Kevin Ward, [former] Senior Director of Revenue Operations at Electric, on Using Data to Inform Go-to-Market Strategy and Drive Revenue

      In this episode of Selling in the Cloud, our guest is Kevin Ward, former Senior Director of Revenue Operations at Electric – an IT service management company that provides IT support, security, network and device management.

      Kevin was also named one of our 75 Cloud Revenue Influencers to Follow in 2021check out the full list here.

      Full transcript

      Michael Pollack [00:00:09] Hello, everyone, and welcome to Selling in the Cloud, a podcast about the business of cloud sales and marketing, brought to you by Intricately, the authoritative source product adoption, usage, and spend data for cloud sales and marketing teams. I'm Michael Pollack and I'm here with Sarah E. Brown. And we are your co-hosts.

      Sarah E. Brown [00:00:39] Michael, welcome to the show.

      Michael Pollack [00:00:41] Sarah, it's great to be here with you.

      Sarah E. Brown [00:00:42] in this episode, we're speaking with Kevin Ward, [former] Senior Director of Revenue Operations at Electric. Shall we dive in?

      Michael Pollack [00:00:49] Let's do it. Kevin, welcome to the show.

      Kevin Ward [00:00:51] Thank you so much. I appreciate it.

      Sarah E. Brown [00:00:53] Can you please give us a brief introduction and share who you are and a background of how you got to be where you are today at Electric?

      Kevin Ward [00:00:59] Sure. So my name is Kevin Ward. I am the Senior Director of Revenue Operations at Electric. I think like a lot of people in operations, I kind of fell into it in my career. But I've done everything from sales force administration to running a finance team at a previous company. So I've kind of done all of the breadth of operations from beginning to end and mostly been focused really on B2B startups and focused around the industry in New York. And I've been with Electric for three years now when I started at Electric. It was very easy and about 40 people or so when I joined. And now we're seriously and over 400 people. And throughout that time, you know, when I started, I was the director of sales operations and it was really just a team of one. And earlier this year, we expanded to a team of about 32. So it's kind of been a nice increase throughout that time. And it's evolved from, you know, purely sales operations to really the full revenue operation cycle, you know, trying to connect everything from each of the different go to market and revenue functions. So it's been great to be able to grow with electric and, you know, kind of take it from very, very early stage through, you know, like this hyper growth that we've seen.

      Michael Pollack [00:01:58] And for our audience and for people who may not be familiar with electric love to hear from you about how you pitch electric or the value that Electric delivers to your customers.

      Kevin Ward [00:02:10] Yeah, absolutely. So, you know, one of the reasons that I actually joined Electric was when I was director of operations at a previous company. I was also kind of de facto on it. And it was never something that was my favorite part of the job. And so when I started talking to Electric, the idea is to be able to outsource all of those basic responsibilities from, you know, managing, onboarding and off boarding to application management, to network supports all of those things and taking it outside of having to be in-house, but also being able to partner with in-house teams and, you know, kind of alleviate and be that partner for smaller companies that maybe don't have a fully built out I.T. team or you want to offload some of the smaller tasks or, you know, just really need a partner in the space. So it struck me from the very beginning as something that not only had like a huge market out there, but really had a very neat thing that we were solving for and something that, you know, I think is applicable to not just like, you know, up and coming fast companies, but to companies that have been around for a really long time, too, because, you know, it support continually becomes a larger area of focus for a lot of those companies, specifically around security, but even just from basic onboarding and upgrading and being able to take those tasks. So, you know, electric really does the job of both partnering and taking on a lot of those tasks for I.T. teams and for companies that, you know, within the kind of SMB and mid-market space.

      Michael Pollack [00:03:41] You know, it's interesting in that space in particular, you just think about what's happened in the past year with the move to remote and the complexity around managing machines that are far flung and all of these things. So it makes complete sense to me. I totally understand that. So I'd love maybe for you to take a second then perhaps and just unpack how revenue ops, even at a high level, works at Electric. I think that be interesting to understand both the data you guys use in your business, how you inform your reps, how you think about targeting. But just even to talk about your organization as a revenue ops organization. I think coming from a finance background, coming from a couple of different places, I imagine you have a really unique take on how revenue operations should run, how it should function. I'd love to hear from you, how you think about that.

