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Podcast Pit Stop: Sandy Robinson on Empowering Sales Success Through Performance and Communication

Empowering Sales Success Through Performance and Communication

In episode 88 of Pit Stops to Podium, we sit down with Sandy Robinson, Senior Vice President of Revenue Operations at Patra Corporation. With her role as an Ambassador, Contributor, and Podcast Host at Revenue Operations Alliance, Sandy is a respected authority in sales strategy and leadership.

Our focus centers on enhancing sales success through improved performance and effective communication. Drawing on her expertise, Sandy champions clear communication that transcends technicalities and resonates with sales professionals. She highlights the significance of simplifying strategies, crafting personalized playbooks, and optimizing performance efficiency. Join us to glean invaluable insights for elevating your sales approach.

If you’re ready to learn from one of the best, then buckle up and hold on!


Pitstop Highlights

Empowering through Clear Communication

When rolling out new initiatives, transparency and simplicity are key.  Also, it's important to give people the "why".  For example, for salespeople, give specific objectives and tie them to comps.

Communication goes a long way in making things simple.  That includes communicating ahead of time, communicating the "why", and trying to tie everything together. 

Balancing Tech and CRM Efficiency

Salespeople should be spending the bulk of their time selling and working in their CRM.  However, when things aren't properly organized, they can end up way too much of their time in other technology (e.g. spreadsheets) retrieving information. 

High quality tech tools can be rendered largely ineffective when they are not being implemented properly.

It's often easier for startups to set everything up in their CRM as opposed to an older company which didn't start out with one. 

Strategic Approach to RevTech Orchestration

RevTech can best be defined as any system that directly or indirectly influences the customer buying journey at any stage of the lifecycle.

It's important to identify what problem you're trying to solve for and whether you have a process for it.  If you don't have the process mapped out first, then buying tools is a waste of time.

Unified solutions=higher levels of adoption. 

Connect with Sandy



Full Transcript

Brendan:  Hey everyone, welcome to Pit Stops at Podium, the RevPartners podcast where we talk to execs who have competed and won in taking their companies from high growth to high scale. My name is Brendan Tolleson. I serve as the co-founder and CEO of RevPartners, and I'm delighted to have with me today, Sandy Robinson, for this episode of Pit Stops at Podium. Welcome Sandy.

Sandy:  Thank you, Brendan. Really appreciate you having me on the show. I'm excited to chat with your audience.

Brendan:  Well, we're excited to have you. I, you know, as a fellow RevOps person, it's always fun to have somebody in that space to speak to our audience. So this is a fun episode for us. And so for those of you who may not know who Sandy is, Sandy serves as the SVP of RevOps at Patra Corporation. And Sandy, what I'd love to do is give you the opportunity to share a little bit more about Patra and ultimately how you got to that seat. Cause I think it gives our audience a good perspective on how you view the world and what you've been able to see and speak into this, the topic we'll get into later today.

Sandy:  Great, thanks so much. So yeah, I started my career early on in sales as a sales rep, actually hustling, Yellow Pages advertising back in the day. So it was super fun. I was really competitive and worked my way up over the years into regional sales roles and sales director roles, running sales teams and getting into training and everything. And I found myself in the sales operations side. probably around 2012 or so. And it was just a great opportunity. A mentor said, hey, you're really doing all of this stuff and getting into the numbers and really managing the business and managing up. So I've worked with a couple of startups, small and mid-stage startups in the SaaS world, in the insurance industry. It was kind of my first sales ops gig. And been through some mergers and acquisitions, all the fun stuff. And now I'm SVP at Patra. And we are in the insure tech space. So we're providing insurance services for our customers or brokers, our agents and wholesalers, MGA's, et cetera.

Brendan:  That's great. I love the background because I think what it allows, at least it's good for me to hear it, is, you know, oftentimes when people think about operations people, it's more data analysts and come from a sales-ops background, but you're providing visibility and really elevating the profession to say, really, I understand, like, I've been in your seat and I understand what you want, what you need, what's important, because that ultimately dictates how I think through building a DevOps group to support you. So it's fun to hear the background there.

Sandy:  Well, I mean, that's so true because as a sales leader, I was often frustrated with getting the right data and everything, so I taught myself how to do it. So I really do understand, and when I work with sales folks and some of the stuff that we're gonna talk about today, is I understand the pressure that they're under, the quota pressure, and having the right information when and where they need it is so important, and I'm really passionate about doing that and working with the sales leaders and all the different. revenue leaders, marketing leaders, and the organization to make sure that they have what they need.

