Walking into the CRO role

by | Mar 15

11 min read

A chief revenue officer (CRO), not to be confused with the digital marketing term “conversion rate optimisation”, is the person at a company who heads up all the processes that bring in money. These can range from sales, pricing and the marketing function, to any form of customer support and/or research and development related to the products and services being brought to market.

Because you’ve been tasked with connecting all the dots that lead to revenue generation, the CRO job requires you to sit in prime position, immediately below the CEO, on the company organogram. Just don’t attempt this role if you’re good at seeing opportunities to make money – but your communication skills are a bit wobbly; or you’re unable to lead a team well, by helping them to prioritise the most important tasks they should accomplish in that month, or during that time of year, to hit the company-wide targets.


Success on the job
There are a unique set of critical characteristics, associated with any given senior or executive-level position, that will keep an individual thriving – even when the heat is on. Blue chip CRO Ed Porter writes on LinkedIn that such key traits should emerge from your CRO when you’re carrying out his or her interview. He lists these traits as follows:

They’re a visionary – and, yes, it’s okay that they leave the tactical execution of initiatives over to other people. The CRO should understand marketing’s most critical ins and outs, and have the clout to influence the management team as to what needs the most urgent attention.
They coach, they council, they mentor – because a CRO knows that driving the development of the doers in each department (from marketing, to sales and even customer service) will yield nuggets across the entire business.
They perform like a champ – sharing appropriately with each audience (key executives, the board of directors, their sales consultants), so as to build a culture of open and honest communications and interactions.
They align seamlessly with the customer – because a buyer-focus, employing discipline, clarity and accountability, should be top of mind in every decision that a CRO makes.
• They’re data savvy – because interpreting things incorrectly can be make or break for an organisation, and they’d never allow a presentation to rest on a statistic that looks dicey or dodgy.

Reading matter you can’t ignore
Just a few of the tomes of use to CRO, or wannabe CRO, that they should keep handy on their bedside table, are listed below:

• Moe, C (2012). Chief Revenue Officer! B2B Success Model (US: CRO Success LLC)
This book describes… the CRO leadership role using B2B revenue models, and is applicable whether you’re working at a start-up or are based at a weighty corporate.

Read it to… move your firm forward from a point of breaking even, to completely exceeding all expectations.

  • Godin, S (2009). Purple Cow (US: Portfolio)
    This book describes… the way in which the checklist of “Ps” – i.e. pricing, promotion and publicity – are no longer working to place a product or service in the spotlight for its target market.
    Read it to… discover something remarkable, even unbelievable – the ‘purple cow’. It’s a product, or marketing approach, that challenges traditional viewpoints and really blows your hair back. A must read!
  •  Ferrazzi, K & Raz, T. (2014). Never eat alone (Australia: Currency)
    This book describes… the way in which highly successful people differ from everyone else, related to how they use the power of relationships so that everybody gets something out.

Read it to… better handle rejection, slip past gatekeepers, and uncover the specific steps and inner mindset necessary to truly connect with people so that you can assist each other strategically.
• Gallo, C (2014). Talk Like TED. The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds (US: Macmillan Publishers Limited)
This book describes… how to hone the tools you need to communicate the ideas that matter most to you, so that you’re able to win hearts and ultimately deliver the talk of your life – just like people do when they’re delivering a TED talk.

Read it to… learn how to deliver what author Daniel Pink describes as a ”kick-butt presentation”, in which you’ll move others with your own unique viewpoint.
• Pink, D (2012). To Sell is Human. The Surprising Truth about Moving Others. (US: Riverhead Books)
This book describes… the art and science of selling, making use of the author’s deep knowledge of social science.
Read it to… find out about the six successors to the elevator pitch, the three rules for understanding some one else’s approach, and the five frames that can make what you want to say both clearer and more persuasive. A winner!


Why does a firm need a CRO?
The executive search specialists at Cowen Partners believe that when a company adds a CRO to its team, that company is broadcasting the message that they’re passionate about growth and require a “growth hacker” to forge ahead in this regard. While this is a bold move, its also a considered one. Growing business revenue is tough, they reveal; and even more so if a company wishes to do so steadily and consistently over the coming years.

Cowen Partners identifies two specific reasons to hire a CRO:
• he or she will be able to identify and expand on untapped potential to achieve the necessary growth;

• he or she will be focused on facilitating the cross-functional teamwork that is likely to make this growth come to fruition.

While each company in existence has one or more distinct sources of growth, your CRO is the person who will be able to bring these sources to light and to fully explore them. Of interest is the fact that they’re often not what you’re selling or offering to a customer, but rather the way in which you: retain your customer base; woo customers to buy more; extend your sales prowess within existing markets; and even add new territories to the mix.

Your CRO will be tasked with helping to drive growth by aligning different internal business functions (especially sales, business development, marketing and customer service); and, as these functions run increasingly in sync, so the collaboration involved will spur on and boost the success of any revenue-generating activities.

