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RevOps is a Function, not a Band-Aid with Sarah (Sharky) Harkness

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Your Revenue Operations Systems are not there to frustrate your sales teams. They are a function of a well-disciplined and optimized process. In today's episode we will take insights and ideas from Sarah (Sharky) Harkness around what RevOps is, what it's not, and how it can be used effectively.

What you'll learn:

  • Where sales leaders step offside when it comes to rev ops and tech staff.
  • What inspires sales teams beyond revenue goals.
  • Where to plug leaks in your sales funnel.
  • How to “level-up” an aligned sales organization.
  • What is the value of RevOps.
  • How to address CRM and AI with your sales people.
  • How to embrace a revenue focused mindset.
  • How to overcome business as usual stale mindset.
  • What is Project Lotus.


Guided by Giants - by Sarah Harkness

Empathy in Action: How to Deliver Great Customer Exeriences at Scale - by Tony Bates and Dr. Natalie Petouhoff

Life Force: How New Breakthroughs in Precision Medicine Can Transform the Quality of Your Life & Those You Love - Tony Robbins, Peter H. Diamandis, Robert Hariri

Sarah 'Sharky' Harkness's Website:

When you need to hire top sales professionals, turn to a recruiting partner that speaks sales. Alaant Workforce Solutions. Learn more and book a discovery call at

The perfect CRM system, streamlined business processes and happier customers – Eligeo CRM Inc can make it happen for your business. Go to for more info

FFF S01E105


[0:00] Make your most resistant sales person the hero of the story because they will then lead the, others along the way. This is the Full Funnel Freedom podcast, supporting sales leaders and managers to improve their sales funnels from people to prospects. I'm Hamish Nox. In this show, you'll learn how you can improve your results, lead a great team, and hit more targets with Full Funnel Freedom.
Welcome to the Full Funnel Freedom podcast. I'm your host, Hamish Knox.
Today we'll be getting ideas and insights from Sarah Harkness, also known as Sharky, CEO of Cattle Dog Digital and founder of Project Lotus.
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[1:26] So my guest today, Sharkey, was introduced to me by a previous guest on the Full Funnel Freedom podcast, Justin Breen.
She has an amazing story and I am really excited to have her share it with you.
So Sharkey, welcome to the Full Funnel Freedom podcast.
Thanks, I'm excited to be here.
So you have an absolutely incredible story and we're going to dive into a little bit of it today.
I think we could probably talk for the rest of the day to get it all out on the table, but kick us off.
What do you want the audience to know about you right now?
So I run a revenue optimization agency and a nonprofit that specializes in the same but for impact-based organisations.
And I really was hoping to connect with people who are looking to activate themselves on a pathway of removing digital dysfunctions from their tech stack.

[2:20] But also maybe learn a few things along the way about how to navigate when you run into some of these obstacles.

[2:27] Very cool. I'm a huge fan of RevOps and of course, the tech stack grows on a weekly basis, it seems, especially for sales teams. So in your experience, and you've got lots of background with Salesforce and things like that, where do you see sales leaders step offside when it comes to rev ops and the tech stack for their sellers? That's a great question, Haym. I think a lot of the times, certainly the sales leaders that I speak to, the biggest challenge that they find is that their internal teams aren't necessarily aligned. So whilst they might have a goal or a revenue goal, and they've got numbers to hit, not often they're living and dying by the sword. And as a sales leader, it's definitely their head that's often on the chopping block for their team. So what we typically find is that there's solutions to that by really getting everyone moving in the same direction. And there's obviously a whole number of ways in which you can do that, not just enough to have a shared revenue goal anymore. So what else do we need aside from that shared revenue goal? Because I get that there's got to be more than just a number. What do you believe or what have you seen works when it comes to more than just, hey, here's our target for the year, for the quarter?
Well, I think it's having a shared goal or a shared engagement with customer service and clients that so.

[3:52] Your sales team and sales leaders are working with the sales guys and girls to really help them care about the customer and curate that journey. They can become artists of it.
And so they're really mastering the idea of understanding the customer. And in a way.

