Author: Paul Foreman


Do you have what it takes to be an effective CRO?

The chief revenue officer is an increasingly important role in today’s business environment. We are facing high head of sales turnover. That turnover impacts an entire organization’s sales success. Plus revenue performance remains stagnant or declining for the majority of large companies.

It takes a certain kind of leader to manage and increase an organization’s revenue, to lead its salespeople to achieve goals and to work alongside the leadership team to help a business prosper. While there is no single formula for a CRO, there are traits all CROs must embody in order to find success in this role.

A CRO Is Customer-Focused

Chief revenue officers have a thorough understanding of the buyer’s environment and motivations in a purchasing decision. The buyer journey is one this leader can walk with a blindfold on, and buyer personas are as well-known as golfing friends. By having such an omniscient view of the target buyer, CROs build a sales culture that aligns with it. Sellers under the lead of a competent CRO default to viewing everything through the eyes of the customer, understand the customers’ pains and uncover the solutions that could help the customers most. As such, sellers use these insights to engage customers in relevant and valuable dialogue — and become trusted advisors.

A CRO Is Transparent and Articulate With Their Salespeople

When a team can rally around clear goals and expectations, the entire organization realizes more success. It is also important CROs manage individual expectations of their team’s performance.

A competency framework provides a clear understanding of what is expected of sellers’ performance, and it can be used from recruiting to performance reviews to motivation for growth. Sellers can measure their competencies against this framework, and together with the CRO, they can continue to improve their skills and performance based on the framework’s benchmark.

A CRO Is Collaborative and Allied

A CRO is an ally to their peers on the C-suite team as well as to each individual on their sales team. The company’s revenue performance sits on the CRO’s shoulders, so it is vital that communication, support and buy-in happens at the top leadership level — for without everyone’s support, financial targets are not achieved and investors get upset, and so do employees and even customers. The leadership team is a force to collaborate with and to seek action from at specific times, as well as to gain the support of at all times. Likewise, a CRO must be an ally to their sales team. This leader’s knowledge and experience has made them ideal for the role, but a truly successful CRO shares their know-how with their team. Teaching, mentoring, guiding and directing play a major role in revenue performance success — and it is the onus of the CRO to ready their team for the why of the what they are asking of those under their charge.

A CRO Is a Chemist

CROs may not wearing white coats and spend their days in a laboratory, but rather they forge chemistry between their team members. An X-factor in winning teams is the combination of diverse characters who bring unique strengths that feed off one another. There are those who are eager to mentor, not lead. There are those whose written skills are better than their verbal communication. The CRO recognizes these strengths and character differences and optimizes them by learning individual motivators and recruiting new people who fit the culture and enhance the culture. This cannot be learned from a book but requires years of experience assembling effective teams.

A CRO Is a Motivator

“Let’s go, team” on a Monday morning is not motivation. And though we can safely assume sellers are money-motivated, there is more to it than compensation. Motivation concepts made popular by Fredrick Herzberg, an influential psychologist in business, found that while poor work environment generates discontent, improved conditions seldom brought with it improved attitudes. Using employees’ accounts of real events that had a positive or negative impact, Herzberg’s research discovered that satisfaction came more often from factors intrinsic to the work itself: achievements, job recognition, responsibilities, and challenging and interesting work. (Hear Herzberg share his theories: Part I and Part II.)

The CRO who knows how to truly motivate has a team that contributes the most growth to the company. They ensure “hygiene factors” are in place. They know how to inspire a team to take the initiative. Because at the end of the day, if a salesperson is unmotivated, the customer knows and they respond with an equal lack of motivation to buy.


If your company could benefit from a chief revenue officer and needs help finding the right leader who checks all these boxes — or if your current CRO could use mentoring from someone with decades of experience — look to the Mereo Office of the CRO.


chief sales officer

The domino effect of chief sales officer turnover on salespeople

Head of Sales turnover is happening every 18 to 24 months. This reality affects your sales cycles, your revenue — and your salespeople.

Salespeople train themselves to work for their specific head of sales and the culture he or she has created. They know the communication streams, and they have a feel for expectations and leadership style.

Salespeople Can Sense an On-the-Way-Out CSO

The minute the CSO disengages with their position, salespeople sense it. They take changes in leadership personally and can start to feel insecure and lack their usual motivation, which can result in underperformance and which the customer can ultimately sense — and respond to accordingly.

It is akin to a coach shrugging his or her shoulders and walking off the field right before a game, leaving the team at a loss for which players to put in, which plays to run, which substitutions to make.

Julen Lopetegui was sacked as Spain’s national team coach on the eve of the World Cup, one day after he agreed to take over at Real Madrid after the tournament. The team’s leader had been “poached.” Spain’s subsequent performance in the tournament was, let us say, less than stellar!

Beyond the gap in leadership, salespeople are also tuned-in to budget cuts, gaps in financial expectations, shuffling of client territories and other red flags related to CSO turnover. Insecurity heightens as productivity dips.

CSO Turnover Often Means More Sales Force Turnover

It isn’t surprising: Salespeople who experience CSO turnover do not often stick around to see a new one through the turnover cycle; many take the cue from their previous leader and jump ship too.

Turnover, as you know, is costly – 2.5x base salary is not an exaggeration: There is a minimum 20% annual turnover in sales, and it is up to 34% if you include both voluntary and involuntary (Bridge Group research).

Up to 71% of companies take six months or longer to onboard new sales reps, and at a third of all companies it takes nine months or more to build up the salesforce (ClearSlide and CSO Insights).

