LIVE from Modern Sales Pros: Why Operations is the Key to Sales & Marketing Alignment
Sean Lane: Hey, everyone. Welcome to Operations, the show where we look under the hood of companies in hypergrowth. My name is Sean Lane. We've got a little something different for you this week, because I recently had a conversation that I felt like you, our Operations audience, just had to here. I recently had the opportunity to help moderate a panel for a Modern Sales Pros event about a topic that everyone in operations has had to wrangle at some point or another, alignment, and not just any type of alignment, sales and marketing alignment. To help me tackle such a meaty topic, I was lucky enough to be by two people who have been in different, important roles in creating that alignment themselves. First, Kate Adams, the Senior Vice President of Marketing at Validity, and also Jaclyn Balben, the VP of Operations at Bamboo Health. Both Kate and Jaclyn brought their own unique experience and perspectives to the panel. Over the course of conversation, we talked about the bipartisan role that ops can play in this alignment, how sales and marketing can show each other that they're looking to truly be partners with one another, and what Kate has found to be true in the best operators she's ever worked with. All right. Let's get you right to the panel so you can learn alongside Kate and Jaclyn with me. For those of you in the audience, we were really purposeful about the folks that we have on our panel today to try to give a little bit of perspective from both the marketing side of things as well as the operations side of things so we can look across the entire customer journey. Jaclyn, as she mentioned, has worked in RevOps across a bunch of different things. I've worked across marketing ops sales ops, and customer ops. We're hoping to give you a little bit of perspective from across that journey today, regardless of the size of the company that you might be coming from or where you all might be based on your stage. Let's dive right in. Sales and marketing, Kate and Jaclyn, the alignment between these two teams has always been somewhat of a hot button issue and it can be a bit of a far- off dream state for some companies depending where you are. I'm hoping that the thing we can help people walk away with today is, how can operations teams help to play a role in making that alignment more of a tangible reality? For the audience, one of the things that Kate and Jaclyn and I talked about in getting ready for today was we wanted to, again, regardless of the stage that your company was at. think about. what are some baseline assumptions we can make going into today's conversation? The baseline assumption that I'm asking you all to make today is this. Whether you're in marketing ops. sales ops, customer ops, field ops, whatever you might call it, the goal between sales and marketing getting aligned is to have an output of pipeline. That's the thing that we're to solve for today, and so, Kate, I wanted to start with you. From your experience, is that simple goal on that simple output a controversial stance? How do you think about the definition or the goal of sales and marketing alignment?
Kate Adams: Yeah. I love that pipeline is at the center of it because that is so true, but I think pipeline is so difficult. It's like such a difficult topic. It's as simple as like going to a salesperson, and I know all the salespeople in this call, it'll be like, " Well, you just closed the deal. It's easy." No, and so, " Okay, cool. How are we going to generate that pipeline? Who's responsible for which parts of it? Why I think ops is such an integral piece to be in the center of it is ops is there to kind of hold those people accountable to one another and they're there as... I'm sure we'll get into this later, Sean, but should ops be a centralized function? Should it sit within marketing? Should it sit within sales? All those things. Why I love it as a centralized function from my perspective is it's always been like a bipartisan entity that's just stating facts, right?
Sean Lane: Yeah.
Kate Adams: That's just stating facts and saying like, " Okay, this is what we have on this analysis. This is what we have on this analysis. How do we come together?" What's the narrative and the insight that you have as a result of those analyses that I think is so powerful? I know lots of people are in lots of different camps, even though I would also say ops folks, really high- caliber, high- quality ops folks like Jaclyn and Sean, I know are bipartisan even if they're sitting within a marketing or sales organization as well because you're just kind of stating what's happening and then trying to come up with and working with the marketing and sales professionals to come up with, " Well, what's the narrative?", or, " What are our hypotheses about why that might be the case?" Yeah, that's kind of my take on it. I think pipeline is so hard and so many people have figured out, " Okay, well, it's just marketing problem. It's marketing's problem." Then, other people are like, " No, it's sales' problem. Were not going to be a in a sales- led motion." The reality is it's both of yours, and so we have made this drastic oversimplification in my mind of like, " Well, if we just align these organizations, then there's no problem." It's like, " No." Like, " Okay, cool. We're both responsible for it. Who's responsible for what percentage? How are we going to measure that? Then, how do we hold each other accountable on a weekly, daily, monthly, quarterly basis for it?"
Sean Lane: You're right. I want to definitely come back to that accountability piece. Jaclyn, when you hear Kate say that your role is in this like bipartisan status, does that resonate with you? Is that how you view yourself? If so, how do you coach that mentality within your team?
