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Making Sense of Revenue Roles

Making Sense of Revenue Roles
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Sales may sound like a simple concept. Until you are scaling a business. What begins as “just win business” quickly becomes a broad and complex discipline that requires expertise for attracting, winning, keeping, and expanding customer and partner relationships. 

While many business leaders use terms like business development, sales, and account management interchangeably – they are each truly unique roles. It’s important to understand the difference so that you can create the right balance of sales expertise and build a team with clear roles, goals, and appropriate incentives.

It’s equally important to recognize that sales is only one leg of the revenue stool. To build a strong revenue engine, sales, marketing, customer success, and – if applicable – partner / channel must work together to support the entire customer lifecycle.

Hear from Jennifer Zick, Barb Bertsch, Anthony Ostrowski, and Shannon Muniz – experts in the roles marketing, revenue, and sales as they discuss the fundamental components of revenue roles. 

Key Takeaways

  • Key distinctions among sales roles—business development, sales, and account management—and the specific individual attributes that align with each role.
  • Creating the optimal team for your business model or industry and the difference between focusing on role titles versus candidate experience and goals. 
  • Determining the right time and approach to restructure your sales team for enhanced effectiveness, embracing diverse strategies aligned with future success.
  • Achieving desired results through incentivization and motivation by designing compensation plans that inspire employees.
  • Facilitating collaboration between marketing and sales to bolster their efforts and drive company revenue, fostering alignment across revenue-generating functions.

Links & Resources Mentioned

Full Episode Transcription


Jennifer Zick: All right, welcome, guests. We’re just waiting for the Zoom room to open wide open as everybody arrives. So, we’ll give our guests a moment to join us before we officially kick off. If you’re just arriving, welcome to the Authentic Growth™ Webinar Series. Hope you’re in the right Zoom room. If not, stick around. It’s going to be fun. Anyway, today we’re going to talk about Making Sense of Revenue Roles. We have an awesome panel lined up that I’m excited to introduce, and we’ll get started shortly. So, grab a notebook, a pen, and a glass of water. You’ll want to stay hydrated for this conversation and take lots of notes.

All right, it looks like we have reached what I would call a critical mass of audience members now logged into Zoom, so let’s get started.

Introduction to Authentic® 

Jennifer Zick: Hello everyone, I’m Jennifer Zick, the founder and CEO of Authentic. We are a community of fractional chief marketing officers dedicated to helping growing businessesOvercome Random Acts of Marketing®  and confidently navigate toward sustainable growth. We have a strong passion for collaborating with small and emerging entrepreneurial ventures, guiding them from startup phases to achieving critical mass and beyond. Through our webinar series, Authentic Growth, we explore a wide range of growth topics. While our focus is on marketing, we also delve into all aspects of business growth, always emphasizing the integral partnership with sales and the entire revenue organization.

If you’re new to Authentic, I’d like to give you a brief overview of who this series is designed for and why today’s topic is so crucial. Following that, we’ll introduce our esteemed panelists and dive right into our discussion. At Authentic, we work closely with small and mid-sized businesses across the US, often serving as an integral part of their leadership team, typically as the head of marketing. Our role is to help them establish a solid foundation, bring in the right talent to accelerate growth, and foster alignment across all departments.

Most of our clients are founders, CEOs, or presidents, and we collaborate closely with every member of their leadership team, including sales, finance, and operations. A common challenge we address with our CEO and executive clients is the evolution of their sales organizations. Whether they started with the founder as the primary salesperson or have expanded to include a small sales team, navigating the complexities of sales roles, responsibilities, and compensation structures can be daunting.

While we won’t resolve all these questions today, I’m thrilled to introduce a panel of experts who bring extensive experience to these discussions. Together, we’ll explore what it takes to grow and scale an entrepreneurial business, particularly in terms of building a robust revenue engine.

Whoever you are—whether a business founder, a revenue leader, or simply interested in this topic—we hope you’ll glean actionable insights from our conversation. We value your feedback and encourage you to use the Q&A feature in your Zoom panel to ask questions throughout the session. We’ll set aside time at the end to address as many of your questions as possible. So please engage with us; we want to ensure you gain valuable insights from today’s discussion.

Panelist Introduction

Jennifer Zick: So without further ado, I’m just going to go around this virtual room with my friends and ask each of them to introduce themselves. And I’m going to start, Shannon, with you. If you could tell us a little bit about your role, a little bit of your background as it relates today’s conversation. 

Shannon Muniz: Sure. My name is Shannon Muniz and I’m with Strategic Sales Management. I’m an advisor, actually for Sales Xceleration. And my background, I’ve worked in sales for more than 25 years, about 15 of that, and managing sales teams primarily in the technology market. But since I’ve been working with Sales Xceleration for the past five years, I’ve had the good fortune to work with all different industries and many different size companies, mostly in the SMB space. 

Jennifer Zick: Well, we’re glad to have you here today, Shannon. Anthony, over to you. 

Anthony Ostrowski: Yeah, for sure. Thanks for having me here, Jen. I’m Anthony Ostrowski. I’m the VP of Revenue at Yardstik, so I lead our go to market orgs, which for us is Sales, Marketing, Customer Success, Partnerships and RevOps. I’ve been here for about three years. We’re an early stage tech company. Prior to that, I spent about seven years at another tech company here in the Twin Cities called Sports Engine. Started as an individual contributor there and then moved into some sales leadership roles, eventually worked with a couple of teammates to build out our outbound STR function and then also our inbound sales function as well. Partnering really closely with the marketing folks there a lot of my early stage experience, so hopefully some of the insights I shared today are helpful. 

Jennifer Zick: Thank you Anthony and I love that your introduction included about seven different terminologies that we’ll get to pull apart in our conversation today. So that’s awesome. Barb, over to you. 

Barb Bertsch: Hey everyone, I am Barb Bertsch. I am a Fractional CMO with Authentic. I’ve been with the Authentic team for about six years and absolutely love working with the small to mid-sized businesses, helping them level up their marketing and then working cross functionally throughout the business, building that alignment and helping to drive revenue. I’m excited about today’s topic and hoping to be able to drop in some wisdom from marketers perspective into this topic. Thanks for having me, Jen. 

