Episode 149: Nia Barnabie on the Intersection Between Revenue Operations and Enablement

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Shawnna Sumaoang: Hi, and welcome to the Sales Enablement PRO podcast. I am Shawnna Sumaoang. Sales enablement is a constantly evolving space and we’re here to help professionals stay up to date on the latest trends and best practices so that they can be more effective in their jobs.

Today, I’m excited to have Nia Barnabie join us. Nia, I would love for you to introduce yourself, your role, and your background to our audience.

NB: Hi, my name Nia Barnabie. I have been working within the revenue operations space for the last 12 years. My background has been working with scaling corporate businesses within the SaaS tech space. Having worked at companies like Amazon, Hootsuite, and Jumio, I’ve worked in spaces where we’ve either seen a great deal of growth within a company, or we’re looking to try and find ways to achieve and build upon that.

SS: Well, thank you so much for joining us. As you mentioned, you have really been in roles that are responsible for growing and scaling the business. I know that you have experience as a revenue operations leader, and you have experience within sales enablement. From your perspective, what does that intersection look like between sales enablement and revenue operations? How do those two types of roles complement each other?

NB: If I think about revenue operations as a strategic function that is aligned and supporting the different departments within the commercial org – so you’ve got your marketing, your sales, and your customer success teams – revenue operations can provide the operational infrastructure and that can help them to keep very clear and focused and deliverables. Then the rev ops team have very clear roles and very defined departments. You may have one that’s focused on the strategy and the analysis, another on the systems, and then lastly, you would have your sales enablement. I like to think of enablement in many ways as becoming the connective tissue that helps companies leverage the strategies with the sellers or the individuals to create clear deliverables, OKRs, or KPIs. Driving revenue in this way helps create clear focus.

When you asked me, how do they complement each other? I always start with the data. The revenue teams begin with the data. We think about how we make decisions based on what we have in front of us and if all the metrics and all the data-driven questions are being held in one space, we can ensure that the betterment of the strategy is coming from the right place, so partnering with the marketing, the CS, and the sales team or leadership team. Generally, we like to answer the questions of what is possible and how can we make what you want possible? Then we can start to think about what is the plan that we need to build around that and work with the different departments and align with them to create that.

SS: One of the things that I noticed is that in an interview that you had done, you mentioned the important role that revenue ops plays in ensuring departments can work cohesively with each other. You alluded to that in your answer just a moment ago as well. From your perspective, what are some best practices for collaborating with partners from across the organization to improve alignment on your initiatives?

NB: I like to think of rev ops as there to provide answers. We take the questions from the different departments and we use this to understand what the right data points are that are needed. In this way, you can instinctively become a business partner to different departments. Historically, you’ll find that different departments are responsible and own specific metrics or processes. In this way, they can start to work in isolation. My best practices would include, firstly, understanding what those questions are, making sure you’ve got the right data points and metrics, having collaborative meetings and QBRs, making sure that you have the stakeholders from the different parts of the business available and a part of that, clearly defining what your metrics are so that you can actually focus on building a narrative around that.

Generally, just being more customer centric. If you’re able to do some of those things, then when you’re bringing on other elements like new technologies, you can really make sure that those other elements are in the middle of that. The data is in the middle of that, so that you’re making sure you’re able to optimize for the actual questions that those departments are really trying to solve.

SS: Now, I imagine that there are some challenges that you’ve experienced in building and maintaining this alignment with partners. What do you recommend for ways to overcome some of those challenges?

NB: Yeah, for sure. I think one of the challenges is having them understand how to work with us, and really, we are there to help align and collaborate with you guys. Where there are issues is around who is owner, who is owning the metrics, who is owning the process. When we are clear on who that is and what relationship needs to be between the two, it really does help massage away some of those problems.

There can sometimes be a resistance to change. When you’re able to provide collaboration and support, you strip away all of the other elements and you really start to have a clear focus and be able to prioritize what it is you’re trying to do. Challenges often come from not having a clear focus or a clear vision and a clear understanding of the roles and responsibilities of the people involved.

SS: Yes, I have found that communication and clear roles and responsibilities are critical to ensuring alignment. You also touched on something just a moment ago around the help that alignment provides when it comes to rolling things out to the field. One area where we’ve seen sales enablement and revenue operations often overlap is when it comes to rolling out new technology or tools. What are some of your best practices for driving adoption among the field and how do you partner with enablement to do this effectively?

NB: When you’re looking at a new tool or new tech stack, at least with the teams I work with, I like to include them within all of our performance reviews and all of our forecast calls, making them very aware of our strategic focus. That way, when it comes to purchasing new tools, they’re very aware of the processes that we’ve got in play. Ultimately what you’re looking to do is purchase tools to help drive revenue and to do that, we need adoption from the users.

Normally, you’ll find that the sales enablement team are extremely close to the users and to the processes on a day-to-day basis. By including them from the beginning in that process, you get all the additional information and additional expertise that comes from them from the get-go. They can ask the questions to the product and really understand what the goals and the requirements are, and then build a project and build a solution based on that.

Any adoption requires clear goals and clear requirements. You need to be able to build a project plan around that. For example, if we were going to re-introduce Salesforce to an environment, you’d first want to know what the pain points of that customer were, find a champion user, make sure that you’ve got a clear and good understanding of what the users on a day-to-day basis are doing, what are their processes, and build to alleviate as many of the problems that they usually see. An overlap with enablement helps keep that clear focus top of mind. You often find sometimes that companies can purchase tools to patch up processes or data inconsistencies. To avoid that, I feel that enablement is a key piece of making some really great improvements.

SS: Absolutely. Given your revenue operations background, what are some of your best practices for gathering insights into what’s working and what’s not as it relates to sales performance? How do you use those insights to help improve the enablement programs?

NB: Yeah, I’m going to sound like a broken record, but clean data. I always feel that clean data is where you start from and a clear understanding of what your metrics need to be. Once you’ve got that, you then need to be communicating often and have real visibility into what’s happening. What conversations are happening with your customers? Talking with the sellers, talking with marketing and CS to find out exactly what’s working well and what isn’t working and then optimizing for it.

When I include the layer of sales enablement, my best practices around that are having a weekly or biweekly cadence of structured forecast calls and clear governance and scheduled performance reviews. Bringing us back to what was our initial goal, thinking about what was the strategy that we were looking to put in place, and looking at our current pipeline or the way in which our sellers are performing helps us kind of zoom in and take a view back to understand the landscape and what’s really driving the change and is it the change that we want?

SS: Thank you so much for joining us. I love your perspectives on revenue operations, and I’m so excited that you got the chance to join us and share your expertise with our audience.

NB: Thank you.

SS: To our audience, thanks for listening. For more insights, tips, and expertise from sales enablement leaders, visit salesenablement.pro. If there’s something you want to share or a topic you’d like to learn more about, please let us know. We’d love to hear from you.

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