The Notion playbook for best-in-class RevOps organizations

Namrata Ram, Head of Revenue Strategy and Operations shares her insights from building and scaling the RevOps organizations at Notion.

Namrata Ram
October 12, 2023
The Notion playbook for best-in-class RevOps organizations

Alexa, CEO of Pocus, hosts Product-Led Sales (PLS) “Ask Me Anything” sessions with PLS experts to share best practices, frameworks, and insights on this emerging category. These AMAs are an opportunity to ask PLS leaders any question — ranging from hiring to sales compensation to tech stack — in a low-key, casual environment.

The PLS AMAs are for members of the Product-Led Sales community, the place to learn, discuss, and connect with go-to-market (GTM) leaders at product-led companies. The goal of the community is to bring together the most thoughtful and innovative GTM leaders to build the next generation of sales together.

Interested in joining? Request an invite here.

Now, keep reading for a recap of what we discussed with Head Of Revenue Strategy and Operations at Notion, Namrata Ram, in our latest AMA chat.

Meet Namrata Ram, Head of Revenue Strategy and Operations at Notion

Namrata Ram is Head of Revenue Strategy and Operations at Notion. Before that, she led monetization and revenue teams at PLG darlings, Slack and LinkedIn. Nam is a seasoned strategy and operations executive with a software engineering background. She’s an expert on go-to-market (GTM) strategy, operations, enablement, and business technology functions.

In this recap of our AMA conversation with Nam we’ll share the high points of our discussion, including: 

  • How to build a successful RevOps team
  • When to lean into product usage signals vs. other intent data
  • How to think about cannibalization vs. increasing market share

Building a successful RevOps team

Nam views RevOps as the strategy and ops complement to the CRO.The CRO is responsible for setting the overall revenue strategy like defining the company North Star and where the team should focus (expansion, retention, acquisition). RevOps supports the CRO by aligning go-to-market to bring that strategy to life. The main lever in Nam’s opinion? Setting shared goals for each team i.e increasing sales win rates, optimizing lead routing, improving qualification rates for PQAs, etc.

Besides goal setting, RevOps should also:

  • Set lead scoring parameters based on ACV, ideal customer profile, and product usage.
  • Surface the right data for reps to make the connection between product usage, end-user value, and customer ROI.
  • Manage the tech stack to enable GTM with the systems they need to efficiently run PLS. 
  • Smooth out cross-functional processes by facilitating feedback loops between all the teams involved in the Product-Led Sales motion (sales, marketing, customer success, and product.)
“Ultimately the CRO's responsibility is to drive revenue for the business. Your goal should be to empower the CRO even more to do that. RevOps is really a supporting function, but it's a really critical supporting function where you enable and empower a leader to be able to drive proper influence and revenue.”

3 Key tenets to scale RevOps

At Notion, RevOps supports both the self-serve and sales-assisted revenue engines. This includes sales, marketing, customer success, customer experience, growth and insights teams. RevOps has their hands in strategy and process across the entire customer lifecycle. 

Nam shared 3 key pieces of advice for leaders building out the RevOps function:

#1 Lean into “first principles”

Don’t hire teams that only know how to “copy and paste” playbooks from company X to company Y.

“When you're building something from scratch, you don't want to take a playbook and say, ‘I've seen this before, I'm just going to apply it.’ Instead, you want to understand, does this make sense in this context, or do I need to just throw it out the window? If we were to solve this problem the right way, what could that look like?”

#2 Hire based on GTM needs first, then focus on scaling

First hire the person who can fill the most urgent gaps required to operationalize the sales motion. For Nam, this was enablement.

“When you're building a team from scratch, you think you can hire anyone for anything — so many places where you can start. For me, it was really about understanding the biggest need. One of the things that came up was around sales enablement. As you're scaling a sales team, you need to have a really strong onboarding function. You need to create a sales methodology. You need to create proper sales stages and sales processes. So my first hire was an enablement hire.”

After addressing immediate needs, your focus can shift to strategic hires that will support future growth. For Nam, shifting from hiring to solve today’s problems toward hiring for long-term goals took about 6 months.

“My first 6 months were just about addressing the burning needs within the organization. My next six months were about what we need to scale for the future. I was able to be far more strategic in building out some extra functionality. Like, ‘do I need to build out an insights function?’ Or ‘do I need to create extra resourcing around marketing for tighter handoffs?’”

#3 Establish yourself as a thought partner to the CRO

RevOps and the CRO may have different perspectives on how to achieve business goals — that’s ok as long as there’s open communication and tight feedback loops.

