Episode 187: Ella Pebbles on Using Data to Optimize Revenue

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Shawnna Sumaoang: Hi, and welcome to the Sales Enablement PRO podcast, I’m 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 Ella Pebbles join us. Ella, I would love for you to introduce yourself, your role, and your organization to our audience.

Ella Pebbles: Hi, my name is Ella Pebbles and I am the director of operations at Indeed. At Indeed, we help people get jobs. We connect job seekers with the best-fit companies and roles based on their skillsets and career goals. It’s matchmaking professionally.

SS: Well, we’re excited to have you join us today. Now, in your LinkedIn bio you mentioned that you specialize in the utilization of enablement to improve business performance. From your perspective, how can enablement and revenue operations complement each other and work together to impact business performance?

EP: Yeah. I feel like operations defines process and it defines not only day-to-day, but just overall project management and efficiency and just general optimization. For you to be able to do things by rote, do things intelligently, you need to be well informed as to what that best process might be. That action of informing is where enablement really does come in. Whether enablement is a part of your operations team or separate, you need to be very closely aligned. Otherwise, you don’t have that well-versed, well-orchestrated machine of person worker doing exactly what you ID’d as the best possible actions per day, per hour, per minute.

SS: Absolutely. Now, revenue operations often partners with many functions, including enablement, to encourage cohesiveness in the go-to-market strategy, if you will. What are some strategies for collaborating with partners across the organization to create alignment on GTM initiatives that have worked well for you?

EP: I think being able to be, I think there’s a negative connotation to this word, but almost political. Working with the different leadership teams and the people on the floor to make sure that not only are the leadership individuals well aware of what actions you want to make, what actions you want to take, but they’re also in agreement with them. They’re willing to, for instance, sometimes say, hey, I don’t really want to do that, but I know that you’re doing this for this reason, so I’m happy to do so. Or, hey, can you push up my project and then I’ll be able to do this thing? It’s a little bit of give and take. I think that bureaucracy, that sort of political working behind the scenes to garner your votes to some extent is one of the best ways that you can really aggregate general cohesiveness in the way that you’re sort of talking about.

SS: I think that’s fantastic. Now, I want to shift gears a little bit because I want to reference a previous interview that you did where you had mentioned that a common objective can actually help to unite teams and make interactions with other revenue teams even more seamless. What are some of your best practices for creating and getting buy-in for that common objective?

EP: I think one of the things that revenue operations does as a whole is it’s able to see pretty much upstream and downstream. So much so that a lot of those individual contributors, different departments don’t have that oversight. When you’re able to articulate that oversight, you’re able to say, hey, you are in this specific department, I’m telling you how this specifically will help you do better, help you make more money because that’s my main objective and you’re one of my constituents, so I’m here to make you happy. My actions are here to benefit you to some extent. Really engaging them and how it’s really beneficial for them, and if there are things that they’re giving up or things that make their day a little bit harder, really reinforcing and actually putting it into your thought process when you’re building out things, whether it’s processed, what have you, how to make their day easier. They feel like, hey, I know that you’ve reduced my workload by this amount in this activity, in this action, and I know that’s your objective, so whatever more work you’re putting on my plate it’s not because you weren’t thinking about how to make my day easier. It’s because frankly, I need to do this for the betterment of the company.

I think most companies, most businesses have people who, we all just want to be successful. I want to work at a pretty successful company, I want the people around me to be successful. I think utilizing that and thinking about those other people and from their perspective, knowing that we’re all there with good intent is a really good way to sort of start that conversation. It usually works its way out shortly after.

SS: I love that. I think that’s spot on, assuming good intent is always a great foot to start off on. I want to pivot a little bit and talk about key metrics. What are some of the key business metrics that you look at to track business health?

EP: I mean, I think it’s interesting. It depends on the business as a whole because for instance, at my current role, we have a pretty long sales cycle. That notion of generally just looking at qualification and close isn’t actually sufficient for us. We actually have a midpoint between there we also take a look at and make sure, like, are we hitting that? What’s our conversion rate on that? Which types of businesses convert that far down into the process? It’s almost too long of a wingspan for us to gain true insight. What I’m saying is that really, it’s almost dependent upon the business, but there are some just general statistics, general rules.

Something that I’ve seen really not done too terribly well in a lot of different places is a lot of web analytics, like form conversions. It’s not really something that I think people take enough of a look-see at, and I think that you’re just losing money. You’re losing money so much when you just have these forms that are nearly impossible to fill, or you’re not doing everything in your power to make it easy for these people to try and get ahold of you. You see that in all sorts of businesses, whether it’s retail, whether it’s education so on and so forth. I think a lot of the web analytics stuff is not something that enough people focus on.

Specific to metrics, which is what you asked, win rates are always important, qualification rates are always important. Your MQL conversion is incredibly important. That’s how you know as a finger in the air whether your marketing team is doing a really good job at demand generation for partners. It’s almost like we look at it as partner-generated ops. The conversion rates for partner-generated ops versus outbound versus inbound, incredibly important.