Jennifer Zick: Of course. And we know you’ll all drop some wisdom into this conversation. And while I am moderating today and delighted to host, I also hope to contribute and add some value. My background was in sales and sales management before I moved into marketing and marketing leadership and then entrepreneurship. So I’ve sat in a number of different seats through a number of different growth phases and my industry background has been exclusively in B2B, professional services in the intersection of technology and a lot of industries now with Authentic. So it’s just been wonderful to get a wide swath of experiences that we get to bring to the table today. So let’s jump right in. And Shannon, I’d love to start with you and then have Barb and Anthony contribute on this too, because there’s so much ground for us to cover. 

Key differences in sales roles and individual attributes that align with each

Jennifer Zick: But let’s start with kind of setting the table with some core sales definition. I hear a lot of confusion around what is the real difference between business development, sales and account management. Those are kind of three big pillars. Can you walk us through what those things mean and look like? 

Shannon Muniz: Absolutely. And that’s a great question. To start with, it has to do with, if you think about the process of selling, it starts with creating interest, creating demand, and then someone has to work the deal and someone has to close the deal, and then you want to hold on to that deal and retain it. So there need to be people that are responsible for each one of those roles. And sometimes you’ll have actual titles that cross roles. And so that’s one of the things that I think is important for people to understand. So when you’re talking about creating demand, for example. That’s usually a business development role. So that person is doing just what we’re saying, developing business. They may be working as an inside sales rep, they may be taking inbound calls, they may be making outbound calls as part of a marketing campaign, but they’re generating the interest and then passing that lead and that opportunity off to a sales rep. 

A sales rep is the person that would actually be responsible for working the deal and closing the deal. So they’re going to be the ones that are usually at some point face to face with a customer, maybe over Zoom, or it may be in person. So it could be an inside role, it could be a field sales role. Sales takes on a lot of different shapes since COVID but that sales rep position is the one that’s responsible for closing the deals with new business, new opportunities. Now, once it’s closed, you want to make sure that you retain it.

So you generally have people that are in account management managing the accounts that you’ve closed, or sometimes called customer success. These people can also have a responsibility for upselling into existing accounts. So if you have multiple products, sometimes you’ll see an account manager or customer success manager that also has a sales quota, because they’re not only responsible for retaining the clients, but growing those accounts. 

How to build the ideal team for your business model and/or industry

Jennifer Zick: That’s right. Wow, that was textbook. I’m going to invite you to help us with our next glossary version. That was fantastic. And we’re going to deep dive into a couple of those components. And Anthony, I want to take the same question over to you a little bit, because one of the terms you threw into your introduction was SDR and Authentic just published a blog, which we’ll include as a resource in this recap, as a glossary of terms, and one of the most confusing terms that Shannon started to define as business development. But there’s a lot of pieces to that. Talk to us a little bit about what business development looks like in a tech world and in the space that your business lives in. 

Anthony Ostrowski : Yeah, this is a good one. This is, I think, one that probably gets the trickiest to keep track of. I think in my sales career over twelve-ish years, I’ve seen it called MDR (Market Development Rep), BDR (Business Development Rep) and an SDR (Sales Development Rep). I think currently we skew towards SDR, which we call a Sales Development Rep. And largely for us, it’s because Biz Dev, or Business Development, takes on a life of its own a little bit. So for us, Biz Dev is quite specifically an individual within our organization, who is responsible for larger, riskier deal flow? 

These are unique use cases that maybe we don’t have product built for today or customer segments that we haven’t fully vetted out or aren’t 100% confident in. So it does get tricky. I think as long as you have clarity internally on what the swim lanes are and what each person is responsible for. The one thing I do wish is sales in general would just figure it out and pick one because it probably makes it really hard for job seekers and job placers to figure out where alignment lands. But for us right now, we call it an SDR. 

Jennifer Zick: Yeah. And Barb, you’ve worked as the head of marketing alongside many emerging and growing sales organizations. Have you seen entrepreneurial companies kind of get wrapped around the wheel a little bit in trying to understand who should own which piece of this, especially when you might only have one or two people who have to spread out across that sales lifecycle? 

Barb Bertsch: Yes, for sure. And as we work with these small businesses, we know that they are trying to grow. And I think one, two terms that weren’t mentioned are “hunter” and “farmer”. And I know those are qualities within these roles, however, very different. And I feel like in some of the organizations I’ve been in, these sales leaders are trying to train somebody to be a Hunter. And I think that’s an innate quality. So I really try to challenge them a little bit. You are absolutely 100% sure this person has it in them to get out there and knock on doors? Because that is a really difficult role. 

Jennifer Zick: Right. Well, and when we move into the next section of our conversation, we’re going to go a little deeper on this point. But one thing I want to share is that the term Business Development and the glossary we just published, we broke that apart into a few different scenarios because it looks really different depending on the kind of business that you are in a solution oriented space, like in technology, often business development is a little bit more of a volume play in terms of inbound, outbound and activity based. But if you’re in a professional services firm where you’re selling a high trust relationship to an executive decision maker and that’s like Authentic. Right. 

We’re selling CMO services to CEOs. What business development looks like is really different. It’s nothing so much about the volume of activity as it is about the quality of the relationship and really nurturing those high trust relationships on a one to one basis, and that the kinds of activities that happen in business development in pro services looks different than the way that those activities come together in a technology or solution business. Have you seen that to be true, Shannon, as you’ve worked across industries? 

Shannon Muniz: Absolutely. In fact, I was going to say to your point, but also to the point that Anthony made, you know, with the titles sometimes crossing the roles, so you’ll see a similar title assigned to completely different roles. And so, correct, to Anthony’s point, when people are looking for positions, they don’t often match what their experience has been to what the role is. And that’s where it’s really the job of the sales leader or the person that is hiring to understand exactly what is this person’s background, what is this role? And not focus as much on the title, because when you focus on the title, you could lead yourself down an absolutely wrong path. 

