Guest Column | June 21, 2019

The Chief Revenue Officer: A King Without A Country?

By Shreesha Ramdas, Strikedeck at Medallia

CRO Consolidations – A Boon for Pharma?

While the Silicon Valley is globally known as the hub of innovation and technological advancement, it is also credited for creating new and improved job roles, particularly the kind that help in facilitating the use of innovative products and services. New products and technologies may reduce the need for overall labor, but they also require new specialized skills and personnel for running them. Take digital transformation — still in its early stages — and how that has given rise to the SaaS model for applications. SaaS has eliminated jobs and types of business and, simultaneously, created new ones.

SaaS has generated new dynamics for sales. On one hand, it may be easier to acquire customers because taking on these new applications involves an operational expense rather than a capital investment. SaaS also does not require the hardware and infrastructure of traditional software. On the other hand, it is also easier to lose customers. Also, one can expand a customer’s footprint with greater capacity and use and additional features or modules.

These new dynamics, and others, have contributed toward the creation of the Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) position. SaaS and other types of companies have realized the importance of maintaining and growing revenue outside of the traditional sales approach that lands the customer to begin with. Customer retention and renewal is also critical, as well as exploring new channels and approaches that make revenue easier and more profitable.

In some ways, serving as CRO is about being a person without a country or a king without a kingdom. Having the optimal focus and proper tools can greatly add to CRO success by forming a virtual kingdom that provides the resources to make an impact.

Being A Bridge Between Marketing, CS, And Sales

A CRO may or may not be strictly responsible for “landing” customers. Traditional sales may be under the authority of a CRO, but the main focus is working outside the customary lines to create new areas for revenue. Most CROs will have less focus on “land” and more on “expand.” Ideally, this expanded focus is also on retaining customers and leveraging existing relationships to drive the company’s business.

In the SaaS ecosystem, and likely most others, a CRO is responsible for the entire customer journey — from sales all the way to marketing and support or customer success. According to a study conducted by McKinsey, enhancing the overall customer journey has the potential of increasing profit margins by 10 percent annually. Upselling new capabilities and capacity may produce additional upside. Due to this very reason, the role of a CRO is becoming increasingly mainstream, and SaaS companies are continuing to hire CROs in order to optimize revenue by eliminating silos between the three departments.

By better understanding customers — and the customer journey — CROs can add precision to sales, marketing, customer success and support, as well as potential development of new products or services. Gaining the insight is difficult, however. Most CROs do not have the ability to see the customer journey with sufficient depth, scale or clarity. This is due in part because many people from different parts of the company are involved with customers. There are many touch points and sets of experiences. The trick is tying these together so that individual “trees” can be understood as “forests.” CROs need insight and the ability to see what may not be explicit or obvious to any one person at any one point in time.

Be A Data Guru

For effective revenue optimization, a CRO needs to be knee-high in data. This data must be distilled into useful information. Unfortunately, there may not be a good source of data for the CRO or anyone in a similar capacity. Generally, the CRM is not sufficient to diagnose the health of a customer or uncover new opportunities for expansion. It is usually lacking the ability of conveying customer journey. Some new tool may be important to capture the myriad data points and make sense of them.

CROs should not only be well-equipped with various forecasting and benchmarking applications, they also need to know how to make sense of data and use it to accelerate revenue generation. They need to be able to understand analytics, analyze the digital landscape and propose strategies that would ultimately lead to greater revenue, a better customer experience and greater monetization of customer-centered marketing strategies.

Be Technically Adept

“We’re seeing more and more people from product and tech backgrounds moving into sales leadership roles.” - Arnie Gullov-Singh. CRO a Polyvore

Let’s face it — it’s all about being technically empowered and informed in this day and age. Like any other leadership role, especially in the SaaS market, a CRO needs to know his technology and use it to develop significant advantages. In particular, there are three important aspects:

  1. Understanding the underlying integrations between the product and the customer’s own technology or infrastructure.
  2. Grasping the basic technical aspects of the product, in order to monetize it.
  3. Applying artificial intelligence to see and understand patterns and indications that are not visible to individuals. AI is taking over the world and a CRO needs the tech savvy in order to keep up with the changes in the technical landscape.

There are plenty of great opportunities for a CRO to drive change and increase success. While the singular nature of the position and the location between existing functions makes it difficult to instill change, smart CROs can use these things to their advantage with the right tools and information.

Shreesha Ramdas, StrikedeckAbout The Author

Shreesha Ramdas is SVP and GM at Medallia.Previously he was CEO and Co-founder of Strikedeck. Prior to Strikedeck, Shreesha was GM of the Marketing Cloud at CallidusCloud, Co-founder at LeadFormix (acquired by CallidusCloud) & OuterJoin, and GM at Yodlee. Shreesha has led teams in sales and marketing at Catalytic Software, MW2 Consulting, and Tata. Shreesha also advises startups on marketing and growth hacking. You can find Shreesha on Twitter and LinkedIn.