Chief Commercial Officer

Buried in a recent HBR piece (see the 4th page of this scribd view) is this suggestion that there’s a new seat in the C-suite; for the chief commercial officer, or CCO.


The shift to which they initially refer is the blurring of lines between marketing and sales. And there’s clearly an acceleration in CCOship, with the quoted survey showing that a quarter of the past decade’s such appointments at one headhunter occurred in just the preceding twelve months.

Even if this survey pre-dates the crash, are there any significant consequences for the salesperson, and in particular, one whom aspires to CEO?

The piece repeats what we already know. Namely that Sales is the dominant force at b2b firms, and Marketing inside b2c. And here lies the first clue to success. Solution selling resides mainly in the b2b realm. So to make career progress, you think you’d have to master Marketing, right? Wrong.

I struggle to recall anyone I’ve met with standout standalone quota busting history that’s gone on to become an excellent marketeer. In fact, I’d go farther and say that previously successful salespeople that have tried to master marketing have failed.

I realise we all joke about how poor Marketing are when it comes to understanding Sales, but wouldn’t you think it strange that this ribbing isn’t reciprocated?

My advice is simple. Do not try and do it yourself. Instead of sitting in your new corner office, dreaming up marketing schemes, get others to do that job. What’s more important, is knowing what outputs you need. Then manage the pursuit of them. This distinction could save many a career from an unnecessary stall.

By outputs, I refer to measurables that increase your results. Like leads generated that create a customer. Offers that increase customer spend and prolong their time with you.

My second point touches on the kind of empire building I loath, mainly due to it being nearly always salespeople that get squeezed because of it.

A few weeks into my first proper job, the Operations Director was promoted. A new title was created for him as a certain amount of selling came under his jurisdiction. It was Commercial Director. This being 80s England, a Director sat on the Board, none of your airy-fairy VP prefixes or CxOs for us back then. CEOs were unheard of. Managing Directors sat atop the tree.

Interestingly, he took none of the remit from the Marketing Director, and didn’t take day-to-day control of salespeople. Yet he now managed every process that enabled both to function. Quite bizarre, but I suspect, hardly unusual.

If CCO is merely a new synonym for Chief Sales & Marketing Officer, then there can hardly be any point. Yet if someone in this role genuinely overseas every aspect of delivery and all the inputs along the way, then I can see merit. But maybe this isn’t the only trend at play. The very word ‘commercial’ has been around in software houses for instance, to denote a mixture of legal and personnel affairs, even being taken on by CFOs.

If this means that a type of Board level consolidation is taking place, creating a two-tier style of senior management, then those running sales teams would do well to bring seemingly separate portfolios into their fold and map their performance onto the overall strategy sharpish.

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