How to get there
Most companies will expect the following to appear on a potential CRO’s CV:
• a bachelor’s degree with accounting, finance and business administration subjects;
• a master’s degree in business administration or financial management;
• strong leadership and problem-solving skills;
• a solid understanding of revenue processes, gained over seven to 10 years of managing large cross-functional teams and bringing challenging business strategies to fruition.


Unleashing a few trade secrets
Stephen Diorio, director of the Revenue Enablement Institute and member of the Forbes CMO practice, writes in an article for Forbes.com: “Generating revenue has become a digital and data-driven team sport”.

Diorio’s thinking is that as a business grows and develops (he uses the term “scales”), so the teamwork across the relevant departments needs also to come to the party. This means that a CRO must not only manage the people within his or her ecosystem, but also ensure that the increasingly complex marketing and digital ecosystem in which they are operating, runs without a hitch.


If you’re hoping to venture into the role of a CRO, it pays to note that only you – and your organisation’s CEO – will be required to look at what are referred to as the “go-to-market processes”, in their entirety. Further, the CEO will require that you, as CRO, make sure that the teams, operations, processes, activities, systems and data underpinning this revenue cycle are fully aligned with each other.

You’ll need to grow company income by means of cross-selling, consumption and adoption; grasp how to make use of data to better your margins; and be able to show each customer-facing staff member just how to do what’s needed to boost the bottom line.

Few would think that attempting to accelerate the growth of a company’s revenue in today’s uncertain and volatile marketplace was going to be easy. To help you get there, Diorio shares these five strategic pointers:

• Share the power of customer insights in board meetings;
• Eliminate all clutter from the selling process;
• Implement a silo-free commercial model;
• Make crucial data available across all core business processes;
• Find ways to use artificial intelligence and analytics to help the company remain agile in these rapidly-changing times


For more insights from Diorio, click here or follow him on Twitter @dioriostephen.

Your duties and responsibilities
So, you may ask, what will I actually need to do, take on or achieve in this demanding C-suite role? Here’s a rundown from Resultist Consulting.


You’ll create a standardised outreach programme for current and future clients, and will coordinate its implementation across sales, client relationship management, the marketing department and communications/public relations. Next up, you’ll need to develop a series of ongoing growth strategies, with the input of your firm’s executive team and its board of directors.

In order to achieve accountability within your staff contingent, it will be important to develop appropriate metrics; and to coordinate both your compensation and promotion mechanisms with reference to these metrics.

When it comes to the company’s clients, you’ll want to keep them close by nurturing the relationships between you. Further, it will be critical to head out and prospect for new work and, once established, nurture these relationships too.


Once you’ve analysed the different revenue pipelines and lead-creation systems, it will be necessary to adjust these pipelines and systems, or processes, so that business growth becomes increasingly sustainable over the long term.


Where there are management gaps, you’ll likely be tasked will building up teams and mentoring junior-to-mid-level individuals – with a view to the staff members rising up into higher-level sales and account management positions in the future.


Next up, get clued up on revenue forecasting – take a short course on this, if necessary. Are the strategies and processes across the revenue cycle working in the short and long term? Its all about assessing how well the cycle is working – from customer acquisition, across engagement, to securing a purchase = success!

You’ll need to ensure that your firm’s sales management processes are robust; add new sales channels and partners; and keep staff both motivated and engaged.


Additionally, it’s your job to position the company’s products or services in a strategic manner within the marketplace, and to take on any nuances of the job that are needed in your specific industry or sector.


Moral of the story? You’ll never be bored, and will need to map, plan, draw up lists and strategies, and communicate all of these effectively across staffing levels to thrive in the CRO position.

Fact fact 1: Your earnings across territories
The average CRO in South Africa earns around R1 689 359 per annum, together with a bonus of approximately R428 590. Source: www.salaryexpert.com
On the other hand, in the United Kingdom, the average salary for the same role is quite a bit more at £98 710 [R2 190 907].
Source: www.glassdoor.com

Fast fact 2: Top four global companies looking for a CRO
Google – internet and web services company, headquartered in California, US. Rated 8th on the list of Best Companies to Work For (2023), as per the Glassdoor Awards;
SAP – enterprise software and network solutions company, headquartered in Walldorf, Germany. Rated 69th on the list of Best Companies to Work For (2023), as per the Glassdoor Awards;
Starbucks – restaurant and café chain, headquartered in Seattle, US. Rated 96th on the list of Best Companies to Work For (2023), as per the Glassdoor Awards;
Cisco Systems – enterprise software and network solutions company, headquartered in San José, California in the US. Rated 49th on list of Best Companies to Work For (2023), as per the Glassdoor Awards.
Source: https://www.glassdoor.com/Explore/top-chief-revenue-officer-companies_IO.4,25.htm








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