“There are multiple ways to get to where you want to go. You need to create that comfort level where your CRO can give you feedback and you can iterate and reflect on it. You may have different perspectives and that's totally okay. It's your job to have a different perspective. That's where you need to rely on proper dialogue — to drive alignment across that relationship and become a thought partner. Your goal is for your leader to really understand the different paths to achieve the desired outcomes.”

RevOps responsibilities: what, who, and how

According to Nam, in a Product-Led Sales motion, RevOps is uniquely positioned to operationalize the quarterly go-to-market strategy.

This is how she measures the scope of RevOps’ involvement across the business.

‘The what’ - 20%

Understand and define the value customers can get from your product. Although the product team builds the value, GTM is responsible for making sure that value is delivered. RevOps isn’t driving product strategy, but their input is important because the value proposition determines how you go to market. Nam says RevOps contributes about 20% to defining your main value propositions.

‘The who’ - 30-50%

Define the ideal customer profile, its segments, and how your product’s value proposition benefits your customers. This is an area where RevOps works with marketing and sales leadership. Nam says RevOps’ involvement here ranges from 30- 50%.

‘The how’ - 80%

Figure out the path to take your product to market most effectively. Nam says this is where RevOps plays the biggest role - about 80% - with input from sales leadership.

Now, let’s get tactical. The PLS community had a ton of questions for Nam on the inner workings of a Product-Led Sales motion.

ICP: Firmographic vs. product usage

Nam explained that the decision to focus on firmographic data to define customer fit (ICP) or product usage signals will depend on the nature of the product and its value proposition. 

“There are certain products where you can have a more generic ICP that is almost agnostic to product usage. Of course, product usage is one element of it, but you have other external factors that show a stronger correlation with revenue. In companies where users need to use the product to experience value, it becomes more interesting to look at product usage, especially if you have a massive self-serve user-base that has signed up organically.”

Examples: LinkedIn and Slack

Nam shared a few examples to illustrate this point based on her experience working at top PLG companies.

  • LinkedIn: Firmographic ICP
    LinkedIn sells talent products, so a big indicator of “need to buy” is when companies are hiring. In this case external factors play a strong role in the ICP definition because the value proposition is self-explanatory.

  • Slack: Product Usage ICP
    Slack’s value proposition may not be as clear to someone who’s never used the product. People might think ‘it's just a chat tool,’ but Slack is a new way to collaborate. In cases like this, it becomes really important to rely on product metrics because usage is key to deliver value. So, the ICP definition becomes more reliant on product usage than external company factors. 

Throw cannibalization concerns out the window

Self-serve cannibalization is a common challenge for teams layering sales on top of their PLG engine. Nam advises to focus on driving market share and delivering customer value, instead of trying to prevent cannibalization. 

“You should throw cannibalization out the window and really think about what you are trying to achieve. In most cases, it's value and market share because that's what drives sustainable growth. Whichever motion is able to achieve that for a specific set of customers, that's probably the best way to look at it; not worrying about, ‘what if somebody could have come in and decided to buy 10,000 seats online?’”

So, when do you layer sales? When do you let self-serve do its thing? It depends on the customer segment. Nam shared a helpful rule of thumb based on account penetration:

Add sales if… account penetration isn’t getting past 20% 

“In self-serve, especially at larger companies, what I've typically seen is that account penetration gets to maybe 10-20% of a company. In that case, your sales-assist motion should be able to uplevel and drive that incrementality that you wouldn't have seen otherwise.”

Don’t add sales if… you’re hitting 50% account penetration through the product. Bring in marketing instead! 

“For example, in the SMB segment, maybe you're getting to 50% penetration more organically. Then, you just have to do some more marketing tactics and lifecycle marketing to get them to the full 100%.”

RevOps should focus on pinpointing the limits of organic growth to figure out the right playbooks, which could mean sacrificing short-term revenue or risking some level of self-serve cannibalization. That’s not so bad if you're achieving the desired outcome.

“For Slack and Notion, the market is knowledge workers. The goal is to get all the knowledge workers on Slack and Notion. Getting accounts to wall-to-wall deployment is a core part of the company strategy. And so, if you're at 20% and you're not increasing that over time, let's get sales-assist in there, even at a discount. You can always increase prices later.” 

At the end of the day, to increase pipeline and acquisition, you need to ask yourself  “how do we get more of the right people on board?” And, then enable GTM to do that. This perspective allows RevOps to optimize the sales motion in a way that is less constraining and more strategic.

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Namrata Ram
Head of Revenue Strategy and Operations
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