How to Tell if You're a CRO or a VP of Sales

How to Tell if You're a CRO or a VP of Sales

Forrest Hobbs
Forrest Hobbs

The role of Chief Revenue Officer is gaining traction — especially in startups and innovative Silicon Valley companies. More than just a sales leader, the CRO unites functions across the full customer lifecycle to focus on customer experience, revenue generation, and growth.

But how many CROs are really just a glorified VP of Sales? If your primary focus is closing the initial sale, then outsourcing upsell, cross-sell, and renewal processes to your functional peers, then it might be time to drop the title and go back to your roots.

So who is a Chief Revenue Officer, and what should they be doing?

“The CRO’s purpose is to align and optimize the entire customer experience with the aim of increasing revenue.”  — Jim Herbold (former CRO at Infer & EVP, Worldwide Sales at Box)

If you’re still looking at your customers through the lens of qualification and opportunity stage, then you’re doing them a profound disservice.

A CRO should be focused on efforts that drive a better, more relevant customer experience — and should be able to collaborate with other chief officers on driving growth and value throughout the full lifecycle.

Five things a CRO should care about:

  • Go-to-market strategy — from demand generation to sales and renewals, CROs should be using data to drive better product marketing, pricing strategy, and target buyers
  • Operations — CROs should own ops across marketing, sales, and customer success, and have a deep knowledge of the processes and systems that enable them
  • Data — about everything from customer acquisition cost (CAC) and average sales price (ASP) to website conversion, product usage, value delivered, customer feedback, churn, and efficacy of internal processes
  • Market intelligence — creating a process to aggregate, organize, and prioritize new product, feature, partner, and competitive information for the product team
  • Customer experience (CX) — all initiatives that generate lasting revenue and drive growth are directly tied to your customer’s experience with your company and product

Even if Marketing and CS don’t roll up under the CRO at your organization, it’s still your responsibility to make sure cross-functional initiatives are correctly tied to business outcomes, and that you’re focusing on the systems and data that power a seamless customer experience.

Accountability for these five pillars is the difference between a good CRO and a glorified VP of Sales. And a strong focus on end-to-end customer experience is what sets apart an adequate CRO from a good one.

Here’s a framework for CRO accountability:

VP Sales vs. CRO.jpg

The data-driven, accountable CRO will partner with other functional leaders, especially the CEO and CIO, to build the company culture and technological infrastructure to support these processes.

So how do you tell if you’re a CRO? Start by creating a framework for cross-functional accountability — and don’t rest until you’ve optimized the full customer journey.

Forrest Hobbs
Forrest Hobbs
Chief Revenue Officer at Usermind

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