5 Disruptive Trends Impacting the CRO Role Today
Disruption is all around us. The past two years have been a rollercoaster ride, and the future is predicted to be even more unpredictable. The crisis has challenged fragile supply chains, complex organizational structures, and the selling operating model across many sectors. Although the worst might be behind us, sales and marketing leaders must redesign their go-to-market strategies to adapt to the new normal and continue to grow. Among the changes that are noticeable is the emerging role of Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) in many SaaS firms. The change from Chief Sales Officer or Chief Commercial Officer to CRO was triggered by the need for much more focus on revenue operations and optimization as well as a push for greater alignment among go-to-market functions. In such a dynamic environment, the CRO is the chief conductor of all functions removing silos, inefficiencies, and antiquated ways of working. While the definition of the role is still a work in progress, CROs are already facing tremendous headwinds. There are trends that make the role difficult. We focus on the following five:
- Accelerating SaaS Competition: There are 15,529 SaaS companies in the world as of June 2020. Experts project that this number will increase dramatically every 5 years eventually reaching over 100,000 by 2025. Just in marketing alone, there are over 8,000 SaaS companies targeting similar customers. Research suggests that the number of competitors for SaaS firms starting around 2012 was less than three on average. By the end of 2017, every SaaS startup faced competition from nine other firms competing in the same SaaS market segment. Considering the example of SaaS marketing solutions, the number of products increased from 500 to 8,500 between 2007 and 2017.
- The Great Resignation: 55% of Americans are looking to change jobs in the next year. Chief Revenue Officers must work harder than ever to hold on to their best people. They face the challenge of hiring and retaining talent to grow and scale. Similarly, salaries of expert professionals like Value Engineers, Business Value Consultants, and Customer Success Managers are skyrocketing. The millions of unfilled positions currently available in North America is a hindrance to growth.
- The Shift to Competing on Value: With increased competition comes the need to focus on differentiation and customer value propositions. For most SaaS companies, pricing of their offers is often based on a gut feeling or it is cost-based. A small fraction of them relies on deep value-based pricing analysis grounded in customer insights. For the past few years, customer value has taken center stage for many large SaaS organizations with the emergence of a customer value practice producing systematic business value assessments and value realization reports.
- The Disruption of the Sales Process: The selling process has been the subject of discussion for the past 10 years. With the professionalization of the procurement function and the emergence of marketplaces, most SaaS companies have had to transform their sales operating models to match customer journeys and buyer personas. Recently, the work-from-home model has added another level of complexity when customers are not physically accessible, and sales teams must collaborate with them during pre-sales, post-sales, or implementation programs. CROs must redesign their sales operating models to adapt to the hybrid working world while managing growth expectations and delivering superior customer experience.
- The Rise of Customer Experience: Customers expect simplicity, self-service, and ease of use. The good old days where you could just mention “call sales for pricing” are gone. Customers want to be empowered to buy and consume without being hand-held. They want one point of contact and not five. They want speed and innovation. And they want all of these, whether they are B2C, B2B, or B2G organizations. This pandemic has forced digitalization of the marketing and sales processes that will only continue in the future.
“Customer expectations have raced ahead of B2B commercial organizations. Buyers demand, and get, real-time interaction from vendors in many areas of life, going from initial exploration to quote to purchase to order tracking and eventual delivery in minutes. Customers have gravitated toward as-a-service models for many products, making traditional ‘deals’ outdated. Indeed, in many categories, customers’ primary way of consuming a service is also an avenue for delivering ongoing enhancements to suppliers’ offerings (i.e., new features). All of this leads away from having one’s primary point of contact to customers by an individual human who turns up in their offices once a quarter.”
Dr. Stephan Liozu (www.stephanliozu.com) is the Founder of Value Innoruption Advisors (www.valueinnoruption.com), a consulting boutique specializing in industrial pricing, digital business, and value models, and value-based pricing. Stephan has 30 years of experience in the industrial and manufacturing sectors with companies like Owens Corning, Saint-Gobain, Freudenberg, and Thales. He holds a Ph.D. In Management from Case Western Reserve University, and has written several books, including “Dollarizing Differentiation Value” (2016) and “Value Mindset” (2017).
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