There’s a lot of discussion about rev ops. In a lot of it, I wonder, “What problem are we really trying to solve?” To be honest, I think much of the justification we use in looking at Rev Ops misses the true opportunity.

Much of the discussion is around improving alignment and collaboration across marketing, sales, customer experience. I’m really doubtful that organizational changes solve alignment and collaboration problems. There are countless examples of alignment and collaboration problems within sales itself, or marketing, or customer experience. Simply smashing these functions together under one organization doesn’t solve these problems–and could exacerbate them. And doing this doesn’t address the alignment/collaboration problems across other parts of the organization. For example, product management/marketing, strategic planning, finance, legal, HR, manufacturing, logistics, operations…. Each part of the organization has dependencies on each other. We have to be aligned and collaborate to achieve the overall organizational goals.

Another reason, a little better justification, is improving efficiencies within our organization. We have the possibility of minimizing redundant efforts, combining efforts to reduce expense, leveraging resources more efficiently. Sometimes organizational changes can help improve efficiencies. Having said, that, if we are collaborating and aligning ourselves across organizations, looking at workflows, looking at roles and responsibilities, and investments, we may be able to achieve those efficiencies without organizational change.

The most concerning thing I see in discussions about Rev Ops is the discussions are usually about us. Our internal operations, workflows, and efficiencies. In your next conversation about Rev Ops, count the number of times you hear the word “customer” in the conversation. Ask yourself, and your team, “How does creating a Rev Ops function create more value for our customers? How does it make us easier to do business with? How does it make us more responsive? Why does this mean anything to the customer?”

The absence of putting the customer at the center of what we are doing and why we are doing it should cause alarms to go off in everyone’s heads.

But there is a hugely powerful reason to create a Rev Ops function/organization. Sadly, I’ve never heard anyone talking about this. (And it may be I’m talking/listening to the wrong people.) The reason is all about the customer and how they buy.

Customer confidence and preference for their Digital Buying Journey is accelerating. We’ve known, for years, that customers have been increasingly relying on non sales sources to help them in all stages of their buying journey. Years ago, our focus was on providing web based information and tools focused on the early stages of the buying process—more focused on awareness and demand generation. However for the past 7 or so years, we are seeing increased demand and utilization of digital resources through the entire buying journey.

The way we have responded to these shifts in the buying journey has been, predominantly, Sales led, digitally supported. We seek to provide content, resources, and tools to reinforces and support sales people in their work with customers.

Prior to the pandemic, things were shifting to a bias to digital resources. But the pandemic has created a forcing function that had driven profound change in how customers buy. Because of WFH, limits in how they could meet with the buying team, suppliers, and others; customer have been forced to rely more on digital tools–both supplied by vendors, tools they develop for their own efforts, and other digital sources. Since there weren’t great alternatives to this, they were forced to use these more.

Surprisingly, perhaps to them and mostly to us, they gained great confidence in leveraging these tools. They are discovering how much they can accomplish, how they can improve what they do in leveraging these non sales channels.

In fact, they have developed a preference for digital buying channels! 83% of customers involved in complex B2B buying prefer these channels and are actively seeking to minimize or eliminate sales involvement.

This shift in how our customers buy is the forcing function that requires us to completely reinvent our customer engagement strategies. We can no longer be Sales led, Digitally supported. Instead, we must reinvent everything around Digitally led, Sales supported.

This forces us to completely rethink everything–our tools, our processes, our systems, our programs, our talent/organizational requirements, and how we respond to support the customer digital buying journey. Our traditional marketing, sales, customer service functions will no longer enable us to effectively and efficiently support our customers and drive our revenue growth. Even combining those functions under a Rev Ops and CRO structure won’t enable us to rethink and restructure in the way we need to change.

We need to completely rethink our workflow, who does the work, and how it gets done. We need to rethink sales interventions in support of customers. We will see the need for sales interventions that are very different than those we currently focus on.

More sales resource must be focused on inciting customers to change. Afterall, customers don’t initiate a digital buying journey until they have determined they must change. Yet they may not know they can, should, must change.

More sales resource must be focused on deep specialization. We can support much of what the customer is doing digitally, but then there is always the issue, “What does it mean to us/me? We are different, how do we manage to those differences? We have unique risks? How do we make this work for us?” These issues have little to do with what we sell, but rather how the customer achieves success with what they must do to achieve their goals.

Customers will still get lost and struggle through their buying journey, despite the digital tools. So one part of the specialization is sales specialist to help them navigate the journey—sales specialists with project management and orchestration skills.

On the digital side of these interventions, we have to completely reinvent things. It’s no longer just content that the customer selects or sales people leverage. It is different types of content, based on persona, industry, problem, and so forth. But it’s a richer set of tools (software, analytic and AI based). It’s tools to help the customer figure out what they need to figure out. It is tools that suggest new/different questions, it’s tools that guide them into what they should be thinking about, what they should be learning, where they might want to get experts involved. It’s tools to help customer manage their own process, communicate within their team, engage others.

Our current organizational structures are not well suited to do this. It’s not a matter of improving alignment and collaboration. It’s not a matter of improving our own efficiency. It’s about completely reinventing our engagement models and how we support the customer in their buying journey–which will be dominated by digital interventions, supported by specialized sales interventions.

A way to accelerate our ability to rethink and reinvent our go to customer models is to look at a CRO/Rev Ops structure, redesigning everything underneath this. It means not being bound by traditional thinking about marketing, sales, and customer experience, but rather developing new roles, workflows, responsibilities, structures and programs to support our customers’ success in their digital buying journey.

Thinking about Rev Ops as a method of improving alignment, collaboration, and efficiency misses the real opportunity and the value we must create to help our customers succeed and to grow our value and revenue in working with them.