The Chief Commercial Officer as a Differentiator

Growth, through sales, is consistently one of the top goals of every for-profit business or organization.   Other goals such as quality, customer and employee satisfaction, research and other investment, cash flow, and capital deployment are also important depending on the industry and customer expectations. However, many of these goals are ultimately derived from a healthy growth profile, and nothing is rewarded on Wall Street like continually expanding top and bottom lines.

The Advent of the CCO

Over the last decade, the introduction of the Chief Commercial Officer (CCO) for companies both small and large has resulted from the need to help businesses harness the entire commercial power of the organization.  Before the advent of the CCO, sales responsibilities were (and to some extent, still are) singularly centered on the Executive Vice President of Sales or “Head of Sales” who reports directly to a key C-level leader in the organization like the CEO or COO.  At first glance, the responsibilities of the CCO and sales leader seem similar. However, there are key differences in the roles beyond reporting structure and elevation to CxO status.  The importance of crossing traditional departments and functions to enable growth drives the need for a C-level executive with sales, marketing, product management and strategy depth. The CCO evolved out of these cross expertise and execution needs.

Sales Leader Responsibilities and Capabilities: The Need for a CCO

Let’s compare the responsibilities and breadth of capabilities of the two sales leader roles: the CCO and the Head of Sales.  We will review Head of Sales as a starting point.  Traditionally, the Head of Sales is bounded by deploying a field team to best meet the revenue objectives of the business. This includes the overall organization of the sales team, usually encompassing the:

  • Alignment of the sales team to geographies, products, services, or segments.
  • Enablement of the sales organization (training, tools (CRM), focus, goals).
  • Compensation plans and bonuses.
  • Sales leadership development and structure to support the sales people and deals.
  • Management of the pipeline and deal flow.
  • Communication of forecast to corporate leadership and broader organization.

Although all of these are included in the broader Chief Commercial Officer role, the CCO through his or her cross-functional and departmental influence, has additional responsibilities. The CCO owns the vision of how to create and focus revenue over a longer period. To execute on this expanded charter, the CCO roles may entail more responsibilities and require additional tools and capabilities.  Often, this will include more strategic questions and functions like:

  • Where to play.
  • How to play.
  • How to interact with the market and accounts.
  • How to coordinate all the ancillary (marketing, branding, social media, etc.) customer focus of the organization.

As stated before, these strategic responsibilities give the CCO cross-functional and departmental responsibility and requirements. Departmentally, this may include strategic and tactical marketing, segment strategy, product management, research and development, and market- focused product strategy. These affect holistic sales, account, product and marketing needs including:

  • Account lifecycle journeys.
  • Advanced sales models used for customer intimacy.
  • Selling options: solutions, transactional, inside, and targeted.
  • Development of consultative services.
  • Integrating professional services into the differentiation of an account.
  • Intimacy lifecycle and pull through on an account.

Many of these are advanced concepts that require special focus and a deep understanding of account strategy and development of Customer IntimacySM. The Chief Commercial Officer should be the internal strategist and external spokesman for how the company interfaces with its customers to drive current and future growth. The CCO’s interaction and contemplation on customers is not only financial or growth-driven but holistic.  The CCO looks at account relationships and positioning, executive bonding and offering and product footprints at clients and in the marketplace.  They are truly the chief in charge of the revenue model and its execution for the firm.

Written by: Marc Cottle

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About the Author: Marc Cottle is an experienced sales leader with 15 years of experience; he is a Principal with McMann & Ransford and leads the Commercial Practice at the company.


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