Recently companies have begun calling their Sales leaders the Chief Customer Officer (CCO).  This trend needlessly confuses customers and hurts companies. Here’s how this mistake…  

Confuses customers

  • With a title that includes “customer”, you’d think the priority would lie with the customer.  Except in this case, the priority lies in selling. 
  • Customers recognize dissonance between words and actions.  Although initial meetings may be very customer focused, eventually, the Sales leader will be under pressure to earn new business. 

Hurts companies

  • Asking your Sales leader to “watch out” for customers creates a drag on new sales activity.
  • Consider this concept through the “opportunity cost” lens.  Given the challenge of allocating time to an existing customer or an eager buyer, how do you expect your Sales leader to behave?  How are they compensated to behave?  (For the same reason, CCO and Customer Success leaders should not report up to through the Sales leadership.)
  • When Sales leaders consistently grow revenue and achieve quota, who cares if customer loyalty metrics are dropping?  (Come on, be honest.)  Only far-sighted CEOs recognize that poor loyalty indicators predict diminishing growth. 

 “Coin-operated” salespeople mistakenly think anyone with money is a customer.  “Customer-first” CCOs mistakenly say the customer is always right.  Neither works.

What works best

  • The best solution tasks Sales with selling and assigns customer-centric corporate alignment to the CCO.  In this way, Sales and the CCO act as a check and balance on one another.  They create a healthy tension to “hire” the right customers.
  • Ideal Sales leaders do focus on customers and consider customer long-term health as they sell. They recognize the value beyond the transaction to a relationship. These types of Sales leaders realize that “opening a relationship” is more important than “closing a deal.” They team with CCOs to combine the ideas of winning/retaining customers for life.

I wish I knew know how this trend started.  Perhaps to emphasize the “rediscovered” maxim that customer success drives business success.  Perhaps because customers/prospects perceive the CCO title as more collaborative.  In any event, the pivot point is that calling a Sales leader the CCO damages companies and misleads customers.  Instead, opt for role transparency and call your Sales leaders just that.  Then create a position to represent customer interests and focus on their success.

Chief Customer Officer – What’s in a Name?
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