Jaclyn Balben: Yeah. I mean, everything that Kate said definitely landed with me in a lot of the way that our revenue operations team approaches what we hope are the problem statements that our business partners bring to us to help solve for. A lot of what we try to bring is that unemotional approach to, " All right, we have a problem that needs to be solved, and now how do we go back to the foundations that that are required in order to come up with the best solution for the problem at hand? We're not as emotionally invested in maybe the amount of work something took or how much we want it to succeed, which we do, but we're not necessarily in that every single day. It helps to bring some of that unbiased transparency to, how should we be measuring this? What are the goals that we're trying to achieve? What's the best way for us to look back and learn from the results that we actually see? Then, they continue to optimize and that in taking that type of approach, and especially as you get into things like pipeline development especially when it maybe isn't where you want it to be. It helps to identify the real areas of opportunity, the real things that are working well, and to continue to hone in on those and adjust as needed versus getting too caught up in like, " Well, this didn't work because you did and it's just like,'No, let's just let the data lead the story and really continue to just have that culture of continual iteration and really transparent sort of problem- solving together.'" Ops is that team that helps to bring the parties to the table and break down some of the barriers that might exist I think is where we can sort of best utilize the skill sets that we have.
Kate Adams: I think there's a part of what Jaclyn just said where it's also by ops just asking the questions. She modeled that as like, " Hey, maybe it's because of this?" Whereas, if that didn't happen or it didn't come from that ops function, then it feels like fingerpointing. Then it's like, " Oh, well sales is asking that question cause they don't want to take any accountability to their followup." " Oh, well, marketing's asking us that question because they don't want to take any accountability to like the campaign just not performing at the volume we expected it to." Whereas, when ops is asking that question, it's like this third party coming in and being like, " Hey, can you tell me what about this?" I feel like there's no like... I feel like there's no spin on it. You know what I mean?
Sean Lane: Yeah. Yeah, and even in the data point that Jaclyn's making, too, like if you're coming at it from a particular perspective or you already are coming in with your side's point of view, you can tell whatever story you want with some slice of that data. I think like for everybody who's listening who might have one particular model or one particular structure within your ops team, I think even if you have a hard line in your company dividing marketing ops and sales ops, you just have to care about what happens in the other part of the customer journey. I think if you can instill that mindset within your team to say, " Okay, yeah, I might be responsible for marketing ops or I might be responsible for sales ops." If I can take a step back and look at that entire customer journey and say, " Okay, if we make this change in marketing, what are the ripple effects going to be on sales? If we make this change in sales, what are the ripple effects going to be in customer success?" I think we need operations teams to come with that mindset to kind of prevent us from that fingerpointing that Kate was talking about.
Jaclyn Balben: I think that having the rigor to also ask the questions up front around what it is you're actually trying to do is something that, again, is easier to do when you're not so, so invested in the day to day. It is a lot harder to sometimes take a step back and say, " What is this campaign actually intended to deliver? What are the outcomes that I'm expecting? Then, how do I have that, again, rigor to go back and say, "What is this campaign actually intended to, to deliver? What are the outcomes that I'm expecting? Then, how do I have that, again, rigor to go back and actually make sure that I measure against what it is that I was trying to do?" Same thing on the sales side. What is it that we're looking to... We just got all these leads. What is it that we expect to generate out of those leads? Then, did we actually have the results that we expected? Again, sort of having that one- step- removed team to help to make sure that we're really hitting all of those really critical milestones within whatever motion we're going through is so important to actually optimizing and actually learning that, again, from like a one- step- removed standpoint. It's so much easier to do when you're not in it every single day and every single minute.
Sean Lane: Yeah. Kate, I think one of the things you said was the idea that fingerpointing can emerge when this is not necessarily done right, or at least people can see that it's fingerpointing. I'm curious. For you, are there certain like handshake agreements or just understandings that you found to be helpful between sales and marketing to say, "This is the foundation of our relationship," to avoid that fingerpointing?
Kate Adams: Yeah. I think some of the foundational things that we tried to implement, and not just at Validity but at a number of different organizations, has just been, " Hey, what are you going to hold me accountable to?" More to the point of I expect my marketing organization, specifically my demand gen organization, to be able to forecast the pipeline that we will create with as much rigor as our sales organization holds the inaudible post sales inaudible to be able to forecast what they'll close in bookings. We do that. I hold them accountable to that because I don't want... Like too many marketing organizations don't do that, can't draw a straight line to their revenue today. I would argue that is fundamentally one of the core reasons why the CMO role is in such a state of crisis today that it is because they just can't demonstrate the impact. As a result of that, I think many of my sales counterparts would feel like, " Hey, this is a marketer who's in it with me. She understands and her organization understands they have to put their butts on the line every month to say, 'This is what we're going to hit.'" Sometimes we hit it and sometimes we don't, just like our sales counterparts do. I'm not saying that we're at 99% certainty every time, but we're all in it to win together and I think that's one of the founding things. I think the second part of that I think that I've found has been really important is agreeing on the metrics so that I don't come with one set of metrics and sales has another set of metrics and then we just disagree because we have defined our metrics differently. It's like, " No. Okay, what do we want to measure? Okay, this is the measure for that thing. This is how we'll measure it. This is how we'll define it." No matter if your ops person pulls it, or my ops person pulls it, we're pulling from one field and we'll pull it like that all the time. You know what I mean?