[4:11] I think the nirvana for many sales leaders is how do we create a funnel so watertight that our IT team just walks in the front door?
Love it. Love it. So let's step down that journey because there's some of our listeners are like, my funnel's got some leaks. Maybe it's not like the whole thing is like wide open, but there's a couple of leaks that I want to put some plugs in. So where do we start plugging the leaks in our funnel once we've identified them?
Well, I think you said it right. The first step is really awareness. You've got to understand where the problems are laying. And often there's some little indicators or data points that we can, see. So you've got maybe a couple of salespeople have left or, and especially for me, that's the canary in the coal mine. If anybody starts to walk out the door, then there's a reason and a rationale and it's not usually just the money. I think whilst that's a motivator for salespeople, it's certainly not why we do what we do. I think the thrill of the chase is part of it.
We like to win. However, so when people start to leave.
I think probably what a more canary for us is if customers are starting to leave and we can use that indicator as a leading indicator every single time. Our churn rates are really our biggest clue as to whether or not the funnel is going to have a downstream impact or an upstream impact, in two to three months time. So if we can look at that and why and feed that back to the sales team.

[5:33] That we can proactively address these problems with the customer straight up, we start turning salespeople into customer service folk and customer service folks start identifying opportunities and we start to get the symbiotic feeding of one another and all of a sudden it's not us versus, them. My KPI feeds yours and we're all winning and I think we end up creating a much larger sales organism and organization by doing that and then you can start to also feed in the product journey and this is something that I think that's been a fairly new thing that's come out in really the last five years. And working at GitLab really showed me how the development pipeline or the development of product can also really help salespeople by feeding that information or customer request back to product and then have that come to life. Then you've got upsell.
So now we've got customer retention, new business, and this potential new revenue stream of upsell.
I think we start to then get into this replicable curated customer journey. And whilst that's sounds like, oh my goodness, how even do you do that? It's tiny little micro or quantum steps in addressing really the customer's success in using a product or service and being so focused on ensuring that outcome, that they really have nowhere else to go.

[6:56] That's brilliant. I'm really glad that you said, it sounds like a giant mountain to climb, but it's really a bunch of these micro steps because that's really what it is.
I know for the clients that I've worked with, where they've been successful for five, 10s, 15s decades of business, and they're like, well, where do I start? It's like, yes, you do. That's the answer is you start. When we're looking at, okay, now we've got a unified sales organization, right?
The whole organization isn't the sales team, but everyone's in sales.
That's what I'm hearing from you. So, great. How do we level that up?
So now we've got everyone aligned, product, CS, sales.
Awesome. What happens next?

[7:37] Well, then we need to ensure that the tech stack is supporting it and we bring in automation.
And if you're lucky, AI.
If we can do that, and that's probably one of my most exciting projects at the moment is how we as a delivery team augment ourselves every day with AI.
And personally, it's my favorite, my best friend.
However, I think the opportunity for sales people to use and leverage AI or automation, and I kind of differentiate the two because I think step one is automation.
Looking for ways we can reduce friction in the funnel, either at the quote to cash phase or at the phase where we're looking to deliver newly through the funnel.
Those are the two most optimisable areas where we can get the biggest outcomes.
And I'll give you an example. One of our customers was a big box retailer in Australia.

[8:35] And one of the things that we did with them was reduce their quote process from 25 steps down to seven.
But the impact was, without word of a lie, hundreds of millions of dollars.

[8:48] So by reducing just that significant percentage, we've now got, I wouldn't say a frictionless funnel from quote to cash, but we've got a significant speed and velocity that's replicable.
So, okay, great. That's a win in my book. If you start looking at that as a metric across all these other areas, so front of funnel do the same thing. How do you get a lead, from marketing qualified into the hands of a salesperson when the customer is ready to engage or when they're behaving like they're ready to engage and you just simply, you know, allow them to follow the breadcrumb, then you end up again with a very highly optimized funnel. I have only really seen clients that are committed to embedding RevOps as an operating paradigm, not just as, you know, something that is to fix the tech problems or the dysfunction. It's got to be something that is ongoing and a commitment to go, okay, well, so where are our RevOps dashboards?

