Building a Revenue Operating System w/ Ben Stroup

#62: Listen as Ben Stroup, President of Velocity Strategy Solutions, discusses building a revenue operating system for your business. He offers insight into how revenue operating systems drive revenue, how they play into common scorecards, and what roles managers have in overall success.

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The Sales Lift Podcast
Episode #62
Building a Revenue Operating System w/ Ben Stroup
Hosted by: Tyler Lindley


[00:00:00] Tyler: Hey, what's up Sales Lift nation. It's your host, Tyler Lindley. Today. I have my buddy Ben Stroup on the podcast. Hey Ben, how are you doing

[00:00:10] Ben Stroup: great, man. Glad to be back.

[00:00:12] Tyler: Yeah, glad to be back the first two time guests on the sales lift podcast. So congratulations for that honor, Ben.

[00:00:18] Ben Stroup: Wow. I had no idea. Yeah.

[00:00:20] Tyler: Well now you do. Now you do so excited to be chatting again again today. Uh, Ben is the Presidentof Velocity Strategy Solutions. HubSpot partner does some fantastic work. And today we're going to be talking about building a revenue operating system for your business. Then what the hell does that even mean?

A revenue operating system? What does that mean to you?

[00:00:40] Ben Stroup: Yeah, no, it's a fair question. And it's a way that I'm talking about. The core tenants of how we bring people together, eliminate complexity, reduce the friction and make sure that we're actually working together in a coordinated fashion to drive revenue.

And I think what I like about that term is that we all have to agree on a certain framework. We have to agree on certain measures and dimensions. We have to agree on different processes, workflows and permission systems. And those are all core tenants that really do kind of gum up the revenue process.

You know, oftentimes what happens is marketing is operating under a certain paradigm. Sales is operating under a certain paradigm services operating under certain paradigm operate, and then management is operating under a certain paradigm, all of which value things differently. And I think the easiest way to say it is we've all got.

Speaking the same language. We all have to share the same scorecard and we all have to be moving in the same direction. If we can do that. That's where momentum takes place. So it's really just kind of an organic term. That's emerged as a way to describe what that end result might feel

[00:01:47] Tyler: like. So it sounds to me like it's similar to like revenue operations, which I know is something that you're passionate about.

Is it basically just the framework for revenue operations? Is that what it means in your mind? So I think there is a

[00:02:00] Ben Stroup: kind of a separate there's. I think they are two different things. So revenue operations is certainly the fundamental technical aspect of how do you enable an organization to drive revenue.

But sometimes what often happens is that doesn't do a good job. At non-revenue stakeholders and describing the value that revenue operations has to them. So if revenue operating system, what that does is that actually brings everybody to the table and says that this is something by which we are all going to participate and benefit from.

So it's something for everyone, not just something that describes something. And what often happens is that as particularly as revenue, operations, matures, and kind of comes into its own, the risk is. Now it becomes its own department. And now you have a fourth or fifth stakeholder in the process and you have another silo.

That's just preventing people from working together in a collaborative and interdependent

[00:02:57] Tyler: way. Yep. Do you think that it should be its own department? Should it have its own silo if you will, or do you think, is there a different way that's better?

[00:03:06] Ben Stroup: So I would say that revenue operations is the foundation upon which all revenue should be built if you will.

So, you know, we think about, I mean, we must know aren't familiar with HubSpot, you've got the contact database that kind of sits as the foundation, and then you've got the different hubs that you can plug into it. Revenue operations as the enable our right it's built the infrastructure, the roads, all of the traffic signs and all that kind of stuff to enable people to be able to move from one place to the next safely and securely.

And so then each aspect of that organization, marketing sales, service, and management plug into revenue operations in order to be able to extract the value out of it, that's relevant to their right,

[00:03:50] Tyler: given that this is a cross the revenue side of the organization. Where do you start? Right? Because you've got all these different facets of the business.

How do you get started? If you're going to try to build this rev ops or revenue operating system in your organization, where's the first place that you start?

[00:04:05] Ben Stroup: So I started with a three-step process of frame focusing and grow, and I think it's the best way to describe it. First of all, you have to understand current reality.

And the truth is everybody defines their reality based on their perspective of the situation. And so this is what's often, most frustrating is executive leaders are speaking a different language, even if they're using the same words than somebody who's a marketing leader, a sales leader, or a service leader.

And so we all have to agree on what the problem or the opportunity is. And if we don't all agree on that, then there's no way that we're looking at the same thing and the same way. And so sometimes. Achieved by having a common scorecard. These are the things that matter because this is the end result that we want.

