In the smallest companies, the owner or president is usually in charge of sales. As they get bigger, companies might hire someone whose title could range from vice-president of sales to “head of sales.” The idea of a title as formal-sounding as “chief revenue officer” may sound too grandiose, to say the least.
Among larger organizations and even some startup companies, however, the chief revenue officer role is starting to emerge and elevate the importance of focusing on areas that maximize the resources that go into establishing a strong customer base. Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) once lacked many of these resources, but the great thing about CRM tools like Sales Cloud is how they’ve helped to put companies of almost any size on a level playing field with the rest of the market.
Using CRM to collect, manage and develop a strategy based on sales data, for example, means that Canadian SMBs can grow much more rapidly and effectively than ever before. It also means that some of the core responsibilities of a chief revenue officer will also be applicable to SMBs if they want to stay competitive and achieve their most ambitious business objectives.
Of course, as with other more recent C-suite titles, like “chief digital officer” or “chief customer experience officer,” SMBs may be uncertain about how to differentiate a traditional sales leadership role versus what a chief revenue officer would do.
This post will look at some of the high-level elements common to many chief revenue officer job descriptions, and how to think about them in an SMB context.
Let’s start buy making a comparison with another department in many companies: IT. When technology becomes more essential to everything a business does, many organizations created a position above the IT manager who would work more directly with the CEO or CFO. Chief information officers (CIOs) don’t usually spend a lot of time helping employees recover their passwords or deploy new software applications. Instead, they think more holistically about the opportunities and challenges facing the business and look at how the technology the organization owns can help deal with them.
Similarly, a chief revenue officer may be as interested to grow the volume of customers or transactions as a more traditional sales manager, but that’s not all they look at. They are also looking at the way the organization sells and how that sets the company apart from its competitors. This could be faster quotes, for instance, or more flexible bundles and packages. A chief revenue officer also looks at the data to see which kinds of segments or territories should be prioritized, the best ways to approach them and what the sales experience can convey about the organization’s vision and values.
Sales managers may not feel they have time to really dig into what the marketing department is doing, or the service team, or many of the other team members who contribute to an SMB’s overall success. A chief revenue officer, on the other hand, deliberately seeks out ways to partner with other areas of the business, as well as third-parties such as the company’s vendors and suppliers.
Creating strong collaboration with other leaders, employees and stakeholders in the outside world can bring in information that ultimately contributes to stronger, more sustainable revenue. That’s why a chief revenue officer not only takes an interest in what’s going on outside of sales, but ensures all the possible valuable dots are connected.
When urgent customer issues come up, sales training might get pushed off. Maybe more than once. At some point, that can lead to bad habits from reps to managers, resulting in churn, additional customer service issues or -- worst of all -- lost business.
Talent management and development is an essential key result area for any chief revenue officer, because they know the more they empower those on the front lines, the better they’ll be able to meet whatever performance expectations are put in front of them. This is a lot better than reaching a low point, like a missed quarterly revenue target, before the company’s sales team does an honest self-appraisal.
SMBs might be understandably worried that posting a job for a “chief revenue officer” will lead applicants to expect a higher salary than they can afford. Much like more traditional sales jobs, however, the president or owner of the company may start off as the de facto chief revenue officer. As they become more fluent with data-driven decision-making via tools like Sales Cloud, they’ll have a better understanding of what qualities they’d seek in a chief revenue officer once they’ve grown large enough to recruit one.
Better yet, think about how artificial intelligence platforms like Salesforce Einstein will make some of the insights from CRM even more powerful by bringing predictive capabilities. It’ll almost be like having the benefit of someone who has worked in a chief revenue officer role for many years.
In the meantime, just encouraging more members of the sales team to think like a chief revenue officer may be the fastest (and most affordable) way for SMBs to begin focusing on some of the issues that could ultimately create the kind of behaviours that will generate more positive outcomes for their company across the board. Making better use of technologies like Sales Cloud, for example, may provide a way of having the team work as a sort of collective chief revenue officer, because everyone can draw upon the data to make better decisions.
Even if you never have someone with a chief revenue officer title, you may want your organization to look and act as though you’ve employed one all along.