[9:52] Who in the business is that serving? Is that the CEO, CFO, CRO, COO? Who is looking at that and how can we constantly be fixing the funnel so that we're bringing those to life in the dashboard?
Very cool. I recall in a conversation with Denise from Nest Wealth last year about RevOps. And one of the things that we talked about is how RevOps traditionally has been kind of like Schoolmarm, right? It's like, oh yeah, you got to put my stuff in the CRM and oh yeah, I got to follow the procedure. And what I just heard from you is that RevOps is not tactical.
It's not a band-aid. It's a support system. So in your experience working with your clients, How have you been able to shift that mindset in the sales leaders you work with from, oh, I got to put a band-aid on it with RevOps to, oh, this is a thing that's actually going to keep my funnel watertight going forward.

[10:46] And really, that is probably my most favorite thing about doing this job and having this business for the last decade is those light bulb moments. We had the same light bulb moments when we were teaching the world about CRM in 2008. It was like, what does CRM stand for? Well, it's the same thing. What is RevOps? I love the conversation that we have in the boardroom with the senior leaders of the organization or the senior leaders running sales, marketing, customer the service. And ultimately, if we can end up getting them all in a room, we end up facilitating this very cathartic discussion, where they're starting to be honest with each other about how they feel about the other department, what impact they're having on one another. And if you just simply create a space where they can actually be that honest, you.

[11:34] End up creating a backlog of requirements that the organization can very easily and tactically execute upon. So it might be marketing has no visibility into whether they believe they're sending or actually converting. Okay, well, that's an easy resolvable thing with a dashboard or a report. But if that report's not brought to life with context and real data by putting data.

[12:00] In the system, or creating automation for it to really do that and removing some of that friction.
Again, it's just in the process of having that beautiful discussion that often they will, organizations will come to that light themselves. You don't need to force it upon them and certainly the organizations I've seen most successful with a rev-ops paradigm as their core revenue motion in their business is when they've had a role of a COO or a CRO or a CFO that's a little bit operational, even a classical senior is helpful. Just a senior leader that starts to walk in the direction of, I actually can work across these functions. I don't need to just necessarily be, operations only and putting my blinders on. Very cool. And so again, going back to what you shared earlier, this is about creating symbiosis across the whole organization.
We're all here to create revenue, support our clients, but if we silo ourselves, that's going to create friction and that's going to create resistance overall. Is that accurate?
100%. That's the crux.

[13:09] Love senior-level leadership. We got RevOps. We got all that. All right, let's deal with the elephant in the room. Salespeople don't like CRMs. They don't like automation. They don't like sequences. They don't like AI. It's all nonsense, but we got to address it.
How have you addressed that with your clients in the past?
Well, I think we go back to… I was brought up on the 20th year of the school of thought and and the family techniques. I really have grown up in the school of the old school. I would say.

[13:39] Paradigms of sales, the sales motions that were customer focused. I think one of the ways that you can get a salesperson to start shifting their mindset to not seeing those things as a chore or a task is directly tie a KPI to the output of that action and make that action so easy for them that it actually serves them in their day. It gives them ideas. If you've got Clary or some of these other tools giving you the insights that you need and maybe a pop-up, that's like, hey, you haven't updated the close date this opt-in and your boss is going to give you a hard time about that. Things like that can just be really simple. Einstein was one of my favorite things that came out of Salesforce in the last 15 years was that ability for a CRM data point to offer a next best action for a salesperson. So I think whilst RevOps is fantastic for the customer, it's also really cool for internal operations and the salespeople too.

[14:39] And if you can kind of get them giving suggestions, creating the backlog, getting them out of the process and also make your most resistant salesperson the hero of the story because they would then lead the others along the way.
Yeah, we all like to be heroes in our own stories. And in my book on change, one of the things we talk about is, you know, sometimes we got to get cousin, cousin Susan or cousin Steve to go down and tell everybody what mom and dad's been telling them.
And they're like, Oh, now I get it. You know, Steve and Susan are doing it this way. So I should do it this way too. So yeah, that really, that really resonates with me.