And this is often an exercise that doesn't get enough attention where you might have a top end revenue goal for the company, or you might have other things like ARR MRR goals or so much in the client acquisition or customer acquisition side. Those kind of high level goals, but it's not been cascaded down and contextualized to how each department contributes to that so that you don't have, so that each element that's part of that success understands what that success looks like within their realm of control.

So once that happens, once you have that common scorecard, now we're all agreeing that success. Is success. So that frame part is really, really important. And I find that oftentimes when you dig into that, you realize that you don't, you're not using the same measures. You're not using the same dimensions.

You're not using the same vocabulary. We've solved that. Now we're having productive conversations. Yep. The second part of that is focus is what is success for each individual, part of that. And that's part of that cascading reality. Once you decide on that, then you have the two pivot points, right? You have where you are and then where you want to be current reality versus preferred future.

And now it's, how back do we March toward that? And there's two ways that we do. There's one really spending the time to capture existing business processes, permission systems, and workflows, and then coming back and saying, do we want to have those persists or do we want to augment those? And how much are we willing to allow for exceptions as things develop over time?

Sometimes you can. Things cause you already know that they're a problem and they're consistent problem. We know what the input and source of that problem is. And so we can fix that immediately. Sometimes we need to observe how people are using it and we just need to create a way for that observation to take place.

And then we can go in and look at common exceptions. I mean, this is true on the service side, right? You start managing the tickets and you start looking at common things and. Leads to training or knowledge base or something. That's an augment and the product marketing and sales process to alleviate that Val from being a trigger point.

[00:06:49] Tyler: Yup. Yup. I totally agree. You talk about the common scorecard. It sounds like that. And that's a part of the framing, right? Ben?

[00:06:57] Ben Stroup: Absolutely. Absolutely. Absolutely. How do you go up?

[00:07:00] Tyler: Well, like if I was an organization wanting to create that common scorecard to frame up this rev ops engine, is that just like getting everybody in the room and.

What does our present reality look like? What does that desired future state is that as simple as just meeting and coming to terms? Or what does that look like?

[00:07:16] Ben Stroup: Practice? I think we have to define that by how does that influence decisions and behavior at every level? So revenue, customer acquisition, you know, MRR, ARR.

Growth. All of those kinds of things are lagging indicators. So yes, we need to account for those. And yes, we need to understand where the dependencies, the risks and the opportunities are, but we also need to carry those back to what are the leading indicators. So leading indicators are what we can control their inputs that allow us to be able to build out that scorecard.

So the scorecard needs to have a combination of both and the scorecard needs to give everyone clarity around what was I successful today? A scorecard should tell each individual contributor. Once you've done the work to cascade it down. Did I hit the mark today or not. So for instance, you know, you work with a lot of SDRs.

They can't, you know, telling them to achieve a revenue goal. Probably isn't actionable. It's something that they want to do, but it's not something they can go through every single day and do, right. Unless you're selling widgets. Right. So what are the things that we know lead to opportunities that are most likely to close?

And we just literally do that regressive analysis that says here's our close one. Here's our close loss. Let's model them back. The pipeline and then pre pipeline, how do we model them into the marketing area and what can we learn about the friction or the velocity through that pipeline that allows us to be able to understand what they look like earlier in the process.

So then if we can take that down to the number of phone calls, the number of contacts, number activities, number of notes, number of things that ultimately result in opportunity creation. Now you've created a universe. That you know, is consistent and align with what the corporate goals are, but it's completely actionable by that particular individual.

And if you carry that down by quarter by month, by week and even by day, which is very possible to do now every day, I can log in as an SDR, as a single individual contributor. And I can see what were my activity levels, where my new contacts were created. Whatever those things are that are part of it that are going to lead to that.

And so it's just like you would manage an a E toward the close rate and volume and type of client and product. You would manage an SDR based on the world and universe that they can can, they can. Because if we'll demonstrate those behaviors, everything happens. And you know this, I mean, it's the basic thing.

If you're not talking to anybody, you'll never sell something. If you talk to enough people, you're going to determine who's qualified and who's not enough qualified conversations, they're going to lead to opportunities, have enough opportunities it's going to close, but that sounds really pithy. And it sounds really good at a sales seminar.

Um, but it's completely non-helpful to send a revenue scorecard to every single person in the company, unless you also help them understand how their success. And what is that success and what behaviors contribute to that success until that's happened, then you're just looking at it and going, wow, I hope we get it.

Yeah. And that's an unfortunate place to be. So, and sometimes those inputs as simply normal actions that just need to be accounted for the process.

[00:10:26] Tyler: I'm a huge proponent of a daily shutdown scorecard for that individual contributor, whether that be the SDR that individual marketer or service provider. I think that they should have a daily shutdown scorecard that has all of those inputs, those leading indicators, right.

