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The Bias with CROs

Mary Grothe October 27 2022

Meet Host, Mary Grothe

Mary Grothe is a former #1 MidMarket B2B Sales Rep who after selling millions and breaking multiple records, formed House of Revenue®, a Denver-based firm of fractional Revenue Leaders who currently lead the marketing, sales, customer success, and RevOps departments for 10 companies nationwide. In the past year, they've helped multiple 2nd stage growth companies between $5M - $20M, on average, double their MRR within 10 months, resulting in an average ROI of 1,454% and an average annual revenue growth eclipsing $3.2 million.


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Mary Grothe: Welcome to Revenue Radio®. I brought on today one of the greatest storytellers, CROs, dads, husbands, and amazing humans I've ever met in my entire life. If you haven't met Roger, this is Roger. He's one of our CROs, one of our longest-standing CROs. He's a wealth of knowledge. He also happens to have an extremely high success rate with his clients.

We're going to center on today that he is that perfect CRO with the blend of marketing and sales, and there's no bias. We'll talk about bias with CROs, what we see in the market, advantages, and disadvantages, and how you grow up in revenue and go down that CRO path. Without spoiling all the good stuff in the show, Roger, welcome.

Roger Cunningham: Thank you. I'm glad to be here.

Mary Grothe: Well, I'm glad that you are here. If I told you all that Roger's also a comedian scene, he would be mad at me. He would feel a lot of pressure to be funny on this episode. So, I'm not going to tell you that little secret about him. Okay. I'll keep it. We're just going to keep it between us. We will not say anything.

On that note, I want to talk about bias in the CRO role. What have you predominantly seen with CROs? What are their usual history and their career trajectory?

Roger Cunningham: Mostly this year, I'm seeing this more and more, as of even today, more biased towards sales, I see. You see some that are biased towards marketing, but mainly it's sales because it's kind of, you know, the language or the natural ticket. You can pull the levers a little quicker. It's a bit for revenue, on sales. That's probably why.

Mary Grothe: Yeah, I agree.

Roger Cunningham: But you do see well-rounded CROs.

Mary Grothe: There's more in the market now than there used to be, but it has historically been very sales-driven. So, you're 50/50 split in your career between marketing and sales. You started door-to-door sales. I've heard you say you hated the job so much. You did it five years in a row to pay for college. What can you pull from that experience that you still use today in executive revenue leadership?

Roger Cunningham: Gosh, from door-to-door sales, when I'm working with sales teams, a lot of the grassroots kind of sales talk tracks. I just memorized talk tracks that are --I can explain it better in those terms because it does help. You memorize your talk tracks, for example. Are you going to say that verbatim every single time? Probably not. But when you have the skeleton memorized, you morph into your own. If you had to wing it at every door, you're done. So, we had to memorize that with door-to-door sales.

Mary Grothe: No, you're done.

Roger Cunningham: You're dead in the water. We memorize this, but I take that to the sales teams. We talked through phone scripts, talk tracks, demos, QBRs, etc. The question is, "Oh, I just like to do my own thing. "You need to put your twist on this. There's a comfort level of knowing precisely the skeleton of what you need to cover to be effective. Then, just off my head, place your twist, which morphs into your own.

Mary Grothe: What about grit and perseverance? You've got to have some chops to be able to do that. Has that translated into your ability as a leader to command, to have authority to stand in front of a room, to direct, to be in an uncomfortable situation? That has to come from getting over that fear of rejection in a door-to-door sale.

Roger Cunningham: Oh, most definitely. That, just not giving up, you take care, and it rolls off my back. I don't. I'm not thick-skinned. I don't see it. I think that grit kind of fed over to my entire career. I don't have failures at all. I have learned lessons. I mean, you get that. You get a ton of --I'm knocking on tons of doors and getting tons of rejection. That's just fed over, and I don't see the failure side of it. I see it as, "Okay. I learned a little bit better here and a little bit more there. "Also, I don't get nervous.

Mary Grothe: That's good. It's good. A lot from my early sales career has given me the ability to go through very challenging situations. Being in outside sales as a first role allowed me to get a bit of that thicker skin to get through the rejection. I've also learned how to be a young lady in front of a big room of people, have to overcome two dozen objections, a bunch of naysayers, and alter opinions.

I love my sales career. I loved being in mid-market sales for that reason and finding seven or eight people in the room, identifying who all the players were, being a psychologist, going in, seeing the battlefield, and being a step ahead. So much of that is transferable. Then, I started my path to CRO with a marketing degree. Of course, that was very different because that was from 2006 to 2009, when I was in college. I did it later in life. I'm a college dropout. That's very clear. I went back because my boss told me I had to come later. I did it through the University of Phoenix.

