Today’s B2B business environment provides new and increasingly demanding revenue generation challenges, including rapid changes to our buyer’s journeys, an overwhelming proliferation of sales and marketing technologies, and the need for people in sales and marketing to have radically different skills than just a few years ago.

The last thing companies need to add to this is any misalignment between sales and marketing.

And so increasingly companies are combining the practices of sales and marketing under one Chief Revenue Officer.

Let’s look for a moment a bit more deeply at what’s changed, and changing, and why the CRO makes so much sense.

In sales, buyers are taking more time to educate themselves about options and vendors on their own. When they talk with a sales rep they are looking for someone with industry expertise who can help them find the right solution and challenge them with industry information that they didn’t have before. Sales reps need to be comfortable with social selling, which combines traditional sales skills with a social media expertise. And they need to be sharing content socially to build their reputation and credibility as a trusted advisor, and to add value.

Marketing now is at an inflection point, too. Good creative is still vitally important – me-too content will get you nowhere in today’s vast content marketing world. And to a degree never seen before, marketing is now being held accountable for its contribution to revenue, including at companies like Cisco. This requires all marketers to be comfortable with data, and has created new positions such as the chief marketing technologist.

All of this requires alignment between sales and marketing as never before. Sales and marketing need a written service level agreement (SLA) around customer personas, definitions of leads, who is responsible for how much of the demand generation (marketing-generated leads versus sales-generated leads), and many other matters. They may be working together on account based marketing programs, and marketing needs the input from sales in creating content to help sales close late-stage opportunities.

With all of that, it’s not surprising that more and more companies are looking to combine sales and marketing into one revenue department.

As business developments go, the chief revenue officer position is pretty new – it just showed up on Google’s radar less than three years ago. But LinkedIn already lists over 2,500 people with the CRO title. Boston-area companies with a CRO include Dyn, Brainshark and DataXu; nationally companies include Tribune Company, Marketo and, in the consumer world, LivingSocial.

CROs need to be equally comfortable, and respected, in both the worlds of sales and marketing. They need to understand the business goals of the company, contribute to the product roadmap, work on positioning, strategies and messaging, lead a sales team, and be able to evaluate where budget dollars can best contribute to revenue. (Scale the PPC campaign, or hire a new sales rep?) They need to be data-driven, and people people, and focused on both short- and long-term results.

And they are going to need some agency help along the way, and that’s where revenue agencies now come into the picture.

Marketing agencies still typically live just in the world of marketing, even as they become increasingly omni-channel. They may have expertise in particular services such as creative, analytics, website development, email marketing, direct mail, whatever, but they rarely wander into the world of sales. It’s unlikely that someone at a marketing agency is going to suggest that the CRM isn’t set up right. And my experience many people in marketing still aren’t very comfortable with people in sales, possibly having an old-fashioned image of them and their work.

On the hand, people who do sales consulting and training may be focused on helping sales reps and teams with strategic account management, social selling, or learning a particular sales methodology such as Sandler or Miller Heiman, but most aren’t likely to point out problems with the content not aligning to the buyer’s journey, or the need for an account-based marketing program.

While the company may from time to time need agencies with deep specific skills, also having revenue agencies that share the Chief Revenue Officer’s new, holistic view of the revenue generation process is now important. (And that is true even in the majority of companies that still split these roles between VPs of sales and marketing.) This is a whole new role for an agency, but it aligns with where clients are moving and what their needs now are. And that’s why I created my new company, revenue + associates.

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