Kostja Mirkovic: How Revenue Leaders Can Win in Their First 90 Days

Posted on Jun 24, 2021

About Kostja

Kostja Mirkovic is the VP of Revenue Operations & Strategy of hypergrowth startup Modern Health, a comprehensive mental health and wellness platform. Kostja has a diverse career having previous experience at top finance and consulting firms. More recently Kostja has worked at top High-Tech firms like LinkedIn and G2. Not found on Kostja’s Linkedin is that he was a nightclub DJ for seven years.

In our discussion, Kostja shares how revenue leaders can win their first 90 days.

Success Factors in Revenue Operations

  • Kostja shares that one of the most important success factors in sales ops or revenue ops is to build trust, both with the sales and customer success team and our leaders. Having been in client-facing roles, both as a consultant with Bain and Accenture, and as a salesperson for Deutsche Bank, helped him build a connection and empathize with the sellers. 
  • Another piece to his success in Revenue Operations has been having a strong consulting toolkit, which allowed him to approach problem-solving like a consultant would approach a business problem. Understanding the most important business drivers, the most important metrics, and the levers to pull to get those metrics has been useful.
  • The third thing that set him up for success is having worked for global companies gave him the ability to work with different cultures in a fast-paced environment.
  • With Finance experience, he had an idea for what the CEO wants in terms of measurements and data insights and what they want to report back to the VC. The finance experience taught him to understand how an action translates into a dollar, or a euro, or pound, and how that makes it back to the major financial statements. 
  • The strongest partnership he has is with a finance VP. Challenging each other and growing is a key partnership that impacts the success of the company.

The Building Blocks for Revenue Operations Processes

  • Coming into Modern Health, a younger company, required Kostja to build out processes from the ground up. We asked him about his plan and the building blocks he put in place to build things out.
  • He shared that he focused on a three-month plan to come in and add value within three months. And within three months, he had four buckets. One was to understand and learn the business from the reps and sales leaders. Then, he used that for the second thing, which was to build trust with the sales leaders and revenue leaders.
  • Building trust allowed Kostja to develop credibility and focus on a third angle, developing quick wins. Those are usually around simple processes, automation, something that's a no-regret move, regardless of what the strategy is. 
  • The fourth thing is developing a long-term plan and roadmap. That's related to hiring his own team and to the revenue plans for this year and next year.
  • Accepting processes and improving them is more like evolution than revolution.  Incremental changes, not substantial changes, are a learning experience that informs bigger things. And also, I think there's another aspect of that coming out of a place of humility. 

Building Trust Within Your Sales Organization

  • There are normal barriers to a revenue operations leader coming in and building trust. There is a preconception that you're very much target obsessed and focused on revenue goals above people.
  • We asked Kostja how he is authentically building trust given those challenges. What are the methodologies that you're using? How are you empathizing with the salespeople, and where are you willing to stand up and advocate for them?
  • Kostja likes to educate himself on the content before I spend time live. This is where Gong and Chorus help. It allows him to hear different sellers’ and sales leaders' tone and educate himself on the business. 
  • He also tries to understand what's on top of the mind for the sales and sales leaders. One of the questions he likes to ask is, “How do you define success in addition to hitting your target?” Because most tend to be target-focused. Sometimes you don't consider the other aspects related to operations or to talent.
  • Trust is the definition of promises kept, or as LinkedIn used to say, consistency. With an understanding of the problems or challenges, committing and executing on those and setting new priorities.
  • Having the trust in the first place, allows him to be in a space where he can say to this priority or change or new metric, "Hey, this totally makes sense. But we committed to this, and I think right now if you were given everything, I would say we would still probably execute this first and then this one second.” And because there's trust in place, it allows a good cadence moving forward and allows him to manage and rate his team effectively.
  • Once you have trust, you have something to lose. Once you have their trust, that's something that you can't gain twice. On a very human level, in sales, part of that is them ultimately seeing that they have a better chance of reaching their targets. It's not just that you will defend them when they're perhaps underperforming, but it's also that you're helping them to achieve their shared goal with you.

Best Practices for Change Management

  • Kostja shares that Jeff Weiner, the former CEO of LinkedIn, would say "Just because you said it, doesn't mean it's going to happen." And then the flip side of that is repeat, repeat, repeat, and then repeat more. Communicating a consistent message multiple times a day or multiple times a week ensures that people are hearing the message, and eventually buying into it. 
  • An example is, one of the first things that he does is to understand what forecasting looks like when tracking for the quarter or the year. With LinkedIn, G2, and now with Modern Health, he built that process and got it within less than an hour a week, from those reps and sales leaders. But to do that required very specific, brief communication with the salespeople and sales leaders. 
  • The second method, it's not just repeating, but also giving it time and having patience. Knowing, "Hey, we're not going to get this right the first and second time. It's probably going to take us month, maybe six weeks to hit the iteration and the cadence. So, let's be compassionate when we're driving forward, we'll get there." 

Filtering Good Data and Bad Data

  • Valuable for success differentiating between good data and bad data, good KPIs and bad KPIs, numbers that don't really make a difference. So, we asked Kostja about his lens for filtering the good from the bad data and reducing the noise.
  • This is where his consulting toolkit came into play. He was well-trained for sense checking and triangulating. He would ask a question that's the basis of comparison and see if the data makes sense. 
  • The second thing is triangulating. He would ask someone, "Does this look right to you?" Or, "Does this look off?" Then he peels the onion and exposes the data. That relies on the technical aspect of building the model or the software working properly.
  • Now he is focused on a longer-term plan, as well as for '22 coming around the corner. Framing what it looks like for 2022 and setting the theme for growth and a plan for that. Even if a strategy shifts a little bit, what are the tactics that we can still do now before the half of 2021? 
  • For his current business, he looks back 15 months in order to look forward and plan. Just because it has grown very rapidly since January, 2018. At the G2, he would look for two and a half years, at LinkedIn it was three years. Also, he puts heavier weight on what happened last Q4. 

Why Sales Ops as a Career?

  • When Kostja moved from London to San Francisco and pivoted to tech, he had never heard of the field before. It came as he was speaking with one of his friends who was in business development at LinkedIn. He asked, "Hey, where do MBAs and non-engineers go?" His friend said, "Yeah, it's usually BD, business ops, sales operations." And he asked, "What's sales operations?"
  • It’s interesting to him because he’s still doing a lot of similar work to consulting work, with a little bit of systems. It has proximity to the transaction and proximity to adding value from top-line growth that is fast-paced. And you have to balance what's happening in a current quota month, and in a year or two years out. Those are the things that excite him, as well as in the client-facing teams like sales and post-sales.

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About the podcast

The RevAmp podcast derives from two words: Revenue + Amplification. This series has been produced specifically to give a voice to the sales and revenue operations professionals who have invaluable experiences to share. We have seen the scope for this role, as well as the recognition, expectations, and tools have rapidly changed over the last couple of years. The reality is that there are not enough high-quality resources for fellow professionals to use as a benchmark or learning curve. DealHub knows how important it is to be well resourced so we have put together this RevAmp podcast for your benefit.

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Topics: Process Building, Executive Alignment