The Top 3 TOPO Takeaways

March 30, 2018 Andrew Hsieh

TOPO Summit

Photo credit: TOPO


Another year, another TOPO Summit.

And with it, another incredible slate of great speakers and interesting takeaways.

This year, conversations about account-based strategies and storytelling continued, and as always, sales and marketing alignment continued to dominate the chats we had in hallways, power lunches, and those scant seconds between panels.

We’re here to make sure all that knowledge stays around long after this event.

So if you missed out on TOPO or you just need a refresher, check out our top three takeaways below on what’s trending in sales and marketing, from account-based marketing to revenue ops.

Ops-Stars 2018

And if you’re looking for more conferences like TOPO, check out Ops-Stars: the only conference by and for marketing, sales, revenue and customer ops. It takes place this September at the gorgeous San Francisco Mint, and we’ve already got a star-studded slew of speakers planned. Hobnob with the best in the business and get inspired to get stuff done.

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Sales and marketing alignment is still top of mind

Sure, you’ve heard it all before: “sales and marketing alignment isn’t just important! You need it to get stuff done!”

Well, you hear it ‘cos it’s true. Sales and marketing alignment—or as Brian Vass from Paycor put forward, sales and marketing combinement—is an idea that’s here to stay.

With the growing number of sales and marketing touches across the B2B buying cycle, making sure your marketing and sales teams are in lockstep is crucial. Here’s what folks at TOPO were talking about.

Alignment drives speed to lead

Here’s a wild stat for you, straight from the State of Lead Management report:

Only 30% of marketing leaders believe that sales always follows up on leads.

But 61% of sales leaders believe that sales always follows up on leads.

If that’s not a disparity, I don’t know what is. No wonder nearly half of respondents to the State of Lead Management said sales and marketing were unaligned.

Not surprisingly, that lack of alignment is symptomatic of slow speed to lead, and frankly, you’ve heard it all before. Sirius Decisions says alignment drives 24% faster revenue growth, for instance.

But how to solve it?  Well, one could start by …

Narrowing the gap on analytics

Sure, we know all about communication tools that supposedly help align sales and marketing.

Still, alignment is more than just sitting in an interlock meeting.

It’s about visibility. Shared insights. Numbers that both sales and marketing leaders know by heart.

And, of course, knowledge on where every lead is, has been, and will be.

Not to toot our own horn, but speakers like Ryan Schwartz from MongoDB and Kaushik Patel from ThoughtSpot specifically called out LeanData as one technology that offers that insight.

Specifically, they used LeanData’s visual lead routing flowbuilder—because it’s one tool anyone from marketing or sales can understand in a glance.

(That’s not even mentioning LeanData Matching, which lets you automatically match leads to accounts with a best-in-class algorithm.)

Other technologies, like Drift, help curb the yells from sales that marketing gives poor leads. With conversational marketing, users filter themselves, and while sales benefits with better leads, marketing can focus on optimization efforts.

And both sides can see the results.

Alignment? More like “combinement”

Brian Vass from Paycor had different ideas about sales and marketing alignment, in his aptly titled presentation, “Forget Sales & Marketing Alignment — Sales & Marketing Combinement is What Matters.”

Vass described how Paycor shifted from siloed, walled-off team structures—with marketing, sales ops and sales separated—to a more holistic team structure, with sales and marketing ops supporting both sales and marketing.

Hence, “combinement,” measured in Net Promoter Scores (NPS), campaign influence across lead scores, and lead volume, conversion rates and velocity.

That kind of organization, with sales or marketing in the same department or “cluster”, has gradually gained prominence as the “handoffs” between sales and marketing in B2B buying have increased.

And as Vass notes, step one to creating an integrated sales and marketing funnel might just be to create an integrated sales and marketing department.

ABM is B2B marketing

Those are the words of TOPO founder and CEO Scott Albro, who made waves in his keynote with the hard truth of marketing in 2018.

With dwindling open rates and clickthrough rates in mass sales e-mails and even e-mail nurture campaigns, sales and marketing has to find a way to break through the noise …

… and that means going back to the account-based well, reaching in, and getting some old-fashioned manual messaging.

Scale personalization by making the data come to you

Of course, you can’t exactly scale a handwritten note with information you found after 20 minutes of Googling.

At least, not without really tiring out your hands.

But you can scale the technology that brings you the information in the first place.

Patel used LeanData to get his organization’s foot in the door when it came to account-based marketing.

With LeanData lead-to-account matching, Patel and his team could automatically tag accounts with rich account metadata, including revenue, industry, technographic and geo data.

And with territory info tagged to accounts, leads, contacts and opportunities in Salesforce, LeanData provides high-level visibility into buying centers and geo-level traction.

In other words, LeanData helps bring the data to you—giving you sophisticated data to create sophisticated sales and marketing campaigns.

Beats spending minutes on researching every single individual lead.

All the cool kids are doing it. Really.

