Marketers: it’s time to think like a CRO

Could bringing sales and marketing together in one team be the solution to the problems between the two departments? Richard Hadler argues that first, both teams need to think more like a CRO.

Putting sales and marketing under a chief revenue officer sounds like a great way to bring them together and close the divide. But it kinda misses the point.

Paul Collier, a good friend of mine and highly experienced B2B marketing consultant who has previously had senior positions at Dell and HP, put it perfectly last week when he said that he thinks the issue isn’t the org chart, but the way the two departments behave — or, more precisely, are led to behave by the way they are paid.

“I don’t see the pull to have one organisation if you’re all measured and monitored in the same way,” he reckons.

His point is this: the best marketers have a business focus, not just a marketing one. They obsess over business outcomes such as revenue and margin, not marketing ones like collateral produced and conference attendees. With that business focus, they will be drawn to form a win/win relationship with sales that will power the business ahead, no matter how the org chart is drawn.

Now I personally believe that creating a CRO role is a good idea. I believe organisations of many different industries (and sizes) can benefit from its introduction. But the value is not in tidying up your org chart. It’s in constructing new ways of thinking. 

So don’t wait for your firm to clear away the political problems and create a CRO role. It’s time to start thinking like a CRO now. For instance:

Understand your entire customer

When working with sales leaders, I find they are skilled in extracting insight from a small number of in-depth conversations. Marketing leaders have more data but usually a lot less personal contact. Wouldn’t it be a novel idea for salespeople to understand marketers’ data and for marketers to speak to customers face-to-face!

Don’t just think about your product. Think about the intricate problems your product is solving for your client.

This is a significant conceptual change but worth it. Once you’ve done it, start reviewing processes — for instance, assess how much marketing material is product-led vs how much of the content shows real-world examples of your clients succeeding with your product. 

Consider data to be your new best friend

Great CROs are famously good at data analysis. They will always have their finger on the pulse to accurately predict and respond to short and long term revenue goals. Naturally, one of the most critical tools for CROs is the CRM. Marketing needs sales to correctly use the CRM and sales find the nagging from marketing annoying. By thinking like a CRO, you need to see the value in your CRM and therefore your data. Marketers can teach sales how to do this.

In effect, the CRO position is like the freeholder of a block of flats. They need to ensure the foundations, walls and the roof are sound (which requires inspections and regular maintenance) but otherwise they need to keep out of the way of the people living in the block (unless they start behaving in an extreme, un-neighbourly way).

A CRO doesn’t explicitly have to come from a sales background. They absolutely can come from Marketing.

That’s a change from previous sales and marketing combinations, which typically came after sales encircled and absorbed the marketers and had a sales exec at the wheel. Often the old-style “VP of Sales & Marketing” couldn’t tell a marketing funnel from a plastic bucket! There’s no point in slamming together the two departments if they act in old ways. 

You may be asking how marketers can maximise the chance of getting the top job if/when their company takes the plunge and creates a CRO post? Well, they need to show they have skin in the game… which is my topic for next week.

Marketing Sells is our new blog post series dedicated to aligning sales and marketing. I will be posting a new blog weekly, for notifications when I post new content, you can sign up to the newsletter here.

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