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May 21, 2019

The Things Your Entire Company Should Know By Heart

By: Nick Beil
Sales Leader

Why everyone needs to focus on the top-line operating metrics of your business in order to win.

The Metrics That Matter

There are two primary things in every company that really matter – revenue and its rate of change. It is widely known that it’s critically important for every person in your organization to be lined up towards these two singular things. But, I will be the first one to tell you – getting everyone focused on the same thing is hard.

As the COO of Narrative Science, I lead all revenue operations at our company: Marketing, Customer Success, and Sales. Why is it so hard to get everyone working towards the same goal, or even running in the same direction? It’s simple. It’s because people tend to focus on metrics that impact them on a day-to-day basis. If you aren’t careful, your teams can over-focus on their function-specific metrics and lose sight of how it contributes to the overall success of the business. Have you ever plugged directions into Google Maps and realized that you have to zoom out before you actually trust the step-by-step driving instructions? Zooming out allows you to get an overall sense of the terrain and understand where you’re headed. Then, you can go back to the detailed turn-by-turn instructions.

At Narrative Science, we move so quickly that we run into this problem quite a bit. Today, I sit through separate meetings every month where we verbally walk through client renewals, upsell, churn, bookings, pipeline, traffic, leads, and velocity. Because these are all presented in a meeting setting, I end up hearing a lot of anecdotes explaining why something happened or what we expect to happen based on situational factors. Instead, I would like to hear what actually happened or will happen. Our discussions end up being about reasons or excuses instead of the drivers of the metrics and how we can improve them.

For example, we have a go-to-market operations meeting that is 2+ hours every month. Each sales rep goes through their book of business using their personalized dashboards. However, month after month, I have found that many people leave that meeting no more informed than when they arrived. Everyone has a different interpretation of the dashboards and the sales reps’ presentations. This is the dreaded “status meeting” to get everyone “aligned.” Have you ever asked WHY we must continue to endure these meetings?

Get Everyone Focused

As a leader of multiple functions, I know that I need to get everyone focused on the same metrics. Every month, I take a half day and go through my CRM and my business intelligence dashboard – we use Salesforce and Tableau. Then, I send an email out to my teams that looks something like this: “Hey – Over ⅓ of our pipeline comes from one of our products with a 60-day sales cycle. If our win rate is 50%, I expect to see $xM this quarter. What is everyone prioritizing to help pull us over the line by the end of the quarter?”. Then, inevitably, the teams reprioritize and we are able to pull through and hit our goals.

But one thing still haunts me every month – they didn’t know this information until I told them. Sure, they knew some things – they know how we did last year or last quarter. What I hear is this: “Wow, sales is doing well or doing poorly.” Not we, not us, but the sales team. It isn’t about how we all pitched in towards our top line operating metrics.

This isn’t from a lack of dedication or skill, or a lack of tools that provide this information. It is simply because they aren’t aware of where we stand as a result of the way we disseminate information now – dashboards and meetings.

Everyone Should Know This

The reality is that everybody should know this. Yes, everybody. Yes, all the time. Instead, employees work hard every day, but they wait for someone to tell them how the company is doing. It is so much easier to get caught up in the day-to-day function-specific tasks. It is harder for people to take a hard look at our top-line operating metrics and ask themselves how they are contributing to revenue or growth. Zoom out, gain some situational awareness, and then zoom back in. Those that have been in sales for a long time have heard mantras like “you need to take a little time to work ON your business and then get back to the task for working IN your business.”

Everybody in the company should be worried about growing the business. About closing new deals. About retaining customers. At Narrative Science, we are working to make that a reality.

We recently rolled out our new product, Lexio, to everyone at our company. Lexio takes our Salesforce data and writes stories about it in plain-English. Everyone from engineering to finance to product management to marketing now has access to stories about how we are doing as a company, in real time. Because the Lexio stories are in plain, easy-to-understand English, no one has to struggle to interpret it and everyone is on the same page.

It is early in our journey, but what I am starting to see is that employees across our company are paying attention to our operating metrics. I’m starting to see conversations cross functionally when someone closes a deal mid-quarter, or when someone adds a great logo to the pipeline. Marketing is asking how they can help, and engineering is offering their congratulations.

I’m starting to see people sweating the challenge. They are loving what they are doing, and what we are doing as a company. We are making them see value in it. These conversations alone are a huge cultural shift for us.

So, what does this mean for Narrative Science? The hope is that everyone starts to think like C-level executives and begins to question how they are contributing to revenue and growth. I want people to come knock on my door because they spotted a huge strategic opportunity. The first step in the right direction was making our top-line operating metrics available to everyone in a way that they can actually understand.

I am so excited for the future that is possible because of Lexio… Everybody should know this – and Lexio is making it possible.

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