Clarity, Scalability, and Predictability: The Three Keys to Effective Sales Operations With Mesosphere’s David Hong

Collin Stewart, CEO

8 August 2018

When you live and breathe sales development (as we do), it’s easy to get caught up in learning and applying different nitty gritty tactics to make your sales cycle more efficient and effective. Every tweak, new approach, or innovative method can mean a better-run sales team.

And a better run sales team means more revenue.

But while sales leaders and high-performing reps constantly work to evolve their processes in the hopes of closing more deals, it’s the sales operations team that builds and maintains the infrastructure necessary to keep the team organized and empowered to do their jobs.

It’s a critical piece of the sales puzzle, even though it rarely, if ever, enjoys time in the spotlight.

“I can’t remember when I first started in sales ops, but it’s definitely not a career you study in college or plan on getting into after school. People, typically, fall into the role, and that’s how I got into it,” says David Hong, Vice President of Field Operations at Mesosphere, on a recent edition of The Predictable Revenue Podcast.

“We are the enablement function for the sales team, but also of the larger function of business operations. The way I look at sales ops is that we’re Switzerland in the company. That means, if our roles are structured properly, is that we are not necessarily reporting into sales, finance, or operations. We are responsible for the data and the analytics, which gives sales ops a holistic and unbiased view of the metrics. That has always been my vision, and how I build my team.”

David’s principles

Governing Hong’s day-to-day sales operations work are three main principles:

  • Clarity – this is, primarily, concerned with the various definitions the sales operations teams uses in tools such as Salesforce. For example, are the sales cycle stages clearly defined and understood by everyone necessary?
  • Scalability – as the team and product grows, what processes will break? For example, are the compensation plans being used with a team of 5 sales people ready for 10x more team members?
  • Predictability – assessing and providing feedback to the organization, in order to determine where to best invest resources. For example, this includes considerations such as pipeline coverage, how much pipeline each individual rep can handle, and what the total addressable market in a particular region is.

A few of David’s projects

Those principles, of course, can be applied to a host different projects. For Hong, those projects include everything from sales processes and Salesforce stages, to extensive go-to-market strategies and designing a quote-to-cash system.

“Initially, it’s all about the sale process. Do you have the right stages in place, and are the reps following the stages? That morphed into pipeline – do we have the right amount of pipeline? How is each rep performing? Which territories are better than others?” says Hong.

“Then, we took a broader scope to our role, and started considering the tools we use. Do we have the right tools? What are the right tools? And, do you want to measure activities? Or, just opportunity creation? Lastly, we would work on go-to market strategies. For example, how do you know that marketing has a tight integration with sales? And, are the right leads flowing through as a result?”

Another project, although still in the sandbox, adds Hong, is a simple Wizard in Salesforce that allows Mesosphere’s SDRs to check off different attributes associated with each SQL they handle. Based on the boxes they check, a score for each SQL can be generated, via a simple algorithm. That Salesforce data will give sales leaders the power to run reports on all SQLs, and the scores associated, so they can prioritize particular deals in the pipeline.

“Yes, it is a nice tool for SDRs, but the real carrot here is to get them to input. Remember, when it comes to the workflow, you have to design them so sales reps can embed them into their day,” says Hong.

“If you can do that, than they will follow the processes. And, with this project specifically, what’s beneficial on the back end is we can run reports on all of SQLs, and their scores. This gave us that visibility into that data.”

MEDDPICC…and CHAMP

Arguably the most extensive sales operations project Hong, and his team, implemented at Mesospehere is the MEDDPICC qualification method, used to qualify each opportunity in a rep’s pipeline. It serves as a guided opportunity checklist, measures the qualification process, as well as customer buy-in.

Mesosphere’s MEDDPICC process is built in the opportunity object Salesforce, with a text field accompanying each of the letters highlighted below.

(Editor’s note: we had an in-depth discussion Zendesk’s Jaimie Buss about her design, and implementation of the MEDDPICC qualification system at Zendesk. Listen to the podcast here, or read about it here.)

Mesosphere’s MEDDPICC method:

  • M (metrics): What Metrics or Measurement have you shared with your client? What additional Measurements or Proof Points should be applicable to this opportunity?
  • E (Economic Buyer): List the Economic Buyer. Have you met with him / her?
  • D (Decision Criteria): Describe the Decision Criteria. How have you influenced the Decision Criteria in favour of Mesosphere?
  • D (Decision Process): List the Key Stakeholders involved in the Decision Process. How have you influenced the Decision Process in favour of Mesosphere?
  • P (Paper Process): What paperwork will be required to make the purchase happen? How has this process been documented and communicated, along with the timing of each part?
  • I (Identified Pain): What are the biggest business and technical pains? How have you qualified these pains?
  • C (Champion): Who is your champion? How have you tested him / her to ensure he / she is a true champion?
  • C (Competition): Who is our top competition in this opportunity? Where are we strong (differentiators), and where are we weak?

“We have a phenomenal sales enablement leader here. From his previous lives, he recommended this methodology / process to give us clarity and ensure we are all talking the same language in each opportunity,” adds Hong.

“And, as a result, reps understand: where am I in this deal? Is it real? Am I talking to the right person?”

For SDR-led qualification, held before an opportunity is registered, Mesosphere uses a qualification process known as CHAMP (Challenges, Authority, Money, Priority).

  • Challenges: What are the challenges the prospect is facing? And, can we help?
  • Authority: This is another way of asking “who is the economic buyer?” You must ask your prospect questions that help you map out their organizational structure.
  • Money: Money is a critical factor. If the prospect can’t afford your product / service, they won’t buy. You must understand if they have the budget necessary.
  • Priority: Is the prospect determined to buy within the quarter? Or, is this a long-term plan, and the prospect is just beginning their research?

A bit of advice

Clearly, sales operations teams can apply their expertise in a number of different, and critical, ways. But, warns Hong, a useful sales operations function doesn’t begin with what tools they need to implement, or what a desired outcome should be.

Effective sales operations begins with one simple question: what problem are you are solving?

“What are you looking to get out of this project? This is the critical question. Then, after you’ve answered that question, you can decide whether you want it in Salesforce, or in Google docs, for example,” says Hong.

“It all goes back to what is relevant for your business. If you’re a small sales team, maybe Google docs suffices. What works for you should always be the driving force. It’s about having strategic conversations about a deal, or a process.”

For more on Hong’s sales operations methods, check out his interview on a recent edition of The Predictable Revenue Podcast.