To successfully scale the business for growth, revenue engine leaders at emerging-growth companies must share the same goals. Those goals must also align with the CEO’s expectations, which change as the company moves through the early-growth, extended-growth, and prepare-for-exit stages. Nancy Maluso and I recently interviewed CEOs from emerging companies — which Forrester defines as companies under $100M in revenue — that are experiencing double-digit growth and asked about their top requirements for revenue engine leaders in marketing and sales when guiding their companies to a successful exit.
Early-Growth Stage Expectations
Early-growth stage CEOs focus on building the revenue engine by focusing on three key areas: creating demand, generating revenue via sufficient pipeline, and customer retention (this is a new focus at this stage and was driven by necessity during the pandemic). During the early-growth stage, CEOs expect revenue engine leaders to:
- Have buyer expertise. CEOs were emphatic about the need for marketing and sales teams to understand the ideal buyer profile through market, industry, geographic, and buyer data and insights, to understand buyer expectations, and to build the revenue engine to focus on the right buyers.
- Drive revenue through the demand engine. CEOs are tired of hearing about how many leads the website or last campaign produced or the herculean efforts to close the last big deal. What CEOs want to see is marketing and sales teams working together to build processes that create, nurture, and close buyers and retain and grow them as customers.
- Be digital first. During the pandemic, buyer expectations for quality digital experiences went into hyperdrive and the companies that satisfied these needs found themselves more engaged with their buyers. To align with these changes in buying behaviors, CEOs now expect their revenue engine leaders and teams to fully embrace digital marketing and sales processes.
Extended-Growth Stage Expectations
During the extended-growth stage, CEOs expanded their focus to scaling the revenue engine. Their two key focus areas were the need to calibrate the engine by fine-tuning it and using data-driven process improvements and initial insights to increase its effectiveness. During the extended-growth stage, CEOs expect revenue engine leaders to:
- Have business acumen. CEOs do not want to translate jargon from siloed functional teams. They require a shared nomenclature for their revenue engine, so marketing and sales teams speak the same language and work seamlessly together.
- Meet short- and long-term revenue goals. CEOs expect their revenue engine leaders to build processes that enable the attainment of immediate revenue goals. This should also include the company’s long-term growth objectives to grow revenue in the markets, industries, company sizes, and geographies that ensure long-term scalable growth.
- Get rid of silos. Gone are the days where one function can meet its goals and celebrate the win. CEOs expect a highly orchestrated revenue engine where leaders are focused on shared goals and achieve them in a predictable and repeatable manner.
Prepare-For-Exit Growth Stage Expectations
In the prepare-for-exit growth stage, CEO expectations extended to stabilizing the revenue engine. Here the focus for the revenue engine shifted to being insights-driven, automating all key processes to further enhance scale and predictability, and to focus on profitability vs. broader growth objectives. During the prepare-for-exit growth stage, CEOs expect revenue engine leaders to:
- Have functional competency and discipline. CEOs were clear that while they expect marketing and sales to work together like a professional sports team, each team captain and player must have a specific role with required competencies to execute their responsibilities so they can grow in the role as it evolves.
- Balance short- and long-term objectives. High-growth companies often find their revenue engine leaders focusing on short-term goals without consideration for longer-term business growth. CEOs expect revenue engine leaders to think strategically and execute tactically with the business strategy as their guide.
- Partner strategically with the CEO. Revenue engine leaders must understand the company’s business strategy and actively participate in its formation and execution. They must also lead insights-driven changes in partnership with the CEO to guide the company through its various growth inflection points.
All in all, CEOs uniformly agreed that their revenue engine leaders, regardless of stage, must be strategic, balanced, and aligned to ensure a successful exit.
To learn more about CEO expectations by emerging-company growth stage for marketing, sales, and the revenue engine, read the Emerging-Company CEO Expectations Of Revenue Engine Leaders report by Matt Papertsian and Nancy Maluso.