When and how to reorganize your sales team for greater effectiveness

Jennifer Zick: That’s right. Good. Well, let’s segue to the next question where we get to kind of peel this apart a little bit more with all of the different industry experiences we bring to the table. So we’ve identified that sales teams are going to look different depending on the business model, whether your services, your  B2B, your multi channel, you’ve got partner alliance components. And Anthony, you’ve been part of scaling up a couple different sales teams in a slightly different environment. So what advice would you give to executives of growth businesses when they start to consider, like, all right, we’re moving from Founder led sales to a couple bodies that are driving new business to now we have critical mass, how do we start to think about organizing? 

Anthony Ostrowski: Yeah, the saying that comes to mind here, and this is one that my wife spent hammering home with me, which I absolutely love, is that the concepts are few but the methods are many. And so most people are going to have a dozen plus years of experience either in other types of businesses. But I think it’s important to fight your initial instincts to do the things that worked in a previous job. I know I was a little bit guilty of this when I joined Yardstik. You just kind of assumed that the playbook that you used to run is going to perfectly apply to what you’re trying to do now. 

And there are elements of it, like the actual concepts of what worked for you in the past probably still ring true, but you’ve got to be super open to different methods working for how you’re going to find success. There’s a couple spots to probably look at. First is like, what stage is your business in if you’re super early stage, the stuff that worked when your past company or other companies are at scale is probably not what’s going to work for you at an early stage and vice versa. If stuff worked for you in a super early stage business, it’s not likely that stuff is going to scale. I would also look at who you’re selling to. Like what are the actual verticals or industries that you’re trying to get a hold of? Maybe they spend their time learning in different spots than where you used to educate your customers and how you used to reach out to people. 

Some industries maybe it’s impossible to get ahold of them on the phone. Others maybe email, not quite as good. So you have to be sensitive to who you’re selling to adjust your strategy accordingly there and then. Also like, what are your segments? Are you SMB? Are you mid market? Are you an enterprise? Which is basically another way to say have a ton of small deals. Are there medium sized deals, are there really big deals that you’re going after? So that’s like the first thing that comes to mind for me is take some of the concepts that worked for you well in the past, but be open to there’s probably a different method that’s going to work based on the type of business and the customers that you serve today. 

Organizing your team around marketing and sales

Jennifer Zick: That’s great. And it kind of segues to a question I’d like to ask of Barb from a marketing perspective, because often when we come to the table with our emerging growth entrepreneurial companies, they’ve been a bit opportunistic as a sales organization, kind of just responding to whatever revenue might be coming at them rather than organizing a go to market target. Sometimes they can’t even answer who their ideal customer is. It’s like, well, whoever will pay us, right? So Barb, talk to us a little bit about the importance of marketing strategy with sales to define a target audience so that you know how to organize a team around that. What does that process look like? 

Barb Bertsch: Yeah, great question. I would say you really got to find a sales leader who can envision the big picture alongside the business leader. Look at your three and ten year picture for the business and then start getting the cross functional teams for marketing, HR, product management, customer success. Because building and scaling is going to affect all those functions of the business in different ways. Talk through that vision and conclude together on the right people and the right timing to bring them in. Because as you add salespeople, you’re probably going to need to add to the rest of the business and add that additional headcount in those areas to support the increased revenue and the customer experience. 

Indications that your business might be ready to engage external expertise to assist in defining and filling revenue roles

Jennifer Zick: Absolutely, Barb. Shannon, in the role that you play as a sales advisor and with your colleagues in the Sales Xceleration community, stepping in as Fractional Head of Sales and really leading this, tell me a little bit about what you see in those situations where maybe the founder has been the main driver of new business, but now to scale, they’ve got to get beyond that. How do you work with founders to let go of the vine and trust other people to sell what they’re so passionate about? 

Shannon Muniz: Yeah, that’s actually a very common reason that people bring in Fractional Sales Leaders, is that the owner of the business was the original salesperson and probably still runs sales and maybe even gets involved in deals or is actually selling. But there reaches a point where the business can no longer grow. If the CEO, founder leader can’t step away and run the business and grow the business, and it’s difficult for them to instantly trust somebody when that’s been their baby, they’ve been the one that’s done it. And, you know, a question that we hear all the time, well, how do you know my business? How do you know my industry? And the truth is, it’s a process. 

So at the end of the day, sales comes down to having a proven process and utilizing a proven process, not only to build a sales team, analyze a sales team, but also, just as Barb was saying, to make sure that you’ve got plans in place to grow. So you want to have overall processes that as a company grows, you know, they may change and things may shift. So your processes can be fluid, but it’s critical that you have them in place so that you are managing the company not only from just the sales side, but from a growth perspective as far as trust, it usually goes back to experience.

So if you just go out and hire a sales leader that is working as a VP of Sales before they’ve worked in one company, chances are that company may have already had some of the components of the process that you need. But when you work with a Fractional that’s worked with 50 to 60 to 100 companies and gone in and implemented proven processes that work, then you can have trust that the process is going to work for your business as well. Of course, they’re customized to the industry and to, you know, take things into consideration, such as the buyer Personas, the markets, those sort of things that are critical. 

But once those are understood and you know, everyone in the company is kind of speaking the same language, it’s a, it’s fairly easy for a fractional to come in and help that owner feel comfortable stepping out of their role. 

Core components of a sales organization

Jennifer Zick: Yeah. And let’s talk a little bit about, before I move on to that next section, I want to talk a little bit about some common sales organization structures for those who are listening who represent different kinds of marketplaces. Anthony, you’ve got a lot of experience on the tech side for a simple SaaS solution type of company. What would you say are kind of the core components of the sales organization? Kind of in buckets. 

Anthony Ostrowski: Yeah, this actually touches back a little bit on the last question, and I think Barb said it really well. You’ve got to have people that are out there hunting. You’ve got to be driving some demand unless you’re fortunate enough where you’ve got a ton of inbound flow, perfect product market fit, all that stuff, which for most companies is not the reality. You’ve got to have boots on the ground going out there and talking to the market. This is also your fastest way to learn. The more at bats you have, the more potential customers you talk to, the more rapidly you can make adjustments to your whole business model. So I think you’ve got to have some form of a team or a person doing some outbound. 

