In the most recent episode of Taking The Lead, Athennian Chief Revenue Officer, Mary Ward sat down with Christina Brady.  A few of the quick highlights in this article:

  • When it comes to professional networking, quality always beats quantity. In order to build a strong network, you need to nurture and care for your connections.
  • Chief Revenue Officer is a unique title that aligns marketing, sales, and customer experience to drive business growth.
  • By looking at the entire customer journey, you can deliver what’s best for your customer. That’s why marketing, sales, and CX teams need to work together and in alignment.

Sales and marketing work best when they work together, believe it or not. Aligning these teams towards the same goal – customer success – is a huge opportunity to drive business growth and improve customer experience. 

Our today’s guest is quite passionate about bringing marketing, sales, and CX together. As a Chief Revenue Officer, Mary Ward’s job is to do exactly that. Mary is currently a CRO at Athennian. Prior to this role, she sat at various C-suite positions, from being a Chief Marketing Officer at ScribbleLive to the Chief Customer Officer at Rock Content. 

In this episode of the Taking the Lead podcast, our host Christina Brady and Mary talk about the CRO role, how to leverage networking, the benefits of aligning marketing, sales, CX, and so much more. Tune in or continue reading to find out more.

The Power of Networking

While a résumé sums up your most valuable skills and relevant experience, networking allows you to seek opportunities where you can put your expertise to work. There’s a good reason why networking is still considered the most effective way to develop as a professional. From getting career advice to gaining more industry knowledge, there’s an endless pool of opportunities that you can access through networking. 

Mary and Christina discuss the power of networking and why it can open new doors if you do it right. Mary shares her own story and tells us about her mentor’s role in this new chapter in her life – being a CRO for the first time.

“Athennian is a really great company. They’re in that super-high-growth SaaS space that I’m super deeply passionate about. And I became familiar with them through actually my long-term friend and mentor who was working as an operating partner for one of their lead investment companies, and she was their interim CRO at the time. […] And she kept talking about, ‘We need to find a CRO. I need to find a CRO.’ Maybe 45 days into these conversations, she called me one night and said, ‘I think it’s you. I think you’re in the seat.’ It just clicked. And I was like, ‘Oh, okay. All right. Let’s go do that now.’ But it all just worked out so well. 

They’re SaaS-focused. They’ve got a heavy services component. They’re in that rapid-growth mode. It was just all the checkboxes for me that I really loved, and I knew because she was such a long-term mentor of mine that I had worked with for so long. I knew I would be stepping in and taking over a program that was well on its way and had a solid foundation over the last six months prior that she had been working there. So it was just a great opportunity.”

Nurture Your Professional Network

If you’re reading this and thinking, “But I’m too shy to go out there and build a network overnight,” we have some good and bad news. Bad news: networking is not something you can do overnight; it’s a process that takes time and effort. Good news: you probably already have a network; you just need to maintain it. As Mary says, your network can be diverse and gather experts from various fields. Lawyers, writers, marketing experts, you name it. Your professional circle will reflect that as long as you’re genuine and authentic when building your relationships. 

According to Mary, networking is hard, but it’s not harder than maintaining personal friendships. Anyone can do it! “How do you maintain those professional connections with people who go to other organizations that you bring in, that transition in and out of your life? So for me, it’s really about focusing on that. Any time I take on a new opportunity, it’s looking at the challenges that I know that organization faces and just saying, ‘Who am I worked with in the past, that would be great at this?’ And it’s being helpful when you help people. They want to help you in return. And over time, that network just becomes a part of your resource center. 

I’ve been with the Athennian for about two months now and have already tapped several people from my network, either for full-time jobs or for contracting work, because I knew that they were just the right resource for that job. So your networks exist. It’s just about nurturing them and maintaining them the same way you nurture and maintain friendships. It’s really the same way in business.”

Chief Revenue Officer is a Unique and Pivotal Role

As the title suggests, CRO is in charge of the revenue aspect of the business. From marketing to sales, revenue operations, customer experience, CRO has a unique set of responsibilities that aim to drive predictable growth. After being a CMO, a CCO, a VP of Account Services, Mary is now a CRO for the first time in her career. In this episode, she shares what her assignments have looked like so far and how she’s approaching this new professional milestone. 

“Chief Revenue Officer is a unique title because it does tend to mean slightly different things in different organizations. It’s a little bit like COO in that sense where it’s not always clear by title alone what the responsibilities will be. That said, I’ve typically found that CROs largely oversee sales and marketing, tend to be the components that make the most amount of sense for that. I think what’s a little bit unique about the CRO role that I hold at Athennian is I also own all of the customer experience side of the business.”

Customer Experience is Key

CRO is one of the newest additions to the C-suite family, and because it’s so new, everyone still approaches it differently. As Mary explains, in Athennian, the role of CRO brings together marketing and sales, but also the customer experience piece. However, this approach is not that common among other CROs. Most CROs tend to neglect the customer experience part and focus only on marketing and sales. According to Mary, we should look at the entire customer journey to be able to deliver what’s truly best for the customer. 

“Once you are in my universe as a prospect or customer, you are mine. I own you at that point. There’s no one else that that gets to own you. I am responsible for your satisfaction and delight with our organization. And I don’t think that that’s wildly common. I hope it becomes more common. I think it’s such a great combination of focus, and it does so much for an organization to have all three of those teams living under one umbrella.”

How to Align Marketing, Sales, and CX

Bringing marketing, sales, and CX teams together sounds simple and easy, but how does that look like in practice? As a CRO, Mary’s responsible for developing revenue-generating strategies, building effective plans, and then putting them to practice. In order to align marketing and sales services with the CX element, the first step is to help them understand the key revenue metrics and goals. Mary says revenue visibility is vital.

“I’ve spent the last month or so heads down building my 2022 bottoms-up plan. And I know what our total revenue goal as an organization is for the end of next year. And I’m able to map that from how many MQLs do we need all the way to how many customers am I going to have turnout? And I think when you bring that visibility to your marketing and your sales and your CX leaders, and they understand how the customer moves through that journey and how their performance and their metrics directly impact what comes after that, I think it helps to break down those silos.”

This article is based on an episode of Sales Assembly’s podcast, Taking The Lead, which features top female B2B Tech Revenue Leaders, VCs, Advisors, and Icons. Bi-weekly episodes dive into a tactical topic to help listeners (regardless of gender or seniority level) learn how to be better, faster, and smarter as they navigate the craziness of the Revenue world within B2B Tech.