How CROs drive sales transformation part 2: harnessing shadow processes

By: Marc Metzner Sales Operations, Sales Transformation

Summary: Chief Revenue Officers (CROs) face the challenge of aligning marketing, sales and service processes to optimize the integrated customer experience. However, redesigning processes from scratch may take too long to generate an important sense of initial momentum. Instead, pragmatic CROs often start by quickly identifying and accelerating the existing “Shadow Processes” that their employees have already developed for collaborating across organizational functions to improve the buyer journey.

The Challenge:  Many companies today realize that the key to driving their growth is integrating and improving their customer’s entire life-cycle experience vs. allowing that experience to be defined by an uncoordinated series of “touches” from silo-based employees. Chief Revenue Officers (CRO’s, or similar titles like EVP Sales and Marketing or Chief Customer Officer) are charged with making this integrated experience happen across marketing, sales, and customer service. However, CROs can face such a broad array of challenges in reshaping roles, culture and customer management across functional groups, that progress often stalls.

One Solution:  In Alexander Group’s experience, and our recent CRO best practice research across 80 companies,  we have seen smart CROs work hard initially in a “Phase I Approach” to find a set of “quick wins” that will build vital momentum for change. Specifically, these CROs quickly identify, evaluate and reinforce those existing “Shadow or Virtual” Processes which employees have already built to provide a more integrated customer experience. These processes often reveal crucial insights about what customers are really looking for and how to provide it across current company functions.

Getting Started: Based on our experience, the CRO should use the following evaluation framework to determine which Shadow Process to 1) enhance on a short-term “quick-win” basis, 2) potentially institutionalize for the longer-term, or 3) transition to a different structural or process approach

  • why this specific Shadow Process emerged
  • what customer needs does the Shadow Process reveal/address
  • how company personnel worked across silos to make it happen
  • how/if the process should be scaled and improved

AGI research shows that CROs should explore the following Shadow Process areas. These are often innovative approaches that can be reinforced and scaled to create Quick Win improvements in providing a more integrated and compelling customer experience:

Common Shadow Activities – Sales Personnel Focus

  1. Innovative Use of Professional Services … where reps creatively used professional services early in the cycle to build high-level dialog and reposition the company as a more value-added solution
  2. Overlay/Rep Alignment … where reps have figured out new types of customer interactions that leverage expensive product “Overlays,” but results may not yet be showing up in the pipeline
  3. De Facto Hunters … where blended hunter/farmer reps have created innovative account management approaches, thus freeing themselves to become “de facto hunters”
  4. Sales Time Reallocation … where reps have shifted their time and focus toward more higher-value activities; CRO can use a quick time analysis to determine which patterns to scale
  5. Value Realization Roles  … where local managers have deployed an informal Customer Success Manager role to some key accounts to drive product usage and value realization
  6. Integrated Web Selling … where reps are creatively using web-site functionality and features to educate and collaborate with prospects as part of their early cycle sales process

Common Shadow Activities – Sales Management Practices

  1. Custom Collateral … where reps work with Marketing to get customized, more compelling Marketing collateral and insights. The CRO will want to leverage the best ideas more broadly
  2. Sales Advisory Boards … where smart leaders have repurposed these forums from sales comp and product campaigns, towards integrated customer management and value
  3. Sales & Service Collaboration … where sales reps micro-manage customer service shows where to invest to strengthen the integrated customer experience and sales capacity at the same time
  4. Informal Playbooks … where sales or service personnel have already taken the initiative to map cross-functional collaboration processes and amplify teamwork for different customer scenarios
  5. Prospect Nurturing … where sales and marketing collaborate on solution sales cycles, e.g., using  a “value drip” to drive solution dialogs over time until prospects are ready to buy
  6. Rejecting Business … where sales personnel avoid certain types of business because they have realized that it leads to poor customer experiences; this can be fixed or reinforced depending on the strategic value of that business

Evaluating Shadow Processes:  To evaluate existing “Shadow Processes” for insights on improving the customer experience, CROs need to weed out the self-serving and inefficient ones, using such criteria as:

  1. How costly would it be to train and coach this approach?
  2. What are the risks (e.g., scarce resources to wrong deals, loss of sales time, hidden costs, etc.)?
  3. Do we have the talent/DNA in Sales, Marketing, or Customer Service to pull this off?
  4. Will adding more customization be too expensive and create distraction?
  5. Do we have the Marketing capacity to target investments at the right accounts?
  6. Do we want to empower innovation and free-lance decision-making in this area?

Conclusion: We hope you found this overview of emerging CRO best practices to be a useful starting point as you think through how to drive a transformation towards a higher-value and more competitive sales model and integrated customer experience.

Read more about AGI’s CRO Best Practices

Learn more about our Sales Operations Practice

Read Part I of this blog series.

TAGS: , , , ,

Marc Metzner

Marc Metzner is a vice president in the Stamford office. He has over 20 years of experience working across media, software/SaaS, medical products, business services and manufacturing to improve sales and marketing strategy and effectiveness. As national director of the firm’s Sales Transformation and Benchmarking practices, he leads bi-monthly executive roundtables and benchmarking programs with Fortune 500 sales and marketing leaders on key sales strategy topics. Marc also frequently speaks and writes on best practices for optimizing sales coverage to stay ahead of disruptive industry and technology changes.


Prior to joining the Alexander Group, Marc was a manager in an international Big 5 consulting practice. There he worked on strategy development, market analysis and sales organizational redesign for computer, high tech and telecom companies, as well as strategy and market entry for international companies. Marc has a B.A. from State University of New York, an MPA from the Woodrow Wilson School of International Affairs at Princeton University and an MBA from the Yale School of Management, Yale University.


HAVE A QUESTION ABOUT THIS POST OR WANT TO REACH OUT TO THE AUTHOR?  CONTACT US »