Brendan:  Yeah, it's the credibility and trust, but it's also the relevance and understanding what needs to be given and support for that rep. So that's great. Well, I'm excited to unpack that whole topic in just a second, Sandy, but before we do that, we do have a tradition here and that's to get to know our guests outside of work. So those passions, hobbies, interests that our guests have. So I'll give it to you. What would you like to share with the audience?

Sandy:  Well, so I have an amazing 12 year old son who is actually in college. So he is getting ready to complete his associate's degree. He started at around 7. He's pretty, pretty awesome. I've married, had a husband for about 15 years and currently live in the Florida Keys. I love fishing. So we spend the summers out here. I like being out in the water, fishing, kayaking, riding jet skis. Fun stuff.

Brendan:  Favorite fish to catch?

Sandy:  Right now it's a snook. I was out to set out to catch a snook and caught my first one last summer And I just want to get big ones. So it's lots of fun.

Brendan:  Do you eat the snook or do you release?

Sandy:  Yeah, I do. I do both. It depends if my husband's around. He's the one who does the filleting and cooking. So if he's around, I bring it home. He does it. Otherwise, I throw him back. Take a picture. I call it CPR. Catch, photo and release.

Brendan:  My, we were talking a little bit before the show, but my seven-year-old was just down in Florida, not far from the Keys, and caught a snook. It's his second year catching a snook, and he got the picture, and he is all excited.  So it's a great fish, a fun fish to catch.  Well, Sandy let's dive back into the big idea. We talked a little bit about your background, both as a rep, but ultimately now serving as that SVP of RevOps and really having that visibility. into not only the tech stack, but helping that team be productive and successful. And so I'd love to unpack how you think through success for an organization, how you empower that through the performance and ultimately the communication and that supportive function that rev ops provides. And when we get into, let's start first with this idea of, like, don't overcomplicate it, this whole, like, keep it simple, stupid, the KISS framework. How should, you know, people think about whether it's a new leader or existing leader? how to drive actions and behaviors through that kind of framework.

Sandy:  I think transparency is the key, right? And framing it in a way the sales folks understand what's going on, giving them the why. Oftentimes, you know, when people understand the why, it is a lot simpler, but then just not, as you said, over-complicating it. So if there's an initiative that's, you know, coming out, let's not have them fill out four spreadsheets and do all these things and not really understanding what's going on. Give them the why, give them the specific objective. And the other thing is, tie it to their comp, make the comp simple, make it all kind of work together. But I think having that cohesive plan for the salespeople, they just wanna understand. They get a lot of things piled onto them from different departments, you know, marketing saying, do this, we need to worry about implementations, customer success. They have a lot of things coming to their plate. So the more you can simplify it, and that begins with communication. communicating ahead of time, communicating the why, and then following up with it and tying it all together.

Brendan:  Yeah, I think the hard part, I mean, you've experienced it, I've experienced it, is there are a lot of things that need to get done and there are a lot of new ideas. And so when you're talking to the front leader, yes, keep it simple, communication is critical, but how do you balance like these, the important and the urgent to not clutter the sales reps inbox or Slack channels or how do you help them to really drive that focus to say, Hey, it's okay to pivot. I think there's that balance there of, we don't wanna be too hyper-focused, so we can be adjusting to what the market's saying. How do they balance that?

Sandy:  I think the key is being agile, right? So being able to say, okay, these are our priorities. And then having discussions with the leaders on what are the trade-offs if we don't have this? What are the must haves that have to have? So we'd love to have everything. And I just had this discussion last week with two of the sales managers at Patra was, okay, we have a lot of things going on here and we are asking, you know, the salespeople to do these 10 things. Can we live without, you know, filling out this form or doing this thing? Like what are the have to haves to function versus getting them bogged down and just really streamlining to that? Because to me, it's all a series of trade-offs. I'd rather have three pieces of really good, accurate data. than 15 pieces of junk because people wanted to check a box. So I think a lot of times, in my experience, leaders tend to want to know everything, and they want to have all the information, they want to have all these things done so they can populate their PowerPoints and their decks and all these things. But what do we actually really use in terms of what they're working on? And so just really streamlining it down. Okay, these are the three. I'm a big believer in three. So I think it's an old Stephen Covey thing. Like, you know, what are the top three priorities that we're working on? And to your point, if they change, they change, but we just align on that as a team, clearing communication and focus the expectations and accountability on those things. And then live without the other things. You know, we're gonna have to let some things set and be okay with. Well, we didn't go out and write a bunch of notes and close out a bunch of meetings. As an example, I can tell you, we've got meetings that record in Gong today. I don't really have a need to go back in and check a box to close out a meeting after, because I can already see it's there, I can report on it. So I don't really need that. I mean, it might be nice to have. But that would be an example of a trade-off that's going to help them narrow in and focus on the really important things that you want them to do.