I did learn some things from marketing, which did help in my sales career. But when we made the massive pivot as a company, I had to double down and learn marketing. It was a foreign language to the salesperson. It was super hard to get hit through my head of what it was. I had to immerse myself fully. The only way I learned it was by doing it. We changed over everything in our company. We built an inbound marketing engine, which was the only way I figured it out. I needed help to grasp it through learning.

So, you made a pivot because you started in sales. What was it like when you took on that first marketing role? Was it hard, or was it easy for you?
Roger Cunningham: I thought I found it easy. Just like you, I went back to NYU. It's what I wanted to do. I navigated towards that. That made it more accessible. It wasn't just intuitive to understand everything.

Mary Grothe: Oh, that's right.

Roger Cunningham: I went to NYU and got a Digital Marketing Certification, which was an intensive five months. It opened my eyes because I worked for a software development firm. We were building cool stuff like applications. I started getting very interested in, "Okay, how is Spotify going to take this microsite and get it out to the world? That said, what was hard for me was the transfer of getting other people to understand that I was both. I had, you know, ten-plus years in serious sales. Only sales - Sales Director, VPs, those types of roles. From door-to-door salesperson up. That was the hardest part. I had to prove myself.

With digital marketing, there are many buckets. I remember telling one of a family member who is legit and runs a digital marketing team. for Indeed. He said, "What do you want to do?" I said, "I want to get into digital marketing." What do you want to do? There're so many buckets.

Mary Grothe: Go on and [laughter]

Roger Cunningham: I want a digital market. I want to digitally [laughter] market to people. I want to market things and put things in the digital. This is like, "OK, you got to get it." That was early on, and he was direct. "Pick a few and get good at those before you move on." So, I needed help getting into my career. I could not get looked at as a serious marketer for the life of me because I had this lengthy sales background. So, I started my marketing firm.

Mary Grothe: Oh my gosh. When the world wouldn't take you seriously, just absolutely defiant, do your own thing. I've done that myself.

Roger Cunningham: Yeah. I took that advice. I was working with a lot of brands here in Colorado. Some are outdoor brands and brands that I was interested in. I approached them and asked, "What are the holes in your marketing team right now?" "Is it email marketing?" Then, I would go to town and learn that stuff. I got good at email marketing, and that's how I made the transition, YouTube and any certification I could get.

I was working with a group in Provo, Utah, a digital marketing company. I'd ask them, "Did you guys go to school?" All of them said, "YouTube, man." YouTube. [laughter] We learn everything on YouTube. They're some major SEO wizards. I said, "Okay, cool." What machinery do you...? They're like, "YouTube." Okay. Got it. Got it.

Mary Grothe: So, is that under your LinkedIn profile under Education? YouTube.

Roger Cunningham: Yeah, YouTube pro.[laughter] Yeah. I love YouTube. I get the little sort of NYU certificate, wins over here, but I'm going to YouTube.

Mary Grothe: Exactly. Yeah, exactly. It's not a bad strategy. I swear. That's how this younger generation, we're older now, so we can say that the "younger generation" is in the school of YouTube. Now, they're in the School of TikTok, which is scary. I'm on TikTok now, and very questionable things show in my newsfeed. I am still trying to figure out what happened to my TikTok. Somebody can tell me. I am the oldest millennial, like the oldest bracket. I was later on TikTok.

I used to enjoy the videos. But like something happened. My newsfeed has inappropriate videos. I thought, "This is awful." Please think of how many teenagers and young people, what the filters are on their Twitter. I couldn't even believe that type of content. Yeah, was it even legal to have it on there?

Then, I keep reading all these reports that TikTok is now turning into the number one search engine in place for information. "Oh, what are they asking on here?" I am very scared of the answers that they are getting. YouTube, you can get better quality content. So, if anyone can help me out, that would be great. I've just shut down the app. I refuse to open it anymore, so I've closed it out. I'm going to have to uninstall it. It means that I don't know what happened. Anyway, I digress.

So, you start an agency. You're brilliant and just saying, "I'll fill the gaps." What are your holes? Let me fill it. I will be the marketer who steps in and complements what you already have. Let's move the needle. Let's make this happen. A lot of lessons were learned during that time. You got some credibility. People saw you then as a marketer, which you originally wanted to do. Then, one of those clients says, "We need you. We can't live without you." "You need to come and do this. We have way more..." "...opportunity for you to do this full time." When you stepped into that, was that your first full-time marketing gig at that level?