Sean Lane: Yeah. I'm sure none of us have ever been in a meeting where one person has one version of the or report and one person has another version and we spend half the meeting trying to figure out which one's right. Jaclyn, do you agree with what Kate's saying? Does ops at Bamboo play this role of both the goal setting kind of validation sounding board as well as the team that ultimately is then reporting on progress against those goals?
Jaclyn Balben: Yeah, absolutely. We spend a lot of time up front in goal setting, working with both historical data as well as the plans that we have in place in order to come up with really proposals on, " Here's where we think a reasonable goal would be, here's a stretch goal. What are the factors that we should be considering as we're actually starting to set goals?" Then, working through a lot of those live, and so really doing some dynamic meetings where we might say, " You know, based on the data, it looks like you should be able to generate X, but we also know that these other things are happening that would influence our ability to hit that number, whether it's up or down and really working through the, the variables that would impact the number so that as we're actually setting goals, everyone is very much bought in." That does not mean that someone can say, " Oh, well, we should cut it in half because it's going to be a tough quarter." No, I mean, there there's only so far that we can go, but we want to make sure that we're hearing a lot of those voices and making sure that we're taking into consideration all the other things that might be impacting our ability to hit a certain metric. As part of that and the most important piece of it is really sure that we're aligned so that when we do set those goals and we start to report in on them, we're not continuously debating the thing that drives success. We've already decided on the metrics of success, and so then when we're actually discussing where we stand and how our progress to goal looks and what it is that we should be doing, and a good example of that for us is, " Do I have enough pipeline today in order to hit my number tomorrow?" Let's not debate what pipeline is or what our number tomorrow is. We should have that landed and now we should be talking about what it is that we can be doing as a team to make sure the answer is yes, and so making sure that we are really sort of crystal clear on the metrics, how we define them, how we got to the place that we actually set those metrics. Then, we can focus on solving the problems and generating the pipeline that we need versus getting caught up in rehashing old conversations, which consistently happens if you don't spend the time up front. That's a big part of the process. The other big part of it, and to the second part of your question, is how we actually then go about measuring things. Generally for us, that's as part of the process, actually setting up whether it's a Salesforce dashboard or a report in Tableau or whatever we're using to actually measure progress that everybody has that same source so that there's a source of truth that everyone's referencing. Then, there's no miscommunication or different sets of data. Again, we've defined it. We know exactly what it is we're doing and why and we all know where to get the information. Again, we're focused on, " How do we know cover the gaps or solve the problem or celebrate successes?
Sean Lane: I think, too, those metrics that you were talking about defining being explicit about which of those are actually going to be your levers for growth. We're all kind of coming up on the end of calendar year/ fiscal year timing and thinking about the upcoming year. Kate, what is a good conversation with your ops counterpart look like when you're making those decisions? To Jaclyn's point, yes, you've got to define all of those metrics, but there's probably only a handful of those that you're going to say, " Okay, these are the ones that are going to be steady state, this is the incremental growth, and then these are the big bets that we might be making in the next-
Kate Adams: Yeah.
Sean Lane: ... "annualplan or whatever."
Kate Adams: Yeah. That's what I was actually just going to build off of what Jaclyn was saying was like you have to agree on the metrics, but hopefully it doesn't take you very long to get there. Then, I think, then, the second piece of that is then, and'tis the season for this is what you just talked about, we're in planning season and so aligning on the assumptions. What Jaclyn said was super important was like, " Do I have the pipeline today for where I have to close tomorrow?" Yes or no, I'd rather instead of arguing about, " Well, I need three X or four X or two X or 500 X or whatever it is," that's in the plan, so it is what it is. It said you needed three X, you didn't get to three X. Okay, so I'd rather... Look, I think everybody on this line would say, " I'd rather have a conversation about what are we going to do about it rather than, is it true or not?" Do you know what I mean? Like crosstalk because otherwise you're just wasting so much time and there's nothing that gets me more than like wasted time, which is like, " Okay, so understanding inaudible to that end." Once you have the metrics, understanding and getting... This is what I think is super important about alignment, but I think not enough organizations meet is like, what are the underlying assumptions you made about how you will get there? Then, how are you saying? The only thing I know about my assumptions are that half of them are going to be wrong, at least half, hopefully half. Then, as long as we can understand, " Okay, how is that half wrong? How can we capitalize on the ones that I was wrong about but are going in the right direction I should have bet bigger on and back out of the ones that I was like too aggressive on and didn't have any chance of being successful at all?" Just walk back away from those and go double down on what's working. I can't stand when we're sitting here and things aren't working out the way we thought they would and you're sitting there arguing about, " Well, is this the number we should look at? Is that the number?" Both numbers say we're not there, so what are we going to do about it? What's the action plan that we're going to take to get there?
