Featured Leadership

The Rise of the Chief Go-To-Market Officer

When my partners Sangram Vajre and Bryan Brown wrote the bestseller MOVE: The 4-question Go-to-Market Framework” two years ago, they espoused the idea that the CEO must own the role of Go-to-Market (GTM).  

There are dozens of reasons and plenty of empirical evidence to explain why Sangram and Bryan advocate for his, but at its core: Compensation and incentivization drives employee behavior and the only person in a company who can align the compensation strategies of Marketing, Sales, Customer Success and Product in most organizations is the CEO.

That said a CEO has a day job (and let’s be honest, probably a night job as well). While the GTM organization is likely to be at least half of the employees, the CEO still has to contend with the rest of the organization, the board, investors, market champions, business influencers, large clients, and a host of other people vying for attention. There is only so much a CEO can reasonably give!  

Additionally the CEO is brought fires on a daily, sometimes hourly basis that need quick and often gut-based decisions to resolve.  If a person is in constant fire-fighting mode, it will be difficult for them to center on the long complex chain of if-then decisions needed when analyzing and adjusting a Go-to-Market strategy.

When CEOs were faced with one of the most complex challenges of our generation, a global pandemic, their entire focus was pulled to the health and safety of the people working for them and the overall survivability of the business.  It was a responsibility that trumped all others, but that left many GTM strategy teams without a head for months, if not over a year.  

At the end of the day, the CEO has the right authority and the right perspective on the business to successfully run any go-to-market team, but it is also likely that they lack the time to do it consistently.

Our next most prolific cross functional executive is the COO.  What part do they play in the running of your Go-to-Market strategy?  

The COO is one of the true chameleon roles in a modern organization today.  This role, which had been in decline over the past 20 years.  According to a recent McKinsey article, in 2018 only 32% of the fortune 500 companies had a COO on staff.  Today that number has risen to 40%, but its role remains undeniably ambiguous. 

As COOs focus on the running of a business, it could mean financial responsibility, global organizational management, legal responsibility, being the air-apparent to the CEO, etc.  Depending on your industry and corporate structure it is possible that your COO has key expertise in key Go-to-Market activities that would allow them to successfully lead the GTM teams perfectly. However, it is also possible that their primary skill set and mission encompasses other pressing needs as well. 

Our last usual suspect for heading up the GTM strategy is the Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) or Chief Commercial Officer (CCO). When this role was introduced, many of us were hopeful that it would foster a harmonious relationship among the GTM teams, which includes sales, marketing, product, and customer success. Unfortunately, the CRO/CCO role usually primarily focuses on sales and marketing teams, which already have a historically complex (and sometimes negative) dynamic.  

In an article from LinkedIn in 2016, Kate Bullis spoke about the rise of the Go-to-Market Officer role and specifically referenced sales & marketing as being the key departments who would report to this role.  Eight plus years later, the achilles heel in this approach is now becoming clear: demand marketers and sales teams are heavily influenced by their short term revenue goals and they are measured and compensated heavily, if not exclusively, in short term dollars.  

While dollars are the reason the GTM team exists, there is an element of long term sequencing and roadmapping that product, brand marketers and customer teams must manage which is not necessarily how the current CGO role is incentivized to behave and therefore reward.   

Now that we see that the CEO and COO are unlikely to be able to provide their full attention, and the CRO/CCO is rarely given the opportunity to shake the inevitable need for in quarter results, we are left to wonder: who is running go-to-market on a daily basis within your organization?  

For most organizations it is either a prolific CMO, CRO or SVP of Marketing with high likability and a strong point of view coupled with enough success to drive the organization without the appointed authority.  This rockstar leader will often stabilize a GTM team, but can unwittingly create a power and knowledge vacuum that is hard to recover from when they leave.  

Alternatively, your GTM is leadership could be a committee of functional leaders that include the CMO, CRO, CPO and CSO, and a team of VPs and Directors in cross functional roles like Revenue Operations and Enablement who are trying to cobble together consensus across multiple executive leaders with very different perspectives and increasingly specific KPI expectations that when not aligned can quickly drive division (read: inefficiency) in your go-to-market strategy.

 In both of these scenarios, GTM coordination becomes a delicate ballet of collaboration, quid-pro-quos, and compromises for cross-functional leaders. They aim to foster cohesion among the teams led by each functional leader. This is followed by a multifaceted political game of persuading directors, managers, and individual contributors to adhere to the plan. 

