- What is a Chief Revenue Officer?
- Is a CRO the same as a VP of Sales or a Chief Sales Officer?
- What Skills and Experiences Should the CRO Bring with Them?
- What Does a Chief Revenue Officer Do?
- Best Practices for the CRO Role
- Customer Plans
- Final Thoughts on the Chief Revenue Officer
The Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) is one of the new C-level titles in today’s businesses. The role, when done well, can be essential to hitting the critical revenue targets the company needs to succeed in the short- and long term.
Let’s start from the start.
What is a Chief Revenue Officer?
The Chief Revenue Officer is responsible for maximizing revenue for the company. This responsibility includes but is not limited to increasing sales to new customers, upselling and cross-selling existing customers, and maintaining the existing customers at the same or higher levels of spending.
The CRO should oversee Marketing, Sales, and Customer Care and ideally understand all three departments. CROs that lean too far in the direction of any of those teams’ traditional viewpoints will often fail.
Is a CRO the same as a VP of Sales or a Chief Sales Officer?
Let’s define and then compare these roles.
What is the VP of Sales Responsible for?
The VP of Sales is responsible for the revenue created by the sales team through direct selling efforts.
What is the Chief Sales Officer Responsible for?
The Chief Sales Officer is responsible for creating and leading the sales strategy and program to achieve the company’s goals.
Do you need all of these roles?
Most organizations will either have a CRO, CSO, or VP of Sales, but not all three.
Quick Comparison: Chief Revenue Officer vs Chief Sales Officer vs. VP of Sales
- VP of Sales focuses on selling activities and is responsible for hitting a specific sales target.
- Chief Sales Officers create and lead the sales strategy, collaborating closely with all customer-facing teams to hit a specific sales target.
- Chief Revenue Officer creates and leads the overall revenue strategy, leads all customer-facing teams, and is responsible for generating new revenues and maintaining existing revenues in the existing customer base.
What Skills and Experiences Should the CRO Bring with Them?
The CRO should bring many of the following skills and experiences to the role.
- Strategic thinking skills to develop long-term plans for growth.
- Experience building creative strategies to create leads, sales, and renewals.
- Analytics skills to understand the buyer and customers’ journeys, to analyze data from marketing, sales, and customer care to identify potential areas for improvement.
- Strong communication to work with the rest of the executive team, the board, and potentially with shareholders, analysts, and others who monitor the business from either the inside or outside of the company.
- Experience in the industry(s) serviced by the business.
What Does a Chief Revenue Officer Do?
As noted above, the Chief Revenue Officer creates and leads the overall revenue strategy, leads all customer-facing teams, and is responsible for generating new revenues and maintaining existing revenues in the existing customer base.
Breaking this down a bit further, we can see that the Chief Revenue Officer’s priorities and responsibilities are:
Chief Revenue Officers are responsible for the overall strategy to meet your business targets.
They must determine how to best use various levers like pricing while partnering with their executive partners, such as the CFO, to keep costs at appropriate levels to meet overall profit targets, not just revenue targets.
What is a CFO?
A chief financial officer (CFO) is the senior executive responsible for managing the financial actions of a company.
The CRO is responsible for identifying and selling to new customers directly and through partner channels.
Your Chief Revenue Officer should be considering how to sell more products, solutions, and services into your existing customer base.
For subscription businesses, your CRO must be responsible for reducing customer churn, maintaining the number of existing customers, and spending with your business.
See our article on customer retention strategies for ideas related to this topic.
Best Practices for the CRO Role
Do you like your job as a CRO?
Want to keep it?
Here are a few best practices to keep in mind as the Chief Revenue Officer.
- Get close to the CEO and understand the company’s vision now and into the future.
- Collaborate with the CFO to ensure you are growing revenue predictably. The CFO can be your best friend or worst enemy.
- Ensure marketing, sales, and customer care are entirely aligned and build goals and objectives using a system like OKRs so that every person focuses on the critical objectives.