Sean Lane: Yeah. I saw some tweet or LinkedIn post last week that was like, " Before you get too upset about next year's plan, go back and look at last year's plan." It's crosstalk like the number of things that we get wrong and the number of things that we fight about around these little nitty- gritty components when we could be talking about what are the actual big investments or big rocks that we want to focus on in the next year. I'm curious for both of you and in your current and previous businesses, let's assume, and this is a big assumption, you nailed that planning process that you all are describing. You get the alignment, you get the metrics, you get the goals. What do the ongoing routines or cadences or touch points in your businesses look like that you found to be helpful that keep up this alignment? It's one thing to get this right at the beginning. It's totally another thing to execute on it throughout your quarter, throughout your year. Jaclyn, we'll start with you, but I'm curious with both of you. What have you found to be the most helpful routine that keep those teams aligned? What has ops specifically done to help make those things actually work?
Jaclyn Balben: Yeah, we do a couple different things and we're constantly changing because the world is constantly changing or we're just figuring out ways to do it better or differently. One of the things that we've done that's worked really well is we set KPIs and we set OKRs and we do those things as two separate exercises. For our KPIs, we determine, what's the primary measure of success for every team? Then, what are secondary measures of success for those teams? That's a lot out of sort of in- quarter, excuse me, how are we tracking to plan? What are the primary measures that enable us to say whether or not we're tracking to our plan? Then, what are some of those secondary measures? We sometimes get even more granular and talk about which of them are leading indicators and which are lagging indicators and go into a variety of detail there. That sort of helps us keep up with the plan to some extent, especially with the what can we be doing today in order to impact tomorrow- type of conversation. Are we actually tracking to plan? Let's not wait until the end of the quarter to decide whether things are going well or not. Part of it is, what is the cadence for actually checking in on those KPIs? Is it a weekly meeting like our sales forecast? Is it a biweekly meeting for some of our other metrics? Or even further out depending on what it is. Then, separately we have our OKRs and a lot of the focus on the OKR is, again, and you'll keep hearing me say this, today for tomorrow type of mantra, but what are we doing in this quarter in order to make next quarter better for ourselves? What investments are we making in the company, our teams, ourselves in order to be better next quarter? That's sort of like the building for tomorrow type of focus, and so the combination of those two sort of helps us to not only track to the goals and the plans that we have as part of our goals, but also to continuously be getting better and putting really intentional thought and design around how we get better. It doesn't happen magically. It's hard, so making sure that we're actually in those things that we need to do to move the needle, but the KPI meetings are probably the biggest one that we use to track against plan.
Sean Lane: Real quick before Kate jumps in, Jaclyn, who's in those KPI meetings? Who is the audience?
Jaclyn Balben: Yeah, so that's a good question. My RevOps team has a marketing ops person, a sales ops person, a customer experience ops person. We're fortunate to have sort of focused operational business partners for the teams that they're they're working with, and so generally they're owning a lot of setting the.... I don't think you talked about setting the metrics, measuring against them, and helping to report out against them. Then, the business stakeholders... If we're talking about sales operations, then the sales leaders would also be in those meetings as well as most often a sort of like plus one on the leadership side. Sales operations plus heads of the sales teams and the CRO would be in those meetings to ensure that everyone's aligned, and then, obviously, the work each day goes back to the teams to continue to iterate against.
Sean Lane: Kate, how about you? What types of routines have been helpful?
Kate Adams: For us, we have actually a few different weekly touch bases on that where I have a SCR management demand generation sync where we're talking about, " Okay, what are we delivering? How does that compare to both the plan and the forecast that we set forth in the month and in the quarter?" Then, we also have a meeting with all of the sales leaders where they are going through their line of business and talking about like, " Hey, here's the pipe I have. Here's what we did in pipe gen last week over the week prior." I hear it, it's up, it's down, it's not where I needed to be, all of those things. We talk through a lot of that and folks in that meeting, it goes all the way up from a new business perspective and that's how our CEO's in that call, so if something's off there we're talking about it and we're having that discussion at that point. The sales and development management meetings is super insightful in terms of like, " Okay, what are we going to do? What's working? How can we double down on what's working? How do we back away from what's not?"
Sean Lane: I would also imagine, too, to your earlier point about what you look at and being aligned on what you look at, having the CEO in that meeting makes it pretty clear to everybody like, " This is a thing that we look at when we're talking about this set level of alignment or this pipeline generation." I would imagine that also while I'm sure there's a bunch of work up front for an ops team or a marketing team to get right, that once it's in place kind of becomes the cornerstone or the source of truth for that meeting. Is that fair?
Kate Adams: Yeah, very much. We do not argue about, " I don't like where this number is in the cell and it's not the right color. It's not the right font." It's like, " We're not having those conversations there." It is like that is set in stone. The grid is the same thing. It gets published every either Monday by 8: 00 AM or Sunday night at 7: 00 PM, right? It crosstalk is not... There is nobody who's like going in and massaging this and making it just the numbers. This is what the numbers and you just need to speak to me inaudible.
