Chief Revenue Officer | The Ultimate Hiring Guide

      Ash Wendt, Cowen Partners President & CRO Recruiter

      By Ash Wendt, President of Cowen Partners Executive Search

      Cowen Partners President & CRO Recruiter Ash Wendt has compiled this Chief Revenue Officer Hiring Guide to highlight what CROs do and what it takes to hire the best CROs for any C-suite or industry.

      Cowen Partners, a national sales recruiting firm, has crafted the ultimate guide to hiring a Chief Revenue Officer to highlight the major issues encountered by an organization when hiring a CRO. Designed for CEOs and other leaders, this CRO Hiring Guide explains:

      Chief Revenue Officer Overview

      Growing 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.

      Companies are aiming 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.

      What Does A CRO Do?

      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.

      Unique Experience Needed

      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 marketingnative 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.

      Personality Traits Of Effective CROs

      Character attributes are subjective, but an effective CRO should have most, if not all, of the following personality traits:

      • High integrity: strong moral and ethical principles.
      • Natural leader: motivational and energetic, with a high emotional intelligence.
      • Critical thinker: objective analysis of an issue in order to form a judgment.
      • Goal oriented: driven by purpose.
      • Self starter: compelled to take action without being told to or encouraged by others.
      • High business acumen: quickness in understanding and dealing with business situations.
      • Maturity: awareness of how to behave and knowing when to act, according to circumstances.

      What Is A Chief Revenue Officer?

      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.

      Why Your Company Needs A CRO

      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.

      Do You Need a Chief Sales Officer or a Chief Revenue Officer?

      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. 

      How to Choose Between a CSO or CRO

      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. 

      They Achieve Growth through Cross-Functional Teamwork

      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
      minimum time.

      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.

      Chief Revenue Officer Interview Questions

      1. Before we start: do you have any questions I can answer?
      2. Tell me about your ability to work under pressure.
      3. What field or industry experience do you have as a Chief Revenue Officer or VP of Sales?
      4. What professional development have you pursued within the last year?
      5. Tell me about yourself.
      6. Why do you believe we should hire you?
      7. What knowledge do you have about our company/product/service?
      8. Why are you leaving your current or last job?
      9. Tell us about some of your deliverables in past positions held.
      10. What were the key metrics or goals you were held to?
      11. What do you consider your greatest strength?
      12. What do you consider to your biggest area of improvement?
      13. How do you manage others?
      14. Tell me about the teams you have managed in the past.
      15. What are your mid-term and long-term personal goals?
      16. What are your salary expectations? Salary only – not total compensation.
      17. What total compensation are you accustomed to?
      18. How have you been bonused/commissioned in the past?
      19. What metrics were tied to your bonus/commission?
      20. Did you achieve those goals? Quarterly, annually? Why/Why Not?

      Chief Revenue Officer Salary &Total Compensation

      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.).

      Chief Revenue Officer Job Description

      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:

      • Customer Focused Results Achiever
      • Team Builder
      • Channel Builder
      • High Velocity Sales and Marketer
      • Strategic Thinker
      • International Experience
      • Experience in migrating the different lifecycle stages of a developing technology ecosystem
      • Infinitely curious and a hunger to continually improve

      CRO Role & Responsibilities

      • Drive new business wins through ownership of all external, new customer go-to-market efforts
      • Lead sales, marketing and business development to align all new customer go-to-market efforts. Create standardized outreach for current and future clients and coordinate its implementation across sales channels, client management, and marketing and communication.
      • Increase sales velocity through improved targeting, activity, or win rates to exponentially increase the number of new accounts won annually.
      • Within 60 days, evaluate the current team and their processes and present a plan to (i) improve current workflows, (ii) better align sales, marketing and business development efforts, and (iii) establish measurable key metrics for each team.

      Optimize for lifetime value of new customers.

      • Support new contract negotiations and standard sales procedures to improve value to the company.
      • Partner with the CEO, CFO and Director of Marketing to support decisions around pricing, contract length, minimum guarantees, and level of customization to offer.
      • Leverage knowledge of customer base, channel partners, and inbound leads to improve account targeting and lead qualification efforts to increase the average size of new accounts.

      Optimize go-to-market efforts.

      • Analyze potential target segments and determine best division of resources to maximize new wins – i.e. in which market segments should we be focused and what is the best way to attack the markets (with geographical, content or market-specific focus).
      • Review current marketing budget allocation and determine the best ways to improve spend and drive down the cost of customer acquisition through improving efficiency in marketing spend, driving higher volume or improved targeting from the sales team, and enabling the alliance network to generate more qualified leads.
      • Review current third party and partner alliances and determine the best way to expand growth through building an ecosystem of support. Work in tandem with key partners to develop a sales training program designed to develop and empower a growing channel and direct sales organization.
      • Improve Sales CRM management (activity tracking, data and pipeline integrity, etc.). Create accountability within the company by developing appropriate metrics and coordinating compensation and promotions with these metrics.
      • Make recommendations on ways to improve customer pitch and marketing materials to showcase our value proposition and competitive positioning, potentially including case studies, website enhancements, email marketing campaigns, etc.

      Oversee and Protect Company Culture and Make us an Employer of Choice

      • Build on our unique legacy by always promoting a culture of growth, collaboration, leading edge client engagements and meritocracy through the organization.
      • Work with the CEO and CFO to continuously review, and when necessary, revise performance compensation programs to reward the right behaviors and the achievement of the company’s and the client’s desired outcomes.

      As a CRO, You Will Need

      • College degree required and MBA (or equivalent advanced degree) preferred.
      • 10+ years of hands-on sales management experience in a high-growth B2B software/SaaS environment.
      • Excellent leadership and mentoring skills.
      • Experience with sales strategy planning and execution, sales operations, customer success, marketing, channel and partner management, business planning, and sales support management in a global setting
      • Well-versed in complex direct and channel sales processes.
      • Highly motivated with an ability to create and work collaboratively with multiple skills leveled sales team.
      • Strategically view the marketplace, analyze opportunities and successfully manage the growth of a profitable enterprise software/content business.
      • Demonstrated financial acumen and a history of decision making based upon business metrics.
      • Ability to craft and execute a business strategy that will allow for future channel expansion
      • Track record of managing multiple projects with a demonstrated ability to prioritize efforts based on ROI to the business.
      • Strategic and highly analytical with a leaning towards data-driven decision making and execution.
      • Outstanding customer and partner facing communication skills.
      • Substantial experience in technology and software.
      • Ability to mobilize stakeholders outside of his/her individual span of control.
      • An outstanding listener and communicator. Someone who facilitates an open exchange of ideas and fosters an atmosphere of open communication.
      • Demonstrate strong people skills, including being perceived as genuinely caring, warm, empathetic, fair, motivating and positive.
      Portraits of Executive Search Firm Cowen Partners associates with the logo centered.

      Contact Cowen Partners for Turnkey CRO Recruitment

      Cowen Partners has a strong record of identifying and recruiting executive-level sales talent for our clients. 

      Contact us to discuss recruiting your next Chief Revenue Officer, VP of Sales, or Individual Contributor.

      We also invite you to explore more of our Ultimate Guides and other resources below.

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