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CRO @ G2 | Former sales leader @ LinkedIn | Advisor
You may have noticed companies adding a new title to their C-Suites: Chief Revenue Officer.
It was once often linked to tech or high-growth companies, but its popularity is spreading to all types of organizations.
On paper, a CRO creates synergy between sales and marketing teams that is needed to scale quickly and sustainably. They also manage the revenue stack, which becomes more complex as technology options increase.
But where do the lines between sales, marketing, and revenue get drawn? Do they work side by side, or are there hierarchies?
In this episode of Closing Time, Mike Weir, CRO of G2, takes us through his career journey, how the role of Chief Revenue Officer has evolved, what his team looks like at G2, and advice for aspiring revenue leaders.
As businesses seek to adapt to changing market conditions and globalize their operations, the CRO role serves as a linchpin in driving growth, efficiency, and competitiveness. Companies, like G2, who are adding the CRO to their C-suite, are typically looking to build a unified, customer-centric, and data-driven approach to revenue generation. Let’s use G2 as an example:
As the CRO, Mike Weir’s role extends across multiple key functions within the organization – sales, customer success, partnerships, revenue operations, and strategy. While this might seem like a unique combination of responsibilities, it’s a structure that aligns with the goals and needs of the company.
When asked whether this arrangement is typical for a CRO, Mike Weir noted that it shares similarities with other organizations he has encountered. However, one notable difference is that, at G2, the strategy function currently falls under his purview. This is a detail that might evolve in the future, as it often sits with the Chief Financial Officer in many organizations, functioning as a strategic finance lever.
The driving force behind establishing the CRO at G2 role was to streamline and standardize efforts across various revenue and customer support teams. Instead of having numerous individuals overseeing segments, reporting to different VPs, or directly to the CEO, G2 sought to create a high-level position capable of aggregating best practices and formulating global strategies. This strategic move aimed to enhance efficiency and effectiveness across the board, particularly as G2 embarked on a journey from tens of millions in Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR) to hundreds of millions in ARR.
The Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) and the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) are two important positions that are closely related but have separate functions. In order to better understand the roles and the way they work together, we will explore their responsibilities, teamwork, and influence on a company’s overall strategy.
CFO: The Visionary and Financial Steward
CRO: Operationalizing the Strategy
In essence, the CFO sets the financial direction and framework for the business, while the CRO takes that vision and transforms it into actionable strategies and tactics. This partnership ensures the company’s financial health while pursuing growth and customer engagement in a rapidly changing business environment.
Exceptional CROs possess a unique ability to craft and articulate a compelling vision for the organization. This vision serves as a beacon that inspires and motivates teams, helping them grasp their individual role in achieving larger goals. With the CRO leading the way, the entire company is guided towards a common objective.
Yet, the CRO’s responsibilities extend beyond short-term gains. They actively engage in both short-term (12-month) and long-term (36-month) strategy development, even participating in merger and acquisition (M&A) discussions. This holistic perspective on business growth is anchored in a deep understanding of market dynamics, customer needs, and prospect requirements.
Collaboration is a cornerstone of the CRO’s role, as they recognize the importance of working closely with peers and cross-functional teams. Each leader within the executive team brings domain expertise, and the CRO ensures that these experts collaborate effectively. This inclusive approach minimizes internal conflicts and maximizes synergies.
One of the core responsibilities of the CRO is to facilitate alignment between sales and marketing. They forge close partnerships with Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) to develop planning calendars, templates, and shared goals. Embracing the mantra of “one team, one goal,” the CRO emphasizes teamwork and cooperation as guiding principles.
In the modern landscape, CROs are champions of data-driven decision-making and strategic thinking. Their role transcends traditional sales-focused responsibilities, as they comprehensively understand the business landscape, leveraging data and insights to drive the company’s growth.
Transitioning from a marketing background to a revenue leadership role, such as Chief Revenue Officer (CRO), is a path less traveled but can offer distinct advantages. CROs with marketing roots bring a customer-centric mindset honed by their experience on the marketing side. They understand customer needs, preferences, and behaviors, enabling them to make data-driven decisions that inform go-to-market strategies and drive revenue growth. This long-term planning and data-focused approach are crucial for balancing strategic vision with day-to-day execution.
Collaboration and communication skills, often honed in marketing, empower CROs to bridge gaps between departments and foster teamwork. They excel in building strong internal relationships, critical for aligning sales and marketing efforts. Additionally, CROs with marketing backgrounds possess empathy and customer insight, having once been customers themselves. This unique perspective helps sales teams navigate customer interactions more effectively.
While earning credibility with sales teams may present a challenge, CROs can bridge this gap by actively engaging with customers and sharing their insights. Demonstrating an understanding of sales perspectives and decision-making processes builds trust and rapport. Leaders who transition from marketing bring a customer-focused leadership style, actively engaging with customers and proactively pushing deals forward.