Achieving this level of collaboration involves training, employee outreach (sometimes known as “forced fun”), and the strategic implementation of collaboration technologies such as CRMs, Work Management Solutions, Customer Systems, and more. These tools are designed to enforce a specific way of working together, thereby keeping the teams on track with, or without executive leadership cohesion.

Using technology interest as a proxy for problem solving, of the top 15 use cases GTM teams have been searching for over the last 12 months, over half of them exist to help GTM employees work more effectively together or stay engaged. 

#2 Project Management

#4 Employee Recognition

#5 Task Management

#9 Employee Engagement

#10 Project Collaboration

#11 Sales engagement

#12 Workflow management

#13 Work management 




G2 Data (last 12 months/500K+ of searches for GTM related technologies)

(Re)Introducing the Role of a Chief GTM Officer

It is for all of these reasons and more that the role of the Chief Go-to-Market Officer should exist.  They should sit alongside the COO and CEO and have complete responsibility of ensuring the investment in taking your products to market are being done so in the most efficient way possible.  


Reporting Structure (Mid-Market Organizational Structure)


Organizational Structure

Primary Functions

This role will serve three primary functions: 

  1. Live and breath the customer experience & the market expectations
  2. It will keep the GTM teams focused and aligned on the strategy – they will be ruthless in their prioritization and their utilization of the GTM resources
  3. It will collaborate with the CEO and COO/CFO to ensure complete alignment with the overall goals of the organization

Key KPIs 

  • Cost of Acquisition (CAC)
  • Net Revenue Retention (NRR)
  • Cost of Retention (COR)
  • GTM Motion Delivery (Outbound/Partnership/Ecosystem) 
  • Net New Logo/New Business Goals
  • Product usage
  • Share of Voice in the Market (share of intent)
  • Clase Rates by stage
  • Actual Contract Value (ACV)

Key Responsibilities

  • Oversight of the GTM Organization
  • Oversight of the GTM Strategy
  • Oversight of the GTM Budget (spending, staffing, compensation, incentivization) 
  • Own the key aspects of GTM strategy planning including: 
    • Market Approach: Ideal Customer Profile & Total Relevant Market
    • Product and Market strategies
    • POV of the organization
    • Leadership Management
    • Revenue operations tracking and forecasting
  • Executive Approver of the follow key GTM programs
    • Product roadmap 
    • Brand, market and product messaging
    • Sales structure and compensation
    • Customer management programs
    • Revenue operations priorities and projects

Leadership Characteristics  

  • Held C-level executive positions for multiple GTM teams in at least 2 of the 4 core functional areas (Product, Marketing, Sales and Customer Success).  
  • Have an analytical approach to decision making and be comfortable with data structure and systems required to have the data needed to make decisions.  
  • Have a collaborative work style, understanding that there will be natural conflict between teams based on their perspective.
  • Ability to build strong rapport with customers.

A Note On Different Sized Organizations 

Enterprises and large organizations will likely carry so much complexity that it would be impossible to have a simplistic model like the one exemplified  in place.  As a result most complex companies will develop a commercial center of excellence who will take on the key responsibilities outlined, but it will be wrapped into a centralized department that has enough oversight to be able to develop strategy and affect change throughout the GTM departments. 

Small businesses will not need to immediately invest in this role, as the team should be working closely enough that inefficiencies should be easily mitigated in team meetings with consistent structure.  When you start to develop an organization with VPs, Directors, Managers and Individual Contributors across multiple GTM departments is when you start to be at risk for creating revenue impacting divisions that could be mitigated through a centralized leader.  


0 – 50 Employees 50 – 500 Employees 500+ Employees
GTM Leadership team runs Go-to-Market through collaborative sessions & scorecards. Head of GTM/

Chief GTM Officer – has Cs & SVPs of marketing, sales, product and cs reporting directly into the role.

GTM Center of Excellence – A department which transcends organizational structures to ensure a cohesive management of go to market.


How can we make this a reality

Hopefully at this point you are convinced of the need to focus on a holistic management approach for your Go-to-Market strategies and teams. 

GTM Partners has created a system designed to help keep GTM teams working as efficiently as possible regardless of whether or not you are running a founder-led go-to-market or a large complex organization.  

To learn more, please check out GTMondays or gtmpartners.com.

Don’t forget! Discover the top GTM strategies from B2B experts at RevCon: our must-attend annual conference on October 18-19, 2023!