[15:16] I'm loving this idea of creating a symbiotic revenue generating organization across multiple different functional groups and getting people involved.
Now that we've got this ball rolling, so yay, we've started somewhere.

[15:29] We've integrated everybody, we've got the automation, we've got the AI, we've leveled this up, where do we take this from here?
Because things are always changing, but we also can't just be snatching at the latest shiny thing.
What do you encourage your clients to do once they've got this foundation built across their organization?
So then it goes into what we call the BAU phase, where once you've created or business as usual, but the RevOps motion is now a department or a role or a number of roles.

[16:00] Calendly, I'll give you an example, has 45, last check, and that was in September last year, there might be more now, but 45 staff members in their RevOps organization, just in that department.
So you now start to create a function in your business that serves the other functions in the business, which then starts to give you this power to scale quickly, because if you'll bring out new products, you bring out new service, the last thing you need, or you're implementing new tech, the last thing you need is to add this function to that very beautiful curated texture and process.
So it is important in the BAU phase to keep the momentum going by continuously checking in and having these pulse checks, or we call them pulse checks.
And there are some easy techniques to just have a quarterly check-in.
It might even just be a system administrator, but you turn them into a business analyst or something that enables them to think a little bit more revenue focused, that they're not just serving.

[17:02] The system, they're serving greater good, which is the mission of the organization, which is ultimately the revenue.
Absolutely. So business as usual, great. We're nice, steady, even flow.
Business as usual can very quickly turn into, oh, this is the way we've always done things around here, which is a dangerous place to get to.
So aside from having this quarterly check-in and this revenue-focused mindset that you just shared, what are some of the guardrails that we can put in place to make sure that business as usual means that we're still growing and we're not just getting stuck in what we used to do?
Yeah, and I think getting stale is both a win and a loss in my book because a win for the fact that we've come so far, a loss in the sense that we've gotten used to it and we're taking it for granted, and that is a recipe for revulsive dysfunction again.
So, I think that's it for me.
Some of the guardrails we recommend and suggest is always have a living breathing backlog.
The other thing we suggest is using tools and what it means adding to the tech stack, it actually helps you bring the things together. Tools like JAX or Clary that enable you to visualize the funnel and model the funnel for future projections. So you can use those tools at a board level, but you can also use them at an operational level. And if you've got people starting to model out their territories with these technologies, then they're starting to become minutes of CEOs of their own territory. And that is a very empowering thing for a salesperson.

[18:29] Absolutely. Yes. So that, that idea of, you know, you are the boss of your book or you're the boss of your area, you're the CEO. It can be very, very motivating. Also, it gives you an indication of whether or not you have the right person. Cause some people are like, I just want to be a drone.
Can I be a drone? It's like, well, you can be, but just somewhere else. That's not what we need in the organization. Sharky, when we first connected, I got a link to Project Lotus in your story, and I'm very grateful for all of your ideas and insights around RevOps and automation, but I certainly would be remiss if we didn't talk about Project Lotus a little bit. So would you be comfortable sharing a bit about Project Lotus and where that is, where it came from, where it's going? Absolutely. So Project Lotus actually was born out of my business, Cattle Dog. Cattle Dog was the first Project Lotus certified organization. And that's because we wanted to set a set of 10 protocols or values that our whole business ran its operations on. So this kind of takes RevOps to a whole new level in that not only do we have the customer focus and optimize internal solutions and revenue and IT, we also have this beautiful culture that is added to it.
So out of that, we separated that out into a non-profit called Project Lotus who serves impact-based organisations and we bring together all the world to help really support organisations who are having the biggest impact in the world.

[19:53] Amazing. And so what is your vision for Project Lotus? What do you want it to turn into?
For me, I think Project Lotus is really this opportunity to marry all of these beautiful, experiences that I've had. Obviously, I shared a little bit with you, Haynes, about my experience.

