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Marketing and Sales

What Sets Successful Chief Revenue Officers Apart in Turbulent Times?

5 Essential Leadership Behaviors

  • June 2023

2023 isn’t an economic boon, but it also hasn’t yet veered into the much-speculated recession. Companies have shown remarkable resilience and adaptability in the face of uncertainty, and Chief Revenue Officers (CROs) play a critical role in creating stability and charting a path forward. Based on our work with CROs, we’ve identified five essential leadership behaviors for surviving—and thriving—when you are planning for the worst but operating in ambiguity. 

  1. Increase communication. Clear and frequent communication is critical in times of uncertainty. CROs should prioritize regular check-ins with their teams, customers and stakeholders to stay abreast of any changes or updates that may impact them. Communication should be two-way, with opportunities for feedback and input from all stakeholders. By increasing communication, CROs can build trust, maintain alignment and ensure that everyone has the resources and support they need to succeed. 
  2. Leverage data to draw insights. This data will be a combination of both your dashboards and the anecdotal experiences of you and your team. Ask yourself—and your team—if you have seen these challenges before, or if not these exact challenges, what is similar across situations? If you haven’t experienced such challenges, look externally. How did best-in-class commercial teams come out of the financial crisis? What pivots did people quickly make during other economic periods of duress? Strongly consider making those changes now. Then dive deeper into determining whether there are specific customers or segments at risk – set plans and move on them.
  3. Reframe objectives. CROs must shift from their training to think as individuals to think as a team. This “go together” mindset is more likely to yield a win and build a team that is equipping itself to weather potential storms. Enhancing customer empathy should be at the forefront of these objectives, team conversations and plans for the year. If the commercial team doesn’t go the extra mile to think about customer experience in a year like this, then they’re missing out on the real opportunity – how do you want customers to remember you a year or two down the road? Create a lasting impression by demonstrating that you are “walking a mile in their shoes.” 
  4. Evaluate and evolve the sales team culture. Covid-19 altered many operating environments, changing how teams work. There also may be sales leader personas who struggle in this environment. CROs should analyze what worked well before and what needs to change. This is a moment to focus on greater team alignment that supports the end-to-end revenue cycle and breaks down siloes that may have inadvertently been created in the organizational structure. Ensure that teams with their fingers on the pulse of the customer are able to share that data across the company. Tied to culture is the composition of the team, ensuring you have the right skills and experiences on board. The times of fair-weathered selling are in the past. Hire people who are resilient, and who lean into cross-functional engagement with the product, marketing and other leaders to ensure no rogue behavior during trying times, and that the company is quickly plugged into market feedback. In addition, continue to push for people with diverse experiences and backgrounds, as this mitigates linear thinking risk on the ground. 
  5. Lead from the front. CROs need to exemplify operational excellence and be good stewards of the organization. This means winning efficiently and making decisions that scale to benefit the organization and are repeatable. With a transient global workforce, transparency and consistency are crucial. CROs should lead by example and set the tone for the organization. 

Thriving in an economy with ups and downs requires CROs to be proactive and comfortable operating with short stints of predictability and longer stretches of ambiguity. By adopting these essential leadership behaviors, CROs can create stability, build resilience and navigate their organizations through turbulent times. 

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