Navigating best practices to build solid foundations with Sarah Ouyang

We’re super excited to interview Sarah Ouyang for this month’s Commission Plan Teardown conversation. Sarah’s a rising star in the Sales / Revenue Ops world. One of our goals here at Spiff is to foster a dialog between leading minds in sales ops.

In this post, we’ll go over Sarah’s top pointers for other sales ops pros:

According to Sarah Ouyang, her career in business and sales operations has been a proverbial jungle gym–complete with positions in Japan, Malaysia, and all over the U.S. Throughout her professional development, there’s one thing Sarah has fine-tuned: her ability to build foundations and watch them grow.

Enter Lattice, a people management platform most recently seen on Forbes’ 2019 Cloud 100 List as one of the 20 Rising Stars (and Co-founded by Forbes 30 Under 30 alumni Jack Altman and Eric Koslow). Ergo, this startup isn’t messing around. So, naturally, they hired Sarah.

Sarah’s grit and hunger for constant creation makes her role at Lattice in sales and business operations the perfect fit. She spreads her attention across her team by tackling several areas (sales ops, sales enablement, business ops) with specialized focus while simultaneously planning for scale. 

“I’m in a very early startup, and I’m excited to see impact so quickly,” Sarah said. “To be the person that laid the groundwork so everyone can build faster and move bigger blocks… it’s fun. I’m trying to create processes and ideas that scale, because in six months, our current process may no longer work.”

Needless to say, Sarah wears a lot of hats. She likes it that way. But Sarah has learned that when switching between those hats, transparency and communication are paramount in building lasting processes. Sarah talked with us and laid out some key metrics, and we’re happy she agreed to share her insights with our Spiff audience. So, from Sarah, to us, to you: key sales ops nuggets from a bona fide startup hustler.

Set a Clear Goal

“As a growing startup, our business objective is to accelerate growth, so understanding company goals is huge. Knowing what goals each team is responsible for and getting alignments on those is so important. Being in Sales Ops, the Sales team goals are my north star. It help guides me when I am working on different initiatives. Compensation plan, for example, needs to be carefully crafted in order to incentive and encourage the desired behavior/habits you want your reps to form in order to stay focused on the company’s key metrics… I have been in situations where more than one given metric was introduced into the comp plan (for example: renewals/upsells/logos) and having too many in one specific group can really take out the focus of your team. Stay focused on the metrics specific to the role. You shouldn’t compact too many levers into one commission plan.”

Communicate With Your Sales Team 

“Communication is always key. You want to give the sales team a really early heads up when presenting a compensation plan so they can be mentally prepared. Do it during a time that isn’t as busy for them. You don’t want to give them a new plan right at the end of the fiscal year, so give them a heads up to know what they can expect coming down the pipe. It’s also really important, when announcing, to tell them the “why” behind the way it is and how it applies to the company’s objective. Having a visual such as add everyone’s quota up and showing how it rolls up to the bigger goal brings transparency while at the same time promoting positive attitudes and a sense of camaraderie. This has allowed my team to understand that we’re all bringing in ARR and are a piece of the bigger company goal. What I like about the Spiff product is the transparency it provides. AEs are able to see in real time how much impact and commission they are bringing in for each deal because their data is being pulled in real time from our CRM. ”

Eat Your Own Dog Food

“At Lattice, we use our product constantly to surface any bugs or improvements. Everyone also works with Customer Care periodically, and I find it super valuable. Helping the support team makes us empathize with them and understand our product even better, it also brings any product gaps to our attention… hearing pain points from a direct source gives us the insight to more fully educate prospects before the buying process. It’s very valuable because I don’t know our product very well– I’m not an admin, and a lot of the questions come from the admins. We have this saying, ‘You want to eat your own dog food.’ I couldn’t agree with this more. Eat your own dog food.”

Encourage Sales and Marketing Alignment

We always have marketing, sales, and customer success (CS) leadership alignment. At the end of the day, each team leader knows their team’s pain points. Relaying it back to the counterpart leaders helps move things a lot faster so everything can be aligned. Most of the initiatives start with marketing, and sales support them down the funnel before handing them off to our CS team to ensure we are setting our customers and our CS team up for success. Because of that, we are in regular communication and have a huge feedback loop. We use slack, and we have a channel that helps us keep alignment and transparency. Everything is very conversational, and I think that’s the way it should be.

I see revenue ops, a collection of marketing ops, sales ops and CS ops, under a big umbrella. Having them all under one umbrella gives them alignment and more cohesiveness… it creates more collaboration between our pre-sales and post-sales teams. We each have our specialties, but collectively our mandate is to optimize the whole process and not what we’re focused on. That way there’s a good synergy.”

Culture Matters

“At Lattice, our sales culture is very family oriented. We love seeing everyone succeed. One of my favorite values is ‘ship, shipmate, self’. What this means is that we put the big collective ship and our shipmates before ourselves. We love to help each other out, when the ship wins, we as individuals win. We also share in each other’s joys and each other’s failures. We love communicating our learnings. Internally, we say “When we don’t win (a deal), we learn.” We love sharing our learnings with each other. Having that humility within the team is very important.

Our VP of Sales and all of our sales managers do a great job of treating the team well and celebrating wins. What I’ve seen in my experience is when you have a collaborative goal or quota that is rewarded in a big celebration or a dinner of some sort… it really brings a lot of camaraderie within the team because everyone is there to help each other steer the ship together. I really love group spiffs a lot. Having that mentality of putting the ship first is a good, healthy one.”

Plan For the Future

“The industry is trending toward being very data driven and relying less on intuition and experience. Being able to dig into more data, and having that readily accessible for all team members, is huge. However, it’s important, as sales ops, to focus on what metrics are really important to the company and cut through the noise. A lot of the time we can get so caught up in everything that’s available that we lose sight of our goal.”

Madi Bullock

Madi Bullock

Madison is a content, branding and PR expert. She currently works as the Director of Public Relations at Weave, one of the Top 100 Fastest Growing Saas Companies. Madi currently leads Spiff's content development.