Roger Cunningham: Yeah, definitely it was.

Mary Grothe: How was it different from the agency world?
Roger Cunningham: It was awesome. It was waking up daily and doing this, this, this, this. I was doing that for tons of different companies. In one company, I started with email and email marketing. Then, I ran their platform. I ran their Shopify. I just found out about Shopify. I learned Shopify quickly. I never meant to become an expert in Shopify, but then it just brought a lot of new little things. Within a couple of years was the CMO.

Mary Grothe: Amazing.

Roger Cunningham: It was my first brand all day, every day. I was working on that, coming up with new strategies and ways to reach them. When you were sitting in that role, did you miss sales, or did you get to influence over? We didn't have a sales team here because it was a product. No distribution. It was all e-com. That's a wrong question to ask. We came knocking on your door.

Roger Cunningham: Sure. Yeah.

Mary Grothe: Thank you.

Roger Cunningham: Yeah.

Mary Grothe: We were introduced. You were referred. As soon as I saw the LinkedIn profile, the beard was like, "Oh, man." I'm in on the beard. Second, I'm looking at the diversity in the experience. I finally felt like hallelujah. The clouds had parted I finally found a real one. At the time, we were recruiting for a VP of Revenue, now CROs, and I found a real one. You guys, he's equal parts. He gets it.
Then, to find out what attracted you the most to House of Revenue was the fact that a firm finally understood holistic revenue. Yeah. I was like a match out of the gate.

Roger Cunningham: It was. I'll never forget that conversation. To go back, the sales background has helped in every bit of my marketing, every bit of it. It's numbers focus. I hate vanity metrics. I can't take it because if it's not driving. I understand that relationship. When we talked, I remember saying, "Oh my God. "I read the job description, and at first, it was like, "I think this sounds like me," and Patrick goes, "Dude, that's you." Okay, cool.
So, we talk. I thought, "Oh my gosh. You're speaking my life." That everything I wanted to do with my agency? I didn't have the background. I couldn't do it for clients. They're like, "Oh, you're just in marketing. Marketing. "Oh, I understand sales pretty well."

But when I remember the question I asked you was, "Okay, this is all cool. I like this." "Who doesn't work?" You said, "We do it." I thought, "Oh, my gosh. I'm in." [laughter] After that, "How do I get this job?" "What do I need to do?" I went, and I got my HubSpot certifications that night.
Mary Grothe: Oh, yes. Always a good sign of a candidate. Yeah, I know that email. A few people have gotten the email the following day, "I went ahead and did my HubSpot certification." Okay. This person is serious about this.

Bring us into the current day. One of the reasons why your strategies are so good and why you've just had this track record, Roger. I can envision you when I'm meeting with prospective clients. I know you can only handle so much. Sorry. Yeah, I've overloaded this guy and he's very gracious about it. I never fear. I never have to worry. I never question if Roger will be the right fit because of some of our clients area little sales heavier marketing heavier.

Sometimes I'm like, "Oh my gosh. This is a perfect fit for so-and-so..." "...because the engagement is more focused on revenue operations..." "...or this is all about channel." I've got a channel sales expert CRO. Sometimes there are these fits, but I have this perfect hybrid CRO that I could put on anything. I know you're going to win. No pressure. I know you're going to win. You can pull from and flex many different strategies based on this hybrid experience because you have a file drawer.

As I look forward to what the CRO role is evolving, I want to encourage our audience that if you're looking at it as a pass, do the one that you still need to do. If you're a marketer, take a sales job, find new money, make door-to-door sales, take the most unpleasant sales job, and flex your muscles and learn the skill.

If you're a salesperson, get the digital marketing certificate. There are so many programs that offer at universities that I like. I know out here in Denver, DU has one. That program looks pretty solid. There are other universities like CSU Global Campus and others out here locally. Well, CSU Global Campus is global, but I mean, you could do that from anywhere. Get hands-on experience, but also intern somewhere. Take on a side consulting project. Shadow somebody. Gets a mentor. Take the role, do the thing, do the work, and build your file drawer if you can go into a CRO role where you don't have bias and view the revenue problems holistically. Okay, sorry. I'll get off of this in a second. I'm going to ask your opinion.