Then another thing that a lot of people bypass is that there’s another point to not forget, which is we think about counts a lot, like 15 out of 25 opportunities closed, 1 qualified, what have you. What we’re missing there is almost always that secondary notion of how much were those opportunities? What was the quantity of those opportunities? That sometimes changes those numbers, and you might be qualifying a lower count, but you’re actually qualifying a higher dollar value. It’s a better indicator to look at all of those different variables and how they affect your business. Specifically, if you have pretty variant deal value sizes, things like that. I always hesitate to be too prescriptive on metrics without looking, but I think that those are some high-level ones that I think are always very important for people to take a look.

SS: Yeah, absolutely. I couldn’t agree more. How can these analytics help you understand opportunities to continue to improve and drive towards more consistent performance across the revenue organization and how can revenue operations elevate these insights to stakeholders across revenue teams to optimize performance?

EP: Yeah, I think the first question is how we can use them to sort of optimize revenue. I think that’s our bread and butter, that’s what we’re there for. More often than not all of those numbers are telling you what your true ICP really looks like. It’s telling you which sales cycles, which sale types, what kind of deals specifically are you doing better at selling? It’s always very important to identify, hey, maybe we’re skewing one way for some reason. You have to take into account the real-world portions because any data will, if you massage it well enough, probably tell you what you want it to tell you. You have to be really careful with data. If you’re looking at all of the different variables, if you’re looking at the data without bias, it should be able to tell you how to optimize. Whether it’s, like I said, these types of businesses require free trials, these types of businesses are the ones who are going to purchase at a much higher quantity, these types of businesses expand upon land, and so we can do a much smaller deal on our new business deal and we know we’re going to recoup that money almost immediately. Those types of pieces of information it’s a really big puzzle piece pretty much, and those metrics are helping you put that puzzle together for your business.

I think specifically those revenue aspects are the driving factor of why you want to look at those metrics. I think again, more often than not, it’s important for you to just play around with the data a little bit because there are going to be things that surprise you that you didn’t even think about taking a look at. I think that those are the things that are always the most surprisingly insightful. I think one of the things that revenue operations is supposed to do very well, and that’s where this bureaucracy comes in, is helping to teach others how to do better in business. I think whether you’re in a startup, whether you’re in a 50,000-person company, a lot of times we all fall into this habit sometimes where we think we know what’s best. I think it’s very important to not come in saying you know everything because you might not.

Again, here’s a specific example of where metrics might tell me something incorrect. At a prior company, I had been hearing from the leader of one of our other lines of business that there was a specific individual who was not performing well. I take a look at the metrics, and it says she’s really riding the middle of the pack. She’s doing a fantastic job, really. Middle of the pack may not be the best person, but she’s clearly not the least. We go and have a conversation with this leader and his response was, yeah, actually both myself and my direct manager spend hours a day with her, so there’s a reason why she’s middle of the pack because we’re doing a lot of that stuff with her, we’re sitting with her. That’s been a really long time and it takes all of the other things for her to get up to speed. The point being is, again, you need to come to those conversations with this is what I’m seeing, is there a reason why this might be? Is there some way that like you can give me a real-world, on-the-ground understanding of how we can better work together to action these insights so that again, you can do better? All of those things will net to everybody benefiting.

I don’t usually run into other leaders being resistant, but I do try to approach those conversations with here’s something I’m seeing, do you have an opinion on it? Let’s talk about it together and see how we can come to a better agreement on what actions to take as a result of this possible finding.

SS: I think that’s a great approach to it, for sure. Last question for you, Ella, how can enablement move the needle on some of these core metrics to help ensure the health of the overall business?

EP: I don’t think I’m underplaying this when I say I think enablement is the linchpin. It’s the most important part. When I look at businesses that I’ve worked in and environments that I’ve worked in, without having the ability to teach and train and then reinforce and then teach and train and reinforce again, you’re not giving your teams, the people that you work with, the ability to do the best job possible. You’re not allowing for your business to flourish. Don’t tell them, hey, this is what you’re doing wrong, this is what you’re doing right, this is how we can optimize doing wrong. You can see even given these metrics that Billy might be doing X, Y wrong, and Jenny might be doing A, B wrong. You’re using these things to help. They’re not always tiny but moving these tiny levers slightly higher and slightly higher and slightly higher. That allows you to not only get people’s loyalty to yourself and the business and willingness to work harder, do harder things, what have you, because they know that you’re invested in them.

Not only are you benefiting the company by building and ensuring that the individual contributors know that they’re valued, and that professional development is something that we want to showcase in all of our team members, but also optimizing for yourself. The more that you allow somebody to do a good job and take them on that plane with you, people like being successful, people like being perfect, people want to do a good job. It’s almost like you could even leave them out on a buoy in the ocean and say figure it out, or you can give them a life preserver, bring them on the boat, and like take them to the promise land. I think that without giving them those tools to be successful, you’re shooting yourself in the foot. You’re not doing the right job.

I guess very long answer to a very short question, which is without enablement, I don’t think that you’re showing these team members how valuable they are to you. I don’t think you’re giving yourself the ability to do a better job. It’s almost like it’s the cost of doing business. There’s no benefit to not working with your team and trying to make them better, and if you were the one who hired them, then you have a responsibility to try to bring them to where you want them to be.

SS: I love that, enablement impacts the cost of doing business. That’s fantastic. Ella, thank you so much for joining us today. I really appreciate the time.

EP: Yeah, thank you for having me. I really enjoyed this chat.

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’d like 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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