5 Challenges Facing Chief Revenue Officers in 2023

5 mins

Over the last few years, the role of chief revenue officers (CROs) has become increasingly prominent, with organisations turning to this C-suite-level talent to streamline revenue-generation strategies to enhance the growth of their business. As the role becomes more sought-after, unsurprisingly, a range of issues follow suit that the CRO must try to overcome. To gain an insight into the types of challenges facing CROs in 2023, we conducted a survey, asking CROs to name their predicted pain points for the year. 

In this blog, we will delve into the findings and explore the top 5 chief revenue officer challenges in 2023.

Chief Revenue Officer Challenges for 2023

As we enter another year in the post-COVID world, it’s important to reassess the challenges facing CROs in 2023. Last year, some of the common challenges came in the form of digital transformation, the productivity of sales teams, the mental health and well-being of salespeople, talent acquisition and professional development. So instead of assuming what the challenges for CROs will be in 2023, we wanted to research and get insight by speaking to a broad range of active CROs. Here is what we discovered.

Now that you’ve seen the data we collated, let’s take a deeper dive into the top 5 challenges from our survey, with added insights from working CROs to fully understand the pain points they expect to come up against in 2023.

1. The pursuit of a pivoting market 

One of the main pain points raised by 15% of respondents to our CRO challenges 2023 survey was the emphasis on the pivoting market, with CROs having to shift their business into new areas to stay relevant and keep up with the competition. Additionally, being aware of predicted disruptions and potential goldmines within the market landscape add to the challenges CROs are tasked with overcoming. 

“I think the real answer is the obvious one - making target. The market is soft, in the UK at least with the gloomy economic forecast - budgets are being cut all over the place That said, for folks with competitive pricing, that opens an opportunity to move into other markets.” Vice President of Sales, SaaS

Research shows 47% of CEOs agree with using technology, from cloud to social media, as the key to longevity and growth within their organisations. Moreover, further research revealed that 72% of CFOs and VPs of finance said cloud-based technologies as a top priority for businesses to address in 2021-2022, which still resonates today.

“We've pivoted to make full use of 6Sense to capture those prospects that might still be willing to make a move.” Vice President of Global Sales Development, SaaS

Not only is the need to pivot to new markets a must, particularly those within the technology industry, but CROs must also look to reevaluate their selling strategies. When pivoting into new markets, CROs can only partially rely on the customers coming to them and must consider new methods of increasing their business revenue. The challenge lies in building a successful sales team and emphasising a proactive sales approach rather than a traditional reactive selling approach, switching from an inbound sales strategy to an outbound one to target those within the new market.

“Switching from an inbound reliant sales strategy to outbound and creating our own demand.” Global Vice President of Direct Sales, SaaS

2. A need for finding investors

“One of the biggest challenges will be fundraising, specifically connecting to angel investors.” Partner General Manager, SaaS

Another challenge raised equally as vital to our previous point was the need for CROs to boost investments, with 15% of respondents stating. Again, following on from our last challenge, focusing on the pursuit to pivot into new markets, CROs can only do this by raising investments. From recruitment, training, and onboarding costs to the finances needed to innovate, investment is necessary to assist growth.  

“I think the biggest commercial challenges are going to be around budget allocations. There are lots of costs that are increasing unexpectedly which will obviously take budgets away from less essential areas. For example salary increases due to higher-than-expected inflation and higher energy costs to run businesses.” Chief Technology Officer, SaaS

Of course, there are many ways of fundraising, be it through angel investors, venture capital firms, or internal support from a CEO. However, requesting funds is no easy feat in the current economic climate. With budget allocations already an internal challenge of its own for CROs, from increased energy costs to demands for higher salaries within the cost of living crisis, convincing others to invest in the future of a business is a significant struggle for CROs and one that will carry into 2023 for sure. 

“Suppose for us it's all the projects on hold/delayed and the general reluctance to make any investments.” Vice President of Global Sales Development, Saas

3. Reduced headcounts but increased targets

Supply and demand is a significant challenge CROs will face in 2023, agreed by 14% of our survey respondents. Due to the Great Resignation, the rising costs of living, and the pandemic, to name a few, businesses across the globe have had to cut expenditures where possible to survive in the current climate. 