That they're responsible for, that can get to those outputs. Are you a fan of having that on a daily basis for the individual contributors? Like a shutdown scorecard that basically they, it holds them accountable to those leading indicators that they are contributing to the organism.

[00:10:55] Ben Stroup: Absolutely has to be something at minimum.

It's a seven day scorecard and best case scenario. You've got a daily scorecard, but as a manager, you should know where your people are moving away. Are they moving up down or sideways in relation to their quarterly outcomes, at least a minimum every five to seven days, because you have multiple opportunities to course correct.

If in fact that's taking place or to identify friction points that might improve. Thanks. And so the earlier you can intervene when a variable or variance is being observed, then the sooner you can resolve it before it becomes a real impediment to that growth. The other thing that thing's important is with scorecards.

We sometimes use this as a way to keep people in the teeth and that's not it at all. I mean, we all have to be accountable for certain results. There's no question about it. I'm not saying everyone gets a participation trophy, but we should. The, the variants positive or negative of those scorecards to have higher level conversations, particularly at the supervisor and the manager level of saying, what is this telling us about?

Are we getting in our own way of this success? Is there a way to reduce the friction in this particular area? Is there a way that to integrate. The volume of this type of behavior, because we like this, or we don't like that. And that's an opportunity to bring operations to the strategy table, where we start to map those out and look at them as risks in project management world, we would call those risks.

And how do we mitigate those risks as we move through it? And so. May identify it as just a neutral variable at that particular point. But there may be a couple of things that are really, really key. If we, if we find out that it takes somebody on average a day and a half to produce a proposal, because they've got to get 19 signatures in order to get out, that could cause some real delay in increasing the volume of proposals.

Right. Because in order to achieve. Keeping it a day and a half. You've actually got to spend less time actually finding new opportunities that might need a proposal. So we've got to just play with those valves until we get the right systems attuned in the right ways that really allow that throughput to take place.

And once you get those predictable measures, this is a matter of volume. That's where all of a sudden marketing sales and service and managing. Particular can start having the same conversation and really productive conversations because you're looking at the same problem for multiple vantage points, which gives you a greater appreciation for what each person plays, the role that they play in success, but also helps you attribute.

Who helped you be successful, which I think is also a benefit of a scorecard.

[00:13:25] Tyler: Yup. You bring up management, you know, and it sounds like you feel like that is a really important, I mean, we hear a lot about revenue alignment and you hear about marketing sales and success or service, but you know, that management layer.

Is sometimes kind of glossed over, whereas that's a, it's a key part of the process. They set the tone, right. For this alignment and for buy-in on rev ops and making sure that there is a message that is resonating throughout the organization. What role does management play in this process? Do you think?

[00:13:57] Ben Stroup: Oh, they make a break. So the purpose of this process is to enable everyone to be more successful. And, but what happens is in order for that to be true, the manager has to believe that their fundamental goal is to enable other people to be successful. But what often happens on the revenue side of the house is that we promote some substantial individual contributors into management roles, because if you're a great revenue leader, you're a great revenue generator.

You're going to be a great revenue. False most of the time, you're terrible at it because you think everyone exists to help you be even more successful. Right now, I've got a team to make me look even better and that's exact opposite as you move across that great divide. As we talked about that manager then becomes how do I make sure that every single person on my team has every opportunity possible to be successful and where they are failing?

It is on me. The manager to figure out the friction, not them and to help them mitigate that friction. Now, sometimes the friction is they're just not a good fit, right. But that should be the last resort. Like that should be the very last thing, not throw everybody the wolves and wolves and see who survives that is not going to be tolerated in the age of empathy that Jack Welch, GE style of management, either figure it out or we'll find somebody else who will, that's just not going to be how we're going to attract top talent.

People want to know. That you are standing right behind them when they fall to catch them. And they want to know you're going ahead of them to eliminate the friction as best as possible. And the more of those lines of communication can stay open. You as a manager can do what you knew best, which is resolving that friction.

And they, as a contributor can do what they do best develop those relationships and drive that revenue.

[00:15:41] Tyler: Yup. As companies are thinking about implementing these type of systems and levels of accountability in their organizations, If they're looking at doing it in-house with existing resources or bringing someone in house versus bringing in an outsourced vendor or partner like velocity, what should go through their mind as they try to make that decision about whether they should try to just do this in-house or outsource it and bring in a third party partner to help with some of them.

[00:16:09] Ben Stroup: Well, I think one of the things that you have to acknowledge is the fact that companies have permission systems and those cultural permission systems are designed to be preserved. It's very hard to create movement from within the organization. That's just by design. So nurture right until a force is acted upon.

It's going to continue in its current direction. So having somebody from the outside really creates some clarity. The other thing is that I think when you're dealing with multiple constituencies internally, you have to have somebody that either has the. Step outside the organization and look at it from the outside in, or you have to have somebody from the outside in partner with somebody internally to help observe how things fit together.