Bill Kent from TOPO noted in his presentation, “Top Challenges and Priorities of Top-Performing Account-Based Teams,” that the top three challenges cited by organizations when it comes to account-based strategies are:

  1. Insufficient staffing and resources
  2. Poor internal processes
  3. Difficulty establishing account-based strategy

In other words, all three difficulties are foundational, rather than technology-based … meaning the technology is there, but organizations are finding it difficult to give account-based strategies their due.

Which is unfortunate, because according to Kent, the organizations who report the most success with account-based strategies are the ones that are all-in on them.

They’re the 18% of companies who still use account-based strategies 24 months after beginning them.

And they’re the companies who use emerging ABM technologies, which Kent reports garner low satisfaction rates but high utility.

Which really just goes to say that despite the trepidation organizations may have had in the past—or heck, still have—about account-based strategies, account-based marketing is having measurable success, with new technologies built every year to address their popularity.

The challenge? To find the ones that aren’t just “ABM-washing” themselves … and actually boost organizations’ ability to drive speed to lead and accelerate revenue.

Rise of revenue ops

Don’t worry if for some reason you haven’t heard of revenue ops, because the role itself is still pretty nebulous—if not the need.

Rickie Goyal, VP of Revenue Operations at Nutanix, said it best in his session, which he called “Is Revenue Ops the Same Thing as Sales Ops? Yes…No…Maybe…Sometimes…Depends.”

Because, well … revenue ops is in the same place that marketing and sales ops was a few years ago. But as its prominence at this year’s TOPO Summit can attest to, the role is on the rise.

Revenue ops breaks down silos

First, a quick look at revenue ops from Scott Vaughan, who made the case last year for a rethinking of ops: one that eschews sales and marketing alignment:

“If you want to get sales and marketing to operate as a unified, high-performing machine, skip this ‘alignment’ fallacy and start with ops as the ultimate integrator,” he wrote.

“This will result in greater focus on what truly matters: customer revenue and lifetime value.”

In other words, revenue ops merges sales and marketing ops, since metrics and strategies for sales and marketing ops are often important to both roles.

As Vignesh Subramanyan from Radius Intelligence notes, today’s go-to-market teams are integrated enough as it is, and revenue ops simply speeds up the process.

With RevOps in place of marketing ops and sales ops, says Subramanyan, personalization and program processes are created and executed in one place, making the ecosystem that much simpler.

It’s almost a refutation to the conversation around sales and marketing alignment, an idea some sales and marketers at TOPO were touting just as others were railing at it for its conservatism.

Scaling the company with tribal knowledge

In his presentation on revenue ops, Goyal touted the ultimate benefit of revenue ops: having significantly greater oversight, and therefore a shifted focus toward the customer.

Here’s one example. With sales ops, your only customer is the sales department—which makes sense. You’re constantly focused on winning deals, provisioning tech, and overall supporting your sales team’s efforts.

But in revenue ops, your focus is on the customer and their lifetime spend, because you’ve got a holistic view of their buyer’s journey from first touch to last touch.

It’s not even about facilitating the organization itself anymore: it’s about facilitating the customer.

In the same way, revenue ops focuses more on optimizing and future-proofing products, participating in sales, marketing and even engineering, whereas sales ops would focus on bookings.

For enterprise companies, notes Goyal, the division between sales and marketing ops makes sense when identifying a solution and building it.

But when you’re scaling and optimizing the product? Revenue ops, with its customer focus, might be worth looking into.

Customer ops

If revenue ops is rising to the level of sales and marketing ops, customer ops is rising to the level of revenue ops.

This year, Albro noted that revenue and customer ops are both surging—which, given increased focus on the customer buying experience, only makes sense.

Customer ops, after all, is an extension of revenue ops, providing value by finessing the buyer’s journey.

Whether it’s creating better internal channels of communication between sales and support, or implementing new processes and protocols based on customer feedback, customer ops is integral to better B2B processes.

It’s the kind of role that, like revenue ops, is meant to be holistic. With its focus on customer satisfaction and retention, customer ops naturally works hand in hand with engineering, product, sales and marketing.

What with storytelling being for the customer’s sake and account-based strategies for customer acquisition and retention, customer ops is imperative.

As Workato points out, companies are jumping on quickly, because they see the value of a parallel organization working alongside ops, focused exclusively on the customer.

You might say the “ops” in “customer ops” isn’t just for “operations”—it’s for “optimization,” too.


Though it might sound a little familiar, this year’s takeaways at TOPO Summit are firm reminders of what sales and marketing have cut out for them in the not-so-new year.

Customers are increasingly demanding more from enterprises, and specifically from the B2B buying experience.

And when 18% of companies lavish them with high-value account-based attention, companies cannot afford to be lax with account-based strategies, revenue ops or sales and marketing alignment.

The path to success is clear … and now it’s only a matter of execution. Time to get going.

P.S. This September, don’t miss LeanData’s conference for marketing, sales, revenue and customer ops: Ops-Stars. It’s the only conference built specifically for ops, with plenty of inspiring leaders and practical advice. Register today.

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