Outlook for the Chief Commercial Officer Role

by Beverly Harvey

What You Need to Know Right Now to Level Up as a CCO

Chief Commercial Officer (CCO), like several C-Suite roles, overlaps with other roles, such as Chief Marketing Officer, Chief Sales Officer, and even customer-focused roles such as Chief Customer Officer, and Chief Experience Officer. The CCO role, sometimes known as Chief Commercialization Officer, is typically broader than that of a CMO, incorporating not only marketing but also sales, innovation, and customer service. “Over the last decade, the introduction of the Chief Commercial Officer (CCO) for companies both small and large has resulted from the need to help businesses harness the entire commercial power of the organization,” notes Marc Cottle with McMann & Ransford. A need emerged, Cottle says, for a “C-level executive with sales, marketing, product management and strategy depth.” The CCO role brings sales and marketing together under a single point of leadership.

“The CCO is the new, holistic internal strategist and external spokesperson that CEOs lean on for how the company should interface with its customers to drive growth,” observes Andrew Hazelton, managing director at AETHOS Consulting Group. The CCO may deal with product development, customer service, and marketing.

Key Competencies for the CCO Role

An excellent, comprehensive publication on the CCO role from Ernst & Young, The CCO perspective, offers a specific profile of a typical CCO:

The average CCO is a 46-year-old man [just 12 percent of CCOs are women] who has been in the position for only a short period, given the role is relatively new. The commercial chief is more academically qualified than the average CSO or CMO, with more than half having a master’s degree. They hold senior roles, with 80 percent on the executive board. The CCO is interested in the big picture, getting their greatest satisfaction from strategic management and being involved in the direction of the company. They keep up with external trends: 71 percent believe they add value by ‘exploiting in-depth knowledge of the market and competition.’ The commercial chief is ambitious: one in three thinks they will be CEO within five years.

When preparing career-marketing communications to send to employers, those aspiring to the CCO role should emphasize these qualities:

  • Well-versed in all facets of the commercial side of the business
  • Execution skills
  • Process orientation and service orientation
  • People skills
  • Team-building
  • Leadership
  • Sensitivity to diversity
  • Creativity
  • Problem-solving
  • Business acumen
  • Drive to develop and execute strategic initiatives

Level-Up Tips

Here are a few suggestions for those seeking to break into the CCO role, expand their horizons in an existing CCO role, or even rise beyond the CCO role:

  • Choose marketing-driven companies that offer learning opportunities. The CCO role recognizes the increasing role of marketing, so those interested in the role should come up in the ranks of firms that value marketing. Brand management is often an effective starting point. Lysa Hardy, Chief Commercial Officer, Holland & Barrett, notes that company migration to chief commercial officer is an official acknowledgement of marketing’s role; Hardy calls the CCO role a “turbocharged version” of the old sales-and-marketing directors model. “It’s where are we going, not just what we are selling today,” Hardy says.
  • Consider graduate school. As we saw from the Ernst & Young report, more than half of CCOs have master’s degrees.
  • Learn to harness technology and data to understand and satisfy the customer. The Ernst & Young report portends signs that CCOs lag in this area. Integrating the digital experience into your commercial practices is an important aspect of this role.
  • Consider the CEO role (and go for the CCO role if you want the CEO role). Ernst & Young’s The CCO perspective notes that the C-suite thinks the CCO is significantly more likely to become CEO within five years than either the sales or marketing chief. Hazelton predicts a shift in leaders coming from functional verticals that are closer to consumers (rather than the traditional finance side).

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