Dear SaaStr: What are the most common challenges of a VP of marketing transitioning into a Chief Revenue officer CRO role?

I’ve almost never seen this work in B2B / SaaS. But I see more and more VPMs wanting to be CROs in the past few years. Be wary.

Way, way too many senior marketers think CRO is “the next step” for them. It can seem like it and feel like.

But here’s what happens:

  • They don’t know how to recruit an A+ sales team. Maybe they recruited a few BDRs to work with them in marketing, but that’s not the same. Recruiting 4, 5, 20, 50 great AEs is not the same at all.
  • The best AEs don’t want to work for them. They want to work with a more seasoned CRO/VPS that has done it for 10 years.
  • They don’t know how to close. Most VPs of Marketing are good “openers”, but they don’t know how to close. This is hard. Asking for money is hard. Creating urgency is hard (since there often really isn’t any). They just don’t know how to run The Closers’ Handbook. Because they’ve never run it. So close rates go down, not up. As do deal sizes.
  • Even if they’ve owned a revenue commit — they’ve never owned a true sales number. That alone should discourage any CEO from hiring a VPM as CRO.  More and more marketers today, especially at companies with larger deal sizes, will own a revenue commit instead of an MQL or SQO or other earlier stage commitment along the funnel.  That can be great.  But it’s not the same as closing those deals yourself.

They fail. I only know 1 that didn’t, and even there it wasn’t a perfect fit in the end.

It can be a bit different in B2C, where marketers often own revenue, not the funnel.  But even there, it’s tough if there’s a true sales team involved.

CRO is not a career path or promotion from VPM in SaaS. CMO is. But almost always, CRO is a bridge and a leap too far.

The simple fact is, best case, it takes 5-6 years to learn everything you really need to know to be a VP of Sales.  No matter how talented you are at marketing, you’re lacking all or most of those 5-6 years.  And if you’ve never been a VP of Sales, well — there’s just no way you can be a CRO.  More on why you can’t skip that experience here:

5-6 Years Is About As Fast As You Can Mint a True VP of Sales

The only real exceptions I’ve seen is with businesses that are close to self-service. Because there, growth marketers really are closers — in part. Not entirely. But in part. And even there, most struggle to recruit seasoned sales execs under them.  Great AEs want to work for at least somewhat proven, great VP of Sales.  Period.

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