As organizations shift focus to a broader definition of sales that includes all sources of revenue, vendors are also pivoting to include “revenue” as part of promotional messaging. But it’s my view that just changing your message or description does not necessarily deliver the capabilities and product experiences customers need to successfully plan, execute and achieve revenue targets and objectives. The just-completed 2022 Ventana Research Value Index for Revenue Performance Management addressed this shift, focusing on available product capabilities that support customer needs as well as their overall experience.
Ventana Research defines subscription management as the processes and technology needed to manage the subscriber experience from the first digital touch to the continuous modifications of orders for services and billing. Effective subscription management requires a new generation of applications designed to manage the life cycle of subscriptions and provide subscribers with the experiences they expect. The subscription business model has grown in popularity across many industries, and for many organizations it is now part of how they conduct business. Organizations, whether through line extensions, completely new businesses or through mergers and acquisitions, now have a mixed business model combining subscription and usage with one-time sales, often as a bundle of related products and services. The model establishes a regular, predictable income stream and monetizes existing and new assets. In addition, usage-based pricing is preferred by many consumers, both B2B and B2C, because it is more closely aligned to actual consumption patterns. For product companies, selling by subscription enables them to maintain ongoing contact with customers to facilitate future sales. Subscription is also popular with customers as it allows a degree of control from the buyer’s point of view and can be cancelled or modified, typically online, in a frictionless manner.
Digital Transformation. The Subscription Economy. Omni-Channel Selling. Customer Centric. These are all terms used to label trends and events that are changing the way business is being conducted, a change that has accelerated due to recent events. Regardless of the terminology, there is no doubt that the way vendors and buyers are interacting, whether B2C or B2B, is different today for many organizations than it was even five years ago. But to be fair, no technology on its own can transform your business without changes to the other two key elements: people and processes. In addition, change is unlikely to happen if you are also relying on your existing ERP or CRM systems.
There is much vendor activity and customer interest in making better use of data, to improve the sales process in the face of increased pressure to achieve organization revenue goals. As detailed in my Analyst Perspective: The Art and Science of Sales from the “Inside Out," enhanced buyer research as well as the inclusion of more people in the buying process, have made selling harder, evidenced by a general trend of declining quota attainment. There is no denying that better use of data can help in prioritizing and helping to advance the sales process more effectively. But this is not the whole story. Whereas generating interest and qualifying opportunity is a key part of the sales team’s role, all this progress can be undone with a cumbersome and clunky configure, price and quoting (CPQ) and contract life cycle management (CLM) process. Automated and digitized systems that handle these elements aid greatly toward a winning/successful close process and will set the right tenor for a continuing and sustained customer relationship. And although CPQ is often thought of as part of the finance department, as contracts are with legal, both of these processes should be seen as adjuncts of the sales process, and both sales and revenue leadership and operations teams need to align with finance and legal. My colleague Robert Kugel covers the finance perspective in more detail in his Analyst Perspective: Configure, Price and Quote Software Supports Profitability Management.
Revenue performance management and the role of revenue operations is moving to the forefront of sales organizations, aligning departments around a single view of the business with shared revenue targets and goals. This facilitates the needs of the sales department as well as customer experience, marketing and renewals. The concept of RevOps does not yet have a widely shared common definition within organizations. Because revenue organizations include workers associated with sales operations, there tends to be a bias that RevOps leans towards sales management with the addition of customer success for retention and marketing.
Ventana Research was the first market research firm to focus on the emerging area of sales performance management (SPM), which we define as a coordinated set of sales-related activities, processes and systems that enable organization. Over the past decade, SPM has become more science than art. Properly managing a sales organization requires effective planning, which in turn requires key performance and sales indicators built on a foundation of relevant metrics. But this is changing. As more organizations embrace the subscription business model and engage with additional selling channels over and above direct sales, the concept of the primacy of new sales is transforming to a more holistic view of revenue.
The internet is a rich source of information and is used by buyers to research new applications and offerings well before ever engaging a vendor and salesperson. Along with massive growth in offerings, this is a major reason why sales teams are facing increasing challenges to successfully sell and attain targets.
With the emergence of multiple selling channels and the rise of the subscription model, the need for a unified approach to revenue planning and execution should be a priority for every organization. As I have written about in my analyst perspective Revenue Management: The Opportunity for Innovation and Optimization, this need to unify the approach and focus on alignment across all revenue supporting teams in furtherance of an organization’s objectives and targets is of key importance to ensure that teams handle different aspects of a customer’s journey and experience. And, as I will further discuss, this alignment between groups is rarely a happy accident but rather the result of forward-looking, continuous planning.
The emergence of the Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) has mirrored the adoption of the subscription model and the development of multiple selling and buying channels over and above the traditional direct sales model, referred to as Revenue Management. Supporting the traditional sales team and management was the sales operations team with responsibilities around incentive compensation, territory and quota planning, sales metrics and reporting and sales forecasting as well as sales engagement and enablement tools and applications. Aligned with this functional area under the CRO is another set of roles and functions called revenue operations or RevOps.
Traditionally, price management and optimization have been contained to certain industries, such as large-scale manufacturing and chemicals. Those industries involve potentially tens of thousands of stock-keeping units (SKUs) covering a wide variety of products and price points. For many organizations, pricing systems are “cost plus” or “follow the leader,” not typically designed to invoke optimization but rather just move pricing along. Price management is often seen as a complex, arduous task that yields small returns for the effort it dictates, and not a strategic lever.