- Relate to the last point, destroy functional silos; they are your enemy. These three teams must work together closely to achieve their targets.
- Hire the best, train them, coach them, and ensure your managers take the same approach. Your people matter; treat them that way.
- Understand the ROI of every customer and customer segment.
The Chief Revenue Officer is responsible for all revenue generation processes, and this encompasses sales performance, customer satisfaction, the entire go to market strategy, etc.
An essential tool to support your growth strategies is the customer plan.
Let’s review the Trust Enablement Customer Plan.
Note: This model applies best to complex B2B environments where the volume of new customers is low and the revenue generated by each customer is high.
When a new customer is brought on board, you should form an agile team to develop the Trust Enablement Customer Plan across customer success, marketing, and sales.
This plan has two major components:
- How will we keep these customers and help them buy more?
- How do we sell to the rest of the organization?
How to Start?
- Start small – pick most valuable customer or two
- Create one agile, cross-functional team to drive
- Remember you have two audiences, and you need two messages
- Which viewpoints will you care focus on? Who are the key people and roles?
- 360-degree review at every milestone
- Identify break-even point — how long does customer have to stay to recoup cost of acquisition and ongoing support?
Group 1 – Renew and Buy More
The successful Chief Revenue Officer knows that predictable revenue growth is vital for business success.
This pathway covers our traditional customer success efforts, driving initial rollout, adoption of the solution, and demonstrating value realization.
Within the customer, this group of people is focused on achieving results, dealing with the challenges they brought the product, and looking for a partner to ensure results are achieved.
This audience does not want to hear from your marketing or sales teams about how life could be better if they bought X, Y, or Z. They just purchased from you, were promised results, and want to see them.
Your customer experience in this stage should feel like a warm blanket, focused on results and feeling like a comfortable friend the customer can depend upon.
As a Chief Revenue Officer, your want to count on the future revenue from this relationship never going down and, with luck, they will buy more to continue to solve this problem.
For this group:
What must happen to renew?
What does each audience/individual need to see/hear/know?
Who are the essential referrals to develop?
To sell deeper into this account and others, you need advocates who can sing your praises.
These advocates, who should grow into referrers for future opportunities, should represent critical roles, including:
- End-users of your product
- Administrators of your product
- The budget holder
- The executive sponsor
Who are the backups?
How often have you made a sale and had your primary contact leave the business in the first 2-3 months?
This opens you up to pain as you have to sell your solution repeatedly.
Win over the detractors
Even though you won the deal, not everyone was on your side.
Who was pushing for a competitor?
Who felt you weren’t the right fit?
Who had concerns of any type?
After winning the deal, find out who these people are and win them over. You will need them to win the renewal and keep the competitors out.
Group 2 – Buy New
Many people within the customer’s organization are not involved with the project above or are only slightly involved and aware.
The typical disruption models play out with this audience, where the successful Chief Revenue Officer focuses their efforts to generate revenue opportunities.
This part of the customer, which is not involved with the other efforts, is open to having you disrupt the status quo by:
- Showing them that there are options to their business challenges.
- Enlightening them about the fantastic customer success team helping other parts of their business succeed.
- Exploring operational efficiency gains by working with one vendor, you, to solve problems in other parts of the business.
How do you get in front of these people?
Earn the right by achieving results with group 1 and raise those heroes.
Support the referrers you have identified within group 1 to tell their stories, and share their lessons learned as results occur.
- Arm leaders with data showing positive business outcomes. Make them look like rockstars partnering with you to achieve outstanding results.
- Help individual contributors show how they outperform peers by being innovative and working with you.
As you support the creation of rockstars in your customer’s business, they will tell their story and yours alongside it.
Final Thoughts on the Chief Revenue Officer
The CRO role is complex and requires a blend of skills and experiences few possess.
If you have the role, but don’t have the experience, spend extra time building up your expertise by working with your team and outside consultants, and never be afraid to ask for help.
You’ve got this.