I'm working on a little side project right now, and they brought us in, and they said, "We think it's a middle-of-funnel sales problem. "They said in your due diligence, "Don't worry about looking at the top of the funnel. The top of the funnel isn't our problem. We have more than enough lease." I thought, "Uh-huh. "Okay. I won't look at it. Oh, yeah. Oh, they just swore it was a sales challenge. Thank goodness. I've worked on both sides of sales, marketing, and rev ops. Right. All of the revenue. We just got to deliver the gap analysis. It wasn't a middle funnel problem. Its brand, go-to-market strategy, product, website, marketing, and sales. They have a killer sales team and tech stack.

Can I say one more thing about this? If a CRO was brought in based on what they thought the challenge was primarily sales, you brought in a sales bias CRO as marketing. They would have never seen the problem. Right. They would have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to solve a sales problem when it was a much larger holistic problem. Transparently, that is what they did two times before meeting with House of Revenue®. They had always diagnosed it as a sales problem and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not more, bringing in sales - the new head of sales, the latest sales methodology, the new sales trainer. Not only was that not improving sales, but it also went backward.

I'm so grateful that we were brought in. I'm honored to work with this company because they're seeing it holistically now. They were so grateful. And the delivery--You're seeing all the stuff we think we knew, but we never saw it all simultaneously. That was a lot to take in. Yeah, because it was every piece of revenue with this property. It needs to be elevated and aligned on one mission to win your superpower as a non-biased CRO. Do you see a sales problem that isn't also marketing or the whole bow tie funnel? If it's a sales problem, there's probably something else you could be hindering. Tell me more about that.

Roger Cunningham: No, you're dead. Every one of our clients I've had just come in. Typically, a little bit to a certain degree about all of them. They think they have a marketing problem. Then, you look at their sales, and it's not a marketing problem. It is the sales portion that they need to talk about. They're not talking. Then, the CS side of everything.

There's a little bit of that in every one of them. They're too close to the problem. They're too close to it. They self-diagnose, as you said. They typically --They have a --They're likely going to be biasedly. I'm thinking of one engagement that we've had that came in. They were like, "Oh, we need some marketing help. "Nope. We're revamping the whole sales, every single thing in the sales process. They're like, "Wow, we did not realize that."

That's what attracted me here, and that's what I've always loved - looking through the whole picture. I couldn't agree more. You have this sales bias CROs or sales bias, just leaders and CEOs. Yeah. Their sales fix everything. Well, sort of. You know, you have a lot of other factors to look at and think about.

Then, you have CEOs that are more marketing biased. Sure, or product, marketing product, yeah, in that element. They need to connect it to sales. That's where they need to improve. Then, you put all of that together and strategies and fools out process, everything, and connect them all. That's where we see skill. That's where we see growth.

Mary Grothe: That's exactly right. It's exactly right. Here's my word to the wise as we wrap up today's episode. The CRO role needs to be taken a lot more seriously than it is. I'm tired of a CRO title getting slapped on, especially in smaller companies, to a glorified Account Executive or Head of Sales. Let them be an unbelievable Account Executive or Head of Sales. They are needed but only give them a CRO title if they understand go-to-market strategy, brand strategy, revenue operations, marketing engine, sales engines, customer success, and account management support. They have to understand it holistically.

My second piece of advice for the CEOs out there is to give your CROs time, please, to research, build, and test. When you bring in a CRO, especially a high caliber CRO, who has done the scale, that is invaluable knowledge. Give them the time they are asking for to research, validate, build, validate, or test. If you're putting pressure on your boards, placing pressure on them, or investors to produce, you just made one of the biggest mistakes. A short-term revenue gain just came at the expense of long-term revenue. That is what we often see, so give your CRO a chance and make sure the CRO is an actual CRO.

Please do me a favor. I'll give you ours if you need help writing your CRO job description. You can look at it. I'm more than happy to share it. The bottom line is the job description is where it starts. If you give it a title, but in the job description, it's all sales buyers, guess who you're going to attract? That's it on the bias for CROs.

Please start raising holistic revenue leaders. If you are a revenue leader, I want to encourage you. Roger's a walking example. Now, the guy's killing it in this career, and his clients love him. The success is unbelievable. It is amazing to see you in action and how it almost feels effortless when I know it's not. No pressure. People don't see what you're doing behind the scenes.

I'm going to wrap today. Roger, thank you so much for joining. If you want to see that job description, send us a message. You can email or leave a comment on any of our social channels. We will get it over to you.

Roger Cunningham: Thanks for having me. This is fun.

Mary Grothe: What are you doing this weekend? I need some help on my Shopify site.

Roger Cunningham: Put me to work. I'd love to get back in there.

Mary Grothe: All right. Until next time.

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