I had to share this image with you – I just returned from InsightSquared’s (IS2) ‘Ramp’ conference in Boston, where they kindly presented me with a personalized Red Sox shirt. The juxtaposition with the Golden Gate seemed apt as I reflect on the sales operations center of excellence that was coalesced by IS2 CEO Fred Shilmover & CMO Joe Chernov in New England this week.

The conference really focused on the increasing recognition that sales operations is a critically strategic function within any organization. In fact, one of my favorite ‘a-ha’ moments was when Dana Therrien of Sirius Decisions made an assertion that a proven ops professional should be paid the OTE of your top rep. You can spend $300k on an enterprise rep & bet they bring in $2M ARR, or $300K on a top operations professional and bet they can increase the whole team by 5% (20 reps = $2.1M) – I like the distributed risk of the ops professional, don’t you?

A turning point in ops

InsightSquared brought experts in a variety of adjacent fields and regardless whether the speaker profile was CMO, CRO or COO, the theme was the same – Sales operations creates the bones upon which a sales organization is built. In fact, it was this realization that inspired me to build our consultancy, ‘SalesOps Central’ – I have never been a sales ops professional per se, but I have built/scaled many sales organizations and the light-bulb went off – The key to my success has been a focus on sales operations, which translates to the core of the challenge for revenue leaders scaling a business.

The title of my ‘Ramp’ talk was, ‘Sales Operations Clovers: Without You, Your CRO Stands Before the Board Naked‘ – Inspired by Brett Queener, former EVP strategy and Operations at Salesforce, who highlighted the fact that without ops, people like me are very exposed! I shared key management operating principles that attendees could take back to their sales leaders to increase predictability as they scale.

Sales Ops – The co-founder of sales

Doug Landis’ inspiring talk outlined the critical partnership that must exist between operations and the revenue leader – He also made the not-so-amusing observation that as CROs/VP Sales’, we get all the glory and President’s Club trips, whilst the critical co-founder is often behind the curtains, orchestrating the whole show. To be clear – If I am weaving the blanket of revenue, operations tells me which thread to use, the color, and best pattern.

My prediction is this: Whether it be a broader role such as ‘Revenue Operations’ or strictly ‘Sales Operations’, we are about to see the emergence of a new breed of superstars who will be lauded on the big events stages (e.g. SaaStr) and aggressively head-hunted for the high growth, venture backed firms as much as the proven CROs.

Congratulations to InsightSquared for a capacity event that had participants energized about the opportunities ahead and returning home with a suitcase full of actionable ideas.

P.S. One of my favorite learnings from ‘Ramp’ is that there is such a thing as a ‘Data Journalist’ – Based on a data point of 1, I can tell you that they bring incredible insight, are highly amusing, and all speak with polished British accents -If you haven’t heard of David McCandless, do yourself a favor and look him up.

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