Your opportunity to land the big CRO role is right in front of you. Nail the interview with the CEO, and the job is yours. There are five essential questions to ask the CEO. If you miss them you'd be making a big mistake.

You’ve led successful enterprise sales teams.  Navigated through troubled waters to grow revenue and margin.  Now, you’re looking for an even bigger challenge.  As an experienced CRO, you now have your opportunity.  You’ve been through an extensive vetting process.  The organization is three times the size of your previous company, and total compensation would be double.  Final interviews are scheduled with the CEO in less than a week.


The 5 Questions


Nailing your interview is as much about the questions you ask as the answers you provide.  Ensuring you have clarity on the CEO’s definition of success as CRO is critical.  Knowing what strategic initiatives the organization plans to invest in is also key.  There are many others I could recommend.  Do your research and make your list.  Does the list contain any inquiries about their use of consulting services?  I’m willing to bet the answer is no.  Here are the questions you need to add – more about why in a moment:


  • Have you used external consulting firms in the past?
  • What was the core challenge you were seeking help with?
  • What compelled you to leverage help from outside the organization?
  • Who from the executive team was accountable for the engagement?
  • Will the CRO have a budget for outside consulting services?


For some additional insights on the mindset of a CEO in determining who they should hire into the role, click here.


Asking About Their Use of Consulting Services


The primary reason for asking these questions is to understand if the organization is predisposed to seeking outside help.  Your job as CRO is to improve revenue faster than the marketplace and your competitors.  If this were an easy objective, CRO turnover would be virtually zero. Clearly, it isn’t as data continue to suggest the average tenure for the role in B2B is less than 20 months.


CEO’s often expect that changing leadership is all they need to do to right a listing ship.  A talent upgrade is always a good move.  Further, it’s not unusual to expect that a new CRO will bring in his or her team to support a turnaround.  Again, this can be a good move, but I posit it is not enough.


An independent third party that has a track record of successfully turning strategy into action is needed.  A great strategy is required, but without execution, results won’t change.


Have You Used External Consulting Firms?


When asking this question, ensure you probe on follow-up.  If the response is yes, the remaining four questions are natural follow-ups.  Additional detail can be captured by understanding who they’ve engaged with in the past.  If the response is no, the obvious follow-up question would be “Why not?”.  They may not have used consultants because they’ve historically performed well in relation to their peers.  Of course, that begs the question “Then why the change in the CRO position now?”  This is not to say the only path to success requires consultants.  However, if leadership is changing, the results must not be what is expected.  Where there’s smoke, there’s often fire.


What Was the Core Challenge You Were Seeking Help With?


In the case of those that have used consultants, understand the issue they were trying to solve for.  This will give you a window into what they feel is important for their success.  Take note if the challenge was lackluster revenue growth, cost of sales increases or slipping market share.  Know these will likely be on the top of the new CRO’s list.


What Compelled You to Leverage Help From Outside the Organization?


Asking for help is misconstrued by many as a sign of weakness.  It is not – it’s a sign of strength.  Being able to recognize we need assistance shows self-awareness and willingness to be vulnerable.  The answer to this question will further clarify specific gaps within the organization.  It will provide a focus for problem areas that need to be solved.


Who From the Executive Team Was Accountable for the Engagement?


Having this answer may also provide you with valuable insight into the executive team.  Typically, the senior executive charged with this accountability carries weight with leadership and sway over the direction.  Probe for details on why that individual carried accountability for the outcome.


Will the CRO Have Budget for Outside Services Such as Consulting?


If you get a yes here, ask natural follow-up questions.  Knowing how much the budget is or what the process is for gaining approval are key.  Follow-up on the types of engagements that a CRO should lead. Examples such as Go-To-Market strategy, Organizational Structure, Compensation design or Pricing Strategy would be fitting.


Click here to get your CRO Interview Guide to Consulting Services.  Make sure you leave no stones unturned.  Validate the level of support the CRO will have from the CEO.  Gain insight and alignment on the burning objectives that need to be met.  Understand the core problems facing the company.  Additional advice on interviewing with the CEO is available here from Korn Ferry.


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