      Kevin Ward [00:04:22] Yeah, absolutely. You know, when I think about revenue ups overall, it's been kind of evolving over the last 10 years, really know when I started in sales ops, there was not near as many sales operations jobs. It was also very synonymous with Salesforce Admin at a lot of companies. And, you know, we've seen multiple iterations of what that looked like throughout the past few years. And, you know, revenue operations, I think, is the culmination of what sales ops is going to kick off, which, you know, really just focuses around combining all of the, you know, go-to-market and revenue operations functions so they're not siloed anymore. I've seen it happen at a lot of companies where, you know, maybe marketing is marching towards one goal and that's in intention to promote the sales team, but not necessarily everything is sure. You can see some of the silos in that right. And you know the same thing with the CS operations side of it is, you know, when you look at everything that happens from a marketing and a sales perspective influences what happens on that customer success side. And then anything that happens on the customer success side is going to naturally influence your go to market strategy, you know, identifying the best customers, identifying the top retention customers for you, and really honing in on your ICP, which then goes back to how marketing and sales goes out and targets different customers or adapts with. He looks like and get some much more focus around, you know, what the personas that were going after are in to really kind of takes all of that and creates that feedback loop that allows you to continually iterate your processes to what the overall goal of not just making processes easier or better, but really improving with the customer's lifecycle is right and making sure that you have a great partnership from the very beginning, that you're talking to the right people, that they have a very smooth sales cycle. I mean, the reason we do all of this is to support. Right. To help and be able to help companies with our products. So, you know, being able to streamline what that entire customer's lifecycle looks like through, you know, connecting data points, removing silos and being able to operationalize those processes, it has a really great impact on being able to see the whole go to market function from the full point of view. And so you're not just going to be looking at your specific segment, but you're able to look at everything from a more high level view, which then allows you to get much more involved in how you're actually going after customers. You're able to share that data and be able to create that cycle.

      Sarah E. Brown [00:06:38] I mean, there's so much of what you shared that I want to unpack and dig into. I really appreciate you talking about the business function of revenue ops. And I would love to hear how you and your organization use data to inform your go to market strategy. And how is that impacted your revenue? And any advice you have for cloud revenue leaders about how to think about using data in their programs?

      Kevin Ward [00:06:59] Yeah, absolutely. I mean, data is the foundation of all the decisions that we make right now. That is to say that it has to be good data. I can say very, very solidly that using poor data to make decisions is worse than not using data at all, because you really go down the wrong path with that. Right now, how we look at data is we identify key points. And I think it really depends on what pieces of data you're looking at, by what stage of company you are or where you are within the funnel, because not everything is going to be applicable to an early stage company as a late stage company. And what you started to really get your feet under, you were get the foundations built. You're looking at different data points from that perspective as well. But when I think about like probably the easiest applicable point for data is forecasting. Forecasting is something that in every company I've worked at, it's been one of the most important aspects of it, because it really does. You know, if you're forecasting revenue properly, you're able to one plan out properly from the CFM side, from the account management perspective, you're able to identify what you're going to be supporting. You can also plan it out from a cash flow perspective, much easier. Right. And it also allows you to influence where does the pipeline need to come from? Which areas, which segments. Right. How much of it is going to be created by marketing? How much of it is going to be created by SDRs? So being able to use your forecasting to say, here's the number that we need to get to, here's where we are and how do we plan on either over achieving that or closing the gap that we have? Right. And I think forecasting has been one of the main focal points of just being able to identify where we have really strong data and where the data points are a little bit weaker and then being able to build that into a model that combines the data that's input from AEs along with what the directors have, like who are closer to the deals, what their views are, and being able to take all of that and give that to our VP of sales. And there are SVP of Sales and give that also to the finance team to say here's what we expect to happen in the next month. Here's what we expect to happen in the next quarter. This is where this is going to come from. And it also gives you a much better idea of, you know, when you're looking at different sources. I think this came up early on when we were iterating on what our forecasting looked like was we identified, you know, there are a lot of different rates out there from, you know, movement into pipeline or win rates associated with that pipeline by where the actual pipeline came from. Right. So we know that if inbounds have a higher win rate on something, then we actually need less of them to come in. Right. So when we're looking at a number of opportunities and pipeline generated by each channel, we're able to much more solidly say this is how many opportunities we need to come inbound for us to be able to hit the numbers that we need to hit. The rest of that is going to be filled by SVR rates or by Amy's going out and prospecting. Right. So when I think about forecasting, it's not just like, you know, how are we going to get to the number? Where do we think we're going to land? It's how do we think about our pipeline from beginning to end? And then how does that influence what we're looking at from an implementation cue? How do we make sure that we never fall behind on that? How do we anticipate how many customers are coming through? And it all comes back again to this idea what the customer lifecycle looks like. Right, because if you can properly anticipate how many customers you have coming on, you're going to properly be able to anticipate what gold looks like or what any of those cues look like, which allows you to be much more transparent with the customer on what that whole lifecycle is going to look like. So I think, you know, just from a high level, I would say forecasting is probably the easiest one to focus on as it is something that every company looks at. But also if we really dove into it, it creates a focal point, a bunch of different data sources that culminate in the ability to do multiple different things. Right. And that affects each different department differently, too. So you're going to be forecasting for marketing and sales all but all of those forecasts go into the top line revenue numbers as well.

