How the CRO role is changing the way B2B marketing and sales gets done

CRO role
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Something was off, and Mark Ramsay has had enough experience in the CRO role to not only recognize it, but to act on it.

The CRO for Toronto-based appointment scheduling SaaS firm Coconut Software was going over the reporting with his team for the last 30 days of outbound calls. This involved looking into areas such as “conversational opportunities” and “dials to conversions,” where a call leads to an actual deal. Ramsay had made an assumption in his forecast for a certain number — let’s say it was 10 per cent — and it was clear the team was off.

Digging deeper, he started to look at the call times, trying to look for moments when the team was seeing higher conversion rates. Soon he would be looking at deploying a new technology product to specifically assist in accelerating conversions during those peak periods.

CRO role
Mark Ramsay, CRO,
Coconut Software

“I always like to think I’m a little like a scientist, because I’m constantly running experiments and getting feedback across the organization,” Ramsay told B2B News Network in a recent interview. “I’m looking on almost a daily basis to see how I can yield ultimately greater positive outcomes, whether that’s more opportunities in the pipelines or more revenue overall.”

A B2B CRO in 2019 is more than just a scientist, however. They combine selling expertise with the art of marketing — and in some cases oversee the marketing in addition to sales — to ensure high-growth companies keep growing. While less closely associated with technology than a chief digital officer, chief data officer or similar role, the CRO is also increasingly responsible for trying to bring disparate platforms and data together that has eluded more seperated lines of business.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the CRO is in high demand. According to Jamie Hoobanoff, CEO of Toronto-based recruiter The Leadership Agency, CRO titles are quickly starting to outpace requests to find a more traditional vice-president or EVP of sales job. Those employers, which can range from large enterprise to startup and scaleup, are looking for CROs are folding in elements of operations, product management as well as sales leadership into their job descriptions.

“The CRO is absolutely the most common change to a C-Suite within their organization,” she says. “They are the voice of the customer. They are the voice of revenue. What they do has an impact on the majority of people in the organization.”

Ramsay has witnessed the rise of the CRO first-hand, having occupied the role not only at Coconut Software but also EventMobi and Cision (formerly Canada NewsWire). He says the requirements haven’t changed much from one organization to another, but at Coconut he’s focused on the entire process of lead generation, conversion and customer success. This is essential, he says, given the historic conflicts between marketing and sales departments over what defines a quality lead, but also because it means he can help drive customer loyalty in addition to acquiring new ones.

“As we’re gathering feedback from prospects, I have a closed loop where I can feed that information back to marketing to pivot or focus our messaging,” he explains.

“Customer success, for me, has been charged with trying to improve adoption and find new areas where our products and services can be deployed. We can then use marketing to identify other departments to go after within large businesses.”

Dennis Lyandres has a similarly broad portfolio of responsibilities as CRO of Procore, a Carpinteria, Calif.-based firm which has developed a software platform aimed at the construction industry. Besides sales and marketing, Lyandres oversees business development, field and operational teams. 

CRO role
Dennis Lyandres,
CRO, Procore

“In terms of the ‘why’ behind the CRO role and what made sense for us, we believe in the idea of one Procore — operating in a way where we can bring the full depth, breadth and might of our company is what makes us successful,” he says. “I don’t think of myself as a revenue leader first and foremost. I think of myself as a Procorian. I’m grateful to contribute to making our mission as successful as possible.”

While executing on those areas requires the right tools, Lyandres admits there are “still some pretty material gaps” in what those with a CRO role would ideally have at their disposal.

“There are still the same silos that have always been there,” he says. “There are some things in the customer success area, some that are BD-centric and some that are martech. There are few examples of someone who wants to build a real revenue engagement platform.”

Ramsay agrees. “I think a utopia would be the perfect tool that would serve up both those needs (of marketing and sales),” he says. “What I have tried to do is push as much data as possible in one place, like CRM. That way, from a holistic perspective, I can see how things are working and what tactics are working.”

While it may be the title du jour, Ramsay says not every organization will need to fill the CRO role today. Some tipping points could be when a company moves into a new line of business where there is a need to shift traditional marketing communications to more demand generation-style activity. Hoobanoff says startups may launch where one co-founder takes on the CRO role, while others might scale to a point they decide they need someone to do everything from developing compensation models to an ecosystem of customers and partners. If the job description comes with the right resources and responsibilities, it can represent a significant new career path, she adds.

“When we go to market with a VP of sales role, anyone that we recruit for that role will be making a very lateral move,” she says. “This is really the highest echelon in terms of the next steps for a VP.”

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Shane Schick
Shane Schick is the Editor-in-Chief of B2B News Network. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of Marketing magazine and has also been Vice-President, Content & Community (Editor-in-Chief), at IT World Canada, a technology columnist with the Globe and Mail and was the founding editor of ITBusiness.ca. Shane has been recognized for journalistic excellence by the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance and the Canadian Online Publishing Awards.