Brendan:  Yeah, I like that a lot. We had Mark Roberge, the former CRO of HubSpot on the podcast. And one of the things he talks about in his book is like isolate that one thing that if you do that one thing well, will have an exponential impact and like do one thing at a time. And that's a lot of you're talking about when you talk about simplification because it really gives the rep clarity on what is important. And so they can focus on that one thing instead of having you know, whiplash of 10 competing priorities in the same period of time. And one of the things that's been really helpful for us to think through as you talk about the trade-offs is if I say yes to this, it means I'm saying no to something else. And so what am I going to say yes to? And then understanding if I say yes to that, it's going to mean I have to say no to these other things that we've already said is important. So it just is a good forcing function for that leader. Well, let's transition into another topic that I think it's so important when we think about scaling an organization, that's really around enablement. And so to scale, that means you got to bring on more people. And so as you bring on these reps, how do you ensure that you're driving that enablement so you have time to productivity much faster? What are some of the tips or tricks that you've seen be really successful as it relates to the enablement side?

Sandy:  I think having the information when and where they need it. So that's why, you know, having the playbook mapped out is critical, right? So whatever format that's in, in your organization, that's a critical first step. But really then implementing it into the system with a good enablement tool and having the materials available when and where they need it. So if the prospect or if the sales rep is looking for a case study at a certain point in time. having them have to dig around in Google drives and folders and things to find it is not optimal. So it's a good start if you have organized Google folders to have information in. That's a great start. But then how do you really optimize that with the CRM and really getting it to the right point, to the point where it's presenting itself? And I can provide you the source. I don't have it. right here in my notes now, but 65% of reps say they can't find what they need to send to prospects when they need it, right? So when they are sitting there on a call doing the things they're doing, and they're scrambling, trying to find something, then they can't find it. And to me, I take that to heart, right? So to the best of our ability, building out the playbook, but then enabling the tool for them to... have it surface to them to make it simpler, easier, and trackable.

Brendan:  Yeah, I think, look, this is one of those, this is always an interesting debate because I think, you know, from, like take marketing or sales and ailment, they spend a ton of time creating these great assets and they look really pretty and they have really good information. But if the rep doesn't know when to use it or where to find it, it's meaningless, unfortunately. And so how do you ensure that, that just in time learning in the place in which they are, like living inside their serum to your point, you know, they need to have access to that. There's some great tools out there that provide that, but that's like a huge gap that I'm seeing in the marketplace because oftentimes your points, it's in Google Drive or it's in your OneDrive if you're on Microsoft team and folks just don't know where it is. And especially in a distributed context that we now live in with COVID, that becomes even more important because you don't have that ability to talk to somebody or where to find that you're kind of in your own little island. And so I think that 65% is probably going to get even higher as a result of the world that we live in.

Sandy:  Well, what's interesting is there's a Forbes study that basically says salespeople are only spending around 36% of their time selling. So the rest of their time is spent in technology, but surprisingly, only 17% of that time is spent in the CRM. So that just tells you they're searching around trying to find things, fill out spreadsheets, find a document, go into different tools that aren't truly working together with their CRM because they should be spending most of their time when they're not selling in the CRM, in my opinion, because they should be able to find everything there. So if they're working on a deal or an opportunity, they're right in it. They're seeing what they need and they have it presented to them. So I mean, that's a utopia. That's an ideal world. It's easier to do if you're a startup and you're starting from scratch versus kind of going back. You know, it's definitely something to strive for and having clear communication and ways to be able to do that and setting it up to be easy because you can buy all the tools in the world. But if you don't set them up well, it doesn't really matter. It just becomes a nuisance to people because they have to log into another thing and they get another tool. They get another training. I just spoke at a conference last week and I asked the group. to talk to folks at their tables and find out, you know, how many tools do you have? And we talk about technology, revenue technology, sales marketing, tech stack. And, you know, most people were in the like around 10 tools range, but a couple companies were in the 20, 25, 30 range of tools. So I mean, that's a lot. And so how do they really work together and is a rep... really able to optimize it and find going back to that 65% they're probably not finding what they need.

Brendan:  Yeah, it gets back to if we're telling our reps the CRM is a source of truth and they need to live in that system and we need to create a tech stack that allows them to actually be able to experience that. And which I think is a good segue, as you were just describing of this tools proliferation with you mentioned the audience having 20 plus tools. How how do you when you hear that and you start talking that audience of the first time around simplification, how do you think through? They're enabler, they're accelerator, but they're not solution. So how should they think about how to orchestrate a tech stack to ultimately serve the sales rep? What's the right way in which they should think about it?