Sean Lane: Yeah. I think the only thing I would add to this is just like the content of these types of meetings, I think, can be really hard. Kate and I have actually partnered on stuff like this in the past and we've had ones that have not gone well, and so I think what you deliver in terms of content here is really helpful. Also, who is kind of the owner of what you're producing? I think one of the things that we've learned at Drift and something that's been really helpful is we've aligned different sources of the operating plan that Kate and Jaclyn have been talking about where that agreement is really important. We've aligned those different sources to different kind of flavors of these routines that we have to bring sales and marketing together. We will do one that's just about marketing. We'll do one that's just about our channel team. We'll do one that's just about our SDR team. Having that rotation, one, gives ownership to each of those teams over their part of the operating plan that they're responsible for, but two, the customers on the other end, the sales managers, the sales reps, get to hear directly from those folks. That's where we can start to create that mutual accountability that Kate was talking about at the beginning. I think by having that rotation, that's been really helpful to bring that accountability to bear and also to have good conversations with each of those sources because the circumstances are different with every source. The volume or the percentage of the plan that each of those sources is responsible for can be very, very different, and so when you try to paint with a broad brush about what each of them are responsible for, I think that can be really difficult. Jaclyn, are there any other things that you've found to be helpful on that accountability piece to make sure that it's not just marketing saying, " Hey, we threw this stuff over the fence?" Or, it's just sales saying, " The lead sucked?" Right? Neither of those arguments are helpful. What have crosstalk you found that actually does help with accountability?
Jaclyn Balben: Yeah. I mean, I think that there's value in investing in the relationships, which is not a fast solution, but is one that pays dividends and especially over the longer term building a lot of the trust. With trust comes some of the vulnerability that is so helpful in solving real problems to, say, be able to bring the right people to the table and know that those people can share what challenges they're coming up with, solicit ideas for improvement, and to be able to lean on each other effectively to then hold each other accountable, but in a way that is in sort of like an all- one team mentality versus an accountability that's like, " You didn't do your thing so, therefore, I couldn't do my thing," and is much more a, " We're in this together." Marketing team, if I can give you as much feedback as I can on the sales side to say, " Why did this lead that we were excited about not paying out?" Or, " What made this meeting go sideways?" Or, " What could have been done differently in that webinar that actually would've really helped us?" The marketing team, because they have the relationship, takes that feedback and says,'Okay, that's incredibly helpful. Let me apply that." That, that actually would've really helped us and the marketing team because they have the relationship takes that feedback and says, okay, that's incredibly helpful. Let me apply that. And, and just like, you know, on the same side, the, the, you know, giving that SA type of feedback to the sales team, to be able to say, " You know, here's where we're seeing some of the challenges," or, " Here's where some of the frustrations lie," because then the account accountability is in the positive versus in the negative. I think when people say words like" accountability" or" feedback," or you name it, it often comes from a place of negativity and it shouldn't. How do we build the positive around those words so that we are truly one team? I think some of the transparency that we've built into our systems have helped with that. Some of the reporting has helped with it so that we can segment out things effectively to say what is or isn't working, or is there a sales rep that isn't doing a bad job by any means, but based on the numbers maybe is missing something or could be coached in a certain area because we're not seeing conversion rates for these same type of campaign inquiries as we are for other people on the team? Can we dig into calls and coach to that? That's that team mentality that then increases everybody's accountability, but also makes everybody feel like they're part of the solution.
Kate Adams: Yeah, Jaclyn. I think just to build on that because what you said there, I think we've been talking a lot because we've been talking about ops and the default is always to go to numbers, but I think numbers are super important, but just as important to those is the numbers are just telling you where to go look and the answer is never in the numbers. It literally is a direction center of like, " Go look here." It was like very clear to me. I was looking at the numbers of like looking at our sales accepted opportunities to sales- qualified opportunities and seeing our conversion rate drop. Then, the answer wasn't in, " Let me go find the number of minutes like our calls were." The answer was, " Go listen to the call," right? Like crosstalk listen to the crosstalk conversations. I think so many people... Lots of people, for whatever reason, don't get in that deep. They think somebody else will, and it's just like, " Oh, that's a sales manager's job to listen to calls. That's a sales manager's job to coach the rep on discovery. That product marketing should have built a better discovery deck." Well, yeah. Okay, cool, but how would they have known? The answer is in those calls. You got to get on, you got to listen, you got to do the work and there's no shortcut to that. I think... I don't know. That's just one thing there. I think too many people are just like... You said it earlier. You've got Tableau and I've got Einstein Analytics and I've got this thing, this thing, and you'd be like, " Oh, cool. Look at all of these data visualizations, cool." Answers aren't in there. It's just crosstalk-
Jaclyn Balben: Right crosstalk-
Kate Adams: ...it's just telling you you have a temperature. You know what I mean?