The journey from marketing to revenue leadership offers a blend of skills and perspectives that can significantly contribute to a company’s success in driving revenue growth and fostering collaboration across the organization.
Looking to add a Chief Revenue. Officer to your resume?
We’re talking all about the evolving role of CRO
in this episode of Closing Time.
Thanks for tuning into Closing Time,
the show for go-to-market leaders.
I’m Val Riley, head of content marketing for Insightly.
Today I’m joined by Mike Weir, he is the Chief Revenue Officer at G2.
Welcome to the show, Mike.
Hey, Val, great to be here.
Mike, in 2012 Forbes Magazine named the CRO
the CEO’s secret weapon and the role has been on the rise ever since.
Many of today’s organizations have a mix of CMO,
CSO and CRO in the C suite.
Can you talk us through what the C suite looks like at G2?
Absolutely.. So obviously we have our CEO,
myself as the Chief Revenue Officer,
and then we have Chief Marketing Officer,
Chief People. Officer, and Chief Product Officer.
And very soon we will have an official. Chief Financial Officer,
currently VP of Finance.
And we really look at it from all of the organizational and key functional areas.
Having somebody that looks after each of those disciplines to make sure
that they get the proper voice and focus within the business.
So does the sales function roll up under you as CRO?
It does, yep. I have sales,
customer success, partnerships revenue operations, and strategy.
Is that typical for a CRO
role or is that just how the chips happened to fall at G2?
I think a lot of it is very similar across
other organizations and peers that I talk with.
One area that will likely change for us in the future
is that the strategy function oftentime does
sit with the Chief Financial Officer as a kind of strategic finance lever.
Really looking at the long term projects and help the business
with its growth trajectory, with its productivity goals.
But for right now, it reports in to me.
So you’ve been at G2 since 2020.
And it looks like you took the CRO role
during the, right in the beginning of COVID shutdown.
Can you let me know, how did G2 come around
to the idea of having a CRO role?
Yeah, so the role preceded me.
There was one of the co-founders that was Chief Revenue Officer
before the role opened when he left to be CEO at another company.
Really, the impetus was around
trying to bring as much standardization, as much scaling effort as possible
across all the different revenue and customer support teams.
And so rather than just having a bunch of individuals running segments
reporting up to like a VP of sales
where they would have equivalent titles or directly to the CEO,
we wanted to create a C-level role that aggregated all the best practices
that help set the overall global strategy and leverage
global processes to help everybody be more efficient and effective
as G2 went from,
you know, tens of millions in ARR to hundreds of millions in ARR.
It’s an exciting shift for sure.
Mike, as I was doing research
for this interview, I learned that there were some elements of confusion
between what functions a CRO performs and a CFO performs.
Could you give us some distinctions there?
Yeah, I think a CFO and a CRO have to be collaborating a lot.
When I look at a CFO,
they own the long term performance metrics of the business.
This is informed very much by the CRO
and frankly, by the CMO who have a good pulse on the market,
our customer base, the size of our prospect universe.
But the CFO does set the direction of, here’s
how much revenue we aspire to have, here’s the productivity metrics
that we need to be at, to not only get to that revenue,
but also satisfy our public or private investors.
And so they create the framework of what
the vision can be for the business to satisfy investors,
to keep the business healthy, to be able to reinvest as necessary.
And then the CRO owns operationalizing against that strategy,
pushing on that strategy, even where sometimes it’s like, yeah,
I don’t think in this current
current economic environment that we’re in right now.
I don’t think that we can continue growing at 55% year over year.
We have to be a little bit more conservative in our growth expectations.
And so that counterpoint to what the CFO is setting
for the long term objectives is where the CRO comes in.
And then once the plan’s locked, it’s all about the CRO
marshaling the resources, allocating resources,
and then getting out there with the team to engage with the customer segments
that they believe are going to drive them to deliver on that plan,
at the productivity metrics that the CFO is setting for the business.
It sounds like it’s very much a hand-in-hand relationship.
So that’s an interesting perspective.
Couple weeks ago I was on a webinar and
I think actually your CEO,
Godard Abel, was one of the guests and it was about go-to-market
and the big question they were posing was, who owns go-to-market?
And during the discussion, it really came out
that it was the CEO who owns go-to-market.
And then in turn, is executed across teams.
When you’re thinking about the overall go-to-market strategy, really
does the majority of it sit with the CRO?
It can. It can.
And this is if I’m speaking candidly sometimes where really strong
CRO, really strong CMO, really strong, even Chief Product Officer
or CEO, that can skew it quite a bit.
And an individual that can create a great vision
that can bring people into that vision about what their role needs to be
oftentimes starts to become the person
that the rest of the organization leans more towards.
I’ve seen exceptional CMO’s
have that vision, have that market knowledge,
and CRO, who has been more than willing to kind of follow some of that lead.
In my world, like I spend a lot of my time
thinking about where the market’s going, what customers need, what prospects need.
So I do play a very, very heavy
role in the plan building, in the vision,
and I would hope that other. CROs are aspiring to do similarly.
