What is the CRO role?
Beyond sales or marketing, the Chief Revenue Officer in today’s workforce bridges several traditionally siloed departments and processes to target the one thing that matters most: revenue.
So, what is a Chief Revenue Officer? The Chief Revenue Officer or CRO oversees all teams and processes related to revenue generation within an organization. This executive position ensures sales and marketing alignment, identifies opportunities for long-term sales growth and maximizes profitability.
The CRO enables collaboration among the teams listed below towards a unified goal of revenue generation over a sustained period of time:
- Sales, sales enablement and sales operations
- Customer support and customer experience
- Account management
- Product development
While each of these departments has its own objectives, processes and hierarchies, the CRO maintains a big picture view of the organization. Their cross-functional knowledge allows them to identify and take on previously unknown strategies, channels and opportunities.
What does a Chief Revenue Officer do?
CRO sales responsibilities vary greatly between organizations and industries but can be summarized as follows:
- Communicate & integrate: Drive growth across all revenue-related functions by working with department leaders, executives and key stakeholders while extracting value from teams, relationships and partnerships.
- Be forward-thinking: Anticipate the future of the market to maximize innovation and craft strategy accordingly.
- Define talent: Define the type of talent needed currently and for the future of the organization.
- Examine data & KPIs: Use data to establish practical KPIs and deliverables while making informed decisions for long-term growth.
- Consider technology: Utilize the best sales tools and technologies available.
- Be customer-centric: Shift the organization to a customer-centric mindset, using customer feedback to improve products, services and processes.
- Establish metrics: Maintain accountability based on the right metrics.
CRO vs VP of Sales - What’s the difference?
Some question whether the CRO is simply a Head of Sales wearing another hat. Others may think it's just a modern name for the position at the head of the sales team. However, there are several clear differences between a CRO and a VP of Sales, primarily related to scope, length of outlook and number of positions within the organization:
Scope: A VP of Sales has one priority - sales. A CRO, on the other hand, considers sales as just one component of the machine that drives revenue.
Length of business outlook: Sales departments usually drive towards short-term objectives, such as quarterly goals. CROs look at goals 18 months or two years into the future, and consider what’s happening in the market and what needs to be done now to reach those long-term objectives.
Number of positions: An organization will typically only have one Chief Revenue Officer, while it may have multiple VPs of Sales, depending on company size, geographies, etc.
Will the CRO role replace the VP of Sales?
The next logical step for many is to question whether organizations need a VP of Sales at all if they have a “superior” Chief Revenue Officer. Heads of Sales need not fear, as the short answer is no. Generally speaking, the role will not replace the VP of Sales.
Naturally, the long answer is less straightforward. In a smaller organization, should companies choose to hire a for this role, that individual may end up doing both jobs, at least until the company scales. However, there is a benefit to keeping both roles- CROs cannot sustainably keep the big, cross-functional picture in mind and run sales simultaneously. Structurally, it makes sense for your CRO to drive overall strategy and the go-to-market processes while those at the VP-level run their respective departments.
The rising popularity of the CRO role
The CRO role is not a new executive position, but a growing one. Organizations have been integrating Chief Revenue Officers since Forbes labeled the position “the CEO’s new secret weapon” in 2012. The pandemic only intensified the companies’ need to evolve and adapt. Salesforce reports that nearly 25% of organizations will hire a CRO sales position by 2023. There are clear inside and outside forces driving this rise.
Rapidly evolving technology
The shift to digital has changed the entire playing field. That’s no surprise to anyone. However, many organizations are still struggling to adapt their sales playbook accordingly. Mark Grimshaw, Senior Client Partner of Global Sales Effectiveness Solutions at Korn Ferry, says organizations are using the CRO role to start on that journey.
The sales environment in a digital world needs to be adaptable for a wide variety of digital environments, marketing and sales automation, and disruption caused by innovations in artificial intelligence and machine learning. Many are finding it easier to attract customers when companies embrace the strategic use of these technologies.
Then there’s the data. These days, everyone is using data to help make decisions. Still, the CRO role maximizes the use of data by breaking out of siloed metrics to bring together data from every team to improve the buying journey.
A shift to sales and marketing alignment
For long-term sales growth and maximized profitability, sales and marketing can no longer remain siloed. The product team, go-to-market team, and customer support groups all need to be aligned towards the common goal of a better customer experience and, therefore, revenue generation.
Ultimately, how customers buy is changing. They demand a seamless experience, which simply does not happen when a company remains siloed. Omnichannel marketing, information sharing between departments and personalized experiences are now at the top of the sales playbook.
However, alignment is easier said than done. Traditional departmental processes often resist integration, which is why the Chief Revenue Officer is introduced to bridge the gap. By not belonging to any single department, they can more accurately analyze the market, identify new sales channels and go after new opportunities to increase revenue.