Reorientation of Revenue and Go-to-Market in Tech. What does it mean for leadership?

Ruby Sheera

January 19th, 2023

Reorientation of Revenue and Go-to-Market in Tech. What does it mean for leadership?

As SaaS business models have become more sophisticated, and competition between providers increased, the process of winning, retaining, and maximising customers has evolved - and with it the approach to revenue and go-to-market. Against a challenging macro-economic backdrop, the criticality of account management, demand generation, lead generation, and driving customer adoption is impacting the roles and responsibilities of revenue-generating leaders, including the Chief Revenue Officer, Customer Officer,  Marketing Officer, and Product Officer. As business spending comes under pressure, it’s vital to ensure that every touchpoint is streamlined in favour of the customer – and revenue growth. 

It isn’t so long ago that closing deals and new logo acquisition were the main measures of success for tech and software businesses. Sales teams were focused on signing up as many new customers as possible in their bid to create value and get ahead of the competition. But as business and revenue models have shifted towards SaaS and subscriptions, and as the customer experience has evolved, the methods of creating value, and generating revenue have moved beyond just opening a customer account.

Winning new logos is still important, but signing up new customers has evolved beyond recognition. Now, businesses must optimise their entire value chain, from product development to operations, and onboarding, behind driving revenue and delivering a seamless customer journey – before and after customer acquisition. And in the current macro environment, this shift is being accelerated. Customer belts are being tightened, which means every penny of revenue counts, and companies must be creative about squeezing every drop of value from their customer pipeline.

For the C-suite, this shift in approach has meant an evolution of roles and responsibilities to become a customer success machine. Mature, fast-growing SaaS businesses are finding that having one or two executives in sales and marketing is no longer enough, and CSOs and CMOs are being joined, or in some cases replaced, by CROs and CCOs. This is having a profound effect on the dynamics of the leadership team.  

The new face of the C-suite

In years gone by, sales and marketing were clearly delineated, usually with a CMO and CSO at the helm. But the complex nature of SaaS businesses today means that the majority have outgrown this way of working – particularly as they scale and mature. As customer onboarding, support, experience, and account management have become critical to how technology companies create value, this has had a knock-on effect on the formerly delineated structure.

Chief Revenue Officers originated in the tech companies of Silicon Valley, bringing strong commercial skills to support highly technical, product-focused founders. They are the strategic mind behind all the revenue-generating activities of a business - who it sells to, how it takes a product to market, and how to create demand. A one-size-fits-all approach no longer works for accreting value in tech companies, which necessitates a broad CRO role, spanning everything from product and pricing to operations, digital channels, marketing, and the customer experience. CROs must be focused on bringing different areas of the business together around revenue generation with the ability to collaborate effectively across business functions. For this reason, CROs shouldn’t be hired in isolation and instead, their appointment should always be considered alongside marketing, customer success, and product leads, which have also both grown in status and importance in recent years.

The Chief Customer Officer has evolved to drive ‘land and expand’ strategies with responsibilities spanning the entire customer experience, and ongoing account management. CCOs today connect teams including marketing, sales, people, product and beyond, with the aim of driving adoption, to ensure customers are using the full breadth of a platform or product suite. We are in the era of customer lifetime value (LTV), where customer experience, upselling and cross-selling are the critical success factors. A big part of that is working cross-functionally to build a culture that is laser-focused on championing the customer. 

The role of product leaders, including chief technology officers, product officers, and heads of engineering, has also evolved in this new SaaS world. For them, the big focus now is on time to value (TTV), alongside LTV, as they respond to increasingly fast purchasing decisions. SaaS platforms are viewed as highly flexible amongst tech buyers, who take the view that they can easily change if it doesn’t work out. Furthermore, decisions about whether to renew tend to be taken in the first three to six months of using a solution. This means that getting to first and full value is critical, to making products that are easy to use, deploy and maximise.  

And what about sales and marketing? Both roles are very much alive and well, but in many cases, their priorities have also shifted in line with the new customer landscape. Marketers have evolved to become much more demand generation orientated, focused on activities that have a clear link back to commercial impact. That means nurturing leads more closely and delivering marketing qualified leads (MQLs) to the sales team, as well as taking oversight of business development representatives (BDRs) to convert these into sales qualified leads (SQLs). Meanwhile, as more of the customer journey has moved online, in many cases sales teams have reduced or merged with customer success, with the focus shifting to ‘land and expand’ and ongoing revenue generation.

Data and team dynamics

Making this model work is hugely reliant on strong relationships and alignment between the individual leaders. Today’s multi-faceted customer journey means that revenue, customer success, sales and marketing teams need to work in tandem, enabling a seamless handoff from one to the other, allowing for no missed opportunities. At the leadership level, there needs to be absolute clarity about the delineation and interplay between functional roles, as well as strong alignment between leadership behaviours, to ensure that the team can work effectively together. 

A strong data function is also central to running joined-up revenue and customer success functions, to ensure that the leadership team can track every aspect of the value chain, sales funnel, and customer journey. Only through constantly iterating and optimising every touchpoint can they keep up with constantly evolving customer behaviours, trends, and preferences. Detailed performance data is also vital for investors, who increasingly want to see the return on investment of every penny spent on revenue generation and marketing activities. 

Future-proofing the C-suite

What quantifies as success in the current market? The age of singular point solutions is over, with customers now benefitting from platforms offering a variety of products and services in one place. At the same time, in an economically constrained market, the definition of value accretion is pivoting towards terms such as customer adoption and driving cross-sell upsell via an account management engine which is aligned with customer success and being the champion of customer needs.

SaaS businesses have a huge opportunity in a digitised world, but success is never guaranteed. As technology innovation and investment continue to increase, there is always a new company looking to gobble up its market share with smarter technology, a new business model, or a growth strategy. Companies and their investors can’t afford to lose focus for a moment – and they’re demanding more of their leadership teams as a result.

Leadership roles and responsibilities are shifting like never before in response to the market landscape. Today, CROs and CCOs are on the rise, but this will surely shift again, as business models and technology continue to advance. What is critical is to ensure that the leadership team is always aligned with the needs of the business, by digging into the data to define the competencies and experience that will best deliver on the value creation plan. Future-proofing your leadership team, to future-proof your business.

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