Some may argue that these are different terms for the same role. They are not. To define them, a VP of Sales is a master executor. They are passionate about win rates, deal velocity and winning the deal. They live and breathe in this high-pressure environment. They are master operators of the sales process and can introduce tactics into the sales team and sales process that ensure that the win rate is consistent or. in some cases, increases.
A CRO is a person who is more of a sales strategist and can oversee the whole customer acquisition process from Marketing to Customer Success. They are a person who is adept at the sales process (often having come from this background) but takes an active interest in where leads are sourced from, to how they are retained.
These two roles, therefore, are not to be thought of as one then the other. You need to consider the business challenges, which then should dictate your order. If your business requires customer acquisition and has a well-defined segment that it serves, and you want to throw kerosene on this activity, then a VP of Sales could be the way to go.
However, as a CEO, if you notice that a business unit evolves and begins to compete with several products, then this could be the time to look for a CRO. Equally, if a business unit’s growth under-performs expectations, market and competition and you start hearing phrases like ‘Not enough lead and awareness’, ‘Customer churn increases’, ‘Sales cycle length increases’ as excuses, then you need a CRO to take control of this whole customer acquisition process.
The optimum structure includes a VP of Marketing, VP of Sales, VP of Customer Success, all reporting to the CRO. This structure means you will have a well-thought-out revenue operation. In terms of what hire you should make, let the data tell you what to do, not emotion.