HomeNewsDawn of the Chief Revenue Officer

Dawn of the Chief Revenue Officer

In the not-so-distant past, the VP of sales was responsible for all revenue acquisition efforts. This is no longer the case. Revenue now can arrive digitally from marketing efforts, buyer self-orders and ongoing service solutions. Selling by sales personnel continues, but it now becomes one part of the buyer journey. The chief revenue officer (CRO) is responsible for all revenue streams ensuring a seamless customer experience before, during and after the purchase transaction – the full buyer journey.

Sunset for the VP of Sales

Our historic VP of sales, acting as the field commander, directed legions of sellers to prospect, make sales presentations, close orders and may or may not ensure service execution. Although many companies still use this approach, today’s buying realities are substantially displacing this model of revenue acquisition.

Surprisingly, sellers are just as important in the new selling model as they were before. However, they are no longer the single point of contact with customers. Still important? Sellers’ enduring role is to help customers resolve confounding purchase decisions. But not all customers need purchase guidance. In many cases, buyers confirm their purchase decisions using digital tools, community advice and previous experiential knowledge. Somewhere along their journey, customers educate themselves, reduce their uncertainty and decide what to buy. But not all of them. The role of sellers is to educate customers (when needed), communicate economic benefits (as justified) and solve buyer confusion (as it occurs). Regardless, the fact remains: Not all customers need seller assistance.

The chief revenue officer’s (CRO) role is to harness the diverse customer contact efforts, including marketing outreach, promotions, business development, web engagement, sellers’ efforts and after-the-sale service support including remote and onsite teams. The CRO must account for each step of the buyer journey.

The Buyer Journey

A buyer journey replaces the seller’s geographic placement as the primary planning tool for revenue acquisition. The buyer journey documents the steps that buyers undertake as they make a purchase decision. The chart suggests a linear progression; the reality is often quite different with overlapping steps, shifts driven by multiple stakeholders, buyer iterations and pauses in the buying process.

Opportunity to Improve. The buyer recognizes a problem that needs fixed or acknowledges an improvement opportunity (as suggested by internal advocates, vendor marketing efforts, sellers, web-content or influencers).

Define Needs. The buyer develops a more complete definition of needs.

Research Solutions. Buyers have powerful tools to research solutions, including websites, vendor ratings, peer recommendations, user ratings and testimonials.

Supplier Evaluation. The buyer may consider several vendors, ask for solution specifications and request demonstrations and buyer ROI.

Selection and Contract. The buyer selection process might be simple or complex. It may include multiple stakeholders, procurement and internal leadership. Contracts might be nonexistent, standard or negotiated with legal oversight.

Post Purchase. Post-purchase buyer needs might include training, equipment maintenance, user training, adoption advice, upgrades and customer service support.

Understanding the buyers’ needs instructs the revenue team on what type of customer engagement and revenue motions will work best to secure the purchase order.

Who is responsible for each step of the buyer journey? That’s the challenge for the CRO.

Aligning Disparate Functions

The first challenge for the CRO is to align disparate customer contact departments. With the best intentions, various functions have defined their own customer-contact charter: marketing promotion, web design, e-commerce, business development, sales, and post-sales support. Often, as stand-alone entities, these disparate functions do not always align with numerous and evolving buyer journey preferences.

For example, sales departments have historically “assigned” sellers to customers either as named accounts or geographic territories. This might not be necessary for all current and potential customers in the future. In some instances, inventory monitoring bots may oversee customer reordering—fulfillment selling. Business development efforts may discover large opportunities, which are assigned to a “pursuit team” configured for the unique nature of the buyer journey.

Promotions and business development might move from simply providing marketing qualified leads to securing revenue by matriculating web-based buyers. After-sales customer success managers provide impactful customer service and help with continued customer usage.

The promise of predictive selling has sales scientists creating algorithms, suggesting buyer journey accountabilities, engagement methods, timing and value propositions.

The CRO will need to manage this three-dimensional view of buyers – marketing, selling and service – deploying the right resources at the right time.

Chief Revenue Officer Rising

The title “chief revenue officer” has important and profound implications. It requires a change in mindset about how to serve customer populations. Historic sales strategy models featuring vertical or account-sized groupings might have some continuing legitimacy, but they must yield to how buyers want to purchase rather than how the company wishes to sell.

Perhaps the most challenging adjustment is to set aside the existing charter of the traditional departments of marketing, sales and service. It’s best to begin with buyer populations—how buyers prefer to buy. Using multiple buyer journey populations as the go-to-market planning platform allows for the right deployment of these talented resources.

With a fresh planning template, the CRO will need to determine which buyer populations will get which types of marketing promotion, business development, sales engagement and customer support.

Consider these skills sets for the chief revenue officer of the future:

  • Advanced Buyer Journey Planning Skills. Mapping existing, new and target buyer populations will provide a foundation for assigning marketing, selling and service resources.
  • Digital Buying Trends and Tools. It’s a digital world. Deploying digital buying practices is the skill set of the future.
  • Persuasion Placement. Sellers are responsible for persuasion. These selling skills might be necessary in marketing (e-commerce design), business development, sellers and customer renewal and success managers.
  • Data Warehouse Management. Digital and personal engagement creates a robust data inventory of buyer intentions and practices. Collect this information to create predictive selling motions.
  • Talent Development. Redefined roles, new talent, up-skilled personnel, collaborative buyer hand-offs, and continuing customer contact require personnel to help execute buyer engagement along the buyer journey.
  • Transformation and Change Management. Changing mindsets, planning processes, job duties, measurement and reward systems require keen insight into transformation and change management methods.

Will the titles “VP of sales,” “VP of marketing” and “VP of customer service” survive? Most likely. But they will need to contribute to the new, challenging buyer engagement model overseen by the chief revenue officer.


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David Cichelli
David Cichellihttps://www.alexandergroup.com/
David Cichelli is a revenue growth advisor for the Alexander Group. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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