The navigational power of RevOps, with Rosalyn Santa Elena

RevOps has long existed as an organizational function—predating the term RevOps itself—yet so many teams struggle to integrate a dedicated RevOps team. Should it slot alongside (or above, or below) Sales and Marketing? How does this work?

Rosalyn Santa Elena, founder and Chief Revenue Operations Officer at The RevOps Collective, believes it’s a matter of misplaced focus. Where people report and who owns which team is much less critical than getting all the revenue teams in an organization to function in alignment.

“I always think about everybody in their own boat rowing towards their goals, and everything’s running efficiently,” she says. “You’re meeting constantly. You’re collaborating. You’re partnering. Everything you do, you’re doing from that end-to-end lens.”

Structurally, that alignment can take many forms. But rather than siloing RevOps from its brethren, creating a funnel where RevOps and Marketing and Sales folks report into a single organization is where Rosalyn identifies the greatest benefit.

“Think about getting everybody into the same boat,” she says, “and then rowing together.”

Rosalyn is a long-time go-to-market and revenue operations practitioner who elevates, empowers and enables organizations with her RevOps expertise. In this interview, she offers actionable perspectives on how a focused RevOps team can make measurable operational improvements for a revenue organization, even on the choppiest economic seas. 


RevOps eases operations

Once everyone is in the same boat, RevOps provides the navigation. Current market conditions have created a storm that, frankly, is proving brutal for many businesses. RevOps can’t get rid of the storm—but it can bring calm to the storm for the other rowers in the boat.

Rosalyn identifies three areas where RevOps smooths operations for the organization:

  • Efficiency—helping the teams do the things they need to do in the most seamless way possible. “RevOps does that by setting proper expectations,” Rosalyn says. “We set guidelines through clear rules of engagement, clear processes, so that everybody understands what they’re responsible for, what their role is and how that plays out in the customer journey.” Driving efficiency especially eases poor handoffs between teams, which are a common pain point in revenue organizations.
  • Optimization—doing better with less. Lean into what’s working—the things that are going to produce the best results—and back away from the things that aren’t working right, or that are too slow or costly. “In this type of market, you want to focus your time, money, resources, people on the things that are going to give you the best outcomes fastest,” Rosalyn says. And that applies to everything from focusing on target accounts to investing in your tech stack. You want the most ROI, across the board.
  • Analysis—bubbling up insights about what’s working, and what isn’t. In other words: figuring out why things are optimal and efficient. “We’re always testing,” Rosalyn says. “We’re doing a lot of what-if scenario planning to understand where the business needs to focus. Where do we want to go? And maybe even more importantly, where do we not want to go?”


RevOps identifies the best targets 

As if getting everyone’s boat through the storm isn’t enough, RevOps also helps the organization make sure it’s navigating to the right X’s on the right maps: aka, the best possible target accounts.

“Even with an ICP, a lot of companies say they sell to B2B SaaS. Okay, are they going to target 50,000 customers? Probably not,” Rosalyn says. “There’s a lot of opportunity for companies to really focus in on the best accounts and the best customers for them.”

Too many companies don’t try to filter out those best prospects until they’re already in the funnel. They know what really matters, yet they continue to spend time and money on accounts that aren’t the best fit for their products. 

Rosalyn likes to ask C-suite executives about who they sell to—and who they should be selling to. Who has the biggest pain that their solution solves? A lot of times, those leaders require some coaching and some digging to get to who really is buying their product—both which companies, and which people within those companies.

Particularly in the current challenging market, this type of assessment can actually uncover opportunities that you haven’t even considered. New market segments, for sure—and also opportunities within your own revenue processes.

“I’ve been talking to a lot of folks about win/loss,” Rosalyn says. “Why do their customers leave? There’s so much learning there that a lot of organizations forget to tap into. They want to improve the high-level win/loss metric instead of really understanding all the incremental improvements that they can make.”


RevOps drives incremental improvement

Speaking of incremental improvements: RevOps drives its impacts in large part by redirecting and focusing resources. Making the case with the right metrics eases buy-in at all levels and ensures that RevOps really is navigating that boat through the waves.

There is certainly no shortage of quality data out there, so Rosalyn highlights three KPIs that make the difference for RevOps teams, especially in tough economic times.

  • Focus on conversion rate over leads and meetings. “You want to progress prospects through the deal cycle,” she says. “We talk about how many leads we got and how many meetings we booked. But how many of those turned into actual deals? How much revenue?” There are then different metrics within conversion to show how RevOps can incrementally improve stages within the funnel. Even one or two percent improvement in conversion can mean a lot of revenue dollars.
  • Focus on net dollar retention in addition to net new acquisition. You want to keep your customer base happy to protect the revenue that you have, as well as looking for chances to expand within that install base. Even when customers are contracting, they’re still looking for new revenue opportunities. “Companies tend to spend a lot of money on net-new acquisition instead of really looking for that white space within their existing customer base,” Rosalyn says.
  • Double down on predictable revenue. RevOps teams need to understand their forecasts and test if they are truly accurate. “Now, every deal counts, every dollar counts even more than before,” Rosalyn says. So lock down that predictable revenue by making incremental improvements to shorten the time-to-close and mitigate the risk of delays. Inevitably, revenue is going to slow down—and anything RevOps can do to keep deals moving forward is going to make a difference.


Final thoughts: RevOps communicates solutions, not problems

All the impact that a focused RevOps team can have on an organization ultimately comes down to how well that team can communicate. Think again about the rowers in the boat: without an effective coxswain, the team rows out of sync and can drift off course.

“If I can only have one skill to be really good at, I want it to be communication,” Rosalyn says. “It’s not just about writing or speaking well. It’s about the ability to drive consensus while bringing everybody along.”

Communicating internally is actually quite like a sales cycle. You have to identify the problem, understand the problem, come prepared with a solution and demonstrate its value. Because truly focused RevOps leadership is not about pointing out problems—it’s about recommending better ways forward.

“Always come with a call to action,” Rosalyn says. “The more you do that, the more you become a thought partner, a business partner. And then you start to elevate your team.”