Over the past three years, the number of CRO (chief revenue officer) job titles on LinkedIn has increased by 73 percent. I’ve helped companies recruit scores of VPs and c-suite executives, and I’ve seen job titles come and go, but few booms compare to the spike in demand that we’re seeing now for CROs. Although hyper-growth startups like New Relic, Splunk, and G2 Crowd were some of the first companies to hire CROs, businesses outside the tech sector are now scrambling to add CROs to their leadership rosters, too.
But it’s getting harder to land talented individuals for the role of growth-hacker-in-chief. To find someone who is right for the role you need to understand the dynamics of the CRO role as they apply to your business.
Do you really need a CRO?
Historically, marketing and sales operated as siloed business functions. Although the two divisions communicated and aligned on a handful of shared goals, their activities were mostly segmented. Marketing focused on connecting with key audiences; sales focused on closing deals.
But then the marketplace grew more complex. Suddenly, the finish line changed from simply making a sale to developing long-term relationships and providing a top-notch customer experience. Companies needed to achieve results by cultivating aware, interested, educated and, of course, paying customers.
In recent years, forward-thinking companies have expanded responsibility for revenue growth beyond the boundaries of the sales division. Today, everyone is involved in revenue growth because it informs the way the company markets, sells, upsells, and manages success across the entire customer lifecycle.
A holistic approach to revenue growth is increasingly common in fast-growth tech companies where the pace of innovation and the competitiveness of the marketplace require close coordination between departments. For example, in the software industry, companies are no longer constrained by inventory or bandwidth. With the click of a button, companies can clone an entirely new software product for a prospective new client or customer. This allows for rapid exponential growth, forcing companies to deeply integrate marketing, account management, sales, business development/partnerships and customer success.
That’s where CROs enter the picture. The integration of sales, account management, customer success, business development, partnerships, and marketing calls for a chief revenue officer. There is greater demand for a direct line from marketing and sales to one person who can holistically understand the entire picture and how the pieces connect with each other.
Hiring the right CRO
The CRO role is a nascent career category, and the limited pool of qualified candidates enjoy plenty of opportunities in the current job market. But there are several things you can do to attract and land the right CRO for your organization.
Map your organization’s needs. Understand the nature of your business before you hire a CRO. Is your business marketing-driven and sales-supported? Or is sales in the driver’s seat with support from marketing? By clarifying your needs and understanding the optimal organizational structure, you can intelligently recruit the right type of leader to build a revenue-focused organization.
Look for more than just a resume. It’s easy to hire a CRO that looks good on paper but is completely wrong for your business. CRO is a multidisciplinary position, so it’s critical to assess a candidate’s temperament as well as their experience. Ask for referrals, and look for other sources of qualitative information about the candidate to help you determine if they’re a match for your needs.
Solicit concrete data points. Since CROs must manage large organizations, they frequently come from the sales side of the business and are exceptionally good at selling themselves to employers. Avoid hiring a dud by soliciting concrete data points. Using hard numbers, try to understand the complete revenue picture and how revenue changed over the candidate’s lifecycle at previous companies.
The CRO role isn’t a fad. It’s an important milestone in the evolution of your organization. By integrating sales, marketing, and other parts of the business, a CRO can execute fast-growth strategies that are out of reach when key pieces of the revenue puzzle operate as siloed business functions. But when your organization decides to add a CRO, make sure you hire the right fit.
Nick Cromydas is CEO and co-founder of Hunt Club.