I first heard of the Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) role about five years ago at a conference.
A guy I met introduced himself as the CRO of his company and the title intrigued me. I couldn’t tell if this was something I should have heard of, or if he just had too much leeway when ordering his business cards.
I did some research, and what do you know, it turned out to be a real (yet uncommon) position. The more I thought about it, the more it made sense.
Revenue is the lifeblood of every company. So, of course, someone should be making sure it keeps flowing.
Eventually, when my co-founders and I started ShipChain—a blockchain-based logistics platform—we decided I’d be the CRO. I have a background in sales and marketing, and the role would let me make the most of my experience.
In general, a Chief Revenue Officer is responsible for all revenue generation, as well as making sure the company isn’t “leaking” any revenue. The position is about optimizing any area involved in account management, including sales, marketing or even customer service. If a department is responsible for any kind of revenue, the CRO is in charge of figuring out how to increase those margins.
Here’s how you’ll know if it’s time for your company to hire a Chief Revenue Officer:
1: If you want an executive who can wear several hats right from the start.
A sales background or an understanding of a sales organization is a prerequisite for the job.
But that doesn’t mean it’s all sales, all the time. The person you hire will have a hand in a number of different departments.
At ShipChain, we decided on the CRO title because the scope of the Chief Business Development Officer was too limiting. I wasn’t just going to be responsible for business development. I was going to help with both sales and marketing, so it didn’t make any sense to restrict what I’d be working on.
One thing to keep in mind—a CRO is not a Chief Financial Officer. Your CRO may wear a lot of hats, but they shouldn’t be handling the day-to-day accounting and number crunching a CFO does. Personally, if I were to step into the CFO role, we’d be out of business by next Wednesday.
While the CFO can tell you the details behind your company’s revenue last year, the CRO’s job is to make sure it increases.
2: When you have a process that can be optimized.
A large part of a CRO’s job is spent analyzing any process that affects revenue and finding ways to make it more effective.
Let’s say you already have a sales team in place, and you’re producing a good amount of revenue. The next step is twofold: figure out new ways of generating revenue and make sure you’re not losing any somewhere in the process.
Take the sales funnel, for example. You might start by looking at both the inbound and outbound marketing and seeing where it can be improved. But you have to question everything.
How can you increase conversion rates? Are there any products or services you can upsell to current clients? Is there a new fee structure you can use that won’t alienate your current customers?
That should all be investigated by a Chief Revenue Officer.
No two job descriptions for a CRO are exactly alike. But in any company, this person will be spending a lot of time looking for opportunities to restructure processes and maximize the company’s ability to bring in revenue.
3: When you look at the numbers and wonder how your company can do better.
Sometimes, it feels like something’s missing.
You look at the team you’ve assembled and the product you’re providing, and you’re more than happy with it. You think about your customers, your margins, and your revenue. You’re satisfied—but not ecstatic. It feels like there’s one missing piece preventing the company from scaling.
If you know you can do better, but you can’t put your finger on exactly why, that usually means it’s time to hire a CRO to help take you to the next level. You need someone who has a high-level understanding of revenue generation but also isn’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and get things done. It could be optimizing the customer service team or going out and closing deals, but you need someone who can be effective where and when you need them to be.
Without a CRO, you risk becoming stagnant.
That’s because it’s easy for the people leading different departments to get tunnel vision. They’re all doing their own thing, focusing on sales, marketing, finance, operations. The CRO’s job is to take all that into account while looking at revenue from an eagle-eye perspective.
Without that view, your company is going to generate less revenue and leave cracks in the cash flow—and never fully reach its true revenue potential.