And then depending on that person’s skillset, they may or may not be the person that’s responsible for closing that deal very early on. It may have to be that person just surely from a budget. But the second you can afford to start to bifurcate those roles, it’s usually good to do so. So you can have an account executive fully focused on owning the sales process, managing the multiple stakeholders that have to get involved, and driving executive alignment. There’s a lot of stuff you have to focus on in a sales process. And then usually early on maybe you’ve got that seller owning the relationship post sale, but the sooner you can get out of that and have a customer success in place, we’ve got customer success managers. They’re exclusively responsible for the relationship after the sale.

And then depending on what your product suite looks like, maybe you start to introduce account management, which still sits under the customer success umbrella, but that team or that person is responsible for driving the renewal, looking for potential upsell and stuff like that. So I think looking at those three functions across the sales org, who’s going to be driving demand building pipeline, who’s managing the deal flow, the process, and who’s managing the customers thereafter. I think on a super tactical level, the one thing I would encourage people to think about is if you have hunches or theories you want to test out, is there a really bite sized way that you can experiment with that idea versus going all in. 

Because if you do go all in and it doesn’t work, you’re probably going to be in a tough spot then also too, anytime you can have more than one person, if you can pair up two people working on a particular new strategy, you’ll have a better idea. Like was it the strategy itself that worked or didn’t work? Or was it the all star that we just put in that spot? So anytime you can have two people working on something, you’ll get a better sense whether or not it’s the right strategy. 

Jennifer Zick: That’s super helpful. And I think it’s a really interesting comparison. We just had our Authentic quarterly EOS leadership team offsite yesterday, and we are at a tipping point in our sales organization as a professional services firm. I talked about some of the different qualities of business development here. Well, we’ve moved from being founder, owner, sales organization, to bringing in first generation of business and partner development. Because in our world, which is true for a lot of professional services firms, channel and referral is a huge important piece of growth. And that can be true in tech world too, very commonly. So then you end up with the trifecta of business development, which is like the direct buyer developing those relationships. 

You have channel and partner and referral development, which is the one to many strategy, still a high trust relationship, and you have sales working the deal through to a close. Right. And then after that, in our world, and this, I think is true in a lot of services delivery world, we have client services, which is customer success, client success. And so the interesting thing is, like a revenue organization doesn’t live just under sales. A revenue organization is the entire company, from marketing, creation of revenue and demand, to sales, moving those new business deals through to services and delivery and success, and the operational side of the relationship and growth and expansion. So. All right, well, I could go on. Shannon, did you have something to add to that? 

Shannon Muniz: I actually had a couple of things that I wanted to circle back on the channel management. I’m so glad you brought that up, because it is a very critical piece, especially in technology sales. That’s a key avenue for selling for most tech companies. So once a company is large enough to be able to support a resource to do that’s absolutely a great investment because it will return multiple times what you invest for it to have a successful channel that’s generating sales. So that’s really valuable. The other thing I kind of wanted to go back on was Anthony’s point about having the different roles and when he was talking about new business versus retaining the business, that is really where you see where the hunters and the farmers kind of separate. 

Your hunters are the ones that you put in the rules that are generating new business. So these are the people that are perfectly comfortable going into a meeting where they don’t know the people in the room, and by the time they leave the room, they’ve built relationships and they’ve talked about the product and created interest. Those are your hunters. The people that are not comfortable doing that, but they still may build good relationships are the people that are going to be more your farmers, and they’re going to be in your account management, customer success roles. They may be able to upsell, but they don’t want, they’re not comfortable talking to people that there’s not already an established reason for that person to talk to them. So if there’s already an account in place, it’s already a customer. 

They’re perfectly happy to pick up the phone and call them, and then you’re off to the races. So keeping that in mind that you know you’re ahead. Farmers are working on your account management, and your hunters are out there getting you new business will help you with discerning who fits in which role. 

When and how to reorganize your sales team for greater effectiveness

Jennifer Zick: That’s great. And that’s a great segue, actually, to where I want to direct. The next question back to you, Barb, because what I’ve often experienced, well, as an entrepreneur and with other entrepreneurial businesses, is that when you start a business, you don’t have a business till you sell something. Right? You have a hypothesis. Once you’ve sold that hypothesis a few times through and kind of found a fit, some initial market fit, you start to shift from just being about all new business acquisition to needing to support the clients that you have or the customers that you have. 

So you grow from being a hunting only business to needing to hunt and farm, needing new business acquisition and account management and success. 

Barb, talk to us a little bit about, as you’ve worked with clients at different points in scale, what are some of the signs that it’s time for the sales team to be restructured? What are some of the pain points or the complications that start to happen? 

Barb Bertsch: Yeah, so I’d say some of those indicators could be if the company’s planning to sell new products or operate in different markets or capacity reasons. I think as a company grows, or it should become pretty obvious when salespeople become stretched a little bit thin, I think it’s important that there’s a strong leader over that sales team to ensure that there’s evidence tracking and conversations around territory metrics on a frequent basis. I think salespeople get comfortable sometimes visiting the same customers because they’ve built that relationship and they really like them. And I think that they’re not always great at finding new business, as we’ve been discussing, depending on what their role is, of course. 

So having the right goals set up by leadership that aligns with the company goals for the year and for the future, and paying close attention and tracking them is going to be important as the company’s scaling. So that’s a little more like on the. When, you know, it might be time to reorganize, but you have to have those pieces in place first. Yeah, I think how you reorganize is going to depend greatly, again on the needs of the overall business. New territories versus growth within a territory or selling a new product that requires a different skill set than what your current team has. Also, I think looking at how the company has grown through sales efforts in the past versus the future with respect to the type of sales people that are on the team, is going to be important. 

If you’ve grown through building deep relationships and have scaled through increased offerings through current customers, and that’s reached a point where those opportunities are becoming less and less, I think it’s probably time to add a hunter or two to your team and go out and find new business. That skill like we’re talking about versus managing existing relationships is really different and not always easy to find. 

Jennifer Zick: Yeah, well, you touch on a really important point, and I just had a conversation with a manufacturing prospect this week in that regard. They were a founder-led company. The founder was an awesome hunter, created all these great relationships, brought them into the business. They were a very sticky kind of business. So those accounts stayed. They were very loyal, they were long term, but they got, excuse the term, but fat and happy on the accounts they had, and they forgot to be a selling organization pursuing new business. So you can’t shift from being a selling business to just an account management business and stay alive and stay vibrant and stay growing. So, Anthony, what have you seen in terms of some of those breakpoints where, you know, this is the time to reorg? 