      Michael Pollack [00:10:40] When you unpack that and think about all the information and knowledge and data that's flowing into these kind of decision making criteria here. I'm curious, pretty much every modern business that has computers and has some, it could be a prospect for electric. How do you rink's or prioritize those or how do you identify, hey, somebody ready for Electric? Because I would think, again, your total addressable market almost is every business everywhere. So how do you again assess both propensity and then determine priority?

      Kevin Ward [00:11:15] Yeah, so that's a great question. And it's been something that we've been iterating on since I joined ranks. Like one of the things that I think about constantly, and I tell my team this all the time, is like no process is ever perfect. And the moment that we stop trying to improve something is the moment that we've lost. Right. So when we think about ICP, you're absolutely right that you can look at what's the entire addressable market that's out there. And that can be much more overwhelming than actually just getting much more targeted around it. Right. And that's where the revenue office kind of shines actually is when you start to think about what goes into prospecting and what goes into identifying the key accounts. It's not just who we can win with. It's also not just who we can get meetings with. It's who we can retain over long periods of time and who are customers that are going to be great partners with us. Right. Because when it comes down to it, we could sell to a lot of different companies. But we also want to make sure that we're selling to the right companies to be able to provide the right value to them as well. Right. And so that comes with a combination of looking at data from marketing data from sales and data from sites to really say what industries are we not just winning the best end, but what industries are we able to retain and what industries are we able to partner with that give us, you know, like the best kind of key partnership that we're looking for. That gives us also the ability to say, here are the verticals that we're looking at and this is why we're looking at them. Here are the employee sizes and start to form what really makes the perfect customer for us to go after and then being able to say, you know, here are tier ones. This is the actual playbook. To go out with them is going to be, you know, they fit right into the ICP. We have the personas associated and we already can identify based on other customers that we've sold to, that they have a really solid need for this. Right. And when we're able to say that we can go out to the customers and say, hey, you know, this is something that we absolutely can help you with, we know that customers that look like you tend to have these type of issues. Right. And you're able to come in with credibility when you do that, too, because we're able to service them. We're able to take that information from the service side and then relay that back into the sales process as well, saying we know that these are key issues. So you automatically are able to build credibility from the beginning and being able to get deeper into what those verticals look like. And so it also gives us the ability to start testing out different verticals or different segments, because when we have our baseline metrics that we're looking at, we're able to then say, OK, where are we not winning and why are we not winning in these areas or why are we not retaining? Right. And when we're able to kind of dove into that a little bit deeper, it gives us a much better idea of if we want to go out and test the different vertical, what should be the baseline results that we're looking for? What are the things that we're going to try and why are we trying those things? Right. And it's really important to set what is success metric looks like to win in the early days of the company. It was just applying, you know, like industry standard rates because we wanted to be able to march towards something. We wanted to know if we were on the right track. At least right now we're able to say, you know, based on what our baseline rates are, what's something that looks good if we're going to try and do industry, what are we trying to get out of that? What are the amount of accounts that we want? What's the amount of revenue that we're looking for so that we're not going in blindly, just saying like, oh, I hope we can go get this. We're going in in a much more tactical way of saying here's how deep we need to go into these markets and then we can start to actually say, what are we not understanding from them? Right. What's not resonating from what we're doing right now and how do we flip that? Right. And then we're able to take all of that information and say with this large TAM that we have, where are the areas that we're winning really well right now and where do we want to win in the future, which then allows us to create plans out later to say we can say, you know, if we want to segment by geography, do we want to segment by industry knowledge, do we want to segment by size of customer? Right. And all of those data points allow us to plan out much further and advance on what our entire plan looks like and where we're trying to go.

