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CRO vs VP of Sales: Understanding the Key Differences

July 10, 2023 - min. read

As your company outgrows its startup phase, strengthening your sales and executive team becomes crucial. However, there is often confusion between the roles of a Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) and a Vice President of Sales (VP of Sales). In this article, I will put a VP of Sales and a CRO next to each other to show you how both roles contribute differently to your SaaS company. 

What’s the difference between a CRO and VP of Sales? 

The roles of a VP of Sales and a Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) have distinct differences in their scope and responsibilities, despite both focusing on revenue generation.

A VP of Sales primarily manages and leads the sales team, aiming to achieve sales targets and drive revenue growth. They develop and implement sales strategies, monitor sales performance, and oversee sales operations. Collaboration with other departments is crucial to align sales efforts with overall business objectives. Typically reporting to the Chief Sales Officer or CEO, the VP of Sales is responsible for the success of sales.

On the other hand, a CRO takes a holistic approach to revenue generation. They oversee multiple revenue-generating functions, including sales, marketing, and customer success. Their focus is on aligning and optimizing all revenue-related activities across different departments. 

The CRO develops strategies to maximize revenue, improve customer acquisition and retention, and drive overall business growth. They establish key performance metrics, analyze revenue data, and provide strategic insights. 

Collaboration with other executives, such as the CEO, CFO, and CMO, is essential to align revenue generation efforts with the overall business strategy. The CRO reports directly to the CEO or holds a senior executive position.

CRO: CEO’s secret weapon

That’s what Forbes called a CRO. Today’s business of any size implores a singular goal: grow efficiently, predictably, and revenue faster. And while it might come as a shock, little about the average business’s structure is aligned around doing this.

Heads of sales, CMOs, and directors of marketing and operations teams have created somewhat territorial and even unproductive silos of activity, ignoring the big elephant in the room: real revenue growth.

And that’s why a CRO is the CEO’s secret weapon. They see the bigger picture and ensure that all departments look in the same direction.  

Alignment is the name of the game

The 2023 LinkedIn Jobs on the Rise list reveals the 25 fastest-growing job titles over the past five years and the trends defining the future world of work. Nor will it surprise you that CRO tops this list. 

The reason why CROs are surging in popularity is quite simple: the global pandemic. During this time, organizations realized an urgent need to possess agility, resilience and a long-term mindset, which is exactly what a CRO brings to the table. 

To further solidify this finding, a study by Forrester shows that companies who aligned people, processes, and technology across their sales and marketing teams achieved 36% more revenue growth and up to 28% more profitability. 

In short, the birds-eye view of a CRO is crucial for the long-term success of your organization. 

VP of Sales: the sales gatekeeper

The role of a Vice President (VP) of Sales is crucial in driving the sales function of an organization. As a senior executive, the VP of Sales oversees the sales team and plays a pivotal role in achieving revenue targets.

I don’t need to tell you that the main job of a VP of Sales is to meet sales targets with their team. This includes creating strategies to maximize revenue, managing the sales team, and monitoring progress against key performance indicators (KPIs).

In addition to these core responsibilities, VPs of Sales may also be responsible for developing new product lines or services and overseeing recruitment processes. A big asset for your SaaS company if you ask me. 

Will a CRO replace the VP of Sales?

The million-dollar question: Are CRO and VP of Sales roles interchangeable? Not quite. While they may seem like substitutes initially, they are highly complementary. The VP of Sales takes the lead in one aspect of the revenue ecosystem, supported by the broader perspective of the CRO. Effective communication between these roles is vital for sustained growth in your SaaS company.