Anthony Ostrowski: Yeah, I think it’s talked about a lot like creating a winning culture, but it’s sometimes not defined all that well. I think a big part of having a winning culture is you’ve got to have a lot of people doing the things that they love to do and being really good at them. And so it’s natural to stretch the responsibilities of people, especially in the early stage, as your business goes through transformations. And that’s okay. Like you need people to step up and take on and wear different hats. But I, at some point, if the market is telling you that you’re stretching it a little too far or your team is telling you they’re stretching a little too far, you can start to erode some of that winning culture that you want to build. 

So I think if you feel like you’ve got too many people doing too many things, that’s probably a good signal. And if you create an open, collaborative environment, you’ll have your team telling you some of that stuff. I think the other area to think about is there demand out there or is there enough opportunity for you to go chase an ad headcount? Too many people will look at just backwards math on goals, which to some degree you have to start there. But the simplest test, especially if you’re trying to figure out whether or not you should add salespeople or what type of salespeople is, just go look at calendars. 

And if calendars for your sellers aren’t full, you probably haven’t done a good enough job filling the top of the funnel or building pipeline, which is a good signal that either something’s not working in your strategy or you’ve got to add more of that kind of SDR BDR role that we’ve been talking about. Whereas if your account executives are super busy talking to a lot of prospects, closing a lot of deals, and they’re almost like waving the white flag a little bit, that’s probably a good moment to go add some, you know, some sellers, some deal closers. 

How to incentivize and motivate to achieve desired results

Jennifer Zick: Oh, that’s great. I would love to continue in this vein, but I also want to keep us on track with our overall agenda. Anthony, I’m coming back to you with this next question, but I want to hear from the others on the panel, too. Compensation is one of the stickiest, most moving, dynamic pieces of trying to build a sales organization and be like, this is the margin we have to reward all of the growth. How do we disperse it and who deserves which piece of it? How have you built and moved things around to keep people incentivized and keep them growing? 

Anthony Ostrowski: Yeah, moving things around is probably the most important part of that question because I think everyone wants to find the silver bullet to build comp plans and align incentives and drive the right behavior. The reality is, like, that’s super hard to do. So you’ve got to, I think, be okay with it being a moving target and be flexible. I think the number one thing we do is we try to create comp plans that are aligned either to a quarter or to two quarters at most. Certainly we love to get to a point where we can roll out incentives and comp plans that will last an entire calendar year. But so much changes in our business that it’s just not fair to anyone. To do that, we’d have to be, you know, pulling back comp plans, rewriting them, et cetera. 

So we’re super transparent with the team as to why we do that, and I think they’ve probably grown to appreciate that a little bit. But I think you also have to get anyone who’s on some type of a comp plan where some chunk of their pay, in some instances a large chunk of their payroll, is aligned to outcomes. You have to make sure that those things line up with what the rest of the business cares about. Otherwise, you’re going to have people that are, in theory, being successful, making a ton of money, and the business is not going in the right direction, which creates a lot of confusion, or sometimes you’ll have the exact opposite, which is not a good problem to have either. 

So creating alignment across the organization, talking super openly about why these comp plans are built the way that they are, I think, can go a super long way. And then the last point which ties into what I was talking about just a little bit ago around kind of creating a winning culture. I love the idea of overpaying for over performance. You want people just absolutely out there super hungry to go be super successful. And one of the best ways to do that is to create incentives that if you do get to a point where you’re overachieving, the reward should be outsized as well. 

I think it’s a little somewhat controversial to say, but I’d rather create an environment where it’s great to be at my company. If you’re great at what you do, you’re going to have people across the spectrum. But if it’s better to be a B player at your business than it is to be an A player, that’s a good sign that you got to recalculate some of the incentives. 

Jennifer Zick: That’s absolutely true. Shannon, in your work with small businesses, how are you approaching compensation and accountability and performance? 

Shannon Muniz: It’s critical that you have well defined KPI’s and goals that are understood by the salespeople and so that they understand what they’re driving towards and then you manage to those KPI’s and to those goals. Now you absolutely tie your incentive back to achieving those goals. And I agree with Anthony. I think that it’s worth it to overpay for people that over deliver. It’s just really important that the comp plan that you put in place is driving the right behavior. So often I see comp plans that really don’t align with the goals of the business. 

And so, for example, if you’re bringing a new, you know, have a new product hitting the market, you may want to shift your comp plan to reflect, you know, a higher compensation initially so that your salespeople will focus on selling that product so that you can start to build a base of customers for that product. Just like Anthony said, you’re not tied to a comp plan for a year. I just this morning had a sales rep that had the same comp plan for eight years and she couldn’t believe it was being changed. And so it’s, things change and they change a lot more frequently than eight years. But even in a year, things can change tremendously in a company. And that having that flexibility to change the comp plan to make sure that it’s aligned with the company’s goals is critical. 

Why alignment is essential across revenue functions

Jennifer Zick: Absolutely. Change is inevitable. Growth is optional. Right. So my daughter came home with that tattoo on her arm, God bless her. But it’s truth at least. So Barb, over to you with this next question. We know that change is inevitable and teams have to move through change together, and that means good communication, good alignment. So we talk a lot about alignment because marketing is part of a broader revenue organization and there’s a number of people involved in that. So tell me how you’ve seen alignment be well fostered in growing revenue organizations. 

Barb Bertsch: So this is one of my favorite topics. So let’s start with sales and marketing. Many of us on this call know how important that is. But in case not in companies where sales and marketing function in silos, it’s likely that neither understands the other and therefore they’re missing out on the value that each brings to the table and then to the market. Allowing marketing to work with sales to not only support their effort, but also help drive company revenue can be a game changer. Sales is the front line to the customers. And being able to have conversations together and understand what drives the customers, what pain points they’re experiencing, ultimately helps marketing become very targeted in their messaging. We’ve all been marketed to one time or another and thought, how does this apply to me. 

