Cowen Partners is a national sales recruiting firm and we have put together what we believe is the ultimate guide to hiring a Chief Revenue Officer. Designed for CEO’s, we outline the major issues encountered by an organization when hiring a CRO.
Growing business revenue is never easy. Even more difficult is achieving consistent revenue
growth across the lifetime of a business. To address this challenge, a growing number of
companies are restructuring their leadership framework to add a C-level position, a Chief Revenue
Officer (CRO), to their team.
Cowen Partners is a national executive search and consulting firm. Our clients are both small and large, publicly traded, pre-IPO, private, and non-profit organizations. Clients are typically $50 million to multi-billion dollar revenue Fortune 100 companies or have assets between $500 million to $15 billion. Successful placements span the entire C-Suite and include VP and Director level leadership roles.
Click on a linked heading below to jump directly to that section.
Companies are evolving to aim for greater and sustained revenue growth, focusing on revenue creation, and capitalizing on opportunities created by digital services and products, which has made hiring the right Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) one of the most critical hires a company can make.
As the CRO role grows in popularity, it’s important to understand not only the attributes and experience needed, but also how the responsibilities and job description may be nuanced by industry, company size, and other factors.
Before we determine who to hire, it’s important we understand what a CRO’s objective is and what they do.
The CRO aligns and optimizes the entire customer experience with the aim of increasing revenue. They have a long-term perspective, understand and embrace the differences between sales and marketing, and streamline how these departments work together.
They remove defects and improve cohesion between departments by placing the right tools, metrics, and strategies in place that will have a significant impact on revenue growth. In short, the Chief Revenue Officer is responsible for all activities that generate revenue by integrating and aligning marketing, sales, customer support, pricing, and revenue management.
Since a keen understanding of multiple teams and their functions is required to be an effective CRO, assigning this role to the wrong person can have substantial consequences. More than just an expanded role for the VP of Sales, a high-level, disciplined, and strategic vision is favorable over the short-term horizon usually embraced by sales leaders.
Sales leadership is, however, a “must-have” in the toolkit of a CRO. The position was originally popularized by Silicon Valley companies that had CEOs with product and engineering backgrounds, but needed forward-thinking sales leaders to translate initial traction into lasting revenue growth. The CRO has their finger on the pulse of revenue growth across departments, identifies activities that lead to revenue growth — namely, sales and marketing — and brings them together.
Primary objectives and responsibilities can vary depending on the size of company. Large company CROs should have a track-record of successfully scaling revenues, building lasting C-level relationships at Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 companies, and managing large sales teams. At smaller companies and startups, the CRO should be an expert in leading rapid revenue growth.
Regardless of company size, the Chief Revenue Officer will oversee channel and partner development, adding new and profitable sales channels, partners, and resellers. They will evangelize the company at industry events, skillfully negotiate contracts, and actively participate in strategic business unit planning to develop accurate projections for budgets. They will also establish and refine strategies to analyze sales performance.
The CRO will have extensive marketing experience and a deep understanding of cross-channel marketing, native advertising, and programmatic advertising. They will remain up-to-date on the latest trends in advertising, and how these trends may be leveraged for revenue growth.
Character attributes are subjective, but an effective CRO should have most, if not all, of the following personality traits:
As the name suggests, a Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) is an executive who is responsible for all
aspects of a business that generate revenue. This individual may be involved in the business’ new
sales, existing client base sales, marketing, and collaboration, and partner strategy. Usually,
when a company adds a CRO to its hierarchy, it sends out the message that ‘we are passionate to
grow and we’re doing so by adding a growth hacker to our team’.
A business may not require a CRO in its initial stages, but as it evolves to become a more robust
company, the role of CRO may become more apparent. It is important to note that like other
executive-level positions, there is no “one-size fits all” job description for a CRO; it will depend
on different factors, such as the requirements of the business, the type of industry it operates in
and so on. However, the ultimate goal is the same – driving revenue into the company while
achieving consistent revenue growth over the long run.
In large companies, the CRO is expected to not only scale the revenue to hundreds of millions,
but also build lasting relationships and lead large sales teams in the most efficient way possible.
