get Sales Ops sitting with Marketing Ops and our Data Analyst, all on one table.
An issue that we’re also hoping to solve with this Operations Tribe is the gaps in our software. Pieces of software are owned by different departments so we thought that by doing this we could pool all our software together.
RB - Where would you say Sales Ops and Marketing Ops start and finish?
MN - They 100% crossover. At Perkbox, we’re lucky that we have a good relationship. I spend a lot of time looking at where the revenue comes from in terms of marketing source and then I can approach them to drill down into the channels. SDR is definitely the most collaborative department.
RB - Onto technology. What tech stack are you using?
MN - Top of the funnel, we use Chili Piper for our booking system. We use Marketo for marketing, which is a great tool but sometimes doesn't work well with Salesforce. Outreach is a tool that we use a lot. We've just started using it on our account management side as well for our SME customers. Our phone provider is New Voice Media. We use Join Me for video calls. We use Adobe Sign for contracts, which helps us keep everything in Salesforce. We're building an in-house quoting tool. One of our key strategies moving forward is a self-sign up process which will allow smaller customers to sign up on the website.
RB - Who are the main people you're supporting and helping with their functions?
MN - I report into the COO. The main people I serve are the VP Sales, the two Customer Success Directors, and then assisting with marketing.
RB - How would you describe the relationship you have with these people?
MN - They all get it. They've got a lot of experience working with people like me. With them it's getting my opinion on a piece of data or analysis. If they think there are big holes in the process they'll get my opinion.
My relationship with the VP Sales is very good because of my sales background. It's easy for me to add value to the sales team because I know the processes very well. I have a good relationship with the Customer Success Director but it’s more challenging to prove my value as I don't have a customer success background.
RB – Have you encountered any difficulties in your role within the wider team?
MN – The danger with a sales ops role is that people sometimes ask for help with every little detail, for example why they can't see something in a particular report. So it can be hard to prioritise your time.
RB - I've heard that a lot. How do you manage your time?
MN - We've tried various processes. One process we're using at the moment is a Slack channel for sales ops. We also found that when a lot of people have an issue they would speak to me, marketing ops, and our Salesforce admin about the same issue. It wasn't very efficient. The Slack channel encourages more openness and visibility between the teams.
RB – Finally, what famous duo would you say represents the relationship between Sales Ops and VP Sales?
MN - Pre-2009 Liam and Noel Gallagher. We're all very passionate about what we do and occasionally have different opinions, but when we get it right we make sweet, sweet music together.
Want to get more insights from the sales ops leaders? Read our other posts in the sales ops interview series.
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