That company is clearly missing the mark on identifying and understanding their target market, which wastes time, money, resources and no one’s winning in those scenarios. Sales and marketing alignment fosters better cross functional collaboration and results in revenue growth. I was on a call with a sales leader just last week and at the end of the call he said I’ve never experienced this level of support from marketing. I’m not used to this and I think unfortunately that’s true in a lot of organizations. And then switching gears when you think about client success, when you take a look at the stages from awareness to consideration and purchase, I think often what gets left out is beyond the purchase, the customer experience. 

Ensuring the company continues to nurture the customer, making them feel valued and appreciated with the ultimate goal of becoming loyal and a raving fan finding out from that customer right away, how did the receipt of your first product go? Was it on time? Was everything in order and accounted for and in good shape? And kind of asking them, you know, what could we be doing differently or better next time? 

So when you think about building cross functional alignment, it seems like a no brainer. But it’s so easy to get caught up in the day to day and function in silos. And as business leaders, it’s important to take that top down approach and coach leaders to make sure everyone is communicating and building and driving revenue together. It should be a comfort to those leaders to know that they don’t have to do that alone and they’re not expected to. 

Jennifer Zick : Absolutely. 

Well, I’ve often been heard saying brand is so much more than your logo and your color palette and your fonts. Brand is the promise your business is making to its world and the way that the people of that world are experiencing that you either keep that promise or you don’t. And when the teams that interact with that buyer, whether in the content marketing provides, or the experience and sales, or the service or product delivery, or the way they’re invoiced, whatever those touch points are, if someone’s breaking the promise along the way, that’s a fractured experience, right? 

And so it is marketing’s job to follow that life cycle, supported at every side and understand what’s happening. So Shannon, how have you helped foster? How do you like to work with marketing and with the revenue leaders to ensure there is that communication in alignment? 

Shannon Muniz: So one of the biggest areas that I see alignment being needed is around messaging. Because a lot of times what the salespeople are saying to sell the product and what marketing is putting out on the street are not consistent. And that’s just a wasted opportunity. It’s a waste of resources. So it’s really important that marketing and sales are aligned and that the messaging is consistent. And now, and I’m getting into the marketing space a little bit, but as we see AI coming into the picture and people using that for more of their touches, it’s critical that the messaging is very important in that everybody is aligned with what message, at what time, you know, about what. And so that’s one thing that I know when I work as a sales leader. 

If they have marketing in house, that’s one of the first things that I like to do. I like to sit down with the marketing leader and understand, you know, well, you know, what to tell me, what is yours, how does your value proposition look? And, you know, how does this work in the market? What kind of response do you get to that? Really understand that and make sure that it’s reflected both from the sales side and the marketing side so that you really get the biggest bang for your buck from the messaging. 

Jennifer Zick: Yeah, absolutely. What about in your organization, Anthony? How are you connecting that? How are you creating, what I call connective fabric, connective tissue amongst leaders? 

Anthony Ostrowski : Yeah, Barb and Shannon touched on a lot of really good ones. Maybe to add a slightly different flavor to this. I think you actually have to go all the way back to your hiring process. We try to write job descriptions and promote job openings in a way that they’re only going to appeal to like 1% of 1% of job seekers. And that’s super intentional. And then that experience persists throughout our interview process. And a lot of what we’re trying to find is why do people want to join Yardstik? Are they here because they have, you know, individual pursuits that they’re going to just endlessly chase to no benefit of the organization and other people around them? If so, that’s probably not the type of person we want to bring in. 

So a lot of it starts, for me, at least in the hiring process, who you bring in. Are they the type of people that want to win a championship and they don’t really care all that much like what role they’re going to play. I think I talk a lot with people about looking at your career in these five year chunks and just go write the best dang story over the next five years. Don’t worry about what you achieve within those five years as title progression, all that stuff. So when we get into our go to market leadership meetings and we’re pivoting a strategy that maybe takes marketing or our partnership leader in a totally different direction. 

As long as they understand why we’re doing it becomes super easy for us to not just get buy-in on that change, but also roll it out super fast because they’re then the champions that bring that type of change to their teams as well. And so before you know it, we’ve got 20 to 30 people all marching in the same direction. But a lot of it just ties back to did you hire the right people in the first place that can respond to that type of change and are in it for the right reasons? 

Jennifer Zick: That’s so good. I think one of the best things we can do for our businesses, our cultures, our teams, is to lovingly and quickly disqualify. Wrong. Employees, clients, partners like to disqualify. That should really be in anything that we’re doing in hiring and selling, that’s our primary first line job. Disqualify first.

Shannon Muniz: In sales you say losing early is a win. Recognize early, it’s not a fit. Get them out of your pipeline and work somebody that is. 

When do you know you need fractional help?

Jennifer Zick: Yes, put your energy into what’s going to produce healthy growth and joy. Because why else are we showing up for work every day? Right. Another thing that I would just add to the alignment conversation is that I have seen some really toxic behavior in revenue teams, where leadership gets hyper obsessed about everything being tracked and assigned as who gets the credit? Does marketing get the credit for creating and driving this pipeline? Does sales get the credit for this revenue? Who gets the credit? The fact is, if you have a healthy revenue organization that has that alignment, the whole team gets the credit because everybody is supporting the process, the experience, and the outcome. So I really always love to challenge leaders, like, data is important, but it shouldn’t be used divisively. All ships are rising. Those are the trends you’re looking for. 

That’s what you want to celebrate. And you don’t want to disincentivize collaboration by creating competition. Right. So. All right, well, I’m going to move on to one of our last questions so that we can get to some of the audience. Q and A and audience, thank you for those great questions. You’re dropping in. Feel free to add a few more. Shannon, coming back to you. 

Because Sales Xceleration advisors and Authentic CMOs, what we do for a living is come in as outside expertise to get embedded with client teams and help them reach that next level of growth. What are some of the trigger points inside of a growing company that indicate that maybe they’re not at a point where they can solve this with the leadership they have, and they need to bring in some outside help to get them to that next level. 