Sean Lane: I think diving into those individual details, too, whether it's an individual call or an individual lead, like if you make that the practice of your team, then you don't end up with these big hand- waving statements about the state of this relationship. When you start to fall back on those big hand- waving statements like, " We don't get enough leads," or, " The leads are shit," or, "We're not following up with them fast enough," then you missed kind of the nuance of what's actually happening with each individual, one. I think another good example of diving into the details there is for both marketers, salespeople, and operations folks alike, by looking at the individual examples you can also find the places where things might be breaking. We as operators like to think that the systems we've designed are flawless and they're just going to work the way we've intended them, but But sales and marketing alignment, a huge chunk of that is making sure that the systems you've designed across the customer journey are actually working as you'd intended them to do. It's not all just going to be a behavior conversation. There might actually be stuff that's broken. One of the things that we created on our ops team at Drift to help try to mitigate these circumstances when, you know, human beings, we screw up, is we created this thing that we call the Danger Dash, and it's exactly what it sounds like. Anytime we can anticipate where something might break, whether it's a new process or a system or a new tool that we've integrated, we try to anticipate all the places that that thing might break and create reports to show us the places where things break. The dream for every operations person is to open up your Danger Dash and have it be completely empty, but if it's not, then you have people on the team whose job it is to follow up on those specific things that are broken and not just fix those individual examples, but try to find the root of them. I think, like Kate, your example gets you now into the nitty- gritty on a particular call or a particular lead, and then the question becomes, " Okay, is this truly a one- off problem? Or do we have more of a systematic issue here? Is there a further root cause that we then need to dig into more?"
Kate Adams: Yeah. I love the idea, the Danger Dash, too, because, again, it's just telling you again like, " Hey, you have a temperature. Better go see a doctor." The Danger Dash is so critical because when something breaks, it's bad enough when it's broken. Worse is when like... Every office person nightmare is crosstalk and it's been broken for three weeks, or, and it's been broken for two months, and we have no way to go back and fix it retroactively. It's just broken for... You know what I mean? We can go rewire it for all the new stuff, but we can't get the old stuff. That is like the heart- crushing moments that I always have when my ops people come to me and are like, " Yeah, so that broke and it broke two weeks ago," and you can't go back. We can't rewind the clock on it. It's like, " Man, that's a killer. You know, that's a killer."
Jaclyn Balben: I was just going to say, I think that's similar to the alignment question earlier. The alignment with the operations teams is also so critical. There's so often that operations teams can get bogged down in one- off complaints or like, " I need a report," or whatever it is, and building those relationships so that you're also listening to the feedback to the teams and making sure that you're listening when things are not necessarily going well. Sometimes it is just a report that needs a filter change and maybe it's slightly frustrating, but there's other times when it really is broken and you really need to go look and fix it. You have to be listening to the people that are on the front lines and potentially seeing this stuff earlier than it shows up on the Danger Dash or you haven't created the danger dash yet. How do you... So much accountability is like in every single direction so that it really is that team feeling, even though people's seats are in slightly different places.
Sean Lane: Jaclyn, where does ops responsibility kind of start and end there? Right? One of the things I get nervous about when we have conversations like this is that the breadth of the charter expected of an ops team can get so wide in these types of scenarios that it's impossible to be successful because you're responsible for everything. Where in that spectrum do you see the operations teams' true responsibilities? We talked about it being bipartisan. Some people say like we're Switzerland. Sometimes we're like more a therapist than anything else. What is the actual role that you think we should be playing there?
Jaclyn Balben: Yeah, that's a tough question, and I think at least for the people that I've seen and worked with in operations, generally, the problem that I see is that they do too much and not too little. I know one of the things that when we're hiring I always say is, " I want creative problem- solvers who love to get their hands on something and fix it and love delighting the people that they work with a solution." What that often means is that it's like, " Yeah. No, I can definitely do that thing for you and I can definitely help with that other thing and, these are all fun, exciting problems." I think a lot of it is then pushing back to, what are things and opportunities that operations can uniquely engage in in order to add value in a scalable way that we should be focusing and optimizing our time for? Then, in me not answering the question that you actually asked because I don't know if I actually can, I think it's a lot of then the conversations with those teams. I know I had a marketing conversation about this recently where it was like, " All right, lead scoring, how do we actually parse out? What about lead scoring is marketings? What about lead scoring is marketing operations? What about it is our BDRs team and how do we all collectively work through that and figure it out and then hold to it.? I think in a lot of cases, for me at least, the answer isn't so black and white. There are many that are pretty black and white, but that it's more about the relationship and, in some cases, what stage are we at? For us, we're moving marketing automation systems. We just moved our CRM system. Everything is new. There's a lot of gray and so we should move more in the direction of saying yes and helping and saying, " Yeah, I can I solve that problem for you," and then start to pull back as we actually get people into a place where they can start to do some of it themselves. Again, not answering your question, but it feels like it's too hard to put a definition around because it's a unique scenario and that this is where operations people need to have the ability to make good decisions and to choose which things to invest their time in and which ones not to and should be able to articulate why. A lot of judgment sits in operations and a lot of strategic problem- solving. If you're not hitting that benchmark, you should probably be thinking about how to untangle yourself from it.
Kate Adams: Jaclyn, I think you hit that right on the head. The problem with operations people is exactly what you said, which is they want to fix. They want to fix everything and they want to make everybody happy, and it is recipe for like wanting to jump out the window every day. You just can't. You basically can't do that. The best operations people that I've worked with have been masters at never saying no, but saying, " Which one?" So like, " Which one?" We can do all of these things, but I need you to tell me which one of these is most important to the business and having an opinion on like, " Hey, I think it's this one. Here's how I prioritize these, but which one do you want?" Essentially, your customers are internal, so you need to make sure that there's alignment there and have a perspective of like, " Here's what I would do. These are the top three that I would go do, but if you have a different opinion and you want me to change this filter on your report that you should probably figure out how to do anyway, so it's like crosstalk a fish. I'm happy to do that with you, but I think that's integral to that optional, which is just like you can have this or that. You cannot have both all the time, right?