As I talk to peers, many of them are playing a far
more active role in what the, not just 12 month strategy looks like,
but the next 36 month strategy looks like.. They’re much more involved
in M&A discussions that are going on than potentially
in prior lives, where it was like, yeah have the strategy team
figure that out and then let me know if if we’re going to make an offer
and I’ll kind of let you know if I agree with it or not.
And so I do see the
CRO playing a very, very critical role and hopefully if they’re doing it right.
It is a very collaborative process, though,
because each leader within the executive team has domain expertize
that each role, each function should be learning from.
So whether you are a CRO a sales led culture,
as people talk about or not, you better be bringing
your peers and the cross-functional teams along for the ride.
A lot of times in episodes of Closing. Time, Mike, we’ve talked
with folks about the concept of sales and marketing alignment.
How does having a Chief Revenue. Officer role
assist with that sales and marketing alignment?
Yeah, it’s actually one of my favorite topics.
I am a former marketer myself, so a very unique part of my background as a CRO now.
When I think about the CRO and how does it assist, is
literally it’s just got to be somebody that facilitates internal collaboration.
The CRO role now more than ever
is a data driven, strategy driven type of role.
I think when I first came into the workplace 20 years or so ago,
it was much more about just, you know, they were the head salesperson.
They were out there selling on the road, nonstop, meeting with customers
and on occasion working on like, what are the headcount plans?
But it’s really shifted to empower the teams to work with customers
day to day, whereas the CRO is really thinking about the big picture
of how to get all the internal support
that is needed, how to create and align go-to-market.
And so that means myself and our Chief Marketing Officer,
we spend a tremendous amount of time together.
We build the planning calendar together.
We build the templates that our teams use for planning together.
We’re thinking about and articulating to our teams shared goals
that lead to them contributing towards the same outcomes.
one of the mantras that we’ve used, sometimes it’s just one team, one goal.
We don’t want to have the internal fighting that can sometimes take place
when the Chief Revenue Officer is not
open with and engaging with the Chief Marketing Officer
and the marketing team, isn’t acknowledging the contribution that they provide
to building the brand, generating pipeline, and creating revenue for the business.
So facilitating that internal relationship,
creating shared metrics, celebrating success together are all key
things that the CRO does to help drive that sales and marketing alignment.
It’s interesting that you mentioned that your background was marketing
because that was my next question.
I was going to ask you,
is it an advantage for the CRO to come up through a sales organization,
a marketing organization, or even something technical like a revenue ops?
But it sounds like coming from a marketing background is working out well for you.
Yeah, working out well for me.
And then there are folks like my prior life I was at LinkedIn in
the Marketing Solutions team.
hiring former marketers to be sales leaders so myself and a couple
others were the first ones hired in 2012 and it was working a lot.
I think the unique part about it for the world that I live
in, the world that I did live in.
Coming from marketing meant that I really got
the mindset of the customer because I was the former customer.
And so coming in as a marketer,. I think you have an advantage
because you are forced to plan long term,
you are forced to track success, you are forced to build
and proactively create internal collaboration.. Right, as the CRO, folks
reach out nonstop and like ask how to help
or want to be involved.. As the CMO,
sometimes you are still fighting for that seat at the table.
And so you do need to kind of
have great planning capability, great communication skills,
really, really active interests in what’s best for the business.
So I see it as a huge advantage coming from that type of a background
to put me in a state of curiosity, proactiveness,
a lot of collaboration, that helped me greatly as I ramped up
and learned a lot of the core principles of being a sales leader.
It’s not to say that you couldn’t go the opposite direction,
but I think that growing up in sales, you aren’t always pushed as much
to be planning and using data for long term
strategy paired with the short term executional needs of the business.
Got it. So I’ll be candid.
Do you have the street cred with the sales folks
who are pounding the phones or do they feel like you understand
their experience since you came up through marketing and not sales?
you know, maybe the point about not,
you know, not having to do 100 calls a week to customers.
You know,. I didn’t have to go through that, but
I get customers really well.
I spend a lot of time with customers and I was a customer.
So the vantage point that I can bring to them to help them
get in the mindset of a marketer, get in the mindset of a sales persona
even beyond like what they do themselves.. How does sales leadership think?
How do we make decisions
as they’re engaging with their customers, as they’re engaging with prospects?
Does help to show, you know, really
the value of, hey,. I came from a different background,
but I learned a lot of things that you haven’t learned along the way.
And so we work together to help each other be great at our jobs.
And that’s, you know,. I think just being very customer focused,
being willing to get out there, showing them that I can have
really positive conversations with customers and push deals forward.
It does build that credibility versus, you know, maybe having this capability,
but just not being visible, not being out there.
I think that would have been highly detrimental to them
feeling comfortable with me, knowing what’s going on within the business.
All right, Mike, thanks for joining us on this episode
of Closing Time, the show for go-to-market leaders.
Thanks for having me, Val.
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