There’s a lot of talk about the CRO role, but is it really just a new fangled way of labelling the head of sales? For some it is, but done properly it isn’t. Charlotte Graham-Cumming, CEO of marketing strategy and business development company Ice Blue Sky, outlines how to get it right.
CRO - is it worth considering within your business? Here’s specialist advice on understanding what it is and how can you maximise its application within your print operation.
1 Don’t just make it a new sales role
At Ice Blue Sky we see this all the time - VP of sales has their role/title changed to CRO, or the CSO does, either way, you need to ensure you’re looking at the role in the right way. The CRO role should encompass all aspects of operations that impact revenue, so the right candidate should have a mix of skills, extending beyond just sales. An in-depth understanding of marketing, customer service and product are essential to having rounded knowledge necessary to combine all the revenue elements into one role.
2 Assess your customer journey first
You need to document the whole customer lifecycle in order to properly define the CRO role and the associated KPIs. You should consider the entire lifecycle, from awareness to advocacy, in order to properly understand what areas have a heavy influence on revenue, and therefore what experience your new CRO needs to possess. As we’ve seen, this should include post sale - it’s not just about sales and marketing. Doing this not only helps build understanding and identify areas that need improvement, but also means that the right KPIs are established holistically, and not in departmental silos. If you’ve ever had an issue with teams moving in opposite directions, then this likely to be an issue in your organisation.
3 Set clear objectives
The overall objective for a CRO is to unify the approach to revenue generation within the organisation. Each team can continue within its own current hierarchy but the CRO should have a holistic view of how they are impacting revenue, even if there is no direct reporting line. This can include finance, product, customer service, sales (all disciplines), marketing and account management for example. The CRO role needs to create a connection between their KPIs around revenue, and the KPIs of each team to ensure they are coordinated and pulling in the right direction. This will require close collaboration with each team, and executive support when objectives appear to be clashing.
4 Track the right KPIs
In order to facilitate this holistic approach, the right KPIs need to be established and agreed at board level. This can include revenue growth, churn rate (at various stages, pre and post sale), win/loss rate, customer engagement and advocacy, retention, lifetime value and time to close for example. You can also include finance metrics such as average debtor days, in order to provide a more in depth understanding of revenue performance. If steps three and four are done correctly (and this does take time) then it should be obvious which metrics are needed. As already stated, clearly identifying the levers in each team that lead up to these KPIs is crucial.
5 Provide board support and endorsement
For now, if you’re appointing a CRO, chances are it’s the first time you’ve done so. Which means there will need to be a winning of hearts and minds across the organisation. Heads of departments may feel their territory is being encroached upon and get defensive instead of being collaborative. The right candidate is crucial here obviously (someone who is collaborative their self for example) but board support is equally important. Without active board support and communication the initiative is at high risk of failure. This needs to be both at the outset of recruitment (getting stakeholders involved early), outlining and clearly communicating the objectives of the role, and how that filters down the various teams, and having regular, collaborative sessions to determine the way forward as change occurs.
6 Don’t forget partners and suppliers
External resources should be a strong consideration when planning the role of the CRO. Whether it’s manufacturers, vendors or resellers, they are likely to have an impact on revenue and the CRO should consider them as much a part of the ecosystem as the internal teams.
7 Leverage the role for growth and stability
Establishing a CRO role in your business is an enormous opportunity for “not doing business as usual”. Use the role to tackle inherent issues within the organisation. These could be silo based, communication, process or people based. Having a holistic view will open up new insights which can be used for iterative improvements over the longer term to achieve a more robust business.
8 Think long-term value
If you’re considering selling your business in the future, the CRO role unlocks a significant opportunity for building tangible and demonstrable value in your company. Creating a single revenue engine is a powerful catalyst to growth, going beyond integrating sales and marketing to managing the entire market landscape, the customer journey and experience leading to strategic growth. According to McKinsey, companies with a CRO outperform their peers by 1.8x revenue growth.
9 Understand the benefits of automation
When you implement a CRO role across the buyer journey, you open up further opportunities with technology, including AI and automation. Building seamless journeys de-risks process automation, enabling automation at scale - driving further growth.
10 A last word
What’s important to remember is that the CRO role is not always fully understood, so clear communication internally is crucial for driving the success within the role. Identifying the right candidate will mean the difference between success and failure, they need to be experienced across a number of disciplines, work collaboratively and be decisive.
It’s a great opportunity to really understand all the revenue drivers in your organisation, and to unlock new opportunities for revenue growth in areas that aren’t typically looked at in this way. The only way to do this is for the board to completely get behind the idea that one role oversees all of the revenue generation and impact across the business.