The impact on sales contribution is expressed in the chart below. Turnover is disruptive and costly, and the contribution of increasing tenure even by a few months is significant.


chief sales officer


So, notwithstanding the likely turnover of the head of sales, every company must embed consistency, continued growth opportunities and minimal disruption in its culture. But mitigating risk may take supplemental activity. Using the Aflac model as an example there needs to be “an extra layer of protection for life’s speed bumps.” Just like Aflac offers a wide range of insurance policies to help you feel confident about your coverage — it is worthwhile to have an extra layer that is hugely beneficial when disaster strikes.

We suggest the same to be done for your sales engine. Partnering your CRO with an experienced sales professional can achieve several benefits:

  • Removes bandwidth as a barrier to the incumbent getting to the next level.
  • Provides your current head of sales with a collaborator, coach and ally to carry some of the load as they execute.
  • Increases tenure and engagement of your CRO as they personally grow with the company, making them less inclined to answer the call of other offers.
  • Provides a ready-to-go interim to tide you through the replacement process, minimizing risk to revenue achievement and sales turnover.

The same mentor can cast an objective view on other factors too.

  • Are the performance plans for salespeople in place and if so workable?
  • Are there clear activity standards published and known?
  • Does the compensation plan to support the achievement of the corporate plan?
  • Are competency models in place to ensure the right recruiting profiles?

Soften the Disruption to Your Salespeople

Your salespeople need a leader to step up after CRO turnover who can encourage their performance, inspire them to reach their goals, all the while reassure them that the company is stable and set for growth — and their positions are safe.

If you are in search of someone to fill the gap your CSO has left — and someone who will not only help you fill the gap but help you find a long-term replacement who will achieve long-term success in the position — contact us today.



An epidemic plaguing small to midsize B2B organizations: High head of sales turnover

Your head of sales won’t be around much longer…

In today’s business environment, head of sales turnover is happening on average every 24 months — and is quickly approaching every 18 months.

Your business is going to feel the gap in leadership before and after your head of sales leaves. Underperformance is, perhaps, an obvious road to termination — you have to decide when enough is enough. However, if the individual is headed out of the door for greener grass, the effects will be less obvious but equally impactful as they disengage from your driving toward your revenue goals. The effect of this happening every 18 to 24 months is disturbing, let alone disruptive. Sales cycles will be missed.

Salespeople will start underperforming or jumping ship even sooner: Only 28% of workers ages 18-35 say they can see themselves staying on for at least another two years (Comparably), while 34% say they plan to leave their current role in the next 12 months (Mercer). Corporate bonuses will get cut. Budgets will fall under the axe too.

What can you do about it?

Reacting to head of sales turnover.  

Once it is determined your chief revenue officer (CRO) is departing – be that termination or of their own accord – the onus of the head of sales job falls onto you, as the senior executive of the company, and the scramble begins.

  • Put out a job listing/hire a recruiter
  • Filter through resumes and cover letters
  • Interview applicants
  • Receive yet another 120-day plan
  • Onboard and train the replacement
  • And the list goes on

But who runs your revenue engine in the meantime?

HireBetter estimates a 74-day span to hire at this level — more than a quarter of revenue at risk. You are going to have to tell your board and investors to lower their expectations. Even if you do find someone to fill the position, it can take one to two years for your new head of sales to reach the productivity level of an existing leader (Bersin). And, chances are, as things remain, you will likely end-up repeating this process in 24 months – at least that is what the statistics predict.

When you are totally immersed in the operational activities of running your business it is commonplace to miss signs of structural faults in your revenue engine. Has each head of sales brought the processes that worked in their previous company and merely tried to replicate them? What is your real bench strength in sales? Are your people, processes and tools aligned to serve your customer segment?

Now would be a good time to ask these questions, before the cycle begins again, and to make absolutely sure of the profile of leader that you want. Better still, have these debates with your CRO all the time, because as you grow, the people, process and tool requirements will change.

We suggest these actions:

Set your current/new head of sales up with a mentor.

Once a candidate matches with the position’s requirements, you can avoid low productivity and missed cycles by teaming your new CRO with a seasoned mentor who can put him/her on a fast track to achieving the company goals. This mentor can mitigate two risks.

Many cannot get to the next level because of bandwidth, not ability. Providing your current head of sales with a mentor gives them a collaborator, coach and ally, carrying some of the load as your CRO executes. This opportunity growth leads to increased tenure and engagement of that individual as the company and they personally grow and makes them less inclined to answer that call.

Put a qualified person in the head of sales shoes temporarily.

Few leaders achieve great results by wearing multiple leadership hats; the CEO has enough to do that they cannot give their all to the CRO position. And your salespeople need a strong sales leader to keep them engaged and to keep their confidence strong.

An interim head of sales can give you objective assessments of the state of your pipeline, your bench strength and processes, whilst still performing the responsibilities of the CRO.

Leave the hiring to a qualified individual.

Leaders are not necessarily the best hiring managers. From the time-consuming nature of posting the right job description to seeking-out qualified applicants from numerous resumes, this job is best left to someone who knows exactly what the position requires and who this person needs to be to do the job as well and also fit the culture — embracing your corporate vision and mission.

Create a solid profile to hire against. Make it competency based and future proof it for the growth you need and anticipate — hire for the next growth cycle not this one.

If you suspect your head of sales is going to leave soon, if you have recently lost this key player or if you want to get ahead of the issue, let’s talk now about how the Office of the CRO solution can help put your organization on the right track to long-term sustainability and success.