SalesTech Star

The Rise of the CRO

By Todd Fellerman, CRO at Community

While the current marketing and technology landscape has created a boundless amount of opportunities for individuals, brands and businesses, it’s also created confusion. Today’s consumers are smarter and more informed. There is a redefinition of value — one where community, and aligning ourselves with the people and brands that mirror our own experiences take center stage. It’s a relationship that has evolved beyond the transactional. Today, what you’re buying into is just as important as what you’re buying. How can individuals, brands and businesses (1) start, build, and create a genuine connection with their audience (potential and current customers), and (2) ensure their audience values them enough to buy (and continue to buy) their products and services?

Read More: SalesTechStar Interview with Jason Heidema, Co-Founder and CEO at Atrium

A strong majority (78%) of businesses’ marketing teams describe their customer engagement as data-driven. In order to make decisions, they need to digest, analyze and act on an increasing number of data sources moving forward. In 2020, marketers on average are leveraging upwards of 10 data sources, which is projected to increase up to 20% this year.  These days some popular data sources that drive action include transactional data, declared interests and preferences, and inferred / lookalike interests. Given this data explosion from various sources, businesses and marketers jobs are becoming more difficult and complex.

Now more than ever– the role of the Chief Revenue Officer (CRO), is among the most critical- — one that understands an audience’s new path to purchase without impeding it, integrates its brand values without forcing them, and manages omnichannel content without flattening it.

Read More: SalesTechStar Interview With Rob Rosenthal, Chief Revenue Officer at Bloomreach

Here are the core areas of focus of the CRO, that help with customer lifetime value:

Drive a differentiated and coherent brand in the market

Today’s CRO is also a brand’s strategic influencer. Inherently, by managing the marketing function at a company, it’s critical to build and manage a team that develops and evangelizes a brand. But the brand must be clearly differentiated in the market so potential and current customers easily understand and know what value your product/service drives and why it’s uniquely different from your competition. Without this differentiation, customers will often become confused, sales become more complex and difficult, and customer churn will likely rise over time. The importance of “coherent” is around ensuring your brand passes the customer sniff test — is this  product/service’s value proposition genuine?  Does it align with your experience with the  product/service?

Customers should know and feel your brand is aligned to its purpose and the company’s vision and culture. Maintaining coherence is not easy and many brands go astray here over time through over-innovation or via big strategic changes that have broader impact than originally realized.  Without coherence, prospects lose interest in brands and customers can lose trust and abandon the brand.

Find and capture quality leads

Customer lifetime value is important and this is meant to drive “quality” over quantity in leads and prospects. Many performance marketers are hungry and can overly focus on volume. This occurs for a variety of reasons — but in my experience, it is due to either poor incentive alignment or not enough upfront strategy work being done. The reason the quality of leads is critical is that it minimizes the waste of time, money, and brainpower put into brute force marketing and sales. Without quality, you end up speaking to a broad audience and waste their time and your marketing dollars. You also make the sales teams’ lives harder, as they need to individually vet and put extra effort into discovery. If you focus upstream on defining a strategy around what a quality lead is, you end up saving in many ways (marketing).

Grow sustainable revenue

Revenue is at the core of the CRO’s job– and a mark of brand’s success. But what I consistently emphasize in sales and account management is “sustainable.”  Revenue that comes in and quickly leaves through churn is expensive (oftentimes unprofitable) and oftentimes demoralizing for the sales and finance teams. On the flip side, when a customer is quality then their revenue becomes sticky and sustainable. Your financials remain more stable, churn doesn’t eat into current revenue, and teams can be more focused on growth, outbound communications, and higher order work streams.

Build robust and scalable processes

Finally, strong processes and development are foundational tools for success. While building processes feels very operational in nature and not revenue focused, it is at the core of scalable revenue and sales. The power of process is in the fact that it enables the CRO, leadership, managers, and individuals to to reliably track revenue, manage pipeline, understand meetings and opportunities, rigorously capture customer feedback (generally for the product team), and more. Without these processes in place, not only will the organization be less efficient and spend a lot of time on manual, one-off workstreams, but it will make the team less effective and more risk prone.  This is because the team will likely trend towards ‘the squeaky wheel’ culture where the loudest sales folks get the most attention.  And from experience, not having a broader view and only focusing on random (the squeakiest) escalation frequently has teams focus on projects that may not matter or do not have important enough impact.

What I have learned and hope all CRO’s deeply understand is the principle of Customer Obsession (a leadership principle I proudly learned from my time at Amazon). As CRO I need to be and my entire team needs to be maniacally focused on the customer, work backwards from the customer’s needs and experience, and make nearly all decisions focused on ways to increase customer satisfaction and reduce customer pain points. I have seen some revenue and sales organizations lose sight of the customer; sometimes it’s due to internal politics, other times it’s because there is a very strong product/engineering culture. But regardless of the reason, if teams and especially the CRO loses focus on the customer — the company will struggle and unfortunately will not achieve long term success.  The CRO’s job is to keep the customer at the forefront of their team’s minds but the company leadership’s minds as well. 

Read More: SalesTechStar Interview with Debra Squyres, Chief Customer Officer at HackerRank