I mean, just very often, you're just too close to the situation, but on the revenue side of the house, there's just too much going on. And the opportunity cost of stopping everything to allocate resources in order to do this with, without having an outside partner is just flat out too. You got to keep moving in that direction and then work for continuous improvement, which is what that culture of learning that, that we try to instill with the, all of our clients really is about how do we create an environment where we're constantly learning, adapting, and growing both in our knowledge of how we work, but also in our success, that's defined by what's most important.

[00:17:22] Tyler: Yep. Any parting words of advice for someone building a revenue operating. Make

[00:17:26] Ben Stroup: sure somebody owns the operation side of it. And until somebody does, it's going to be very hard to be able to create movement around the individual desire to cooperate. But even that has its own limitations. So highlighting.

Face for that on the leadership team or in the management group means that you bring operations to the strategy table. And that, that is going to be a key part of how you're going to enable everyone else's success. I think that's probably the most important thing to keep in mind as we think about new structures.


[00:18:01] Tyler: Love it. Ben, how can our listeners find you online? If they will learn more about you,

[00:18:04] Ben Stroup: you can go to velocity strategy You can sign up for a And of course I'm active on Twitter and linked.

[00:18:13] Tyler: Perfect. Awesome. Thanks Ben. First two time guests. We'll have to make it three at some point in the future.

So, absolutely. Thank you. All right, thanks.

[00:18:20] Ben Stroup: See ya.

[00:18:23] Tyler: Thank you so much for listening to today's show. You can find all the links discussed

[00:18:28] Ben Stroup: and the show

[00:18:29] Tyler:

[00:18:31] Ben Stroup: That's the T H E.

[00:18:34] Tyler: Sales S a L E S lift L I F Have questions for me. Email We look forward to seeing you back here next week, and we hope today's show brings you the sales lift.

Your business needs. Remember ideas.

[00:18:53] Ben Stroup: Plus action

[00:18:54] Tyler: equals. You've got new ideas. Now it's time to take action and the results will fall. See you next time. .

Ben’s Bio:

Ben Stroup is Chief Growth Architect and President at Velocity Strategy Solutions, a next-generation business strategy, and management consulting firm focused on helping ambitious leaders align teams, reduce complexity, eliminate friction, and drive revenue. He is a futurist, disruptor, and data champion having served organizations from $5MM to more than $500MM in revenue for more than 18 years.

Ben’s written and edited dozens of books on leadership and growth and is a frequent speaker, podcaster, and guest for business and industry groups. His most recent book, Master the Pivot, was released in 2020. Ben and his wife and two boys live in the Nashville, Tennessee area.

Don’t feel like listening? Read the Episode Cliff Notes instead below:

Revenue Operating Systems (0:33)

Everyone must agree on a framework, measures and dimensions, and different processes, workflows, and permission systems. Those are all core tenants that gum up the revenue process.

We all have to share the same scorecard, and we all have to be moving in the same direction.

Revenue operations are certainly the fundamental technical aspect of how you enable an organization to drive revenue. But sometimes, what happens is it doesn’t do a good job. 

Each aspect of an organization (marketing, sales, service, management, etc.) plugs into revenue operations to be able to extract the value from it. 

Building Revenue Operating Systems (3:58) 

Ben starts with a three-step process of frame focusing and growth. First, you have to understand the current reality, and the truth is everybody defines their reality based on their perspective of the situation.

The second part focuses on what success is for each part, which is part of the cascading reality. 

Once you decide on that, you have the two pivot points: where you are and where you want to be in the current reality vs. preferred future.

Spend the time to capture existing business processes, permission systems, and workflows.

Building and Using Scorecards (6:51)

We have to define a common scorecard by how it influences decisions and behavior at every level. So revenue, customer acquisition, MRR, ARR, growth- all of those kinds of things are lagging indicators that need accounting for.

The scorecard needs to have a combination of leading indicators to give everyone clarity around what was successful that day. 

As a manager, you should know where your people are moving. The earlier you can intervene when a variable or variance is observed, the sooner you can resolve it before it becomes a real impediment to growth.

Role of Management (13:26)

The purpose of Revenue Operating Systems is to enable everyone to be more successful. For that to be true, the manager must believe that their fundamental goal is to enable other people to succeed. 

What often happens on the revenue side is we promote substantial individual contributors into management roles because if you’re a great revenue leader, you’re a great revenue generator. But it doesn’t often work that way. 

You, as a manager, can do what you knew best, which is resolving that friction. And they, as a contributor, can do what they do best, which is develop relationships and drive that revenue. 

Important Links:

Ben’s LinkedIn Profile

Velocity Strategy Solutions Website