On the other hand, small companies usually look for individuals who can deliver rapid and
sustainable revenue growth. Either way, the CRO should have basic knowledge about both sales
and marketing, including cross-channel and digital marketing as these branches of marketing
play an important role in today’s world.
If you are the owner or CEO of a company that has not explored the option of hiring a CRO, you
might want to give it some thought. Here are two key reasons why your company needs a CRO:
They Can Identify and Explore Multiple Sources of Growth
Be it a conglomerate or a simple business selling a single product or service, every company has
distinct sources of growth. These sources are independent of the product or services your
company sells or the industry it operates in. Rather, they are dependent on the tactics and
strategies that you use to run your company. As the leader, you need to first identify these
sources and then explore them in-depth.
There are four common sources of structural growth: retention of existing customers, increased
sales to existing customers, sales to new customers in existing markets, and lastly, sales to new
customers in new markets. Since growth does not originate from a single source only, a CRO
will identify and explore the untapped potential in these sources, thus enabling the company to
maximize its revenue.
The chief sales officer and chief revenue officer roles are similar in that they both typically lead sales operations. Both roles can provide a competitive sales strategy and establish a top-level sales team, however, each role brings something different to the business.
CSO vs. CRO
A chief sales officer mainly focuses on hitting sales targets. A CSO knows how to close deals and keep VIP customers coming back to your business again and again. The CSO also closely oversees the sales team by managing the hiring and training of all members. Working closely with this team, the CSO analyzes sales data and improves the sales strategies to further company goals and achieve or surpass sales targets.
A chief revenue officer, on the other hand, plays a broader role. A CRO is responsible for an organization’s overall revenue, which ultimately involves much more than just the sales department. The CRO role interacts with sales, marketing, and even operations to ensure departments are working together to achieve company goals. The CRO works in conjunction with the sales and marketing teams to create a strategy that will attract customers and ultimately increase sales, thus boosting revenue.
Both a CSO and CRO will benefit your business, but which one to hire ultimately depends on what your company needs to improve. For instance, if you need to close more client deals, then a CSO can fill the role. However, if you need to improve sales and marketing collaboration then a CRO would be a better fit. Once you determine the sales areas that need the most improvement you can find the right person for your company.
Another key aspect of a CRO’s job is to enable cross-functional teamwork that will allow the
company to achieve stable growth. Successful business growth does not occur overnight; it is the
result of active participation of multiple business functions, mainly sales/business development,
marketing, direct sales, and customer service.
To maximize the potential growth from the sources identified above, it is important that these
business functions are in sync. The activities of these business functions need to be strictly
planned and coordinated, meaning that they must collaborate with each other. The CRO is
responsible for this planning and coordination. By supervising these business functions and
helping them on the way, he will ensure that the company achieves maximum growth in
These circumstances create a strong argument in favor of companies employing a chief revenue
officer who can manage and coordinate between different revenue-generating activities. Hiring a
CRO is one of the key steps towards optimizing revenue growth, which a business indefinitely
needs to survive in today’s world.
The average chief revenue officer salary is between $191,132 and $240,590, according to the latest data here and here. LinkedIn Salaries says the median CRO salary is $200K, with a total compensation of $345K including stock options, commissions, and bonuses.
Keep in mind that chief revenue officer salaries vary greatly by location, years of experience, company size, maturity of company, required skills, and additional compensation (bonuses, profit sharing, etc.).
Cowen Partners is a national executive search firm. Focusing on enterprise sales, Executive Recruiter Ash Wendt has put together a Chief Revenue Officer Job Description.
About Us Section
Ideal candidates will demonstrate that they possess the following key attributes:
Optimize for lifetime value of new customers.
Optimize go-to-market efforts.
Oversee and Protect Company Culture and Make us an Employer of Choice
As a CRO, You Will Need
Cowen Partners has a strong record of identifying and recruiting executive-level sales talent for our clients. Contact us if you would like to discuss recruiting your next Chief Revenue Officer, VP of Sales, or Individual Contributor.