One of the main methods organisations combated this issue was to reduce the headcount of their teams. However, although this method worked to an extent and some financial strains were removed, the demand from the customer and business targets remained the same and often increased.   

“Most sales organisations will find the market tough with all companies starting to tighten the purse strings, so value-based selling will become very important. In a market where more jobs than staff exist, career development plans and progression are documented and visible. In summary, invest like hell in your team, and you will get the rewards back in spades.” Sales Leader/Senior Vice President/Vice President of Sales, SaaS

Essentially, CROs are now left with a reduced headcount but with the expectation of hitting the same targets that their teams had before cuts were made - in some cases, these targets are expected to be exceeded. Of course, businesses can realise the potential of emerging talent as a viable solution; however, the problem CROs still face is that they have fewer resources to achieve their targets and are often left with overworked and burnt-out sales teams, which leads to our next challenge. 

4. Attracting and retaining talent

“When I return to my next role in the next few weeks, it will be a big focus on staff development. That will include revisiting objection handling, rapport building, and value creation. It is also important in a market where more jobs than staff exist that career development plans and progression are documented and visible.” Sales Leader/Senior Vice President/Vice President of Sales, SaaS

Finding the right personnel and retaining the team they have in place was a joint second biggest challenge for 2023, as said by 14% of CROs who took part in our survey. Attracting and retaining talent in a challenging market has become a common theme among the most significant challenges CROs have faced since at least 2020, in the wake of the pandemic, and shows no apparent signs of disappearing anytime soon as the skills gap within the sales industry widens and the ratio of jobs to talent increases. 

One survey by Gartner found that 89% of over 900 B2B sellers reported burnout, with other research revealing that 21% of salespeople were said to experience high levels of psychological distress in their role, and a further 35% said they were unsatisfied about their career prospects. These worrying statistics are a concern for many CROs, who fear the loss of more salespeople will hinder the chances of business progression and result in significant deficits for their organisation.

“For me, it’s a number of chances as we grow our business ranging from employee skills gaps to specific challenges in each of geographics.” Vice President of Sales, Saas

Internal promotion and development is a huge factor in retaining staff, with organisations hiring 75% of their sales workforce from within, with the remaining 25% relying on external recruitment solutions. As a result, companies that promote, develop, and train internally are often more attractive than those that cannot provide these benefits. However, having the resources to provide sales training and deliver a clear progression path for employees is something only some CROs have the time or the funds to implement.

5. Products and services are a necessity, not a nice to have

“Any client uses a service or product for two reasons. One, it removes a pain point, and two, it adds value and brings potential revenue growth. Your challenge is making sure that your business does one or both. Whilst staying relevant within your demographic.” Marketing, Customer Success & Project Manager, SaaS

Making their product a necessity and not just a nice to have, was a response provided by 9% of CROs who completed our survey. Customers and clients need to see some form of value from the product or service you provide, whether it be supporting their growth plans to helping them overcome pain points within their sector. However, some stakeholders are stubborn and simply refuse to adapt to change, don’t see the value in your product or service, or consider it an investment risk not worth taking.  

One method CROs can use or take inspiration from to convince their client base to invest in their offering is by following the anything-as-a-service model (XaaS). This model recognises a broad range of technology and tools that can be delivered as an online service focusing on customer experiences over just product access. 

“Getting prospects to appreciate the potential ROI of implementing a digital solution. Regardless of the work we do with the main stakeholders, we get subsequent peer groups who just refuse to change or adapt. My preference is to give the customer some flexibility in the first three months to terminate if it doesn’t do what we’ve sold. Removes friction and reassures the prospect. Creates a bit of risk for us but usually sticks if we do a good job through onboarding.” Vice President of Sales, Saas

Ultimately, the key for CROs here is to focus on selling their products or services as a necessity their clients and customers must have while ensuring the customer experience remains paramount.

Realise your potential with Pareto

If you are a CRO or executive-level talent seeking a solution to the challenges awaiting you in 2023, we can help. For more than 25 years, we have been empowering businesses globally to realise their potential. As market leaders in growth and transformation, we support existing and future CROs with bespoke training, project solutions, executive search recruitment, and more to help you reach new heights. Discover more by getting in touch with our team and realise your potential with Pareto today. 

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