Shannon Muniz: Oh, there’s actually a lot of different trigger points. And they could include everything from, as I mentioned earlier, founder, CEO that’s still working in sales, that’s still running the sales meeting. That’s a trigger point. That person needs to be growing the company, not focused on sales. So that’s a big one. Any struggle in sales. So maybe it’s a company that’s been, you know, working well for a long time, and then something happens and the chief revenue officer leaves and leaves a void with a large sales team. Bring a fractional in that will absolutely keep everything calm, kind of keep the wheels on the bus and everyone row in the same direction while the CEO has time to go out, find the right leader to bring in, and believe me, that fractional take the opportunity to look around and say, oh, you know what? 

We can improve this and we can fix that, and we’ll leave the company in a better condition than when they found it. The sales organization. Another trigger may be if the owner is sitting in the sales seat. If they’re an EOS company running on EOS and the owner’s sitting in the sales seat, then they need a fractional sales leader to come in so that owner can move out of that seat, focus on their responsibilities, and allow a fractional to come in and take over the sales. The value of having a fractional sales leader, it is the fastest way to get the fastest and least expensive and least risky way to achieve a high level sales organization very quickly. 

Because when we’re working with companies like Sales Xceleration, I can tell you that Sales Xceleration, all of the advisors have 15-20 plus years experience leading sales teams. And so you’re getting the value of that person, which would normally be a very expensive ticket out in the market. You’re able to get them in at a fraction of the rate and in a fraction of the time that it would take someone that you hired who has not had that level of experience to come in and fix all of your problems. They get your problems fixed in, you know, depending what they are, could be several months, up to a year. So there’s a lot of value in bringing in a fractional and lots of reasons to do it. 

Anytime you know, sales aren’t going as expected and you have a sales leader that is challenged or you don’t have a sales leader at all, that’s the time to look for a fractional leader. 

Jennifer Zick: I think another important trigger in bringing in outside expertise inside of a growing business goes back to what Anthony shared earlier is like. If the playbook that you know is no longer working and you’re not really sure where to pull in new plays to the playbook, it’s probably time to bring in some outside expertise that has seen a few different versions. Right. And can help you assemble the next right structure to keep you moving in the right direction and on the Authentic side. When we come to the table in terms of filling that marketing leadership seat, the story for us is that a really common scenario is that businesses are founder led and they’re sales driven. Because like I said, you don’t have a business if you haven’t sold something repeatedly. Right? 

So that’s how they start and they start achieving operational critical mass. And the initial leaders at the table are usually a founder and a finance lead, and a sales lead and an operations lead. But eventually you get to a certain scale. Usually for us, we see around 5 million in revenue, where it’s been random acts of marketing to get to this point. And now you’ve really got to level up strategically, right. And you need to be able to look at the whole market and bring those pieces together. So there are a lot of different kinds of trigger points in companies as their revenue teams are growing. But these are conversations that we love to have. We’re all in the entrepreneurial growth space because this is fun. This is the fun stuff. Fun is hard when you’re growing businesses. 

Audience Q+A

Jennifer Zick: But I want to take a moment and turn over to our audience and look at some of the questions that are coming in. Oh, I’ve got a good one here that I want to help answer from Rick. He’s asking if, do you guys, all of us here, support the idea of having a sales and marketing VP? There’s going to be some different perspectives on this. But Anthony, why don’t you share first, since you’re heading up a bunch of different capabilities at Yardstik, talk to us about what that looks like. 

Anthony Ostrowski: Yeah, well, I think it’s tough to know exactly the situation, like how does an organization title certain roles? So in this scenario, I’m going to assume that by having a VP layer, those VPs have directors reporting to them, those directors have some level of individual contributors reporting to them, in which case I would say, yeah, it’s probably fine to have that. It probably works especially well if there’s maybe like a chief revenue officer that those two individuals report to. But in a world where they’re both just reporting to the CEO or a COO. I think I go back to my other comment, which is like, as long as everyone is doing this for the same exact reason, I don’t see why those two probably couldn’t coexist. You’ve got to make sure that you align what you’re asking them to do super closely. 

In fact, probably get them involved in how you build that plan, get them working super closely with you and the CFO to understand the whole operating model, why budgets are carved out a certain way, that they are, how each different group is responsible for different elements of the company growing. There’s probably very few reasons why it wouldn’t work if you get some of those elements dialed in. 

Jennifer Zick: Yeah, and I think I read his question a little differently. So I’ll answer it from the other side of the coin. I think he’s asking, does it work if one person is called the VP of sales and marketing? And let me answer what we usually see on that, Rick, because that question is one of the reasons Authentic exists as a little bit of a disruptor to that narrative. What we usually see when that’s the case in a small business is that somebody’s given the VP title of sales and marketing because somebody has to own that side of the house, right? But 99.9% of the time that person has been a sales manager. They have not grown up in today’s modern marketing ecosystem and understand how that complex, fast changing environment works. 

And what happens when you have a sales manager with marketing reporting underneath is that if marketing is not empowered to stand toe to toe and strategically align at the same level, marketing becomes a support function and an order taker getting orders. That may or may not be the right strategic alignment for the business. 

And that’s a really good recipe for marketing to quickly become the junk drawer of the organization, which you do not want. So our philosophy at Authentic is that when you’re past 5 million in revenue, strategic marketing and a true understanding of modern marketing is critical at the leadership level, regardless of whether there’s an executive team and an operating leadership team structures are different, dependent on scale, but we really feel it’s essential to have marketing leadership alongside of sales leadership working together. Shannon, what are your thoughts? 

Shannon Muniz: Well, as somebody who’s been VP of sales and marketing for a couple of different companies, I can tell you that, yes, you don’t want me to do your marketing. And I tell my clients this all the time. Sales is what I do. But in the past, I was in that role for exactly the reason that you said, Jennifer, you know, somebody had to be responsible. So my take on it is, you know, at a certain point in a company’s growth, they’re going to need somebody to own that whole, it’s revenue generation. So it is a Chief Revenue Officer, but they’re not ready to have a Chief Revenue Officer because they’re just not at that number yet. They’re not. Not big enough. So they have a VP of Sales and Marketing and ideally the VP of Sales and Marketing. 

