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A CEO’s Perspective on the Perfect CSO

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April 18, 2023

4 mins read

Gabe on GTM Feature

A CEO’s Perspective on the Perfect CSO

We recently went through the process of hiring a new chief sales officer at Demandbase and, on March 20, welcomed John Eitel to our leadership team

We conducted an extensive search and interviewed a host of stellar candidates. So what made John stand out? Or to put it another way, what was I looking for in the perfect CSO? I considered these three things. 

1. Has the candidate demonstrated success in the current, disrupted B2B climate?

And by “disrupted B2B climate,” I mean the massive shift to a mostly digital buyer journey, where buyer identity is hidden for much of the journey and large groups are involved in complex purchase decisions. A climate where buyers are numb from being pounded with untimely sales and marketing messages. Where the things that once worked — like waiting for leads to find you and relying on relationships — no longer work. 

In today’s world, a successful CSO needs to be data driven. I’m not talking about managing pipeline forecasts. That’s a given. I’m talking about relying on data, rather than relationships or gut feel, to know which accounts to target, to understand their needs, to know who’s on the buying committee, and when and how to engage to cut through the numbness.   

The CSO needs to be able to adapt to change rapidly and be committed to lock-step alignment with marketing — a critical component of successful B2B go-to-market today. And finally, in our case, because we’re in the B2B go-to-market space, helping companies navigate the digital buying journey, I was looking for a candidate who embraced our technology. Someone who would be the best possible “customer zero,” using our data and tech to hit our own revenue number, while demonstrating to the market how it’s done.  

2. Is the candidate right for our life cycle stage and present challenges?

Different stages and business models require different skill sets. In the early stages of a company, you might need a CSO who can personally close deals and create new processes. In the growth phase and beyond, you’ll want a leader who can optimize processes, and possibly open new markets and revenue streams. What do you need?

Then consider your business model. Are you a product-led-growth (PLG) company? Do you focus on inside/transactional sales or enterprise sales? Do you emphasize new logo acquisition or customer retention and expansion, or both? Each of these models and motions require different skills and expertise. You’ll want someone with success in the way you go to market.

3. Is the CSO a strong cultural fit?

Culture is incredibly important to us at Demandbase, so this was high on my list. We’ve been deliberate about the type of culture we want and have worked hard to build it. And if our numerous awards for being a best place to work are any indication, we’ve done a good job of it. So it was highly important to me that our CSO not only fit in, but that they be a stout advocate for our culture. 

As leader of one of the largest departments in a company, a CSO is highly visible internally and externally, and should be one of the chief cultural forces in the organization.

Did answering the three questions above serve us well? Indeed it did. John checked all the boxes better than anyone else and stood out amongst other world-class sales leaders.

He spent his career on the sales side of tech, most recently at Canva, where he served as both the Global Vice President of Sales and GM of the North American business. In these roles he both built the enterprise sales motions and launched their US presence. He’s held senior leadership roles and been pivotal in the growth trajectory of several other tech companies, as well. And he was an experienced fan of the Demandbase platform.

I’ve talked to a lot of people John worked with and can tell you that he’s not only extremely attuned to the needs of customers, but also an inspirational leader who builds and develops highly engaged and successful teams, and works well across departments as a focused, empathetic, data-driven collaborator. We hit the jackpot!

By homing in on the three areas outlined above, we found the right CSO for us, with the skills to take us to the next level and be a great culture builder. I hope these insights will help you next time you need to hire a CSO. And for the record, John’s not available. 

Did I miss anything you would include? Any other topic you’d like me to write about? Send your comments and ideas to

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Gabe Rogol

CEO, Demandbase

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