      Sarah E. Brown [00:15:03] I'm curious about, in addition to thinking through metrics, what other advice you have for marketing sales teams to align and and the particular role you sit in, I wonder also what built in attrition as part of your business model, because you help company scale and then do they reach a certain point where actually they're not going to be a good fit long term? I don't know. But I am curious, do you think, OK, this is the sweet spot when companies are ready for us and if we're going to work together as a revenue team, we need to know about that cycle before they're ready, when they're ready, and then when they're ready to transition.

      Kevin Ward [00:15:34] Yeah, 100 percent. They hit on the first part of your question, like the biggest thing I can say is marketing sales. Yes, all of it. The biggest way to drive alignment is just to know that you need to be focused on the same goals. Anything that impacts in the US is going to impact on sales and marketing. Right. Breaking down the silos there. That's the biggest opportunity I see in every single company to drive alignment is stop focusing on the siloed aspects. Data does a great job at that by being able to show, you know, here's the customer from beginning to end and here's what that lifecycle is. It's also, to be honest, why there's been a rise of revenue, because there's been so much segmentation and siloing of those departments. It really like revenue of most cross-functional team that I can think over, that most cross-functional team that I've been on. You know, we work with every department. We're also partners with finance, the partners with product, because you're creating this feedback loops, right? You're really touching every part of the company. And our job is to ensure that there's a line that on every priority that we're working on. Right. Because like, if we want to go and test something, all of the information that we're going to get from the sales side is going to go directly back to marketing on where to focus marketing efforts. Right. How much effort to focus on each one of these areas. If there's easier verticals that are easier to market to and drive inbound than they are to go outbound to, then it really allows us to also segment out where the roles and responsibilities of each department kind of lie. Right. And you're absolutely right, sir. When you talk about like, is there a sweet spot? There absolutely is. And we actually when we forecast we forecast two different models on top of all the other segmentation of marketing and all of that, we forecast like over 100000 or under one hundred thousand because they act differently not just in the sales cycle, but also as a customer. And so when we think about scaling out a company and what their eventual needs are going to be, that has to go into the sales process to understand it. We also because we've taken the data, we also understand what the churn percentage of those ones are compared to everything else. We bucket all of our churn forecasting into the different size of companies as well, which then allows us to say here's what we anticipate in terms of churn. And if somebody moves segment to segment, we also are able to say, here's a health score that's associated with that segment versus here's an overall health score. Companies that 15 people behave differently than companies that three hundred people. It's just like it's just a fact. Right. So you need to take all of that into the models that you're looking at. You need to look at the data differently as well. And so, yeah, we have had like if there is a company that exceeds what the ICP is, will often identify that far before there's a term possibility and then understand how does our relationship need to shift in this. Right. Are we able to do that support that we like? Are we able to still be that partner? Because I think that that's what it comes down to more than anything, is how it would be the best partner. Right. And this allows us to kind of be able to segment that out. But when I think about it, there's always a forecasting return, something that's tricky to do. But that is one of the factors that goes into both health or trend forecasting is size or type or any of those kind of things.

      Michael Pollack [00:18:32] You know, I love that level of detail you're talking through. Just thinking about the problem. There's obviously a lot of variables and you've kind of gone through the exercise to document and define them. I'm curious if there is advice you'd give to marketers, the cloud companies who are looking to increase the value or the ROIC on their revenue operations. I'm curious, are there maxims or things that you think are inherent to revenue operations that you would say, hey, look, here are some simple tactics or strategies any organization could deploy to really maximize their investment or revenue ops?

