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5 Traits of Game-Changing Chief Revenue Officers

Female chief revenue officer looking at a laptop while writing something down
Chief revenue officers are data-driven and live for predictability. [Adobe / insta_photos}

Learn how CROs can capitalize on new revenue opportunities while building a high-performing team.

Chief revenue officers (CROs) are one of the newest animals in the C-suite jungle, and they’re adapting to a unique set of tasks with a unique set of traits.

Often, CROs have risen up through a classically successful sales career, only to face an entirely new challenge: take over every revenue-generating function in the business to drive predictable growth.

That’s a big challenge, and below we’ll look at the kind of person who can take it on and thrive.

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What is a chief revenue officer?

A chief revenue officer (CRO) is responsible for every process that generates revenue in an organization. CROs work to connect different revenue-related functions, from marketing to sales, customer success, pricing, and revenue operations (RevOps). They focus on improving sales performance, creating great product and pricing strategies, and delivering customer satisfaction (which becomes especially important in recurring revenue models like subscriptions).

What does a chief revenue officer do?

Here are the fundamental responsibilities of a CRO.

  • Grow. Chief revenue officers carry an enormous weight: the pressure to grow. To a sales leader, growth is narrow: Hit quota. To a CRO, growth is broad and holistic: Open up new paths to revenue and build the machinery to get there. 
  • Align. CROs have a hand in everything that has to do with revenue. That’s … everything. They spend a lot of their time getting everyone to row in the same direction, from their peers in the C-suite to teams across the company.
  • Plan for the future. Chief revenue officers are responsible for projecting confidence and steadiness to the board. They’re data-driven, they live for predictability, and they’re stressed by any distraction that keeps them from “the plan.” To make the plan a reality, CROs use every tool they’ve got — analytics, strategy, and the best talent they can find.

What are the responsibilities of a chief revenue officer?

It’s 9 a.m., you’re a CRO, and the coffee is kicking in. Here’s what’s on the agenda today:

  • Prepare for a board meeting
  • Hire, train, retrain, and maybe, sadly, fire
  • Review the forecast and manage revenue that’s at risk
  • Execute the go-to-market strategy for products and pricing
  • Join the most strategic deal calls to influence deal structure
  • Focus on scaling operations and bring in the right technology tools to help
  • Create focus and collaboration with meetings across the C-suite and with direct reports

What does a successful chief revenue officer look like?

Let’s look at the top five traits that make for a standout CRO.

Trait 1: Visionary

The chief revenue officer owns a company’s outlook. They need to be confident and aggressive on one hand, steady and predictable on the other. This involves more than just hitting the numbers. It’s storytelling. What is the company’s vision for growth and possibility?

Trait 2: Data-obsessed

CROs own the go-to-market strategy. They drive pricing and product structure, and they set the buyer journey. The fuel for these decisions is data.

Chief revenue officers need to study customer behavior to answer important questions: How can we make it easier for customers to buy? Should we enter new revenue models, like selling subscriptions? How can we target the right customers at the right time (and on the right channel) for upsells and cross-sells?

To answer these questions, many CROs turn to customer relationship management (CRM) software to bring every team — and every team’s data — together around the same customer view.

Trait 3: Passionate about building teams

Chief revenue officers are seasoned executives. They grow revenue, sure — but they also grow people and culture, believing that a rising tide lifts all boats. They spend a lot of their time mentoring their teams, and they’re motivated by building a workplace that excites people to do their best.

Trait 4: Cool under pressure

CROs are distinctly “on the hook” compared to their C-level peers, and they hold the most accountability to the board. It’s no wonder that this role has such a short average tenure (2-1/2 years). A successful CRO can take this burden on and thrive. The perks don’t hurt — not-so-shabby compensation in stock and equity, the pride of winning in the market, and the chance to grow a great team and a great company.

Trait 5: Nimble against change

For a person so driven by consistency and predictability, the CRO is dealing with some big shifts at the same time.

  • Rising business complexity. Customers want buying to feel easier than ever. They also want the freedom to buy using revenue models (like subscriptions), and the flexibility to cross channels (for example, beginning in a self-service channel and closing with a sales rep). Chief revenue officers need to keep up with all this change while still delivering incredible, connected, personalized experiences.
  • The great resignation. Fifty-five percent of Americans were looking to change jobs in the next year, according to the August 2021 Bankrate Jobseeker Survey. That number may have dropped, but retention is still a concern. Chief revenue officers have to work harder than ever to hold on to their best people.
  • The hybrid workforce. CROs are scrambling to find new ways to get teams into lockstep whether those teams are remote or in the office. They’re leaning on new digital tools to activate this hybrid workforce, from AI-powered tools for remote coaching to Slack-first sales.

What’s the difference between a CRO and a VP of Sales?

There’s a misconception that CROs are just sales leaders with a nice title. In some organizations, that might be true. In other organizations, CROs are replacing heads of sales altogether.

As the chart below shows, a true CRO is a unique beast.


  • Mid-level senior management
  • Depth
  • KPI: Sales
  • Sales team leader
  • All deals
  • Money + bonus


  • Executive
  • Breadth
  • KPI: Revenue
  • Business leader
  • Enterprise deals
  • Equity + stock

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Jen Gustavson Writer, Salesblazer

Jen Gustavson is a writer from Salt Lake City, now living in Brooklyn, New York. Her 15-year writing career spans print journalism, consumer brand work, B2B content strategy, marketing and creative agency leadership, and beyond.

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