It’s important to understand that the roles of Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) and Chief Sales Officer (CSO) are equally complex. But, putting the wrong role into play in your growing company can spell disaster.


You must design the right job description in order to set the right expectation and hire the right talent. This will increase the speed of sales revenue generation and create more sustainable growth.


Here’s how to put the right set of experience and expertise into the right role. Use the Chief Revenue Officer Search Checklist to organize your search effort and make sure you are getting the best candidates.



Download the CRO Search Checklist here.


The Fundamental Differences:


 A Chief Sales Officer is focused much more on execution. He or she is a tactical master and laser-focused on beating the competition. They live and die by Target Attainment, Average Sales Price, Deal Velocity and Win Rate. This role works best in simpler business environments with a single sales channel.


A Chief Revenue Officer knows how to build and implement strategies to grow revenue effectively. How to increase sales by designing the right strategy for each channel is what keeps this person awake at night…. and day.


There is a very low margin of error in the CSO role. If he misses his mark, it can be difficult to recover. But the CSO does not fear this situation, he thrives on it, that is the adrenaline that makes him successful, and at time seen as a silo’ed leader in the organization. If you need a CSO, don’t fight this. You consciously hired a maniacally focused Sales Leader to meet, and exceed a target. Accept the price.


The CSO is surgical in his execution. He or she processes every opportunity through the sales methodology. Sales operations are her top priority. Her tactical sales plans are as targeted as her sales territory mapping.


A CRO is focused on strategy. This role works best in complex business environments with multiple channels, verticals, and competitors.


Because complex environments have so many moving pieces, strategic expertise is critical. A CRO finds success in collaboration with cross-functional peers. The CRO is a Customer Life Cycle Management Leader. They think from Awareness, to Lead Generation, to Opportunity Management, and eventually to Customer Success.


For these reasons, think if Marketing and Customer Success should be also managed by that person. A true CRO, and by extension your organization, will win by having a CRO not managing only Sales, but Revenue creation and growth. A CSO knows how to increase sales by designing the right strategy for each channel.


The CRO wins in the field by thinking the battle strategies that will defeat the enemies by pulling the rug underneath them at every step in the process. The CSO wins in the field by targeting a big attack where it hurts most, providing an opportunity to close. You can’t flank a good CRO, and you can’t stop a good CSO.


The Costly Result of Putting the Wrong Person in the Wrong Role:


 When you put the wrong expertise in either position, misalignment is the inevitable result.


Strategy and execution are unique skill-sets, and equally challenging. But aligning them with the right role is the critical ingredient to success.


If You Put Someone With CRO Strengths in a CSO Position:


 Sales execution will suffer. A CRO is a strategy expert, but a CSO must focus on execution. A CRO’s inclination to collaborate will slow down decision-making and jeopardize necessary decisive action. Hence the need to have potentially Marketing and Customer Success directly reporting in to the CRO, to accelerate the decision making process and ensure all base are covered.


If You Put Someone With CSO Strengths in a CRO Position:


 Sales strategy will suffer. A CSO personality will not give enough thought to organizational strategy. He will push tactics and program implementation. He is used to making things happen quickly, and will likely neglect collaboration. Hence the need to balance these strengths with complementary capabilities brought by the Marketing and Customer Success, at the same level. And you, as the CEO, will need to orchestrate


How to Tell if You need a CRO:


As business units increase in complexity, sales leader roles also increase in complexity. As CEO, be on the lookout for this situation:


  • A business unit evolves and begins to compete with several products.
  • A business unit’s growth under-performs expectations, market and competition. You hear ‘Not enough lead and awareness’, ‘Customer churn increases’, ‘Sales cycle length increases’ as excuses.


This situation is preparing an individual to step up into the CRO role. Design tests for each business unit to monitor for this situation. Build or Acquire Leaders who may be ready to make the leap to CRO.


Use This if You Need to Recruit a CRO:


We compiled a Chief Revenue Officer Checklist that has 30+ tasks to complete when hiring a CRO. Use this tool to organize your search effort and make sure you are getting the best candidates.


Download the CRO Search Checklist here.


Now That You Know the Difference – Make the Right Combination:


 There are critical differences between a CSO and a CRO. Create the right role for the current state of your business. Then choose the person with the right skill-set for the role. And then make sure you combine this person with complementary skills around him, because it is never black or white.


You have and need a CSO? Hire a seasoned Head of Sales Strategy to ensure you monitor market changes and don’t end up with cohorts of sales tactics.


You have and need a CRO? Make sure the VP’s of Sales are the CSO type to ensure strategies are executed flawlessly. Otherwise you may end-up with too many strategies and not enough actions.


If you are wondering if you have the right strategies to support your revenue growth goals, here is an interactive tool that will help you understand if you have a chance at success. Take the Revenue Growth Diagnostic test and rate your Sales Strategy against emerging best practices to find out if:


  • Your revenue goal is realistic
  • You will earn your bonus
  • You will keep your job


You can also check out other ways to further enable your sales team by downloading SBI’s 2020 How to Make Your Number Workbook, exploring our Sales Strategy insights, or by connecting with an expert.


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