[20:10] I got very unwell four years ago. That brought about its own set of challenges, not just as a CEO, but as a mom and all of the different things that come along with that. So I would say it, It wasn't necessarily about experiencing dysfunction, but Project Lotus really came about because I became the lotus in my own life.
So I, out of the mud, grow the lotus.

[20:33] Yes, that's what you shared with me, is the lotus grows from the muck, from out of the mud, and it's this beautiful flower, and it was a great visual, and it's really resonated with me.
So thank you for sharing that.
I often ask my guests, you know, if you could go back to your younger self and say, hey, you're gonna be in this great place, you're gonna have a lot of scar tissue, a lot of bumps and bruises.
As you said, you have been quite unwell, so I'm hesitant to ask that question, but I'd be curious as you are looking forward and emerging from that period of your life, which was very recent, what have you found, what are you doing to continue moving forward with your vision for your future?
And look for context for your listeners, and you can definitely read a little bit more about it in my book that's coming up, which is called Guided by Giants, because as early as six months ago, I was having my 26th surgery in less than three years.
And a year ago, I was in a very dire situation facing my mortality.
So based on that, I think having spent not only that health experience around, but also finding the giants to help me do it, I would tell my younger self that.

[21:41] That was always inside of you, or that is always inside of you, and to follow it.
That voice should never, ever be silenced.
And anyone that is looking to find their voice again, there are so many incredible ways that you can do that to find an abundance in your life.
And love really ultimately ended up being the answer to that.
I love it, thank you. And Guided by Giants is the book, when's it coming out? September.
September, all right. So this podcast will be coming out a little bit before the book drops.
So we'll make sure to have a link in the show notes. So make sure you go get Sharky's book, guided by giants when it drops out in September.
So Sharkey, as someone who has spent some time, we'll say it that way, in the tech space, in the sales and sales leadership space, you are someone who has a lot, does a lot of personal professional development.
What are you reading, listening to, or watching right now that the audience might want to check out for their own professional and personal development, aside from your book?
Absolutely. Oh my gosh, there's so many to mention. Obviously yours.
I've been reading Empathy in Action by Dr. Natalie Petroff and certainly Dustin Brain's book, which is pretty epic.

[22:50] Of course, I have to mention the book that started all of this, which is Tony Robbins and Peter Diamandis' book, Lifeforce, which really helped me, I think, activate something very innate and very deep that sent me on a trail that led to here. So very grateful to have, really, I keep going back to them as my kind of lighthouse reading material.
Very cool. Put links to all those in the show notes. Thank you very much for sharing. So, So Shirky, we could spend the rest of the day visiting with each other, and I certainly look forward to carrying our conversation on offline.
What would you like to leave us with today? Something you want to plug, a closing bit of wisdom, the floor is yours.

[23:29] Thank you. Well, Hamish, I think that the most important thing that is playing for me at the moment is that anywhere you look, there is an opportunity to turn adversity into an opportunity.
And it really all depends on your mindset.
I've never been more sure that we have the power in every single one of us, no matter what. If we just get out of our own way to actually alchemize any situation into something that creates an opportunity.
And if you then apply that to your organization, you've got some serious rev up.
Very cool. Thank you so much for being a guest on the Full Funnel of Freedom podcast today, Sharkey.
Thank you, Hamish. You've been listening to the Full Funnel of Freedom podcast.
I've been your host, Hamish Knox. we have been getting amazing ideas and insights from Sarah Harkness, also known as Sharky, CEO of Catalog Digital and founder of Project Lotus. The Full Funnel Freedom podcast is brought to you by Sandler Calgary. Sandler Calgary's clients desire to dominate their niche and seek to scale their sales sustainably. If that sounds like you, go to forward slash how to Sandler to book an initial 15-minute call. Thanks for listening. Leave us a rating and review and share this episode with a sales leader in your network who you care about.
Until we connect on the next episode, go create full funnel freedom.

[24:52] Thank you for listening to full funnel freedom with Amish Knox. If you want to increase your sales with ease, go to Full Funnel Freedom.

[25:03] Music.