The path to Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) is different for many people. Tracy Young, CEO and co-founder at TigerEye, sits down with three CROs to talk about how they navigated the journey to revenue leader. 

Jane Kim, former CRO of CircleCl, Laurabeth Harvey, President of Field Operations at Lattice, and Erica Anderson, Notion’s CRO, all share the key decisions or events that shaped their careers. 

Different Pathways to CRO

For Jane Kim, former CRO of CircleCl,, she used to work in finance before transitioning to SaaS. During her time in finance, she did multi-million dollar deals with 12 to 18-month deal cycles. After switching to SaaS, she started as an SMB sales leader with no prior management or SMB sales experience. This was probably the most important decision for her because it led to an appreciation of the different types of deals and segments, and starting at the bottom and working her way up was a great learning experience. 

For Laurabeth Harvey, President of Field Operations at Lattice, there were two pivotal moments. 

  1. While working at LinkedIn back in 2009, she was offered the role of building out the first SDR and BDR organization. She wanted to jump into a full cycle capacity as a sales leader, but she said yes. She was able to get into a leadership position immediately and coach people who were hungry for it in a slightly safer space than more tenured folks. 
  2. The decision to leave a fairly scaled role leading 200+ AEs at LinkedIn to join a smaller-stage startup. 

For Erica Anderson, Notion’s CRO, the defining moment was the opportunity to leap from leading sales operations at Github to leading a global sales organization. Shifting from an operator and loving operations and data to a sales and revenue leadership role felt like a big jump. It required very different muscles to become a quota-carrying sales leader, and Erica had to lean into being empathetic to the art that exists in sales instead of only the science. 

The Worst Days of a CRO

The job of CRO is a tough one, with lots of natural tensions in place between sales and marketing, sales and product, etc. Each of these CROs describes what their worst day is. 

  1. The highs and lows always come, usually involving the people on your team. For Erica, the bad days are when they’re not executing or achieving growth the way they want. They also come in the form of people she cares about leaving the business or struggling to succeed because they don’t have the tools they need. 
  2. The last 12 months have seen a lot of disruption in the industry. Anytime you face a layoff or have to make hard decisions about the future of the company vs. the amazing people who have invested in the company’s success, that’s a bad day. 
  3. Realizing you made a mistake or made a decision as a leader that didn’t pay off and it impacts everyone. You have to figure out how to keep the ship moving in the right direction and learn from your mistakes. 
  4. Anytime you have a lot of optimism around numbers and get taken by surprise. 

The natural counter to the worst days as CRO are the best days. Tracy asks the group what makes this job worth going after. 

What Makes CRO a Great Job

It all comes back to the people. As CRO, you do a lot of celebrating the good that everyone’s doing. Sometimes, you’ll have an awesome day where a rep closed a complex deal that required 40 people across functions at the company to get it over the line. That feels great. 

Aligning people, putting up good goals, and creating excitement around those goals is a job for many CROs. 

Jane shares that CRO is the most humbling of jobs because you might think you’re at the top. But you don’t carry any numbers, so your success is predicated on your team’s success. 

And Laurabeth shares that nothing beats a great global revenue kickoff. Anything in revenue is incredibly difficult, but it’s gratifying and fun. The global revenue kickoff is a magical moment of everyone in the room getting excited about the year to come and having a moment of alignment and clarity around what you’re setting out to achieve that year. 

What Tools Do CROs Want Most

As a CRO, the amount of time spent trying to get the right set of data, the right reports, and the right view of what you need vs. the time getting insights from that information is high. Automation and AI could solve for that. 

No matter how large your team gets, you’re still only one person with one set of eyes and ears. You can only make decisions with the best information you can possibly have. AI can help a team understand what’s happening, customer sentiment about a product, the market they’re going after, and present billions of data points through actionable insights. 

Wrangling the data, understanding what’s happening in the business, and connecting the dots across marketing, sales, Customer Success, and more can give organizations a leg up. 

Outdated Stereotypes About Sales 

Jane, Laurabeth, and Erica break down some common stereotypes in sales. The first is the myth of the rainmaker. 

Decades ago, it was believed that some people had the right skills to push and pull and get deals closed and that others didn’t or weren’t capable of it. But sales can be demystified. It doesn’t take someone who has mythical skills to do well. 

Sales can be a science just as much as it is an art. There are stages and processes from early introductions to ultimately closing, and what’s exciting about that is anyone can be good at sales. Every person can learn what to do and how to be good at sales because it requires data, empathy, communication skills, and getting savvy with presentations about data. And anyone can break down each of those skills and become a top performer. 

Another common myth is that sales leaders are independent operators out there for their own best interests. In this current workforce generation, everyone, of course, wants to do well and make great money, but a lot are motivated to see the company and their peers be successful.  As a CRO, you can cultivate that culture. As a sales leader, you want to show up as more than just a sales leader, but as a business leader who is always in service of building the most successful, sustainable, and efficient business possible. 

Sales is highly strategic, and the best reps and teams are really the CEO of their territory. Everyone in a company across different functions is collaborating well to get across the finish line. 

What Advice CROs Wish They Had 10 Years Ago

For Jane, there’s part of being a sales leader that is about the number, but what’s more important as a CRO is building and developing a team and leaders. She wants all her teams to achieve their career goals, and shifting her focus from just the deals and numbers to the organizational leaders is more important for the future success of the business and individuals. 

She wishes she had known that earlier so she could have focused on areas with the highest leverage and impact. 

For Laurabeth, having intellectual curiosity about what a healthy, sustainable business looks like is crucial. She also would have liked a better understanding of the marketing ins and outs ten years ago. So much of the job of CRO comes down to how effectively you can communicate across different functions, in board meetings, with senior executive teams, and across the company as a whole. 

And finally, for Erica at Notion, early in her career, she often heard that if you worked hard, you would get recognized eventually. Twenty-plus years ago, she took that to mean being quiet and patient, and your time would come. 

The reality is she got to where she is today because she saw opportunities to make an impact, and then she asked for it. A wise friend once told her that sometimes there’s no seat at the table, but sometimes you need to pull up a chair anyway. 

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