January 9, 2015

Master of All Trades

By Heather Baldwin

When you are the director of sales operations at one of the top sales-training organizations in the world, you’ve got to be good. And Michael Rogan is good. Just two and a half years after taking the sales-operations helm for Richardson, he has expanded the role from one focused almost exclusively on forecasting and pipeline reporting to one that touches every nook and cranny of the sales organization in support of revenue growth.

The scope of his position – and, more broadly, his view of the sales-operations role in general – is extensive. Rogan’s job, he says, is to “improve the sales organization, improve efficiency, remove barriers, improve processes, evaluate which technologies and tools are needed,” and much more.

So what does this look like on a day-to-day basis? Among his myriad responsibilities, Rogan evaluates pipeline and CRM system data to provide insight to sales leaders. He creates better lead-management and lead-distribution programs – including lead tracking, lead strategy, and ideal-client profiles – that bridge the gap between sales and marketing. He performs compensation modeling to help salespeople understand their pay. He enables sales-rep success via bimonthly sales-skill Webinars, providing background on new leads and teaching reps to use the tools provided by Richardson. He ensures reps’ targets make sense and are backed by logic. He analyzes sales territories, deals, velocity, win rates, and countless other metrics to help the sales organization hone efficiency and grow sales.

“I’m the go-to guy,” he summarizes. “If the senior vice president wants to know something, he will ask me. I know where the data is. I know where the deals are, what the client relationships are. I can pull different reports together very quickly.”

A recent meeting with a new employee underscored the multifaceted nature of Rogan’s role: during one 30-minute discussion, at least three people came by to request information. “None of the requests were simple things, and I had to switch gears from instructional design to training and delivery to sales-rep support – all while transferring information to the new hire,” he says.

A big part of what makes Rogan so successful is his background in finance and accounting. From 1999 to 2006, he held various finance-related positions – the last as chief financial officer – at apparel firm Mitchell & Ness. While there, he handled commission reporting and compensation, sales metrics and analysis, as well as human resources. These skills have served him well at Richardson, as much of his work is in sales-operations centers evaluating data. As someone with a natural ability to look at numbers and spot trends and opportunities, he has excelled in honing efficiency and productivity throughout the sales organization.

Still, understanding the data is not the only crucial task; being able to tell a compelling story with that data allows executives, as well as the sales team, to be proactive, not just reactive, to results, says Rogan. Here are his other keys to success in sales operations:

  1. Dissatisfaction with the status quo. Sales-operations professionals can’t be complacent. “I’m always trying to find ways to make things more efficient or easier or faster,” Rogan says. When he first came to Richardson in July of 2012, generating the forecast and pipeline reports the executive team needed was a three-day process. He figured there had to be a better way. By making some changes in the spreadsheets, Rogan reduced the task to a one-day process while improving the quality of the information provided.
  2. Empathy. The sales job is tough, and salespeople’s personalities run the gamut from easygoing to high strung. It is important for sales-operations leaders to understand what reps are dealing with in the field and ensure that they are effectively supported with the tools and information each one needs to succeed.
  3. Passion for learning. Since sales operations is a developing field, anyone in this role has to be constantly learning, says Rogan. Whether it is finding the latest book, researching the latest selling strategy, or joining LinkedIn boards, Rogan says sales-ops folks need to continue finding ways to improve so they can provide the best service possible for their organizations.

“Because sales operations is such an evolving and newer role, there are a lot of different viewpoints on what it is,” says Rogan. “My goal is always to look at operations as a whole and ask how we can more effectively generate revenue.”

Rogan’s Greatest Challenge

In a sea of challenges, we wondered what Rogan views as his greatest challenge in today’s fast-changing world of sales operations. His answer: the technology inundation. “Technology is such a key today. Finding the right tools to properly enable and support your team and keeping tabs on everything coming out and what is most effective is practically a job in itself,” he says.

One way he tries to stay on top of it all is by attending relevant Webinars and conferences. For instance, at Dreamforce ’14, he sat in on a program with other sales-operations professionals and discussed different technology platforms. These kinds of exchanges, he says, are critical in enabling him to keep up with what’s best for the Richardson team.