Using RevOps to drive growth at scale, with HubSpot’s Sid Kumar

Yes, RevOps is all about optimizing revenue—but Sid Kumar understands that RevOps reaches that goal best when it views its function in other terms.

“RevOps is the realization that go-to-market functions that cut across the customer journey need to be working holistically and collaboratively across the customer journey,” he says.

It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that Sid, HubSpot’s SVP of RevOps, has been working within the function nearly since the beginning. A decade ago, he got into RevOps at CA Technologies as it was trying to pivot from enterprise to SMB and mid-market—without a go-to-market-model.

Yet he helped build out a global digital sales organization by focusing not on revenue per se, but on the customer journey. What is the customer journey? Where do we intersperse digital and human touch points? How do we make them both enriching for the customer and part of an efficient and high-scale model?

After this first iteration of RevOps, Sid joined AWS. There, he worked to build out and scale the cloud sales centers and go-to-market model, and led the field sales operations organization.

Now with HubSpot Sid leads RevOps for functional go-to-market teams, aligning marketing, sales and customer success across the customer journey.

“RevOps is the connective tissue,” Sid says.

During a virtual event with Rev, Sid discussed ways to understand and build the RevOps function for scaling organizations (and those on the verge of scaling). His insights into a holistic, collaborative role for RevOps alongside its partner functions focus on driving sustained, effective, long-term growth for revenue teams.


Wherever you’re starting from—invest in data 

Data is, essentially, the food for an organization’s operations. Sales, marketing, success: they all thrive on data. RevOps is at least as data-hungry as any of its partners. “Productivity for the RevOps org and the broader org is underpinned by your investments in data and systems,” Sid says.

Yet he finds that critical decisions about data often get made later rather than earlier in an organization’s maturity.

“Even if they are going to evolve, some of these decisions are better made early on so you can start building a platform that can continue to scale and grow,” he says.

So wherever an organization is on its growth journey when it chooses to implement (or ramp up) RevOps, investing in quality, scalable data systems is essential. Think about what your data architecture is, how you’re going to store it, what your warehouse strategy looks like, what your go-to-market hierarchies are.

These are high-impact, if still high-difficulty, investments.

“The smarter and more intelligent you can be about which customers you’re going after and in what priority you’re going after them, you can drive a lot of that automation through systems,” Sid says.

“It goes back to rep productivity and customer experience. Data and systems together, when optimized, can really move the needle on rep productivity, keep them in front of customers and partners, and deliver that seamless customer experience so customers don’t experience all the internal handoffs.”


Think of RevOps as a business partnership—not a back-end function

Effective data helps achieve repeatability in your systems; RevOps evaluates how to scale it. Without RevOps, silos can form during growth because each team increasingly has to take care of its own responsibilities—which is why Sid views RevOps as essentially a go-to-market COO, coordinating between teams.

“It’s a business partnership, instead of a back-office function that’s providing reporting,” he says. “RevOps is going to help your GM, your heads of sales and marketing and customer success, to see around corners and play devil’s advocate.”

For the leaders of those teams, this relationship will mean giving up certain controls (or at least feeling that way). Which is why so much of implementing RevOps is establishing mutual understanding and trust.

“You’re not always going to be on the same page,” Sid says. “But if there’s an understanding that you’re all in a partnership to help each other succeed, and you have your company’s and your customer’s best interests in mind, then that partnership tends to blossom.”

For all the functions, this relationship can become a tell me what I’m not thinking of asset. RevOps will naturally come at issues from a data-driven perspective, and the relationship can couple that quantitative assessment with what’s happening experientially on the ground with customers, partners and other stakeholders.


RevOps requires its own heartbeat—distinct from other functions

In such a partnership, RevOps needs the autonomy to make decisions from that collaborative place—not just to help the other teams make their decisions. One of the pits companies fall into is thinking that RevOps is a glorified extension of the other function—taking a sales function, say, giving it a RevOps crown, and pretending that RevOps will expand and advance the sales function.

A true RevOps function has that separation of ownership from its peers in the organization. “If you’re a truly co-operating partner with your business partner, it’s two in a box,” Sid says. “Versus a relationship of here’s what I need, please get it to me.”

In other words, RevOps needs to own the responsibility for the entire customer journey—uncoupling its decisions from what’s best for sales or marketing alone to account for the bigger picture. Allowing for that can be tough! But it’s necessary for fully leveraging the potential for a RevOps team.

And some tension is expected—even helpful. “There should be this healthy constructive tension,” Sid says, “so that you’re getting the best outcome for your customers as the ultimate objective, solved for the company holistically.”


The customer journey drives alignment—find your North Stars

There’s a reason companies traditionally have distinct sales, marketing and customer success teams: owning the entire customer journey is a lot. The concept of an overarching RevOps function is still pretty nascent, and it’s easy to get caught up in trying to accomplish everything at once.

So Sid recommends going straight for alignment, which all the functions can appreciate with or without RevOps.

“I find the way to do that is getting clear on what your company’s customer journey looks like,” he says. “What are the stages? What are the North Stars along the way? What defines success at every one of those stages?”

It’s less important that each function understands its own stages, stars and successes—and more important for the functions to understand how each other looks at the business. Are all the functions together delivering the experience to the customer that they intend to provide?

 “Having that mutual understanding of how each function operates, and how the other functions can help each other, opens up a different level of dialogue,” Sid says. “You start thinking about it more horizontally than in functions. There’s always going to be the level of functional depth that’s only relevant to marketing or sales, but identifying that common layer that binds all these groups together? That’s how you row the boat in the same direction.” 

Final thoughts: RevOps is a long road—so start with immediate gains

Because RevOps done well interacts so comprehensively with the entire customer journey, it also requires time to bear fruit. It’s not a function that, once implemented, can crank out results in mere weeks. Some areas, like data systems, are most definitely longer-term investments than others.

Sid holds that organizations should be able to notice and measure RevOps’ impact in six-month increments, and that starting with the most pressing pain points will lead to the greatest transformations in the first six months.

“In six months you can really ideate what the biggest pain points are, and collaborate on a V1 solution,” Sid says. “This is typically a thorny area of the business that hasn’t been tackled before. From there you continue iterating on that and getting smarter over time.”

On that process side, there’s usually plenty of low-hanging fruit to get started with. On the people side, clarification of swim lanes—roles and responsibilities—is usually an effective place to begin. There, Sid sees that RevOps can make significant difference in a much shorter time, while simultaneously making those longer-term investments in data systems and the like.

The key, though, is identifying those main pain points particular to your organization. “What are the two to three big rocks that the company is struggling with?” Sid asks. “Go after one of those. You start to develop trust and credibility, and you pick up another rock when you have the bandwidth. It will snowball on itself.”