In a Market Where It’s Harder Than Ever to Dominate, Chief Revenue Officers Belong in the Boardroom

by Coco Brown
Founder & CEO | Athena Alliance

Within the last decade, many changes have occurred within the C-suite, but the rise of the chief revenue officer may be the most notable. In a world where moving fast is just as important as doing things right, more and more organizations are realizing that making strides in sales, marketing and product can be amplified by a laser focus on growth. That is, a strategic, holistic approach to growing revenue — from every customer, from every channel, from every product.

Grow or die (really).

Taking a strategic approach to revenue seems like an obvious move, but many companies fall into operational silos. Business units tend to turn their heads down, focusing on their unique initiatives versus thinking about the bigger picture. One unit’s idea of success may differ from another’s. In parallel, operational inefficiencies can drag an organization down. It doesn’t matter if the product is incredible or the brand is relatable — if an organization cannot generate revenue with a synergistic mindset, then failure is on the horizon.

In fact, consulting firm McKinsey refers to growth as a “do or die” imperative. A recent article says, “Consider the fate of the 100 largest companies on the New York Stock Exchange of 30 years ago. Among those that enjoyed strong shareholder returns but didn’t post top-line growth, almost 50 percent had been acquired or delisted 20 years later. Companies with high organic growth also return a better stock price.”

But for most organizations, growth is easier said than done. Business moves fast — and customers move faster. Today’s customers shop around. If they aren’t satisfied, they’ll happily let you (and the world) know it across every social media channel. If they like a product, they’ll readily recommend it to friends. They research brands. They want answers real-time. The result: closing deals is harder than ever, more important than ever.

Companies today must fight for every sale, every interaction, every relationship.

A holistic approach to revenue

And so, it’s no longer sufficient to just be “good enough” if organizations want to last. Technology companies — especially within SaaS — now know that a sale is not just a sale; there’s an entire pipeline to be nurtured. In doing so, many organizations have opened their eyes to a long-standing internal disconnect: the great divide between marketing and sales. The road from lead generation (marketing) to closing deals (sales) is ripe with opportunity to be more efficient, to unify employees, to make a greater impact. Part sales guru, part growth hacker, part operations coach, the chief revenue officer has entered the scene to bridge the gap between marketing and sales functions to take a holistic, organizational-wide view of revenue.

It’s about taking a long-term view of what it takes to win in today’s high-tech world — where customers come with equally high expectations. It’s about discovering new ways to create long-term growth versus finding comfort in a single knockout quarter. It’s about linking functional units within an organization to squeeze the most revenue out of every existing customer and to rapidly acquire new ones. Revenue is no longer celebrated as one-off wins but long-term, rolling gains. It’s a sprint, not a marathon. The goal: predictable, steady and strong growth.

CROs are expected to pull the pieces together to make all this possible, implementing new tools and processes, tracking the right metrics, and coordinating effectively across teams. And, they must do it with discipline, honed leadership skills and a deep understanding of data.

  • Discovering new growth opportunities. CROs evaluate everything from customer loyalty and sales data to competitor performance and current revenue streams to uncover hidden opportunities for growth.
  • Understanding market trends. CROs look at industry trends and broader trends to understand where the market is headed and how their organization fits into that evolution.
  • Backing up decisions with data. CROs rely on data, testing, and detailed segmentation to guide the way for efficient spending while making smart moves on where and how they’ll compete.
  • Driving operational efficiencies. They can unlock the potential for resource reallocation and new revenue streams by consistently and relentlessly evaluating operations.
  • Unifying teams. More often than not, this applies to sales and marketing, but it could also speak to other functional areas. The best CROs can align teams on a singular mission, backed by the right processes, resources, and metrics to make it come to life.

Serious about competing? Put a CRO on your board.

CROs can make or break a business — literally. While many traditional board compositions focus

heavily on finances and compliance, guided by the perspectives of aging former CEOs and CFOs, a more modern approach to board composition might include a CRO. It’s a practical move — business today isn’t like it was a decade or two ago. New challenges confront businesses in every sector: digitization, the rapid rollout of new technologies, an evolving workforce, social media, cybersecurity and the mounting importance of brand. Each of these issues is complex, new, and relevant.

Glo Gordon, a CRO and newly appointed board member to Matrixx Software, explained how CROs can bring an invaluable perspective to the boardroom. “Seasoned CROs can offer boards and executive leadership powerful context for business demand and winnability of new use cases and offerings. We’re leaders in growth and healthy revenue for transformational companies. The enterprise C-suite is highly engaged in top-line growth initiatives. CROs who are board directors can help with contacts, networks, and relationships, as well as insights into everything from comp plans, commercials and org structure to resources, leadership development, and performance management.”

The right board composition ensures that modern perspectives, ones that can tackle these complex challenges, are represented. While it’s up to CEOs and current boards to understand their most pressing imperatives and to determine what type of board director will help them achieve success, a CRO will make sure you’re around to take those challenges head-on in the first place.

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