What is a Chief Revenue Officer? & How to Become One, According to Experts

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Flori Needle
Flori Needle



As a growth-focused company, you want to ensure that all elements of your business are ready and able to support your scaling, especially those that impact revenue generation.

chief revenue officer: image shows someone on their laptop and a hand holding bags of money.

This is where Revenue Operations, also known as RevOps, enters the picture. This team responsible for aligning activities and supporting sales, marketing, and service departments — all of which contribute to revenue growth.

Leading a RevOps team is a Chief Revenue Officer (CRO). At the C-Suite level, they join the role with significant experience and also responsibility. In this post, learn what a CRO is, their principal job duties, and the skills experts think you need to become one.

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As revenue generation is dependent on the customer, a CRO also maintains a customer-first mindset and makes strategic decisions based on their needs. Although they work in similar departments, a CRO is not to be confused with a VP of Sales.

Chief Revenue Officer vs VP of Sales

There are significant differences in the job duties of a VP of Sales and a CRO.

Most importantly, the VP of sales is only focused on sales, without extension into other teams. They focus within their departments to promote sales enablement, manage their teams, and ensure that goals are met.

A CRO focuses on sales, with relation to everything that goes into driving them, like marketing campaigns or product pricing. The two roles may work together to develop sales playbooks and set goals and KPIs, but the CRO would bring in insight from other departments based on RevOps knowledge.

In addition, there is only one CRO, but there may be multiple VP of Sales depending on your business size. For example, you may have a VP of Sales for each region your business is present in.

Alison Elworthy, EVP of Revenue Operations at HubSpot, says about CROs: “You’re there to support your revenue teams and your go-to-market teams in a way that scales...in other words, getting more out of your investments than what you put in, be that users, buyers, customers, or partners.”

As every company is different, role-specific duties will vary. However, there are some general responsibilities that all CROs will have, which we’ll discuss below.

General CRO Duties

  • Create alignment between all revenue-relevant teams (sales, marketing, support, etc.) and departments to ensure collaboration.
  • Work hand-in-hand with leaders of relevant departments. 
  • Use data to make informed decisions and define strategic processes.
  • Use data to define relevant KPIs and communicate them with teams.
  • Provide all teams with the tools, technology, and resources they need to succeed at their jobs and execute on strategy.
  • Communicate with executives and key stakeholders about revenue stream performance.

CRO Marketing and Product Responsibilities

  • Use data to identify market segments that generate the most revenue and dictate strategic marketing processes that speak to audience needs.
  • Work with relevant marketing and product team leaders to ensure alignment.
  • Ensure that campaigns are focused on the proper channels, customers, and using the most impactful messaging.
  • Analyze data and monitor campaign performance to ensure success.
  • Use data to quickly identify areas for growth that are impacting revenue generation.
  • Use data to quickly identify areas of opportunity for increased revenue generation.
  • Ensure that product pricing is accurate for its relevant markets.
  • Ensure that products are placed in the most relevant and appropriate markets for generating revenue.
  • Oversee product development to ensure that updates and new products make sense for the customer and speak to their needs.

CRO Sales Responsibilities

  • Ensure that sales teams understand the value propositions to give to target audiences to ensure revenue generation.
  • Ensure sales playbooks are designed with the customer in mind.
  • Monitor sales performance to understand how processes are fairing.
  • Quickly identify problem areas or new areas of opportunity for increased revenue generation.

CRO Service Responsibilities

  • Ensure that service teams are executing on a strategy that solves for the customer, puts the customer first, and inspires loyalty, retention, and repeat purchases.

As they coordinate activities for multiple departments, you may be wondering how to generate the experience necessary to become a CRO.

How to Become a Chief Revenue Officer

Most companies will require CROs to have an MBA or equivalent degree and experience relevant to the position. You may also be expected to have experience in the industry you’re applying to so you understand the ins and outs of how it works.

As CRO is a senior role, those baseline qualifications can be coupled with any of the following:

  • Significant years of experience (7-10+) in roles related to revenue operations, like customer success, marketing, sales, or product development.
  • Significant understanding and comfortability with data and how to use data to make informed business decisions.
  • Experience managing large teams of people and generating alignment and collaboration with cross-functional teams.
  • Ability to work with other C-Suite exclusives, communicate with key stakeholders, and explain and support decisions.
  • Proven experience in creating business strategies.
  • Demonstrated experience and success in executing business strategies.
  • Understanding of revenue operations and why it’s important for a business.

You’ll likely be expected to be comfortable using digital tools to complete your job duties. Commonly used tools give you a well-rounded view of revenue-related performance across the board, from customers at risk to churn to sales deals closed.

The image below is a sample Customer Insights dashboard from RevOps Pro, a high-quality tool that helps you view customer data by segment, understand performance, and identify areas of opportunity. 

RevOps Pro sample customer insights dashboard data page

Image Source

Specific requirements will vary depending on the business you’re applying for. Below, hear from experts on critical skills and experience that they think a CRO should possess.

An understanding of customer needs.

Elworthy says that having significant experience in customer success and customer-facing teams can be valuable. She says, “In CS, I was working with our customers day in and day out. What was great about that was learning to build empathy for your customers, understanding their pain points, and what worked and what didn’t.”

She adds, “I’ve now come full circle back into Ops and what’s kind of cool is that I’m pulling my customer success experience into it. And it taught me that the key to a great customer experience actually lies in Ops.”

Tech and product savviness.

Arnie Gullov-Singh, former CRO at Quora, says, “We’re seeing more and more people from product and tech backgrounds moving into sales leadership roles.” Gullov-Singh says that this is because it is essential to have product knowledge and to understand what makes a product unique to monetize it. When you have this understanding, you gain clarity on the value you provide to customers, which is the foundation of any RevOps strategy.

He adds that CROs may ask themselves, “‘How do I build a product that my users like – but that also makes sense for my advertisers?’ Being able to bridge those two requires a product background, so you’re seeing many people with similar backgrounds moving into those types of role [sic].”

A “builder” mindset.

Elworthy says that the biggest key to being an effective RevOps professional isn’t necessarily technical skills (she says she doesn’t know how to code) but a builder mindset — “At its core, ReOps is about taking disparate teams and tools and bringing them together to build an operating system that’s greater than the sum of its parts. By adopting this mindset...operations professionals can transform the way their business runs, even if they don’t know their Python from their PHP.”

This role can come with additional forms of compensation, with other CROs reporting a median of 60k in annual bonuses, 123k in commission, and 132k in stock options.

As a CRO, you ensure that all teams that help generate revenue do exactly that — generate revenue. Leverage the tips from experts on this list to prepare yourself for the role, and you’ll likely find yourself leading teams that work hard to create a delightful customer experience, and in turn, an audience of satisfied customers that drive revenue.

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