      Kevin Ward [00:19:03] Yeah, so I think the first one for me, everything comes down to alignment with revenue ops, right, because like our goal is to drive alignment through processes, through through partnerships with every department and through the data most of all. And so when we look at data, I think the easiest thing is, you know, again, don't silo the data, don't silo or segment that when you're looking at it like there's a reason to double click into which channels are performing the best from a marketing side in terms of getting leads in the door. Right. But it doesn't stop there. Right. It's not going to be helpful if you have ten thousand leads come in, but none of them convert because you're going after something that's different than what the sales ISP is. So it comes down to not segmenting out or not siloing each of those departments. And this is something I think no matter the level or the matter, no matter the size of the company, is that you're all driving towards the same goal. And to ensure that you're always focused on transparency and you're always focused on alignment between every one of those departments. When you get all of that alignment, you're going to have the most success because you're sharing things back and forth. You're not working on an island, you're working as a team, and you can really collaborate with the other team members like my marketing team and sales team works together constantly. They're on the same pipeline calls every week. And this is really important because there are different things to different people see. Right. So being able to bring in that, expertize we've had a lot of times where it's like, oh, how do we achieve this goal? Let's actually everybody on this call is looking at it. Let's identify from a marketing perspective, how do we think we can work on this from a sales perspective? How do we think we can work on where is the biggest? Opportunity cost on either side of that and then being able to make that decision to say, you know, like, hey, we're going to make the investment from a marketing side or from a sales side based on everybody's agreement in alignment, because then you're not trying to also you duplicative tasks at the same time. Right. Which is you just going to increase like if everybody's going to try and just throw things out there, it's not really going to be directed. Right. But if you go in with an aligned plan on something you're able to see, hey, we're succeeding or we're not succeeding and you're able to iterate and pivot on this kind of things quickly. So, you know, I would say for everybody out there, it really just is driving alignment from beginning to end and making sure that everybody's on the same page. Right. Because that gives you so much more ability to collaborate on everything. And when you get that kind of collaboration, you get so much more out of the functions together than you do individually.

      Sarah E. Brown [00:21:21] What's something you wish your prospects knew about Electric that you would like to tell them, if they're listening to this?

      Kevin Ward [00:21:27] I can say, you know, Electric has been the company that has put the customer first over every other company, more than any other company has been had the privilege to be a part of it is at the forefront of everything that we talk about. It's in the core values of everything that we do. And I can tell you fundamentally that feedback is heard on a regular basis as we're doing NPS right now. Right. And it's not something that's just going to be an indicator for like that customer success organization. NPS affects everything that we do, right? It affects the direction of the product. It affects us all. And it's not just the scores, it's the feedback that's provided, that feedback that's given to the customers, that feedback that's get them through NPS or [inaudible], right. It's taking all of that information like we our fundamental goal is to be the best partner that we can possibly be. And that's what Electric's whole mission is, right? We want to be the partner for all of these companies. And so, you know, the best way to do that is by understanding our customers better, by partnering with them on every aspect and being a key part of their organization. It's not something that you get sold and then you don't talk to us any more. This is a constant conversation and this is a constant partnership.

      Michael Pollack [00:22:32] That's a great message, I think, to advocate, again, the prospects and the customers. I love that. And I guess I'd ask you for folks that are listening, where would you direct them to learn more about you and obviously the work that Electric does?

      Kevin Ward [00:22:45] Yeah, absolutely. So on our website, we have a bunch of great resources that our marketing and CS teams have helped put together. You know, from everything about high level, about Electric into even more detailed understandings, we do webinars with industry experts on a very regular basis because we want to provide that value not just to our customers, but to anybody in the space. And then for myself, my LinkedIn, I always answer messages that come through. So anybody that wants to connect, I'm always open to talking about the stuff. I find it fascinating and so do everybody that's out there. We love these conversations.

      Sarah E. Brown [00:23:17] Kevin, thank you so much for joining us. Pleasure having you on the show.

      Kevin Ward [00:23:20] Thank you so much for having me. This is great.

      Sarah E. Brown [00:23:22] That's it for us. This episode may be over, but we can continue the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag Selling in the Cloud. On Twitter, I'm @SEBMarketing.

      Michael Pollack [00:23:31] And I'm @MRPollack.

      Sarah E. Brown [00:23:33] Thank you to everyone for joining us for this episode of Selling in the Cloud, brought to you by Intricately, the authoritative source of digital product adoption, usage, and spend data for cloud sales and marketing teams. If you like the show, head on over to iTunes, or wherever you listen to podcasts, and please give us a review. We appreciate it. Until next time.

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