Sean Lane: I would agree. I think, too, that's the hard part about the goals conversation that we were having before and saying, " Yeah, we want to be strict about putting goals in place, defining them, saying how we're going to measure them and picking targets for them, but we also need to do that with the flexibility that says, " If and when this new shiny thing comes up, let's have that prioritization conversation of,'Is this now something we want to do? If so, which of the things on our normal goal list are we not going to do anymore?'" Right?
Jaclyn Balben: Right.
Sean Lane: I think people can use routines and cadences to help with that. When Kate and I worked together, every Tuesday afternoon no matter what I met with Kate and our marketing leaders and our marketing ops group to say, " Hey, these are the things we're currently working on. What are you seeing on this list that is either something you don't think is important? Or what don't you see on this list that you do think is important?" Then, having those conversations allows you to still lean back on your goals, use those as the kind of the North Star to say yes or no to stuff, but you can also be fluid in those moments when the business truly needs you to be fluid.
Kate Adams: Yeah, so a hundred percent. I think that's a hundred percent true, and also just being able to be like... I am also one of those people, and I think, oh, I've seen lots of marketing and sales leaders do this where I'll be in a meeting. I'll be like, " Oh, we should look at that. Oh, we should look at this. Oh, we should look at that." Then, the amazing ops people that I've worked with have been like, " Cool, Kate just said that we should go look at these 10 things crosstalk today," and she already had given me the list of 50. So I can't. It was like eye- opening of like, " Yeah, I did say we should do that, but I meant like six months from now when after I've taken three vacations and I have a pina colada in my hands. Like, " That's what I meant. We should look at that not today." Yeah, I think it's super important. One other thing on the alignment side, I think a big key to alignment in my opinion is also an open curiosity, and so what I was talking about before in terms of like the devil being in the details and the devils are in the calls and in the decks and in the emails and in the correspondence and in the Drift conversations you're having with your customers and prospects. Literally just when you get into... I've had such like a mind- blowing experience of talking to sales and being like, " Hey, I'm just curious." Is this how we expect our reps, and I'm a big Gong fan and we're Gong customers, and like the fact that you can send a snippet, is this our expectation on how we would expect them to be talking about this? Like no judgment, just being like, " Is this what we want?" Or, " Hey, are we purposefully waiting until the follow- up email to set the next call? Is that what you want them to do? Or should we do that before they end that call? Which one do you want? That's what I mean by open curiosity. I'm not saying like, " Hey, this is wrong. Why are you not setting the call before you get off the first one?" I think having the conversation in terms of like having that intellectual curiosity of like, " I'm not a salesperson. There's a reason I don't sign up for a booking school to every mI think having the conversation in terms of like, being, having that intellectual curiosity of like, I'm not a salesperson, there's a reason I don't sign up for a bookings quota every month, right? You are/ You tell me, is this what you want to happen or not. Likewise, my likewise, my sales counterpart can be like, " Hey, are these types of people that you wanted us to meet with is at this event? Is this what you wanted? I need your help and how you want me to handle the next conversation there.
Jaclyn Balben: Right, and I think that's some of that relationship building where it's like you're coming and saying I'm not an expert in this and you are, so help me understand how I can help you better and then vice versa. Then, that's where the partnership starts to come together versus the, " I threw it over the fence," and you didn't do anything with it, and so I don't know what else I'm supposed to do. The more we spend time with the people and having the right conversations and asking the questions and truly engaging in our counterparts day to day, it feels like that's where true alignment comes from versus numbers on a page, which to your point earlier, Kate, are just indicators. They just start telling us where to look.
Sean Lane: By the way, like if you're in ops, if you're a marketing leader, if you're a sales leader, there's no better way to demonstrate that you want to be a real partner than to do that research and send that Gong snippet and ask that question, right?
Jaclyn Balben: Right.
Sean Lane: As opposed to waiting for those answers to come to you, there's no better way to show that. All right, in the time we've got left, we are going to be taking our conversation today and turning it into an episode of Operations, which is a podcast that I host at Drift. If you're listening via MSP today, make sure you go find that, download it. I have a handful of questions that I ask each guest at the end of the episodes that I'm going to ask to Jaclyn and Kate as we wrap things up here today. Jaclyn, I will start with you and we'll try to hit on each of these questions for both of you as we rifle our way through in the time that we've got left. Sound good?
Jaclyn Balben: Yep.
Sean Lane: All right. First one, Jaclyn. Best book you've read in the last six months?
Jaclyn Balben: I listened to your podcast, so I knew this was coming.
Sean Lane: Aah.