Whatever their background is, if they’re strong in marketing or if they’re strong in sales, hire very strong directors in the other category to make sure that they’re successful. So I can tell you that was a big thing with me. I do not do marketing. And I would hire directors and say, look, I know what goals I need to achieve. I know what we need to get done to get there. How to do it is going to be up to you. And so as long as you have that kind of working relationship, I think that it works out really well. But I think there is a stage in the growth of a company where you really only have room for one leader. Is it ideal? Probably not, but that’s just the evolution of growing a company. 

And when you get large enough and you can have one of each, then that’s a whole different dynamic because now sales and marketing are both represented by strong leaders and that’s a little bit different. 

Jennifer Zick: Well, and that’s where fractional solutions can be a really great solution for a small business. You probably can’t afford to have a full time executive head of sales and a sales team and have a full time executive head of marketing and a full marketing team. More often than not, growing businesses will have a sales team before they have a full marketing team. But you still need that wisdom. So there, you know, there is not a one size fits all answer. Don’t we wish there were? Another audience member asked, would you guys agree that these. I guess this is still. Rick, Rick, I’m going to have to move to another person. You’ve got good questions, though, that these definitions are fluid rather than rigid. I think we could all just nod our heads and say very much so. Yeah. Yes on that. 

Jennifer Zick: All right, let me see if I can get a couple more questions in here. Okay. Anonymous attendee, here’s the question. How have you leveraged RevOps? We haven’t even talked about RevOps. Oh, that’s so important. To support the overall revenue team and growth. And does it make sense to have RevOps in certain business models versus others who would like to take a first stab at defining what RevOps means? 

Anthony Ostrowski: I’ll take a shot. All right, so RevOps love answering this with saying it depends, but it does truly depend. I think it matters the size of your, what challenges you’re faced with. So, Yardstik, we are what’s considered a consumption based business, which means we sign customers and we don’t get paid until they use or consume the product, which is somewhat of a pretty common revenue model these days. And so for us, you can imagine the complexities with measuring our business, analyzing the business, creating comp plans, aligning incentives, building forecast models. That stuff is, like, really complex. 

And so we got to a point where basically myself plus a couple others trying to patchwork do the job of really good RevOps started to just get in the way of our acceleration. And so we brought in a RevOps leader that could take on a lot of that work and has expertise in that area. And I think similar to Shannon, your answer about hire really great people and then kind of get the heck out of their way, that’s a lot of what we’ve done, is hire a great RevOps leader that has done and seen this type of business before. They understand the things that we’re trying to accomplish. They understand the goals and incentives of everyone across our, and they’re kind of like a composer or a conductor, kind of bringing it all together to create beautiful music for us. 

Jennifer Zick: So I’ve seen a couple different iterations of marketing ops, sales ops, and RevOps, and in the worlds I’ve worked in, which have been professional services around technology, but pro services firms, it’s been a heavier emphasis on marketing operations because of the market and the companies I’ve worked in that role sits at the center of CRM and marketing automation and sales and marketing data. And they’re helping to engineer solutions behind the scenes of those campaign structures and deliver insights out of the data because there’s so much data at hand. Right. So they’re the people that are kind of the experts behind the scenes, helping to draw out insights or architect solutions that will give you those insights. I don’t know if that’s helping define that at all, but they’re kind of a data and systems mindset with an insights capability. Would you agree? Okay. 

All right, great. Terry asks, this is a good question. What is an ideal company revenue dollar number before you can justify hiring a CRO? Terri suggests, is it 10 million, 20 million? Any thoughts on that? 

Shannon Muniz: That’s a great question, and it’s going to vary based on industry. There’s so many variables, industry, your growth trajectory, even things like nowadays we’re seeing so much private equity come into the picture. So your revenue may not actually reflect, you know, the resources that you have in house to grow in scale. So there’s a lot of different factors to that. I definitely don’t often see chief revenues officers in companies that are less than 20-25 million, but I have seen them in companies that size and they were filling a very functional role. So again, it just depends, and it depends on a lot of factors, size of the team. There’s a lot of things that factor into when is the right time to bring in a CRO? Certainly if you get to the point, like we discussed on the last question, where you have separate leaders for marketing and for sales, your next high level hire is probably a CRO. 

Jennifer Zick: I would concur that the business model and the situation and the growth model is what drives that decision. Because we’ve seen practically pre revenue tech companies heavily invested to build a full stack revenue organization and leadership team, regardless of their current revenue because of the potential in that business. And then we’ve seen manufacturing companies that are 100 million in revenue, third generation family led, who have a director of sales and zero marketing. So there’s a big “it depends” range inside of that. 

Anthony Ostrowski: So I think the bias you’d want to have is to keep your organization as flat as possible for as long as possible, if nothing else, because it’s expensive to add layers of leadership and you’ve got a chief revenue officer, then you probably have a VP layer underneath that person, and you probably have director layers underneath that person, potentially even frontline managers under that group. And now we’ve gone through four layers of highly paid people before you actually have folks contributing to your goals. So I would try to stay as flat as possible and hit critical mass before you add layers of leadership.

Jennifer Zick: That is such a great way for us to land the plane. In this conversation, we have even more audience questions, and I apologize that we couldn’t get to them all. This is clearly a topic people want to talk about and learn about and explore. So I’m just so grateful to all of you panelists for sharing your time, your wisdom, your passion for this topic. I’m so grateful to be surrounded by a community of those who help entrepreneurial companies grow and thrive. So thank you for being with us today. Audience, thank you so much for tuning in and sticking with us. We’d love to hear your feedback. We will get the recap in your inbox as soon as possible, but come back again for our next Authentic growth webinar. We’ll keep learning together. So until then, go shine your light, be a blessing, be blessed. Grow that business. We’ll see you next time. 

Interested in learning more about how a fractional CMO can help your business? Reach out to us to start the conversation.


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    Authentic® is a national fractional CMO firm, serving clients across the United States and beyond. We were early pioneers in our industry, and continue to set the standard for fractional CMO excellence. Our unique approach combines Marketers + Methodology + Mindshare to help growing businesses Overcome Random Acts of Marketing® and increase maturity, growth, and transferrable value. We are Authentic Fractional CMOs™ Tested. Trusted. True Executives.

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