Hiring an effective VP Sales is one of the most important appointments you will make in the early growth phase of your company. Selecting the right candidate for your stage and aligning their motivations with the objectives of the company, is critical to the success of this hire.
As a founder, you will have likely been your company’s first salesperson in helping to win the first customers. Maybe an early employee had responsibility for sales and helped you grow early revenues. However, once your business has traction and established product-market fit, (revenues circa 1m-2m ARR), you should be considering the appointment of a VP Sales.
The role of the VP Sales is to determine the optimal commercialization strategy for your business at that stage, including refining the business & revenue model, and go-to-market strategy. What you should be looking for is someone capable of building a repeatable, scalable and predictable sales process. They will be hands-on, action-orientated and will be spending time with customers, selling.
You should be looking for an inspirational leader that has built and led teams previously and is able to instill a high-performance culture. They will enjoy coaching and developing their sales team as it grows.
It is important to understand that the role of a VP Sales is very different at each stage of the journey as your company scales. Most sales leaders work optimally at specific stages.
So, what key things can you do to attract them?
Understanding what you require
High performing salespeople get results. This means the most successful VP Sales are in high demand. You will need to be realistic about what it will take to be able to attract ‘A’ players, and you should align their motivations with the objectives of the company. Simply put, you want your VP Sales to be signing up to be part of your journey over the coming years, not simply to earn a commission cheque.
You will need to understand what the market rate is for someone of their profile and you should create a package that strikes an appropriate balance between cash earnings vs long-term incentive. If this is your first VP Sales hire, your objective should be to find someone that appropriate for your stage, for example, capable of taking you from 1m ARR to say 20m ARR, and that values longer term wealth creation.
Experienced VP Sales will want to see that you have product market fit. They will expect it. If you do not have PMF, then you should not be hiring a VP Sales. They will want to see that you are clear about the market you are going after. Talk to them about the addressable market, how early sales were achieved. What the learnings have been to date. You should demonstrate clear market validation and customer retention (no churn). Other signs they will be looking for include inbound leads and referrals, conversations rates creeping up, order values growing, renewals. Show them what customers are saying about your product. Ideally get them to speak with your customers themselves.
Be open about the challenges
When you are making this appointment, you are still early in the commercialization phase. They will not expect you to have everything figured out. Be open and transparent about some of the challenges you are facing.
Vison, Mission, Values
All businesses today need to be thinking about who they are and why they exist. So be clear about this. Explain what you value and the cultural that you have created. Get them excited about the journey that you are going on. The right candidate for you should share your values and be excited about lining up behind your mission. If they are not, they are unlikely to stick around.
Your investors, if you have them, are likely to want to meet your prospect VP Sales. And the best VP Sales candidates will want to speak with your investors. Candidates will want to understand why they invested and gauge how supportive they are of the business and the team. They will likely discuss the burn-rate and what milestones they expect the business to reach for the next round of funding. Remember, investors can offer another valuable view of your business and can be a real asset in your armoury when it comes to helping get candidates over the line.
Your first VP Sales is a crucial hire. They will grow revenues and develop your commercial playbook, whilst helping to determine your optimal commercial model and GTM. They will be working closely day to day with other functional heads, including Marketing and Customer Success, as well as on cross-functional initiatives to drive growth and value throughout the whole customer life cycle. It’s imperative you identify and attract the right VP Sales candidates that can deliver results for your business.
360leaders help technology’s biggest brands, investors and start-ups to find the right VP Sales for their business. If you would like to discuss how we can help you to find, hire and secure your first VP Sales, then get in touch today.
This article was written by Ben Markland
Ben is a Director at 360Leaders. Ben works with game-changing companies across SaaS, Consumer, Fintech and Media technology, helping them secure impactful leaders to scale their businesses. From Apple to Uber and early-stage innovators such as BenevolentAI, Ben finds the right executive talent to lead for scaling and sustainable growth.
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360Leaders are Executive Search specialists in technology with offices in London, Stockholm and Oslo. The firm focuses on providing impactful placements for C-Level and senior positions including CEOs, COOs, CCOs, CMOs, GMs, and VP Sales.