Jaclyn Balben: My professional answer, we are actually doing an awesome book club that one of my leaders is running and reading, Making of a Manager, which has been incredible with managers on the team to read a couple chapters and dive into. Definitely recommend it for anybody who's looking for a good read.
Sean Lane: Nice. Kate, best book you've read in the last six months?
Kate Adams: I just finished The Comfort Crisis, which was awesome. It was a great book. It was really, really good.
Sean Lane: Love it. All right. Jaclyn, favorite part about working in ops?
Jaclyn Balben: I like solving problems. You know, we talked about it, but I do love the opportunity to take a problem and fix it and then be able to deliver it and say, " It works now." It's an awesome feeling.
Sean Lane: Kate, favorite part about working with ops?
Kate Adams: I love wiring it up and I love making the machinery and gluing that all together together to create an experience provided to people, and so being able to hook it all together is always thrilling for me.
Sean Lane: All right. Jaclyn, flip side. Least favorite part about working in ops?
Jaclyn Balben: I mean, probably the... To some extent the prioritization. I really do like to be able to do it all, and so I'm one of those people that at night I'll create reports for people and do that kind of thing, because I do like doing it, but I'd become my own worst enemy by doing that, so least favorite part is having to say no-
Sean Lane: To yourself crosstalk-
Jaclyn Balben: ...and actually stick to the no. Yeah.
Sean Lane: Kate, least favorite part about working with ops? We promise not to take offense.
Kate Adams: Yeah. Just not being able to get it all done because it's all there and you can see it and you just want to knock it out. It's so easy to think, " Cool. Yeah I can just totally do this on the couch tonight as I'm like, whatever, binging whatever Apple TV has come out with next," but it's not feasible. Having to prioritize it, I mean, I said it was so super valuable this whole last 20 minutes here and it's critical to the success, but the prioritization piece is brutal. I'm with Jaclyn on that.
Sean Lane: All right. Two more Jaclyn. Someone who impacted you getting to the job you have today?
Jaclyn Balben: Oh man. Should have prepared that one better. I mean, I would say early on I wrote a job description for myself and like literally printed it out and handed it to a boss and was like, " This is what I think I do and this is what I want to actually formalize that I do." He said, " Yeah," and so having a manager early on who really bought into a vision of a role that didn't exist and allowed me to make it up and move into something fun and exciting was big.
Sean Lane: Kate?
Kate Adams: Yeah. That's fascinating. I started out I think it was roughly a century ago doing double- sided data entry and putting source codes into Filemaker Pro and sending emails out via Lira, so literally it was a century ago. I think the emails got carried by horse and buggy to where we inaudible or not, but I was really privileged at that time to work for a number of women in that organization who never asked me why I thought I could do something, but asked me why I thought I couldn't. I spent seven years at that organization because of them asking me that question, like why I couldn't go do the next thing and that was huge. It's not just one person, but I still speak with many of them there and just got really lucky with that team.
Sean Lane: That's awesome. All right. Last one for both of you. One piece of advice for people who want to have your job someday?
Jaclyn Balben: Ask questions and dig into the stuff that no one else is digging into.
Kate Adams: Yeah. I love that, dig into the stuff that nobody else is digging into. I think it's like the same thing as the TSA policy. It's like it's a little bit different, so see something, say something, it's like, see something, do something. Where you see something as broken, do something about it. It doesn't matter. I don't care if it's in your job description. I care about adding value. That's what I care about, and so to me, it's just like see something, do something about it and it will all work out in the end.
Sean Lane: Thanks so much to Kate and Jaclyn for joining us on the MSP panel and for being our guests on this special episode of Operations. Thank you to Taylor and the team at MSP for setting up the event and a special shout out to Delaney Adams from the Drift team for handling all the logistics for the event behind the scenes. If you want to learn more about Modern Sales Pro, check out their website, modernsaleshq. com. It's a phenomenal community. I have learned a ton from meeting people as part of this community as well as going to events like the one that we hosted for this episode. If you liked what you heard, make sure you are subscribed to our show so you can hear from our regular guests. Every other Friday a new episode will show up in your feed if you are subscribed. If you learned something from Kate and Jaclyn or from the panel or from any of our episodes, make sure you leave us a six- star review on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. Six- star reviews only. All right, that's going to do it for me. Thanks so much for listening. We'll see you next time.
On this episode, we're taking you inside a recent LIVE panel hosted by Drift and Modern Sales Pros on a topic everyone in Operations has likely wrangled with at one point or another: alignment. And not just any type of alignment: Sales and Marketing alignment.
And to tackle such a meaty topic, we were lucky to be joined by two people who have been in different, important roles in creating that alignment: Kate Adams, the Senior Vice President of Marketing at Validity and Jaclyn Balben, the VP Operations at Bamboo Health.
In our conversation, we talked about the bipartisan role Ops can play in this alignment, how Sales and Marketing can show they are truly looking to be partners with each other, and what Kate has found to be true in the best Operators she’s ever worked with.
Like this episode? Be sure to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review and share the pod with your friends! You can connect with Sean on Twitter @Seany_Biz and @DriftPodcasts.