Difference Between CSOs vs CROs - Sales Executive Recruiter - Cowen Partners

      Understanding the Differences Between a Chief Sales Officer and a Chief Revenue Officer

      Top Executive Recruiter Ash Wendt

      By Executive Recruiter Ash Wendt — Top Marketing & Sales Executive Recruiter Ash Wendt has deep experience and unmatched expertise in sourcing extraordinary talent for C-suite roles centered on sales, marketing, operations, and finance. As a founding partner of Cowen Partners, Ash Wendt is also a pioneering thought leader frequently quoted in The Wall Street Journal and other prominent journals.

      When it comes time to spur your organization’s revenue growth, you’ll likely want an executive to lead the charge. A Chief Sales Officer (CSO) and Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) can help, but understanding the differences in their typical responsibilities can help you decide which suits your company. 

      Chief Sales Officer: Responsibilities and Salary

      Think of the CSO as a sales-generating, ‘closing the deal’ machine. They’re the ones who have a solid aptitude for designing effective revenue strategies that fit your business needs. They will oversee your entire sales team, helping them develop their sales skills and supporting their endeavors.

      Typically, a CSO sets specific revenue goals for their teams to reach. The objectives are usually time-based, like monthly, quarterly, or yearly. If the company operates in a B2B market sector, it may aim to close specific clients. 

      CSOs oversee the sales strategies for a company’s products, services, and regions. If the organization is multinational or offers an array of products and services, they’ll develop specific revenue plans for each business sector.

      Usually, larger organizations with a decent-sized sales team benefit most from a CSO. The CSO will focus on hiring new sales executives and representatives and training them to reach their full capabilities. They’ll also strategize with other executives, helping to set short and long-term objectives for scaling the organization’s revenue streams.

      A CSO can help with significant organizational changes, like restructuring, mergers, or expanding into new markets. Their sales expertise can help supplement other executives and teams impacted by the changes. 

      In most companies, a CSO will oversee a VP of Sales or Head of Sales. Underneath those roles will be a Director of Sales, sales executives, and supporting sales staff. While the VP or Head of Sales is their direct report, they’ll also take full responsibility for other sales teams’ performance and activities.

      Most organizations evaluate their CSO’s performance on several metrics, such as:

      • Customer acquisition cost
      • Win rate
      • Deal size
      • Total revenue closed in an earnings period

      These metrics will be considered across different products, services, and regions.

      According to the latest data, the average base salary for a CSO is $178,514. However, they may receive other financial incentives, like bonuses, profit sharing, and commissions. Those incentives can increase their monetary compensation to nearly $315K. Factors such as the company’s location, market sector, and the CSO’s previous experience can also impact their earnings.

      Chief Revenue Officer: Responsibilities and Salary

      Unlike a CSO, a CRO takes responsibility for the company’s end-to-end revenue functions, including sales, marketing, operations, and customer service. Their duties encompass several different departments, all of which play a role in attracting and retaining clients.

      The CRO is the go-to person for all revenue growth and client retention strategies. They may also assist operations with product development, helping operations to design items that fulfill what customers are looking for. While they won’t be involved in making the product, they can help with testing and features.

      On the marketing side of the business, the CRO helps organizations to develop a cohesive strategy that attracts new clients. They’ll help their marketing teams decide on a winning advertising campaign and select the appropriate CRM systems to help achieve their goals. CROs typically ‘connect the dots’ between the marketing and sales teams, liaising with both departments.

      CROs will help the company develop a pricing strategy for its products and services. They’ll usually work hand-in-hand with marketing and sales executives to set market-competitive prices that align with their revenue goals.

      Like a CSO, a CRO will set specific sales objectives, like achieving revenue growth over a quarter or year. They can also establish long-term sales goals, such as becoming the market leader in their sector or region. 

      Most CROs are data-oriented, and they’ll use a variety of metrics to track progress over the various departments they oversee. On the marketing and sales side, they’ll look at cost per acquisition, revenue per sale, customer lifetime value, and recurring revenue. They’ll help CFOs and COOs evaluate product costs and devise ways to reduce them while meeting customer needs.

      A CRO is customer-oriented, and they’ll take responsibility for the customer service team. They may interact with high-value customers that comprise the company’s revenue base and collaborate with the CSO or other sales executives to close prominent deals. 

      Some companies have a CSO and CRO, while others select between the positions. If a company hires both, the CRO may take a more hands-off approach to sales methods. However, they’ll remain ‘in the loop’ on sales functions and partner with the CSO on short- and long-term revenue strategies.

      Typically organizations that hire only a CRO and not a CSO have smaller sales teams. They need someone to oversee their entire revenue process, not just a singular function. Companies may be in various stages of growth, such as startups or scaling organizations.

      High-level sales, marketing, and customer service roles usually report to the CRO. These positions may be VPs or directors. However, if other executives oversee those departments, the CRO may partner with them rather than act as the leader. 

      According to Payscale, the average salary for a CRO is $180,797. However, they can earn much more through bonuses, commissions, and profit sharing. Experienced CROs can earn up to $310K or more. Salary varies depending on the CRO’s experience, location, and company market sector.

      The Common Goal of CSOs and CROs: Revenue Growth

      While there are certainly differences between the CSO and CRO’s responsibilities, they share one fundamental similarity — they are focused on achieving revenue growth for their organizations.

      Increasing revenue is paramount for all companies, as losing sales can decrease an organization’s foothold in its market sector and lead to decay in other business areas. 

      Deciding between a CRO and CSO often boils down to:

      • Whether you need someone to take a comprehensive view of the revenue generation process or an executive focusing solely on sales.
      • The size of your existing sales team
      • Whether you need help with a specific objective, like opening up your products to a new market.

      A CRO and CSO can help you achieve these and other revenue goals, increasing the bottom line while positioning companies for greater growth.

      B2B Sales Executive Recruiters | B2B Demand Generation Recruiters | Cowen Partners


      Our hands-on sales executive recruiters have experience working with private, public, pre-IPO, and non-profit organizations. Clients are typically $50 million in revenue to Fortune 1000’s or have assets between $500 million to $15 billion. Successful placements span the entire C-Suite – CEOChief Operating OfficerChief Financial Officer, and include vice presidentgeneral counsel, and other director-level leadership roles.

      Check out our industry-leading retained search resources to see why Cowen Partners is a top sales and marketing executive search firm in New York CityAnchorage, Chicago, Seattle, Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles, and beyond:

      Get in Touch.

      Fill out the email request form to learn more about our approach.

        [honeypot website]