Sandy:  I think first is identifying what you're trying to solve for. What problem are you trying to solve, right? And do you have a process for it? So I think people buy tools because they don't have a process and they think that's going to fix it. But if you don't have the process mapped out first, you're just going to waste your time buying a tool and implementation and things like that. And I think the problems a lot of times happen that different people in different silos of the organization own the different tools. If I come in, so I'm coming in as a RevOps leader, the first thing I did in my new role, I've been here about a month, is find out what tools do we have, who owns all the tools, what department do they live in, where's the budget, and just kind of get an assessment and map out what it is. And I'd like to define RevTech as any system that directly or indirectly influences the customer buying journey at any stage of the life cycle. So whether it's operations, implementations, customer success, marketing, whether or not it falls under, you know, in my case, I run RevOps. Implementations doesn't necessarily fall under our group, but they're a partner. The customer falls under our group, right? The customer is really what RevTech does is focuses it there. So you can actually try to work strategically within the organization. and ultimately setting yourself up for success for people to actually use it. Because if you have a strategy to put it all together, you're gonna have a higher propensity of people actually using it, actually adopting the tool if you have a unified solution versus, okay, project management team has a, let's just say they're using a Monday board, okay, well then they're gonna plug into our CRM to get information they need. It's like a one-way street. It's not really a continuous journey for the customer. So those two things are different. And I think having those conversations across departments, whether or not reports up to the CRO, the CMO, COO, CTO, doesn't matter. It's really an executive level strategy that says we're going to focus on... technology that enables the buying process, wherever that may be and whoever may fall under.

Brendan:  I think you're spot on. And I think when you think about the tech debt, oftentimes it's to your point where it's like, hey, what's the quick and easy button of, hey, I need, like, buying a tool just because it says it solves this problem, but not truly understanding the why, to your point about the why behind the what. And so having that clear process and structure set up to understand where does a tool fit in and not viewing that as the quick, easy fix is the tool. Because it's... Again, it's more, it's not the solution.  It enables and accelerates, but it's not the solution. And that's always really hard. And people usually find out the hard way.

Sandy:  Yes, yes. And the solution is really people, right? So this is where my sales skills comes into play, right? Internally is talking to the different leaders in their various roles, VPs, directors, C-level on, you know, hey, this is how the technology that you're operating affects the customer journey. And it tends to really break down the conversations, create better alignment. And I so I found that using that definition of RevTech is a great way to break down barriers and go to really ultimately Supercharge the efficiency which is you know, it's it's a long path If you're a more mature company But you know, it seems to me I'm having these conversations right now Everybody's very open to it and everybody gets the idea it says oh, I didn't think of it that way And then as you do this you find if you're in a larger organization you'll find that there are duplicative tools all over the place. So in my prior role, I, prior company, I found when I was doing my investigating, we had, we had four project management tools. And two of them were very similar. And then we had two instances of Monday, even within our own organization. Like we had a, an enterprise edition and a team edition. in two different owners. So there is just not this consistency across the different departments.

Brendan:  Yeah, it is. You know, we talked to, oftentimes we do sessions for VCs and PEs and oftentimes to your point that it's a 20 plus tools. And we talked about, hey, you can actually really consolidate the Monday example where you have two plus instances. Those 20, I can guarantee you can reduce into 5.  And one of the first things we talk about is thou shall not use, like we do like you think I have 10 commandments, we kind of do the thou shall and it's like that thou shall not use spreadsheets. And it's just amazing.  You see their faces of like, what do you mean? And, but like we use HubSpot a lot. You can see it in my background, but like HubSpot actually does so much more than people realize and it can consolidate all that to your point to solve with customer journey. And so it's a fun conversation to have and I really appreciate your perspective on this topic. Well, Sandy, if our audience was to take a next step, you know, what's the best way in which they can engage with you? Is it through LinkedIn or is it through another channel?

Sandy:  Yeah, LinkedIn, I'm pretty active on LinkedIn and with the Revenue Operations Alliance. Those are two great ways to connect with me. And I love connecting with people and talking about revenue operations and all things clean and messy when it comes to rev ops for sure. So it's a lot of fun.

Brendan:  Sandy, I really appreciate you coming on board today. I really appreciate your perspective. I know our audience says we kind of have this pivot to do more with less and driving sustainable growth, understanding how rev ops can play a role and giving them some of these actual steps they can take. I know it's gonna serve them well. So thank you so much for your time today.

Sandy:  Thank you for having me.

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